Sunday, March 25, 2007

The 14 Most Relevant Baseball Teams of 2007

Before we get to the Baseball Preview here are a few recent items in the news:

Georgetown kills my shot at a perfect bracket weekend:
It really looked like I ran the table nailing the Elite Eight and The Final Four… but North Carolina.. What the heck happened?? I did so well in my brackets on, climbing all the way to 41st place in a field of more than 60,000! Oh well… I still have Ohio State beating FL in the Finals.. which like 24 take place during the Seder on the 1st Night of Passover. Who schedules these things? I gotta thank Bracket Boy in the Star Ledger for his informative pre tournament columns for getting me one North Carolina choke job away from nailing my first Final Four.

Alberto Gonzales politicized prosecutorial firings and John Edwards stays in the race despite his wife’s illness:
The reason I put these two together is the whole Gonzales fiasco is yet another example of what a disaster this George Bush White House has been for our country. Edwards realizes that after a Democrat wins in ‘08, life in America (including soldiers no longer required to fight this absurd Bush oil war) will bounce back so well from the Bush disaster that the ‘08 winner will sweep to victory in 2012.. Does Edwards want to wait till 2016 for his next shot at The White House? That’s probably why the other Democrats like Obama and Mrs. Clinton have jumped the gun for ‘08... They knew that whoever wins… plays with house money after these last 8 disgraceful years.

Heather Mills creates a media frenzy on Dancing with the Stars.
Everybody is making a big deal that one legged Heather Mills might see her leg fall off while performing on Dancing With the Stars…. I cant wait to see what happens when the show invites John Bobbitt! And speaking of losing limbs and body parts…

The Melanie McGuire chopped up in a suitcase husband murder trial takes Center Stage on Court TV
Did you notice he disappeared the day after they bought a big new house together? Do you realize that had he disappeared a day earlier they would not have been able to close on that house? Do you think the realtor sent her a card thanking her? Does Hallmark make a card… “Thank you for hacking your husband to bits AFTER I got my commission?”

Is the Three Way Tie on Jeopardy Our Next Game Show Scandal?
At first I thought the guy made a boo boo and made the wrong bet keeping him from winning the game. But the guy said on his blog that he thought it would be neat to share the money so he purposely bet for the tie. I’m sure the Jeopardy producers weren’t thrilled about the extra shekels they had to dole out.. But what happens if this is really part of a bigger scandal? Could it be that a Jeopardy tie-maker could make a deal to play for the tie if the guys who would have otherwise lost give him a cut of their winnings?

Is NWOW right on with predictions about Lost and Desperate Housewives?
Check out my column from way back December 4, 2005. If you check the archives, you will see that I opined that the late Rex would be a good narrator on Desperate Housewives. Some big shot in Hollywood must be reading NWOW because in the previous new episode, Rex was the narrator! Then, last week John Locke found out his dreaded father is actually on the same island with him being held as a hostage… and is stranded there since Locke destroyed the submarine that would get them all outta there. Now how the heck did he end up there? Actually the most believable answer to this bizarre scenario is that the Losites all have implanted memories as I mentioned back on May 25, 2006. How else would the paralyzed Locke walk? And how could a cancer stricken woman be cured? And a couple that can’t conceive get pregnant?

Once again, this year we present our list of the 14 Most Relevant Teams of 2007! This year 6 teams from the NL make the list.. while 8 are coming out of the AL. One division has 4 teams on this list.. While the AL West only has one team worthy of the list

First the National League East….

METS - And we start with my favorite team.. The Mets.. They made great progress in 2006 after the mediocre ‘05 season… but the odds of repeating as division winners could be in jeopardy. This season the pitching looks a bit shaky… Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez and John Maine will be anchoring the team till Pedro gets back later in the season, and who knows how much he has left in the tank.. He may just retire and count down till his Hall of Fame time comes.. which would trigger another surge of those popular Vote for Pedro T-Shirts.

GM Omar Minaya may have reinvented the wheel with his 2006 strategy of zeroing in on the bullpen.. That’s how they got to the final inning of the NLCS last year without Pedro and El Duque. Nonetheless, it may not be such an easy road this season. The offense is still in pretty good shape although the corner outfielders of Sean Green and Moises Alou can make you cringe, but then again unlike most teams they get a ton of production out of their catcher and shortstop. Nonetheless, does anyone outside of New York have a lineup featuring hitters of the caliber of Jose Reyes, Paul LoDuca, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright? Thankfully the infield with the exception of 2B is extremely solid. The team will get a big pickup as Glavine gets closer to the magical 300 win mark - but they will not cruise to the NL East as they did in 2006.

