Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Your 2009 Miami Heat Season Preview

The Miami Heat open their season tonight against the oh-so-hated New York Knicks. Here's what you need to know about the team this year, and what to expect from them.

Oh, 2006, you seem like such a distant memory...

The Basics:
- 2008 Record:
43-39, 5th seed in the East, lost in 1st round of playoffs to the Atlanta Hawks
- Coach: Erik Spoelstra, second season.
- Opening Night Starting Five: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwyane Wade, SF Quentin Richardson, PF Michael Beasley, C Jermaine O'Neal.
- Key Additions: SF Quentin Richardson, PG Carlos Arroyo
- Key Losses: SF Jamario Moon

The Analysis: The Miami Heat’s 2008-2009 season ended in the first round of the NBA playoffs in a seventh and decisive game against the Atlanta Hawks. The Heat did not really make any power moves, and this is because the organization failed in trying to bring Lamar Odom or Carlos Boozer to town is trying to have as much salary cap space as possible for the very much hyped summer of 2010. As it stands now, the Heat will have the most cap space in what is sure to be a legendary summer of free agent signings. That’s right, they will even have more than the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets. Another perk that goes in the Heat’s favor is that they can pay Dwyane Wade more than any other team can. The Heat would also have enough money to bring in another, or maybe even two, superstars!

…wait, we still have to get through the 2009 NBA regular season? Oh, okay. Sorry about that loyal failures (because you are readers of our blog not because you are inept in life), where was I? Oh right, let’s get back on track shall we?

The Miami Heat didn’t make any major changes, but there were plenty of subtle ones. Jamario Moon left the Heat to sign with the Cleveland Lebrons in hopes of winning a title this season. The South Florida franchise parted ways with Mark Blount and traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Luther Head decided to sign with the Pacers as a free agent. Don’t get the wrong idea though - the Heat did manage to sign some role players as well. The Heat’s biggest move was the addition of Quentin Richardson in the aforementioned Blount trade, and it looks as though Q-Rich will finally being staying put after a surely hectic offseason. Q-Rich will be starting at the 3 spot for the Heat come tonight against the hated Knicks, and his 3-point shooting ability will definitely be a big help (35.4% from Eric Reid Kaboom-land in his career). The Heat also signed Shavlik Randolph, a forward in his fourth year out of Duke. I don’t really see this player doing much for the Heat this season, but he’s 6-10 236 so I won’t say no. Finally, the Miami Heat signed FIU product Carlos Arroyo (he of Puerto Rican Olympic basketball fame) only two short weeks ago. I think Arroyo will see a solid amount of time backing up Mario Chalmers with Chris Quinn. I wouldn’t doubt it if he’s in games late to ice them with his career 80% from the FT line. Now, let’s talk about the returning pieces of the puzzle.

Let’s start with the bench players and work our way up into the role players, shall we? Dorell Wright, five years later and we still don’t know what to say about this kid. He undoubtedly has potential, but he has never been able to tap into it and become the star we have been hoping for. Maybe this year could be that year that Dorell steps it up, but prior history would say that he will remain with limited minutes in a limited role. The Heat used Jamaal Magloire for his presence on defense as well as to be able to be the player to commit fouls when necessary, and I do not see his role expanding from that this year either. The Miami native, James Jones, will continue to have somewhat of a role as a shooting specialist this season, but I would not be surprised if we saw more of him. Yahkouba Diawara will continue to have his role on the court for his length, so expect Coach Spo’ to put him in for specialized defensive situations. The same role can also be attributed to Joel Anthony, who will be seeing time as Jermaine O’Neal’s back up. Joel Anthony’s role on the team could be expanded very easily due to the major question mark that is O’Neal’s health (knock on wood). Quinn will still get substantial time as a back up to Super Mario this season, and I will allow it due to his heart and hustle [Ed. Note: some would say he’s scrappy!]. Daequan Cook will be seeing a lot of time this season in a more expanded version of James Jones role on the team. Cook has shown clutch ability and can easily sink the shot from downtown. He is one Ohio State Buckeye in a Miami franchise that I CAN stomach from night-to-night (I’m looking at you, Ted Ginn). The sixth man on the team, along with the starters, will get a more in-depth look.

The Heat made a kind of surprising move in putting their captain, Udonis Haslem, on the bench. Both the Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald have reported that the coaching staff of the Heat has elected to start their young investment, Michael Beasley, over the Heat’s blue-collar veteran captain. This came as a surprise to me because I had heard that Beasley was going to be moved to the 3 spot this season, and that he would be playing behind Richardson. However, we now know that that is not the case. This move will undoubtedly show the character of Haslem, and every true Heat fan knows that the Heat’s great leader is always willing to do what the franchise thinks is best. Haslem will still see plenty of time this season, and he will only end up working even harder without having to worry about fatigue as much.

The Heat will have the former-Kansas Jayhawk icon, Mario Chalmers, starting at the point this year; and I am very curious to see how much this 2nd year player has improved over his first professional offseason. There are two things I will be looking for in Chalmers this year. First, I would like to see how he has developed as a point guard in the facet of making the right decisions. I am interested to see if Erik Spoelstra and company have been able to get Chalmers to act more like a floor general instead of just a pure scorer like he once was. If Chalmers, can balance being a floor general and still maintain his ability to put points on the board then it would be safe to say that the Heat have found their point guard for the future. He can solidify his spot as being the Heat’s point guard moving forward if he has improved in my other quandary about him - has his defense improved? Chalmers was among the best in the league in steals per game, and if he has gotten even better at position defense then he could very well be one of the top defensive point guards in the league as soon as this season.

Q-Rich was already touched on slightly, but I still have a few things I would like to see. I would simply like to see how quickly and how well he can fit in with the rest of his new teammates in Miami. If he struggles early, I would not be surprised if Coach Spo' decided to go forward with moving Beasley to the 3, and thus returning Udonis Haslem to the starting line-up at the 4. We know the guy can score, but we just don’t know how he will fit into the Miami Heat system just yet.

Jermaine O’Neal claims that he is 100% and feeling like an all-star once again. O’Neal claims to be playing with a chip on his shoulder to prove all of his doubters wrong, sort of like how D-Wade had to last season. Anytime that O’Neal even limps people will be skeptical about his health, but that is to be expected. O’Neal will have questions about his health surrounding him in every pre- and post-game conference, and he will simply have to do what he feels he is able to do this season. I personally like to see this fire out of the Heat’s big man, and I wouldn’t mind seeing that Pacers player that always seemed to dominate the Heat only a few years ago.

To me, Beasley will be the biggest X-factor of the Heat’s season this year. Dwyane Wade will continue to be Dwyane Wade, but as we saw last year, that can only take the Heat so far. I am interested in seeing how Beasley bounces back this season. I have heard nothing but good news about his development as a basketball player. Everyone around the organization has said that he has gotten stronger and improved on his skill set. However, like Jermaine O’Neal, there will be questions surrounding Beasley all season. This, of course, is due to Beasley’s stint in rehab over the summer that was related to drug and alcohol problems. Beasley has said that he is now sober, and the team has supported him the whole way through this ordeal. I think the Heat will continue to support him because they have invested so much in him, and I think that he could be up for the Most Improved Player award by season’s end. If Beasley can become that 20-10 (pts-rebs) player that some people are suggesting he could be this season then I would have to say that the Heat could do some damage past the regular season.

