Saturday, April 5, 2008

Hoboken's Newest Resident?

so yea Eli has his ring and now he has his bride.

Now, I thought he was banging that one blonde that was this site's trademark during its inception but alas here is the real Mrs. Eli Manning.
Maybe he stopped sucking because she agreed to marry him?
Or maybe it was just he decided to check out Straight Up Sports like we all initially figured.
I'll stick with the latter.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Our 2008 Super Bowl Ring is better than yours

A conversation that took place between me and my boy 'Jando today:

Jando:Yo man, you know your super bowl rings are ugly as hell.
Devo: Yeah, but you know what we got?
J: What's that?
D: A super bowl ring.

Mahatma's NFL Draft Position Rankings: QBs and Rbs

The big event in the NFL off-season is the draft and this year makes no exception. As we wind our way to the draft, I’ll try to give SUS nation the low down on the major players involved and which round you’ll likely see some of your favorite college stars end up. Naturally, things have changed since we last talked draft. The combine came and went and various universities and colleges had their respective pro days to ensure that their athletes can appear greater than what they actually are. I read somewhere that 80% of where players are drafted is based on their regular season performance. The other 20% is for BS like the combine and the pro days.

I will attempt to rank the players by position in an attempt for wannabe draft gurus to check where players of note can be found. Of course this is all purely subjective. Teams come in with new systems and coaches every year and various draft boards are all over the place.


The QB class in general is average at best but a ton of guys have potential to break through. There is no Manning, or Puss boy Palmer walking through that door but you do have Ryan and Brohm who are the closest thing to franchise QBs around. Flacco makes things happen and Henne has the size and arm to get things accomplished. My sleeper in all of this Erik Ainge who thoroughly impressed me when watching him play throughout college.

1) Matt Ryan / BC (sucks) / top 15 pick

2) Brian Brohm / Louisville / late 1st – early 2nd

3) Chad Henne / Michigan / 2nd

4) Joe Flacco / Delaware / 2nd -3rd

5) Andre Woodson / Kentucky / 3rd

6) Erik Ainge / Tennessee / 3rd – 4th

7) Josh Johnson / San Diego / 3rd – 4th

8) Dennis Dixon / Oregon / 6th

9) John David Booty / USC / 6th – 7th

10) Matt Flynn / LSU / 7th

11) Sam Keller / Nebraska / 7th - UDFA

12) Kevin O’Connell/ San Diego State / 7th - UDFA

13) Paul Smith / Tulsa / UDFA

14) Colt Brennan/Hawaii/ UDFA

15) Xavier Lee / FSU / UDFA


The RB class in general is very good and among one of the best in the last decade. There aren't 5 legit running backs like in 2006 but the problem is most teams have a decent group of guys as is. The latest trend in the NFL is to now have 2 studly running backs and I look to see a number of these players drafted to give their respective teams that two headed monster that propelled Colts and Giants to Superbowls in the last 2 seasons. McFadden is a stud and is the odds on favorite to win the rookie of the year at this point next season. Behind him are bangers, Mandenhall and Stewart. Two guys who run hard yet have enough speed to beat you around the corner. Stewart just got hurt so his stock will slide as he likely won't play until training camp . Jones/Charles and Johnson all have elite breakaway speed. Rutgers homers will shocked to see Rice slip all the way to round 3 but with injury concerns and a deep class, Rice could still end up being a valuable contributor to a team’s rushing attack. Tons of unheralded guys from other universities can make the leap but unless you can find me some tape of SW Missouri State I’ll stick with what I got.

1) Darren McFadden / Arkansas / top 5 pick

2) Rashard Mandenhall / Illinois / 1st

3) Jonathan Stewart / Cal / 1st

4) Felix Jones / Arkansas / late 1st – early 2nd

5) Chris Johnson/ ECU/ 2nd

6) Jamaal Charles / Texas /2nd

7) Kevin Smith / UCF / 2nd – 3rd

8) Matt Forte / Tulane / 3rd

9) Ray Rice / Rutgers / 3rd

10) Justin Forsett / Cal / 3rd -4th

11) Jehruu Caulcrick / Michigan State / 4th

12) Tashard Choice / Georgia Tech / 5th

13) Thomas Brown / Georgie / 5th

14) Cory Boyd/ South Carolina / 5th – 6th

15) Steve Slaton / WVU / 6th

Anatomy of a Yankee Season

The team is roughly around .500. Jeter is playing well, and A-Rod has his share of home runs. Frankly, it’s too early to notice whether anyone is playing poorly or not. Except Jason Giambi, who has sucked since John Kerry decided to try his hand at a presidential run.

It’s not too early anymore to notice that most of the team sucks. They probably lost a series or two to Boston, and got swept at home by either the Devil Rays or Orioles. Some combination of Matsui/Abreu/Damon is in a seemingly endless slump. Pettite and/or Mussina are on the DL, sucking, or both. And Kei Igawa has already made a start or two, pitching no hit ball for 5 innings but being taken out of a game because he’s thrown 120 pitches and given up 4 runs on 2 Cano errors and 9 walks. Rivera also blows a bunch of games, leading pundits to think that like John McCain 6 months ago, he’s done.

The fans are starting to get angry not because they know the Yankees will make the playoffs, but they’re sick of this same crap every year.