PHILLIES - How the heck did they get Freddy Garcia from the White Sox? He along with fellow former Mariner Jamie Moyer will help bolster a rotation that also features Brett Myers and young Cole Hamels. Flash Gordon is back in the pen, and with the exception of 3rd base, the infield is awesome with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, The outfield isn’t too spectacular, Pat Burrell is a decent hitter.. He quietly hit 29 dingers last year… but hit a Kingman-esque .258.. Actually that would be 50 points higher than what Dave Kingman used to hit. The Phils are one hitter away from making a big run at the top.. And they have the surplus pitching to make such a deal happen, although Phillie fans are holding their breath due to the current injuries to Garcia and Jon Lieber.

BRAVES - On paper you would think the Marlins would be better… But the genius of manager Bobby Cox combined with the Marlins boneheaded firing of Joe Girardi catapult Atlanta past them in the division and onto the list, while the Marlins join the Nationals on the NL East scrap heap. The Braves missed the playoffs last year for the first time since the Truman Administration. I wasn’t sure I was gonna put them on the list, but if you check out their lineup, you will see that they have the best outfield in the division with Andruw Jones and Jeff Francoeur and a terrific young catcher in Brian McCann who batted .333, hit 24 homers and drove in 93 runs! Chipper Jones aint too shabby at 3rd either, although he might be banged up to start the season. The team is hoping that Tim Hudson can get it together to join the rotation of John Smoltz and young Chuck James (11-4 last season). Bob Wickman anchoring the bullpen? Will Mike Hampton return from Tommy John surgery? Why is Tommy John surgery named after Tommy John instead of the surgeon who invented it?

The NL Central - Only The Astros make the list.. The Cardinals are going to be in for a bit of a surprise this season after last year’s stunning October post season run…

ASTROS - No matter how you slice it, due to the AL’s superiority, only 6 NL teams are worthy of the list.. And the Astros are my pick to win the division. Not that I have sour grapes over the Cardinals who broke Mets fans hearts last year.. But frankly the Cardinals look awful this year. They tumbled to the finish line last season and got hot during the post season. Now they don’t have 3 of their starters from 2006 and with the lineup a year older, the Astros are poised to make their move. Granted they lost Andy Pettitte, and probably Roger Clemens but they have acquired Woody Williams and Jason Jennings to cobble together a rotation behind the superb Roy Oswalt, and those shortcomings will be offset by the increased offense coming off the bat of Carlos Lee. He and Lance Berkman are a solid 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup, and if OF Jason Lane, 3b Morgan Ensberg, and stopper Brad Lidge can bounce back from a sub par 2006, the Astros have a solid shot.

And of course.. The NL West.. The part of the country that produces bleary eyed rotiserie players who stay up too late on work nights watching those endless games that don’t wrap up till after 1:30 Eastern Time!

DIAMONDBACKS - Ya ever notice how Randy Johnson’s teams always do well? Now he will be the 2nd starter behind Brandon Webb in a weak division, even though the Dodgers have a deeper rotation with very little offense…. So pending a blockbuster Dodger deal that brings them some desperately needed offense, the D Backs look like the class of the NL West.. Eric Byrnes shows signs of being a 30-30 man….even though the rest of the offense is anchored by Conor Jackson and Chad Tracy who will be lucky to each hit 20 dingers and drive in 75 runs.. The back of the rotation with old reliables Livan Hernandez and Doug Davis might have enough to get them to the top this season.

DODGERS - Originally, I was very high on the D-backs to run away with the division, but as we get closer to the season, the Dodgers look like their deeper rotation gives them a shot for the Top 14 list. Jason Schmidt escaped from what will be a last place Giants team, and he anchors a rotation with All Star Starter Brad Penney, Derek Lowe and Randy Wolf. Not a bad foursome compared to the other drek in the NL West.. although the Padres rotation has potential but is old. Nonetheless, the LA offense has some speed with leadoff men Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal at the top of the lineup. with a bit of a power challenge in the heart of the order, aside from Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciappara.. Those 2 speedsters could drive a lot of other pitchers crazy this season. Russell Martin the catcher also showed potential driving in 65 runs and stealing 10 bases in 121 games.