The Heat went 43-39 last year with this new team together for the first time. Many members of that team have returned, and there is undoubtedly more chemistry between them due to having one year under their belt. Dwyane Wade will continue to be a stud and MVP candidate, but that only got them their record from last year. I think that if Jermaine can stay healthy, Chalmers can impress me on both of my aforementioned fronts, and if Beasley can be that stud people are saying he could be as soon as this season then it would be hard to say that the Heat would not improve. I personally don’t think Chalmers and Beasley will accomplish what I’m looking for them to accomplish immediately, but the Heat will definitely be a better team after the All-Star break.

The Prediction: 48-34 (five-win improvement over last season), which I think translates to the 5-seed in the East. Yes, a 5-seed. I think the East improves somewhat this season. The real question will be whether or not this record will be enough to convince Wade to stay in Miami beyond this season. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2009 NBA Preview: From A to Z

We did this last year, and try to do it for most professional sports seasons. It might be insightful, and maybe even a bit comical. So here it goes: your 2009 NBA preview, from A to Z.

A is for Artest... again. Last year, we started with the same thing for A, because Artest was new to Houston and we wondered what impact he would have on a Rockets team with Yao and Tracy McGrady. This season, he joins Kobe, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and the defending champion Lakers. Does his addition put them over the top, again?

B is for Boston's Big Four. With the addition of Rasheed Wallace, Boston has a scary (and old) starting five, including their big four of Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and emerging point guard Rajon Rondo. It's going to be curious to see how Wallace's addition will change this team: will it be for the better, or will they be too old... "not for this earth, but for this club."

C is for
The Curse of the Clippers. The ugly stepchild of the Lakers had their No. 1 overall pick, Blake Griffin, just go down for six weeks with a stress fracture. This franchise gets no luck, and as J.A. Adande pointed out on Twitter, the Clippers' three No. 1 overall draft picks have been Griffin (this injury), Danny Manning (torl ACL) and Michael Olowokandi (he suffered from being Michael Olowokandi). Brutal.

D is for DE-TROIT BASKET-BALL.
That always annoys me, but whatever. The Pistons added Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon in the offseason, while losing Allen Iverson, Sheed and Antonio McDyess. It's obvious they are trying to get younger, and rebuild, but I still think they can improve on their 39-43 record from last season.

E is for El Mariachi
. And by El Mariachi, I mean Delonte West. This offseason, West was arrested on some incredibly awesome charges. This has nothing to do with the season, I just wanted to bring it up again.

F is for Frequent Flier Miles.
Because Quentin Richardson has got lots of 'em after this offseason. Let's recap it: he was traded from New York, to Memphis, to the Clippers, to Minnesota and then finally to Miami, where he is now the starting small forward for the Heat.

G is for GM Sir Charles Barkley.
Well, he's not a GM yet... but he did say that he's seen all of these other guys fail at it, and think he deserves his own chance to fail at being a GM. And as you all know, we endorse anything that would involve the Round Mound of Rebound. He wouldn't be that turrrible, would he?

H is for Howard, as in Dwight Howard.
He's a beast of a player, and yet he's probably only 20-30% of the player he could be. If he can finally develop into the complete (and completely dominant) player he's meant to be, the Magic will be making many trips deep into the playoffs for years to come.

I is for Inevitable.
Because the media is already hyping a Kobe-LeBron finals, as if it's inevitable, before a single game has been played. But I would not count out San Antonio, Boston and Orlando with 82 games left to be played.

J is for Joe Johnson and the Hawks.
There are clearly three elite teams in the East: Cleveland, Boston and Orlando. Are the Johnson-led Hawks the best of the rest?

K is for Kobe.
He finally got his ring without Shaq, and he still has a loaded team... so we know he won't be satisfied with just that fourth ring, and his mission this year will be to get one for the thumb.

L is for... who else, but Lebron.
Last year, during All-Star weekend, he "preliminarily" threw his name into the ring for the 2010 dunk contest. I hope he keeps his word, because it is sure to be entertaining (though he would probably win regardless of the degree of difficulty of his dunks).

M is for MVP.
This is where I give you my MVP prediction. While I'm always tempted to go with the hometown guy, Dwyane Wade (he's Wooj's pick for MVP, as usual), I'm going to throw a curve ball and go with Dwight Howard.

N is for the New guys, as in the rookies.
Since I've already got something planned for R, my rookie of the year pick will go here. I'm going to go with DeJuan Blair of the Spurs. He put up some monster numbers this preseason, and while he probably doesn't start, he will be a vital contributor of the bench in the Spurs quest for a fourth ring in eight years.

O is for Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder won't be great this year, nor will they make the playoffs in the West. However, they will be lots of fun to watch, and we think Kevin Durant is going to have a huge season. He's really going to break out.

P is for Prenups!
Holler, "we want prenups!" Lamar Odom got a prenup with Khloe Kardashian before they "tied the knot." As a result, I'm setting the over/under on how long this marriage lasts for the All-Star break.

Q is for Question.
Will Tracy McGrady make it out of the first round of the playoffs? His team did it last year, but he was injured. Hell, will the Rockets even make the playoffs with Yao trying to return from injury, and no Artest?

R is for Repeat.
Each time Phil Jackson has won a title with a team (after a different team won the previous year), his team has repeated as champion. Will that streak come to an end this season?

S is for the Summer of 2010.
Yes, after this season is the much-hyped Summer of 2010, where the likes of LeBron, D-Wade, et al become free agents. Expect monster seasons from them, and much speculation as to where they will end up... because that's probably all we will hear about until July 1, 2010.

T is for The Turkish Michael Jordan. Hedo Turkoglu
bounced out of Orlando and headed north of the border to Toronto, where he joins Chris Bosh. Can the two create some much needed chemistry and improve the Raptors after a 33-49 record last year? And more importantly, will the addition of Turkoglu be enough to keep Bosh satisfied in Toronto so that Bosh re-signs in the offseason?

U is for Useless.
Which is exactly what the addition of Shaq will be for the Cavs. I don't think he has enough left in his tank to do for LeBron the same thing he did for Kobe and Wade. And if this season doesn't end in a ring, then the addition of Shaq will have been useless.

V is for Vinsanity.
The Magic lost the Turkish MJ, but acquired Vince Carter to add to a team that has a great point guard in Jameer Nelson, and a great big man in Howard. This is the most talented team Carter has played for, and I see this ending very well for the Magic.

W is for Winners.
Who we got winning it all this season? Like I said, I like the addition of Carter for the Magic, and if the core of that team can stay healthy, I like them to walk away with the franchise's first championship. For what it's worth, I like the Spurs to come out of the West.

X is for X-factor.
This one is a a curve ball: Michael Beasley. He went to rehab this offseason for some drug issues, and as a result, I think his head will be in the right place this season. He put up good numbers as a rookie, but his improvement this season could be a huge factor in the Heat's success.

Y is for the division winners (Y).
Here are my predictions for which teams will win each division this season: Boston, Cleveland, Orlando in the East and San Antonio, the Lakers and Portland in the West.