Eight teams make the list from the American League… half of the 14 from the East and Central…

YANKEES - How far has Bernie Williams fallen off the radar when light hitting Doug Mientekwicz is slated to make the team from Day One? The rotation like everybody else isn’t what it used to be.. Although Andy Pettite is a solid addition to Mike Mussina… but now last year’s sensation Chien Ming Wang is going to be out for about a month. Mariano Rivera is the best stopper ever with a longevity only challenged by the Padres Trevor Hoffman. The offense looks pretty good with last years theft of Bobby Abreu replacing the now departed Gary Sheffield. Abreu hasn’t been the same hitter since he went nuts at the 2005 Home Run hitting contest. Nonetheless, the rest of the offense with ARod, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui is still incredibly solid. And those hitters will once again break the Red Sox hearts like they did during that horrific 5 game sweep last summer.

RED SOX - Have they recuperated from the massacre in Fenway last summer? David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez again lend their amazing bats that are now supported by the newcomers from the LA Dodgers JD Drew and Julio Lugo. The rotation is solid with Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Josh Beckett and Japanese import Andrew Dice K Matsuzaka. Smart move on the Red Sox sending Jonathan Papelbon back to the pen where he was superb last year. Besides, getting that last out by the bullpen may be what helps them avoid devastating sweeps in ‘07. Despite passionate brilliant arguments from my pal Barry the Rabid Red Sox fan, I ain’t picking them over the Yanks… The Yankees have a far superior offense that will always beat out Boston no matter how big a lead the Bosox build… By the way Red Sox Republicans should cut me some slack.. after I came up with the great commercial idea using Bill Buckner for the Romney Presidential Campaign, by having the ’86 World Series goat say “Hi I’m Bill Buckner…Vote for Romney.. Because everybody could use a good Mitt”.

TORONTO - The Jays continue to make progress - The offense could have 5 guys drive in 100 runs this season! They signed Frank Thomas from the A’s… and Troy Glaus, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay are solid.. Not to mention Alex Rios who drove in 82 runs in 128 games. If their starters Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett and Gustavo Chacin (lifetime record of 23-14) can stay healthy and in Chacin‘s case away from the wheel after he has put away a few…., the AL East will be a 3 team race to the finish line.

The AL Central - the most competitive division in the league.. Even the Royals show some promise with 2 young solid players at 1st and 3rd.

CHISOX - Over the years, the White Sox have made bizarre moves that seem to have worked out. Even without Garcia, the rotation is strong with Jon Garland (18-7 in ‘07; his 2nd straight 18 win season!), Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle and Javier Vasquez. Bobby Jenks has been solid coming out of the pen… The offense meanwhile can be very tough - They have two 40 homerun sluggers in Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye and 2 guys who had 30+ dingers last year - corner infielders Joe Crede and Paul Konerko. The rest of the outfield is a bit shaky especially with lead off speedster Scott Podsednik battling a groin injury.

INDIANS - Time to bounce back from a lame-o 2006 as the young kids become borderline superstars. Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and catcher Victor Martinez are a solid offensive core, and the middle infield looks pretty solid with newcomer Josh Barfield and Jhonny Peralta. Keep an eye on Casey Blake who hit 19 homers last season in only 109 games. They have what the Twins covet - a deep rotation. CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook are a solid starting trio.. although Lee starts the season on the DL, this should be the Indians bounce back year. By the way Sabathia has won 81 games for his career and he’s only 26.. We may have a big 300 win drought coming our way after Tom Glavine. Maybe Randy Johnson and possibly Mike Mussina might win 300. But who comes after that? Sabathia could be next.. many years down the road.

TIGERS - Still mystified that they lost to the lowly Cardinals in the World Series, the Tigers got deeper by adding Gary Sheffield who could be one of 5 guys who has the ability to drive in more than 80 runs.. The other four are Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge, Craig Monroe and Carlos Guillen. The rotation looks to be in good shape… The ageless Kenny Rogers and the 4 other Tiger young ‘uns. The bullpen might start off shaky with ancient Todd Jones nailing down saves, but Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney are waiting in the wings just in case Jones starts to falter. It should be another fun season for the 2006 American League pennant winners.

TWINS - Their huge 2nd half was overshadowed by a quick playoff exit.. But this year the team is ready.. Although the pitching looks just a bit challenged after Johan Santana. On the non Santana days, the offense will have to kick it up a notch, and they have the potential to do so with the well deserved MVP Justin Morneau and superstar catcher Joe Mauer. Outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Torii Hunter had solid years. The question is the non Santana pitchers in the rotation. Manager Ron Gardenhire may be able to get by with a bunch of no names to get him into the solid bullpen anchored by Joe Nathan. They may end up as the best 4th place team in baseball.

One more team for the list.. And it comes from the AL West!

ANGELS - Only 1 team left for the list and that goes to the Angels.. The pitching is very deep and the bullpen is anchored by Fransisco Rodriguez.. The west coast version of Mariano Rivera. The starters are solid.. Led by John Lackey and Jered Weaver who was unstoppable last year getting out of the gate with an 11-2 record. If last years big disappointment Bartolo Colon can bounce back from last year’s shoulder surgery.. this team should win the division, although it really isn’t such a great idea to ever pick them over the A’s who always put together a late season hot streak. The Mariners are also going to be better in ’07. Weaver may miss some time due to an injury and a steroid controversy has hit Gary Matthews Jr,. before he has even played a game. The Angel’s annual late season swoon may be due to the aging offense… but Vladimir Guererro is still a superstar and new additions Shea Hillenbrand and Matthews Jr.. who got a big contract because of one over played catch on ESPN (Hey how about Endy Chavez’s catch in Game 7 of the NLCS????) The new players, combined with the speed at the top supplied by the currently injured Chone Figgins and Orlando Cabrera make the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles/Mighty Ducks Angels the team to beat from The West.

NL Surprise Team: The Cubbies
AL Surprise Team: The Mariners
NL Disappointment: The Cards
AL Disappointment: Orioles fans who are buying into the hype.

NL Division Winners: Phillies, Astros, Diamondbacks
NL Wild Card: One thing about Wild Card Races in Baseball.. Because of the unbalanced schedule, you will see a really good team have a solid year and then a team from a weaker division put together a hot streak in September because they are playing against weaker opposition. That might be an unfair aspect, as you might notice in the Western Divisions where teams go into September at .500 and make a run at the Wild Card while the teams in the more competitive divisions have a tougher schedule. Despite that… my pick is The Mets
AL Division Winners: Yankees, White Sox, Angels
AL Wild Card: Indians.. Sorry Barry.. You’ll always have 2004!

NLCS ; Mets over Phillies
ALCS: Indians over The Angels

World Series champ: Hint: Guillermo Mota played for them in ‘06.. Ok.. The Mets!!

Now time for the Clip of the Week: Passover starts next week. Here is a clip that I think all the Parrotheads are going to enjoy. Thanks to the Snap Crackle Pop blog for sending this to my attention!

Friday, March 09, 2007


NBC seems to be on a game show kick… Big shot Jeff Zucker has said that at some point down the road, the 8 o’clock hour on the Peacock Network will be turned over to game shows.. For a game show fan like myself, that would be good news, but the NBC game shows are pretty lame, except for 1 vs.100. Deal or No Deal is entertaining when you see people who don’t understand statistics allow themselves to be coached by a hyper audience into decisions that cause them to lose the chance to win a lot of money (The British version is so much better even though they don’t have models.. They use other contestants to open the box) 1 vs.. 100 is a lot better.. especially since the celebrity and civilian mob members get to stay on the show till they get a question wrong. Where else could you see my homie Rabbi Shmuley Boteach correctly answering pop culture questions on a (pre-recorded) Friday Night Game Show??

Another new one that will be back on the schedule soon is Identity where people stand on blocks and a contestant has to identify them based on their career, or some other identifier such as World Record Holder, etc. Today’s column is about Identity!

NBC seems to be carving out its identity as the network for Heroes and game shows… Heroes is one of many popular addictive serialized prime time shows that don’t have CSI in the title. Not only am I a regular viewer of shows such as Desperate Housewives, 24, Heroes, and Lost but after I watch ‘em I read the episode bloggers on and… and then I read the comments sections too!! By the way I think most Lost fans missed the boat… In the context of what makes Sayid tick... I don’t think he tortured that French woman.. I think he “confessed” to her because he read her, and realized that “confessing” would set him free.

Thankfully, Im not into the American Idol madness… but now that she has been booted off… is Antonella Barba going to star in the Barba-rella remake? Or will she be in the new Welcome Back Kotter as part of the Barba-rino family? Maybe a Charmin commercial?

Recently, a woman tried to post a comment here at NWOW that reinforced my decision to screen out all the comments on this very blog. The day after I posted my first column, a wisecrack was posted that some people might not have found amusing.. So I edited it and instituted a policy that all comments go through my email. This came in handy last summer when a bunch of people who knew a few newsmakers who were criticized here, launched a vicious attack against a person involved in the news story.