Z is for Zebras.
This preseason, we were stuck with replacement officials, but the real officials finally came to terms with the league and will be back in action for the opener. The scrub referees made us realize how good actual officials are, and we are glad they are back.

And since the officials are back, that means we can officially tip-off the NBA season tonight. So enjoy it. Feel free to leave any predictions of your own in the comments. Tomorrow, Wooj will treat you all with a Miami Heat season preview.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tim Hardaway and Zo Will be Reunited on Wednesday

The first two jerseys to hang in the rafters at the American Airlines Arena in Miami did not belong to Heat players, but the next two that have been enshrined belong to the greats. On Wednesday, before the Heat's season opener at home against the (hated) New York Knicks, the franchise will retire Tim Hardaway's No. 10 jersey.

Hardaway, who played point guard for the Heat for five seasons from 1996-2001, took the Heat from middle-of-the-pack, to the class of the Atlantic division, by playing alongside Alonzo Mourning. With Wednesday's pregame ceremony, the two will be reunited, as Mourning's No. 33 is the other Heat jersey in the rafters.

Hardaway, while with the Heat, was another fan favorite, and over the course of his stint in Miami he became the franchise's all-time leader in assists, and three-point field goals. He also ranks fifth in points and steals, as well as tenth in games played.

What Heat fans will remember Hardaway most for was making opponents look silly on a regular basis with his killer crossover, affectionately referred to as the "UTEP Two-Step."




But Hardaway was more than just endless crossovers in a Heat uniform; he was the floor general that the franchise needed. In 1996-97, he was an MVP candidate, while leading the Heat to a franchise-best record.

Of course, there was also his role on the 2000 USA basketball team in the Sydney Olympics, which ended in a gold medal. Since then, he has played for a couple of other teams, but still resides in Miami, and sits a few rows behind the visiting bench during Heat home games, remaining as a presence in the city where has had so many highlights

But for all the high-points in Hardaway's career with the Heat, there were also some lows. He suffered many injuries with the Heat, and as a result, missed significant time during the playoffs for the Heat. Heat fans can only imagine what could have been had Hardaway remained healthy.

While the injuries were hardly anything Hardaway could do about, there was one dent in his image that could have been prevented. In 2007, Hardaway made his infamous homophobic remarks where he, among other things, said he hated gay people.

Hardaway has since issued multiple apologies for the incident, and while it is something that most fans will not forget, it is something that has been put in the past.

And while I don't agree with some of the things he has said and done outside of the confinements of a basketball arena, as a fan of the game of basketball, and a long-time fan of the Miami Heat, I congratulate him for having his jersey retired.

Fortunately for Hardaway, his enshrinement into Heat immortality on Wednesday is for his accomplishments on the court, and for what he meant to the team in a Heat uniform. And for those reasons, I will gladly show due respect to Hardaway the point guard.

Five Things We Think We Think We Might Know: Week 8

We are now eight weeks through the college football season. What that means? Who knows, because one week can change everything in college football. I do know that it means I have five more things we think we think we might know.

1. The ACC Coastal division is Georgia Tech's to lose. With UM's overtime loss to Clemson on Saturday, it left Georgia Tech tied with Virginia Tech for first in the division. Gt does own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Hokies though, and with just two ACC games left (against Duke and Wake Forest), GT could very well be booking their hotel for Jacksonville... they just have to handle their business.

2. Terrence Cody is a large man, and an even larger difference maker. The 6-foot-5, 365-pound defensive lineman for Alabama came up huge for the Tide on Saturday, blocking two kicks. The blocks sealed Bama's 12-10 win over Tennessee, and kept the Tide undefeated.

Speaking of that Alabama game....

3. Alabama's win on Saturday reminded me of Florida's win against South Carolina in 2006. Yes, I am drawing a parallel between this season's Alabama team and the 2006 national champion Gators. Aside from both teams having a dominant defense as a focal point, in 2006, Florida's win at home against South Carolina became a signature moment for that title run. If you recall, Florida won that game, narrowly (17-16), after defensive lineman Jarvis Moss blocked an extra point, and two field goals, including a potential game-winner. Oddly similar to Alabama's win this weekend, no? Only time will tell if it is considered a focal point in Alabama's season.

4. We might see multiple undefeated teams this season, and at least one of them will feel left out. We know Florida or Alabama will have at least one loss. Texas seems to be clear on its way to a Big 12 title. Cincy plays in the Big East, and has a pretty tolerable schedule ahead. But this point mostly has to do with TCU and Boise State. Both could very well finish the season undefeated, and by BCS rules, only one will be guaranteed a BCS berth... which means one of them might be left out in the cold.

5. Florida's redzone offense, for a lack of better words, sucks. I know this is a third thing that deals with the SEC, and I apologize. But really, Florida's redzone offense has been abysmal this season. Many are quick to blame new offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, but keep in mind that wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales is the man responsible for calling the redzone plays. The play-calling has been unimaginative and uninspiring, to say the least, and it doesn't help when Tebow makes poor decision, or when the offensive line collapses around him. Something needs to be done to improve this Gators offense once they are inside the 20, because kicking field goals will not lead to another national title.

The Real Losers from the Past Week In Sports...

... are South Florida sports fans. It was a terrible week for South Florida sports fans. Let's give it a rundown, shall we?

- The Phillies (one of the Marlins' most-hated rivals) won the pennant in the NL.
- The Yankees won the AL pennant, and as we all know, fans of Miami teams have a natural instinct to hate any and all teams from New York.

Of course, the combination of the first two things means that one of those teams will win the World Series. And as I've said before in the past week: as a person from Miami, I hate teams from New York; as a Marlins fan, I hate the Phillies; and as a decent human being, I hate Philadelphians.

- The Dolphins lost to the Saints despite a dominating first half where they, at one point, led 24-3 against arguably the best team in the league. It all went down hill from there, and the Saints scored the final 22 points of the game.

- The Hurricanes lost, painfully, in overtime to Clemson in football. While I personally took joy in this, I know most South Floridians are fans of the Hurricanes, and this was a crushing loss for them.

- There's also the egg that USF laid against the Pittsburgh Wannstaches, and of course, Florida's underwhelming offensive performance against Mississippi State.

Collectively, South Floridians are the real losers in sports this weekend, and it was about the equivalent of a medicine ball to the groin area.

Now, let's end this awful weekend for sports, South Floridians. And let's hope that this next week of sports turns around, and another win against the Jets would be a great way to do so.

In Which I No Longer Defend Ted Ginn Jr.

I've tried to be both reasonable and optimistic about Ted Ginn Jr. as a Miami Dolphins wide receiver. I've tried to convince myself time and time again that he wasn't a bust, or a reach, after the Dolphins drafted him ninth overall in the 2007 draft. But Sunday was the breaking point for me as an optimist.

Back in the preseason, I wrote this about Ted Ginn possibly becoming the go-to receiver for the Dolphins. Well, Sunday has made me take it all back.

Now, don't get me wrong, Ginn, like many other underachieving athletes, has had his share of instances where he has shown signs of legitimacy, and even brilliance. Take the Jets game a couple of weeks ago, where Ginn, who was being covered by Darelle Revis (arguably the best cover-corner in the NFL). In previous games this season, Revis shut down both Randy Moss and Andre Johnson; but Ginn made him look foolish on a bomb from Chad Henne that resulted in a touchdown.