Last wknd, in response to a recent column about an actor on a prime time show a woman posted a comment that was borderline acceptable.. It was a bit of a personal attack, as opposed to a critique of his acting skills. I posted the comment at first, but after clicking the poster’s name it took me to her blog which was a nasty personal attack on the actor, and included of all things his home address! (I should have sent him a Purim basket!) I decided that while the comment was borderline, I didn’t want her blog linked to NWOW so I deleted her comment... I showed this woman’s blog to a 2nd person who thought the blogger might have dated and/or been spurned by this actor. It could make sense,.. I recall a female blogger who had a one night stand with Keith Olbermann posted a lot of TMI details about her little tete a tete with the MSNBC anchor.

I saw recently that fellow blogger Orthomom is being sued by a school board member from Lawrence, in Long Island .. stating that the blog libeled her and now as part of her suit she is looking to unmask Orthomom‘s true identity… (I hear she is really Commissioner Gordon‘s daughter - no that‘s Batgirl… ). The comment that ticked off the school board member was not written by the blogger.. but was actually posted by a person in the comments section.

Lawrence is one of the “5 towns” in Long Island, and if you take that highway (Rockaway Parkway?) past JFK Airport into Lawrence, and keep going towards the beach you run into Far Rockaway! My grandfather was a Rabbi there back in the 60’s and early 70s when he had a house on Hicksville Road. I remember that as a little pisher of about 5 or 6 years old.. we used to visit him there.. his backyard was the beach!! My maternal grandparents immigrated to the USA and moved to Washington DC in the very late 1930s with their 3 kids…. where they remained until the mid 1960s. When they first moved to the USA, my mom hadn’t even arrived on the scene yet.. She was born a week before Pearl Harbor Day. The Great Psychic Pumpstradamus‘s mom was born 4 days later and strangely enough.. he predicted it! . My mom and her siblings eventually moved to New York except for one brother who stayed in Maryland and even though he and his wife eventually moved to FL, all 3 of his children (those would be my cousins) still live in MD to this very day. We actually bought our wedding rings while visiting my cousins in Maryland!

I’m really not too familiar with the school system in Lawrence but I do get annoyed when school budgets are voted down… how can you deprive these innocent children of the opportunity to get a good education? Do voters know as much as the people who design these budgets? Or, are some voters defeating these budgets because they get no benefit because they don't have kids in public school? Personally, I think this board member Pamela Greenbaum has a very difficult job, and even though the comments about her may not have been so nice.. there is no reason to strip a blogger of his or her anonymity due to comments made by a third party. And I support Orthomom 100 percent.

Again, I really don’t know too much about that specific board, but Greenbaum apparently spoke out against allowing private school students to utilize public school facilities/staffers after regular school hours, even though their parents’ tax money funds the school system. I disagree with Greenbaum on that... and by being on the board, she should expect criticism. But I don’t think that warrants a nasty personal attack by anonymous commentators, and I think it is Orthomom's responsibility to delete those personal attacks from the comments section. But then again Greenbaum doesn’t have the right to sue to unmask Orthomom’s true identity. Now Ortho has a bunch of high powered attorneys who specialize in blogger’s anonymity issues who have taken on the case to keep her real persona a secret.... I hope nobody tries to find out my true identity.

Incidentally its interesting she picked the name Orthomom. One of the tons of newspapers I read.. I think it's The Jewish Week in Manhattan says that a newspaper that serves the 5 Towns recently changed its masthead from "The Local Jewish Newspaper" to "The Local Orthodox Newspaper". Another extreme right newspaper whose identity I will withhold had a horrifically insulting letter to the editor criticizing them for an article that referred to a non Orthodox Rabbi by the title of Rabbi. The paper apologized for the "grave error". Ugh.. I know a lot of non Orthodox Rabbis and I think that writer and that editor are way over the line to write such an insulting demeaning comment.

Isn’t Identity such an odd thing.. . It’s “who you are”… but sometimes you just don’t want people to know… and sometimes people are shocked to find out your true identity… as is the case on the NBC show Identity…. But one theory on Ortho Mom‘s true identity. Maybe she‘s Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman? Did you know that Wonder Woman was first introduced in December 1941? Just like my mom and Pumpie‘s Mom! And maybe Ortho-mom? (Rumor has it she's much younger)

Now time for The Clip of the Week.. Speaking of Deal or No Deal.. Here is a clip from the British version…Keep in mind that they dont use models... they use contestants (kind of like Contestants Row on The Price is Right), to stand at a Family Feud type podium holding each box. Each contestant will ultimately get to play the game at some point, but they are all sequestered together in a hotel so they all get to know each other and become good friends and truly care about the player to the point where they are emotionally vested when they lose.. As opposed to the American (and Canadian) versions where the models really could care less… One of these days I’ll post the wacky Australian version! There, contestants take bets on players misfortunes and actually celebrate when they pick a gut wrenching suitcase.