But then, of course, there are days like Sunday, where Ginn makes you forget about anything beneficial he may have ever done for the team, and instead, those flashes of brilliance from him that sit in the back of my mind turn into rage, and hatred, for him as a player.

There are the drops, where Ginn should easily have the catch, but instead focuses on trying to run after the catch and looks upfield, rather than looking the ball into his grip. And, of course, there's the play where he bobbles a nice throw from Henne, and practically hands it to two defensive backs, and it results in a pick six for the Saints.

After Ginn's big game against the Jets, I also went out on a limb and said that Henne could be the best thing to happen to Ginn as a receiver. Hell, that could still be true, but I don't care anymore.

While it would be wrong of me to place the blame for Sunday's devastating loss solely on your (and your family's!) shoulders, Ginn; you certainly didn't help your team's effort to try to win the game.

When it gets to the point where my mom texts me and tells me that you're not very good, then you've really proven yourself as a failure, because, keep in mind, my mom was the same person that kind of defended the Marlins' Emilio Bonifacio (at least from me talking bad about him for a month).

So that's it, Ted Ginn, you may have just lost the last person within the Dolphins fan base (that's not in your family) that believed in you. You have deceived me, and other fans, long enough. I no longer feel you are welcomed on this Dolphins roster, and I would have much rather the team drafted Hakeem Nicks in this past year's first round. Good day, sir, I will defend you no more.

The Week 8 "4th and Fail" College Football Top 10

Each writer for this blog, weekly, will compile their own top ten college football ballot. For each ballot, first place gets ten points, second place gets nine, and so on. We will then add together the totals and bring to you our collective poll. With that said, I present to you the Week 7 "4th and Fail" College Football Poll.

Here's last week's poll, as a reference point for you all.

Final Ballot (with Total Points in parentheses)

1. Alabama(29)
2. Florida (28)
3. Texas (24)
4. Iowa (20)
5. Cincinnati (17)
6. USC (13)
7. Oregon (9)
T-8. TCU (8)
T-8. Boise State (8)
10. Georgia Tech (5)
Others receiving votes: LSU (4)

The voting breakdown is as follows, with brief explanations from each writer:

-TV's ballot.

1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Texas
4. Cincinnati
5. Iowa
6. TCU
7. Boise State
8. USC
9. Oregon
10. Georgia Tech

Explanation: I put Florida back at number 1, just because they looked better than Alabama this weekend (plus if you use the transitive property of college football, Florida beat Tennessee by more than Bama did). It's stupid to switch these two teams, as long as they keep winning, because one of them will be eliminated come the first week of December. The rest of the top five stays the same, seeing as how they are all undefeated. TCU comes in at sixth after its impressive win in Provo against BYU. Boise State could very well go undefeated, but that could be for naught if TCU wins out, too, but more on that later. USC and Oregon faceoff this weekend, and one of them will drop out of next week's ballot, too. Then GT checks in at tenth, since they have one loss and control their own destiny in the ACC.

- Ted's ballot

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Iowa
5. Cincinnati
6. USC
7. LSU
8. Georgia Tech
9. Boise St.
10. Oregon

Explanation: DIAF Ted Ginn. Seriously. [Ed. Note: Okay, this isn't exactly an explanation, but Ted didn't have time to write one, but he did say those words about Ginn. I guess someone had something on his mind while filling out his ballot this week.]

- Wooj's ballot

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Iowa
5. Oregon
6. USC
7. Cincinnati
8. TCU
9. Boise State
10. Georgia Tech

Explanation: Alabama remains on top because Florida was not impressive in their win. Texas closed the gap between them and the top 2, but not enough to crack the top 2. However, with the “play-in game” known as the SEC title game looking more and more likely to be #1 against #2, I’d have to say they are sitting pretty. Iowa’s last second touchdown grab has given them the #4 spot in my poll this week. I have Oregon and USC at 5 and 6 (and ahead of Cincy) because they will have a showdown this week in which one will emerge as the cream of the crop in the Pac-10, and Oregon keeps on impressing me more every week. Therefore, the winner will end up ahead of Cincy in next weeks poll, and the other below so I’m setting up the match right now. TCU comes in at 8 and jumps fellow non-BCS team Boise State simply because TCU has played a more difficult schedule than the Broncos. Georgia Tech was impressive in their win this week, and with the Hurricanes of Miami falling out the ten, GT is now the top shelf bottle of the ACC.

No Cinderellas In This Pumpkin Month: Baseball Got It Right

Sorry baseball fans, the clock has struck midnight and the World Series will be played between the two top teams in baseball. We will not see Joe Torre’s Dodgers play the Yankees this year.

The Angels will not play for the title of World Series Champions in honor of the fallen Nick Adenhart.

The Cardinals will not meet the Yankees in a battle of the first and second most successful franchises in baseball (in terms of World Series victories).

No, there will be none of this baseball fans. Instead, we will see the defending World Series Champions play the most dominant team in the AL this season. We will get to see Ryan Howard vs. A-Rod in a battle of power hitters, and we will also get to see the Phillies pitchers duel with the Yankees (Cliff Lee vs. CC Sabathia in Game 1 sounds like a lot of fun). This series, like any series, will try to muster up some sort of storyline such as Pedro Martinez pitching against the Yankees once again, but fans should look forward to the two top teams slugging it out for the right to be called champion.

It seems this year, that the playoffs got it right, and we will get to see the two teams that deserve to be playing for a World Series. Some might try and hype it as potentially the greatest World Series of all-time (probably hyperbole) ... instead, I will hype it as the Anti-Mets Series

So let's play ball, gents, and find out who truly is the best team this season.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Channing Crowder Speaks His Mind

Channing Crowder is a linebacker for the Dolphins, as I'm sure most of you know. He also happened to go to UF and was one of my favorite players during his stint in Gainesville. He's been known to be a bit... umm... eccentric? Yeah, I'll go with eccentric. Among some of his hobbies: wrestling razorbacks (no, that's not a euphemism of any sort), and speaking his mind.

The first we really heard Crowder speak his mind this year, was in an ongoing battle with Jets rookie head coach, Rex Ryan. The history of that feud can be found here.

Then, yesterday, I stumbled upon an awesome tidbit of information courtesy of The Miami Herald's David J. Neal, who covers the Dolphins and the NFL, for the paper. On Twitter, Neal tweeted this quote that came from Crowder, regarding the Saints, the Dolphins' opponent this weekend. Enjoy.This quote is pretty hilarious, and that's about all there is to say about it. But come Sunday, Dolphins fans hope that Crowder can back up his mouth, and help the team hand New Orleans its first loss of the season. And if the Dolphins hope to do so, you can expect to see a heavy dosage of the Wildcat, to help control the clock and keep the Saints' incendiary offense off the field for as long as possible.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marc Curles and His Crew Won't Be Blowing Calls for a Few Weeks

The good commissioner giveth, and the good commissioner taketh away. At least, that's the case with SEC commissioner Mike Slive today after he suspended Marc Curles (that's him over to the left) and his officiating crew.

The suspension comes after Curles and his crew blew a couple of calls late in the Florida-Arkansas game this past Saturday, in which the Gators eked out a 23-20 victory. The officiating crew also called a questionable excessive celebration penalty on Georgia's AJ Green a couple of weeks prior that may have directly effected the outcome of the game, which Georgia lost to LSU.

Slive suspended the crew until November 14, citing that the crew has not met the standards expected of them in calling games.

I believe this is the right move; however, why just suspend them a few games? They have shown
that they are not fit to properly officiate games, having impacted the outcome of two highly-touted SEC games in recent weeks. Yes, they are humans and calls are based on their judgment, but clearly this crew's judgment has been clouded this season.

As I mentioned, Curles and his crew return from suspension on November 14. That weekend, Florida visits South Carolina (both are currently ranked), No. 1 Alabama visits Mississippi State and Auburn and Georgia also face off, among other games. Don't expect that crew to be assigned to any of those high-profile games. Instead, I'm sure we will probably see them at the Kentucky-Vanderbilt game in Nashville, or maybe even in Fayetteville for the Troy-Arkansas game.

At least in those games, if the crew makes any mistakes, it won't have any implications on the national picture.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Five Things We Think We Think We Might Know: Week 7

Are we really seven weeks into the college football season already? Wow. This weekend taught us a few things... we think. There are still five undefeated teams remaining in the six BCS conferences, but I'm sure that will change in the weeks to come. Anyways, here's what we think we think we might know after seven weeks of college football.

1. Mark Ingram might be the Heisman front-runner at the moment. Against South Carolina on Saturday, Ingram ran for 246 yards on 24 carries. He has 905 yards and 8 scores so far this season. While the big names that everyone thought would contend for the award this season have not distanced themselves from the pack, Ingram is slowly coming out of nowhere and getting some Heisman love.

2. It looks like we might need this to solve the ACC again this year. Georgia Tech's win over Virginia Tech puts a three-way tie (for second at the moment) between those teams in the ACC Coastal division. Things could get wacky again... though I think the wackiest part is that Virginia is currently the leader in the ACC clubhouse.

3. Sam Bradford should have taken the money and run. He re-aggravated his shoulder on Saturday on the second drive against Texas in the Red River Rivalry. He probably should have gone pro after winning the Heisman and almost a BCS title last season, but what's done is done. Let's just hope the kid doesn't further injure himself and cost himself millions of dollars in draft stock.

4. Defense wins games (and championships). See: Florida Gators. Simple as that. UF's defense kept them in the game despite the offense turning the ball over four times. They kept the Razorbacks' offense in check long enough for Tim Tebow and company to claw their way back and escape with a three-point victory on homecoming weekend for the Gators.

5. Marc Curles and his officiating crew aren't good at their job. The same SEC officiating crew that called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Georgia's AJ Green a couple of weeks ago against LSU, also officiated the UF-Arkansas game. The SEC said today that the crew blew a couple of calls down the stretch of the game, that may have cost Arkansas the upset. I can't comment on the calls myself, as I was in the stands and didn't have the advantage of seeing them on replay multiple times. But seriously, this crew needs to stop blowing games, and let the players decide the outcome.

The Week 7 "4th and Fail" College Football Top 10

[Editor's Note: sorry for the recent lack of posts the past week, we should have some more pieces going up this week since school is slowing down a bit for me this week.]

Each writer for this blog, weekly, will compile their own top ten college football ballot. For each ballot, first place gets ten points, second place gets nine, and so on. We will then add together the totals and bring to you our collective poll. With that said, I present to you the Week 7 "4th and Fail" College Football Poll.

Here's last week's poll, as a reference point for you.

Final Ballot (with Total Points in parentheses)

1. Alabama (30)
2. Florida (27)
3. Texas (24)
4. Cincinnati (20)
T-5. Iowa (16)
T-5. USC (16)
7. Boise State (13)
8. Miami (10)
9. Oregon (6)
T-10. LSU, Georgia Tech and TCU (1 vote each).

The voting breakdown is as follows, with brief explanations from each writer:

-TV's ballot.

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Cincinnati
5. Iowa
6. Boise State
7. USC
8. Miami
9. Oregon
10. LSU

Explanation: I don't have much to say after witnessing this week's UF game in the Swamp. Alabama looks like the best team still, despite Greg McElroy regressing some in recent weeks. Florida, Texas, Cincy and Iowa are all undefeated BCS teams, so they will out the top 5. VT and OSU drop out following losses and Oregon and LSU sneak back into my top 10, for now. Oh, and I've got USC ahead of UM because, despite USC having the worse of the two losses between the two schools, I think they are still more talented right now. GT is just outside of my top 10 after a big win against VT.

- Ted's ballot.

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Cincinnati
5. Iowa
6. USC
7. Miami
8. Boise St.
9. Oregon
10. Georgia Tech

Explanation: Last week, I said the following:

"Ohio St has started doing it's thing again though, and pretty soon they will be back in the hunt for the BCS Championship Game."

Well my job here is done. Moving on, not too much change in my poll this week with the exception of Virginia Tech dropping out. I was going to have Cincinnati jump them even before they lost after the Bearcats solid win in Tampa. I bumped Iowa up because they have an impressive resume now. They are 7-0 with five wins over BCS conference teams. I tried to justify getting TCU in the poll, but the schedule is still weak and Boise St. still has that win over Oregon. The ten spot was truly up for grabs after losses by Kansas and Nebraska. I thought about giving it to LSU but decided to reward the Yellow Jackets instead. They have bounced back very nicely after a bad defeat in Miami a few weeks ago.


- Wooj's ballot.


1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. USC
5. Cincy
6. Boise St.
7. Iowa
8. Miami
9. Oregon
10. TCU
Teams knocking on the door: GT

Explanation: Bama's been the most impressive. Florida is still winning, as is Texas. USC is rolling following that loss to Washington. Cincy had a big win AT USF. Boise is still winning, and Iowa jumps up two spots after improving to 7-0. Miami didn't do much against UCF except win. Oregon and TCU move in because VT and OSU dropped out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Celebrating a Year of Awesomeness

Note: This post is a bit lengthy, link-heavy and a tad nostalgic.

Today, this fine web site turns one year old. That's right, folks, I've been supplying you all with quality work for 365 days now. It's a milestone that I'm quite proud of, considering the humble beginnings of this blog.

It all began with a rather mundane post following the Dolphins loss to the Texans last season. Well, that was the inaugural post for this blog. It really began a week or so before that, when I came up with the idea for this site. I had been an avid reader of several other blogs, and have been studying journalism in college, and knew I wanted to go into sports writing. That's when it clicked and I decided I wanted to start a sports blog.

Now that the idea was there, I had to come up with a name. I tossed around some ideas in my head before finally settling on "Fourth and Fail." Now I'm sure you are all curious as to the origins of the name. It's a reason I've always known about since this blog's inception, but have told few other people about. The reasoning behind the name can be traced back to Florida's game against Ole Miss last season. You know, the lone loss en route to another national title for the Gators. That game, Florida failed on a fourth down conversion late in the game that sealed the victory for the Rebels. I went with it because it was fresh in my mind, and well, it was kind of catchy. Unbeknownst to me, that moment became the turning point in Florida's title run.

Coming into this experience, I didn't know what to expect. I wanted to provide sports commentary, and focus on Florida sports because well, that's my territory and what I'm surrounded by every day. I wasn't necessarily looking for recognition, but would gladly take any that came along during the ride.

Shortly after that first post, I got my first taste of recognition when other sites linked to my post (complete with photoshopping!) with college football coaches as character's on HBO's Entourage.

Since then, I continued with a variety of posts, some introspective, some comedic (or a failed attempt at being comedic), and certainly more than my fair share of lists. I wrote posts that would have gotten me drawn and quartered if I tried to make my case in a public forum, such as my argument for why college football needs the BCS. That same month, I offered up an open letter to Roger Goodell to adopt the college football overtime system following a tie between the Eagles and Bengals, and I even suggested a way to crown a champion in the cluttered ACC.

As time went by, I worked on refining my writing approach and creating my own editorial voice. When Alonzo Mourning retired, a penned a tribute to his illustrious career with the Heat. That same month, I wrote about another South Florida basketball legend: Edwin Rios, except this was the story of his fall from grace.

Again, I kept working to better myself as a writer... and of course, compiled more lists. I celebrated March Madness, shared my (failed) brackets. And of course, I celebrated the biggest holiday in March: Shawn Bradley's birthday.

I witnessed UF freshman Preston Tucker belt 2 grand slams and a three-run jack... in three innings. I took an alphabetic approach to previewing the NBA, MLB and NFL. Then this summer, things got real.

I was fortunate to interview two of my favorite sports writers, Stewart Mandel of SI and Israel Gutierrez of the Miami Herald, within a two-week span of each other. It was almost a surreal experience, getting to pick the brains of two guys who's work I read on a regular basis.

I saluted Mark Buerhle's perfect game, and attempted to rank each of the MLB's 18 perfect games. While we're on the topic of incredible baseball feats, I reviewed Rickey Henderson's much-anticipated Hall of Fame speech, which was, surprisingly, not Rickey talking about Rickey.

Over the last year, I've made some neat connections with other bloggers, including the guys over at Marlins Die-Hards, The Arena, Souvenir City, and several others. It introduced me to many other like-minded individuals and a myriad of other opinions and voices.

Then, last month, I got into the business of "aggressive expansion" and added two staff writers to the non-existent payroll around these parts. Shortly after that, I began contributing my services over at College Game Balls, where I exclusively write about college football (my favorite sport).

And that brings me to where I am now. It's been a great first year maintaining this site, and I hope to continue it for another year, and even further into the future. It's been a fun first year, and the fact that I've been able to do it my way has been great. I haven't resorted to gratuitous swearing, or the obligatory photos of attractive women that some blogs are noted for (though there's nothing wrong with either of those things). I enjoy reading those posts, but writing them has just not been my style, at least on this site. I like to try to keep it somewhat journalistic, because at the end of the day, I am a journalism major. Still, it's been an enjoyable run to date.

I hope you all have enjoyed at least one post that has been published here over the last 365 days, because if you did, then I have achieved my goal of trying to provide you with my insightful, and at times comedic, view into the world of sports. Thank you again for reading me on a (semi-?)regular basis, and hope I can keep pumping out quality work for you all to enjoy.

That being said, let's blow out the candle, eat some cake, cue up the barbecue, bring out the booze and enjoy the bounce house! That's what kids do on their first birthday, right?

Blame It On The Henne

The Miami Dolphins won an epic Monday night thriller against the Jets, 31-27. This game was truly a great one in the heated rivalry between the two division opponents. Really, it had everything. Let's recap, shall we?

It had Ronnie Brown eating live babies en route to 74 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He even completed a 21-yard pass, and of course, he scored the game-winner with six seconds left on the clock.

It had Chad Henne in his coming out party as a starting quarterback in the second start of his young career. Henne competed with deadly efficiency, going 20 of 26 for 241 yards and two touchdown passes. He led a last-minute game-winning drive, and played with NO REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE!

There were five lead changes in the fourth quarter, and Braylon Edwards was actually catching passes for his new team, instead of dropping them left and right.

Hell, there was even a Ted Ginn sighting! Not only was there a sighting, but he burnt the best "shutdown" corner in the league, Darrelle Revis. How Revis managed to shutdown Randy Moss and Andre Johnson, but Ginn made him look silly is beyond comprehension at this time. I do know this, however tough it may be to say: Chad Pennington's season-ending injury could be the best thing to happen to Ginn as a wide receiver. It gives him a quarterback who can throw the deep ball, and if there's one thing Ginn is good at, it's out-running people. Pennington's injury might actually make Ginn a legitimate deep-threat receiver, as evidenced tonight.

In all seriousness, this was a big win for the Dolphins. It was a confidence-builder for Henne, and for his teammates' confidence in him as a leader. He was composed and executed with incredible accuracy all night. This game, while still early to tell, feels like it might be the beginning of something special in Miami: a real quarterback to finally fill the void Dan Marino left in the team when he retired. No more stop-gaps, because Henne could be the franchise quarterback this team has been looking for.

And while Brown scored the game-winning touchdown, and took a lot of snaps from the Wildcat, I don't think it would be too far-fetched to go ahead and "blame it on the Henne."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Five Things We Think We Think We Might Know: Week 6

Six weeks into the season means the contenders are starting to separate themselves from the frauds... or something like that. I know it means that college football is awesome, that's for sure. It's so awesome that it makes me serve you guys up a list of five things we think we think we might know.

1. UF might have the best college defense since Miami in 2001. It's still kind of early in the season, but this UF defense is for real. We all know they returned the entire 2-deep roster from last year's national championship defense, but what they have done thus far this season has been impressive. Yes, it's a lofty comparison, as half of UM's defense from that year have multiple Pro Bowl appearances, but this UF defense has a lot of first-round talent... and they are dominating opposing offenses, allowing just 6.4 points per game and 202.4 total yards per game. If they keep this up, they could go down as one of the best defenses ever.

2. Virginia Tech can contend if the offense keeps it up. There's not much more to that point, except that VT is putting up 34.2 points per game. Take that, and factor in special teams play that they are noted for, and you've got a legitimate contender. If the keep it up, they might seriously make a run at a title this season.

3. This Thursday is a big night for the Big East. USF and Cincinnati face off on Thursday night. They are currently the only two Big East teams that are ranked, and both are undefeated. This game could be a big factor in deciding who will win the conference. Did I mention it's a Thursday night game, because that's where upsets happen, so things could get interesting... but more on that later this week, I promise.

4. Washington might have the play of the season so far. For those that missed it, it's embedded below. Down 33-28 with just under three minutes left in the game, Mason Foster picked off a pass that caromed off the Arizona wide receiver's foot, and returned it for the game-winning score. Most impressive play of the season so far? Possibly. Keep in mind, Washington also has arguably the biggest upset win of the year, too, in their triumph over USC earlier this season.



5. Sam Bradford's shoulder seems to be just fine, thank you. He missed a month's worth of games, and the Sooners lost two without him. But he returned to the helm of the offense for Oklahoma on Saturday, and his numbers were as follows: 27/49 for 389 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. Yeah, that shoulder seems to have healed up quite nicely.

BONUS! Texas Tech's quarterbacks are definitely a product of the system they play in. The Red Raiders' backup quarterback, Steven Sheffield, threw for 490 yards and 7 scores. That gives him 780 yards and 11 touchdowns in essentially one and a half games. Taylor Potts, owner of the greatest mustache in college football, put up similar monster numbers in his stint taking snaps this season, and we all recall Graham Harrell's numbers last season: more than 5,000 yards and 45 touchdowns. As CGB pointed out in his Saturday observations, he could probably lead Texas Tech to a score... or seven.

The Week 6 "4th and Fail" College Football Top 10

Each writer for this blog, weekly, will compile their own top ten college football ballot. For each ballot, first place gets ten points, second place gets nine, and so on. We will then add together the totals and bring to you our collective poll. With that said, I present to you the Week 6 "4th and Fail" College Football Poll.

Here's last week's poll, as a reference point for you.

Final Ballot (with Total Points in parentheses)

1. Alabama (29)
2. Florida (28)
3. Texas (24)
4. Virginia Tech (21)
5. Cincinnati (17)
6. USC (13)
7. Boise State (11)
8. Miami (10)
9. Iowa (9)
10. Ohio State (2)
Others receiving votes: Oregon (1)

The voting breakdown is as follows, with brief explanations from each writer:

-TV's ballot.

1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Texas
4. Virginia Tech
5. Cincinnati
6. Iowa
7. Boise State
8. Miami
9. USC
10. Ohio State

Explanation:
This week, I swapped UF up to the number one spot, if only temporarily. Flat out, the defense dominated LSU, and the game was never really in doubt, despite running a dumb-downed offense. Plus they ended that absurd Saturday night win streak in Death Valley. I'm not trying to take away from 'Bama, because they've still been the most impressive team to date, just wanted to show UF love for the win at LSU. VT moves up to fourth after a thrashing of BC. Cincinnati has a huge game with USF on Thursday, so they could be dropped soon, or have potential to rise. Iowa jumps to sixth after a big win against Michigan to remain undefeated. Still have to respect Boise State as an undefeated team, despite not being in a BCS conference, followed by one-loss teams Miami and USC. Ohio State cracks my top ten this week to round it out.

- Ted's ballot.

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Virginia Tech
5. Cincinnati
6. USC
7 Miami
8. Boise St.
9. Iowa
10. Oregon

Explanation: The Tide and the Gators are in a dead heat. I almost put Florida in the top spot, but Alabama's resume is still a bit better for now. They both have consecutive road wins against SEC teams but Alabama also has the neutral site win over Virginia Tech which is looking better by the week. The only jump I made was the aforementioned Hokies leaping Cincinnati, because of another landslide victory and their close win against Nebraska from a few weeks ago is looking even better now. Filling out the last two spots which were vacated by LSU and Auburn both losing are Iowa and Oregon. Iowa because they are undefeated and even though the schedule isn't tough, 6-0 is impressive. Oregon got the nod over Ohio St because they lost on the road and it was week one. Ohio St has started doing it's thing again though, and pretty soon they will be back in the hunt for the BCS Championship Game.
/vomits

- Wooj's ballot.


1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. VT
5. USC
6. Cincy
7. Boise St.
8. Miami
9. Iowa
10. Ohio St.
Teams knocking on the door: USF, TCU, Oregon


Explanation: After some more deliberation I decided to shake up my top 10 a bit. Alabama continues to impress every week by handling their respective opponents. Therefore, I decided to put them ahead of a Florida team who has not impressed me yet. However, there is no reason to kick Florida out of the top 2 for still winning games. Texas comes in at #3 as they set up for the Red River Shootout against an OU team that is once again led by Sam Bradford. VT got the monkey off of their back by defeating BC in the regular season quite handily, and therefore moving up to #4. USC comes in at #5 after their bye week, and they will be clashing with long-time rival ND this weekend. Undefeated Cincy comes in at #6, and their top 10 status will be on the line on Thursday Night as one of the teams knocking on my list’s door, USF, will take on them for the privilege to be on my list. Boise St. was jumped by USC and Cincy because they are a large mystery with a lack of schedule strength, but the Broncos will continue to look good as long as Oregon continues to shine. The Miami Hurricanes come in at #8 after their thrashing of Florida A&M, and they will be in action against UCF this weekend. The Iowa Hawkeyes crack the top 10 after their win against Tool Forcier and the Michigan Wolverines. The Ohio St. Buckeyes have made my list after handily beating the Badgers of Wisconsin 31-13…LSU showing their true colors also helped.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tebow Cleared, But Should He Play?

The Gainesville Sun reported this afternoon that doctors have cleared Tim Tebow to play tonight against the fourth-ranked LSU Tigers. Tebow was medically cleared two weeks after suffering a concussion against Kentucky. Urban Meyer this morning, in a short interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi said that if Tebow was cleared by doctors, that he would play tonight.

The questions now remain how much should Tebow play, and should he even be playing at all. Let's address the latter one first. Should he be playing today, just two weeks removed from the impact? The answer, in the writer's humble opinion, is no, he probably shouldn't be playing. We've all heard the facts over the last couple of weeks: Tebow is three to six times more likely to suffer another concussion, etc. It's probably best that he sit out one more week and fully recover, because as we're all well-aware, a concussion is a brain injury. You can't wrap it up, you can't ice it down or anything. With amateur athletes (and even the face of college football), health should be priority one, and the last thing any real college football fan wants to see is Tebow taking another such hit and doing more damage to himself. But if he is cleared to play, then he is cleared to play, and the doctors feel he is good to go.

As for the other question: how much should he play? I think he'll probably get the start, since reports are that he practiced all Thursday with the first-team offense. That being said, don't be surprised if we still see a healthy dosage of John Brantley, much like the 2006 offense with Tebow and Chris Leak sharing time. Also, I doubt we see Tebow trying to take on defenders with a full head of steam, so expect Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody to get their fill of touches tonight.

Tebow is a gamer, and will want to try to do what he can to help the team win tonight, but should he struggle, or take another shot, I have confidence that Brantley can manage the offense well enough to lead the Gators to a win in Baton Rouge.

Again, I don't think he should play, but if the doctors say he's set, then you know he's going to come out and give it a shot, and try to inspire his team, and come out of Death Valley with a signature W.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Marlins Keeping Fredi Gonzalez

I know this is a day late, but I was pretty busy most of yesterday when the news broke. Earlier in the week, there were talks that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was considering firing manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Loria was apparently upset with Gonzalez for not making the playoffs again this season, despite having the lowest payroll in the league. Yes, Gonzalez does have an MVP-caliber player in Hanley Ramirez, a Cy Young-quality arm in Josh Johnson, a breakout rookie in Chris Coghlan, and a great young core for the team, so it would be reasonable to expect him to guide the team to the playoffs.

Gonzalez, in lieu of getting the Marlins to the postseason, has managed the team to its two best seasons that have not ended in a World Series title. That's saying something about Gonzalez, considering that historically, the franchise hasn't spent on players and has traded off rising stars left and right.

But Gonzalez has managed to string together to very good seasons, with a good core of young players, and given a couple more pieces, could lead the Marlins to a place they've only been twice before: the playoffs.

While not making the playoffs this year was tough, especially after contending into the last week of the season, it doesn't mean that Loria should subtract Gonzalez from the equation; he should add other parts (like a closer). Fortunately for the team, and the fans, someone was able to talk some sense into Loria and keep Gonzalez on for next season... for now, because showing him the door would have been a bad idea.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Five Things We Think We Think We Might Know

We're five weeks into the college football season, and teams are getting into the meat of their schedules. It also means things are starting to get a lot more clear in the college football landscape. So let's see what we think we think we might know this week.

1. Virginia Tech is a legitimate team. They are the cream of the one-loss crop. They have wins over a ranked Nebraska and a ranked UM team, the same UM team that has defeated three (at the time) ranked teams in four games. VT's one loss is to arguably the best team in the country, Alabama, on an (almost) neutral site. If they can get solid play out of Tyrod Taylor, I like VT's chances to win the ACC.

2. ESPN has a very unhealthy obsessions with Greg Paulus. Flashback to earlier this year, when former-Duke point guard Greg Paulus decided he wanted to play a year of college quarterback, despite not playing football since high school. ESPN was all over the story: "Oh look! A scrappy, decent basketball player at a high profile basketball school wants to play football for a horrible team for a year." Yeah, it got old fast, and it's even worse considering his play on the field. On Saturday, against USF, Paulus threw five interceptions (or as the kids say, he pulled a Delhomme). If it weren't for the media's attention for Paulus, would anyone care about Syracuse football? That's what I thought.

3. UM still isn't back, but the program has made significant strides over the last two seasons. This is the last time I'm going to argue this point for a while, so calm down UM fans (that includes you: Ted and Wooj). Personally, I'd like to wait for a whole season to play out, instead of four game, to anoint UM as being 'back.' But keep in mind, they just finished a gauntlet four-game streak against four ranked teams, losing only to VT. The U's win against FSU is looking less impressive by the week, as FSU seems to be in a tailspin right now, at 2-3, with one of those wins against a non-FBS school. But Miami beat Oklahoma on Saturday night, and while Oklahoma was without Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham, remember that Miami is just two seasons removed from losing to Oklahoma 51-13. Now, UM, try not to get ahead of yourselves and lose to a lesser opponent (or do, I'm totally fine with that).

4. Boise State gets no love from the pollsters. Last week, in the AP poll, Boise State was ranked fifth. This past weekend, they won again, improving to 5-0... and they were jumped by a one-loss Virginia Tech team in this week's poll that was released Sunday. Granted, Virginia Tech is legit (see above), if this happens to Boise State now, what happens towards the end of the season if they're still undefeated, but a couple of major BCS teams have one loss?

5. At some point, referees need to just swallow the whistle. Prime example being in Saturday's LSU-Georgia game. Georgia's AJ Green (who is a freak of nature at wide receiver, for the record) caught a go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes of the game. He was then mobbed by his teammates in all the commotion and emotion. He was then flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for excessive celebration, for something that was hardly excessive, or unsportsmanlike. It cost Georgia 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, and instead of having to go maybe 60 or 70 yards in minimal time, LSU only had to go 43 yards for the game-winning score. It was a call that impacted the outcome of the game, and while the refs did make up for it with the same call after LSU's touchdown, it doesn't make either call right. The kids are caught up in the emotion of the moment, let them embrace with their teammates (like Green did), and don't penalize them for it.

The Week 5 "4th and Fail" College Football Top 10

Another new feature around here. This one we decided to wheel out of storage several weeks into the college football season. Each writer for this blog, weekly, will compile their own top ten college football ballot. For each ballot, first place gets ten points, second place gets nine, and so on. We will then add together the totals and bring to you our collective poll. With that said, I present to you the Week 5 "4th and Fail" College Football Poll.

Final Ballot (with Total Points in parentheses)

1. Alabama (29)
2.
Florida (27)
3.
Texas (23)
4.
LSU (21)
5.
Virginia Tech (18)
6.
Cincinnati (14)
7.
Boise State (10)
8.
USC (9)
9.
Miami (8)
10.
Auburn (4)
T-11.* Iowa and TCU (1 point each)

The voting breakdown is as follows, with brief explanations from each writer:

-
TV's Ballot.
1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Virginia Tech
5. Cincinnati
6. LSU
7. Boise State
8. Miami
9. USC
10. Iowa

Explanation: From what I've seen to date, Alabama is the best team in the country... right now. Florida hasn't faced much of a challenge yet, but that changes in Death Valley this Saturday. As for LSU, they've impressed me the least, and could have easily lost the last two games against Miss. St. and Georgia. I've got VT at four because their one loss is to the (arguably) best team in the nation, and one of their wins is against the team with the toughest schedule so far (Miami), who is 3-1. I've got UM ahead of USC because Miami has beat three (at the time) ranked teams in four games, and UM's loss (at VT) isn't as bad as USC's (at Washington). I've got Iowa at ten, over teams like Auburn, Oregon and Ohio State because they are undefeated (though unimpressive against two non-D1 teams), plus they beat PSU in Happy Valley, so that gives them points in my book.

- Ted's Ballot.
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Florida
4. Texas
5. Cincinnati
6. Virginia Tech
7. Auburn
8. USC
9. Miami
10. Boise State

Others considered: Iowa, Ohio State, Oregon, TCU.

Explanation: I am trying to make my rankings based purely on each team's resume, although if it's close I will do some shuffling based on who I actually think is better and would win on the field right now. At this time it will still seem a bit off because of the disparity in schedules. I am no huge fan of the SEC but right now the four teams I have there all deserve it. Soon enough teams will start losing though and drop off. The team I had the most hard time placing this week was Iowa. Originally, I placed them with the other unbeatens in BCS conferences and had them #5. But, there only significant win was against an overrated Penn State team and in their other wins they haven't exactly played like a top ten team. The Big 10 is a bit better than most people think though, so if they keep winning, they will move up in my poll accordingly.

- Wooj's Ballot.
1. Florida
2. 'Bama
3. Texas
4. LSU
5. Virginia Tech
6. Boise State
7. USC
8. Miami
9. Cincy
10. TCU

Explanation: Ohio State doesn't belong in the top ten, and the only reason I have LSU so high is because they are undefeated.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Florida Court Rules FSU Hearing Records Open to Public

The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee decided that the NCAA records that were used by attorneys for FSU in handling FSU's appeal of the NCAA ruling are public record and the media is entitled to them.

Basically, this means that the media has the right to the transcripts of the hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions, as well as the Committee's response to the hearing. It has been ruled to be public record despite the fact that the FSU lawyers signed a confidentiality agreement to try to keep the records from the public. However, such an agreement does not give them the right to keep the documents from the public record, due to the very strict public record statutes in the state of Florida.

The hearing stemmed from the academic dishonesty scandal that was uncovered by FSU last year, and concerns the NCAA's plan to strip victories from several different FSU athletic teams, including coach Bobby Bowden, who can lose 14 wins. The stripping of the wins would in all likelihood cost Bowden the all-time coaching wins record that he and Penn State coach Joe Paterno have been jockeying in and out of first place for seasons.

For those interested, the full ruling can be found here: http://opinions.1dca.org/written and click on the .pdf for case no. 09-4385