The team is slowly but surely improving for most of the month. Jeter and A-Rod are continuing their typical success, and Posada or Matsui goes on a power tear. Abreu/Damon are still in a slump, but at least they’re getting on base through walks. Mussina is back from the DL and has 4 really good starts in a row. In related news, he’ll have 4 more good starts the rest of the season. The highlight of June is a 3 game sweep of the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium.

The fans are thrilled with the progress of the team and Devo’s prediction that they’d lose 6 games in June starts to come true when they are 12-6 at June 22, but the team then loses 7 straight to end the month.

A-Rod and Jeter start to cool off, but the kids take over. Cano makes a run at a batting title, hitting nearly .400 this month while Melky hits .450 over the month, raising his average up from .210 to .270. Winning just seems more fun now that it’s being led by the youth movement. Some of the older guys start to round into form as well: Pettite looks electric in a few of his starts, Abreu hit a season high .270 in the month of July, including 3 monster home runs, raising his season total to 4, while Damon’s average creeps up to .265.

The Yankees are back, contending for a wild card birth, if not the division, and their fans start to think that this could be the year. Sure, they’ve said the same thing the last 3 years, but this year the team is coming from behind a lot more than ever, right?

It’s the dog days of August and the Yankees make their move. The team has a couple of 18 run outputs, and everyone in the lineup except Jeter and A-Rod are on fire. Mussina is hurt again, but Kei Igawa has taken his turn in the rotation. Igawa’s general suckiness isn’t a huge deal because Hughes and Kennedy have come into their own after a so-so beginning of the season. The Yankees clearly have the wildcard wrapped up and are now chasing the Red Sox for the division.

The Yankees continue to play like a well-oiled machine. Some days their pitching gets them the wins, other days it’s their lineup. They are playing well on all cylinders, but with the Super Bowl Champion Giants poised to defend their title, most people have stopped watching baseball until October.

The fans believe that given Melky’s resurgence (again), A-Rod and Jeter’s great year (again), Rivera’s continued excellence after a rocky beginning (again), and a pitching staff which when healthy has huge potential (again), this could be the year that they finally defeat the Angels, their first round opponent and return to the glory years.

Nope. The Angels were younger, faster, looser and hungrier, not to be confused with the ’07 Indians, ’06 Tigers, ’05 Angels, ’04 Sox, ’03 Marlins, and ’02 Angels, who were also younger, faster, and hungrier than the Yankee teams of those years. Angels in 4. Onto the NFL! Go Big Blue!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Meet the New Yankees: The Detroit Tigers!

MLB team payrolls were released Tuesday and there was no surprise at the top of the heap. The Yankees broke their own record once again with a projected payroll of $209 million, a $14mil increase over last year. But the real story is the abdication of 2nd place by Boston, who pared their payroll by $10mil to a pithy $133.4mil, earning them 4th place on this years list. But, shockingly enough, the Mets did not move up in the rankings, holding at #3 with $138mil, even after increasing by $20mil. So, who wins the crown of being this years title buyers? Of course, the Detroit Tigers. Evidently, after decades of sucking, a little bit of success will go to your head(insert Red Sox and you want to keep it up. So after the massive Willis-Cabrera trade and contracts, the Detroit brass is $43.5m lighter in the pockets from last year and just edged out our fair Mets with $138.6mil. But here's the real question, is it worth it? Clearly it has not been for the Yankees or Mets in the past few years. And yet, the Red Sox, a-hem, have won 2 of the last 4 World Series with the second-highest payroll in baseball. Its pretty simple, and has been repeated ad nauseum, but Ill say it again, its about pitching and chemistry. And having Manny and Papi in the middle of the lineup doesn't hurt much either. So, in my opinion, depending on how Detroit's pitching does this year, it could be a good investment. But even if they cant win the series this year, they have set themselves up with an amazing lineup for a few years to come, and an opportunity to slug their way past Cleveland for a few division titles. Just don't be surprised when they have to drop another $20m on pitchers next off-season.

For the full list, click here


Letroy Hawkins #21? REALLY????? And other Yankee rants

I am not in love with Paul O'Neill the way many of my fellow Yankee diehards are. I am a huuuge fan of his but I don't put him in the Bernie/Rivera/Jeter category. Still, he symbolizes the great Yankees from 96-01 and deserves to have his number retired. How in the name of Joe Girardi, a former teammate of O'Neill's by the way, can #21 be worn by Latroy Freakin Hawkins. But don't worry Yankee fans, the #22 is apparently not available so that Clemens can make all of the eastern seaboard collectively vomit when Roger's number is retired at Bank of America/ Park at Yankee Stadium in 2010. Nobody happy except Roger, Steinbrenner and maybe Jeter (way to stick up for Clemens but not A-rod, nice Derek). And why is Mussina starting the 2nd game of the year? Why is Giambi and his 7.5 40 speed batting 5th?? Finally, feel free to actually get some hits before June this year guys. I'm looking at you "Godzilla." Publish Post

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beckhams in America: Take Two

For all of you who don't pay attention to American soccer(well on its way to being the most popular sport in our nation), MLS opened its 13th season this past weekend. Now, I could give you a breakdown of every team in the league, all the big off season acquisitions and trades and the expected story lines of the year. But you wouldn't read that, would you, you soccer-hating bastard. So instead I'll give you an update on David Beckham and MLS's noble experiment to bring soccer to the doorstep of every American household. But I promise not to talk about Posh Spice, lest MissMet confuse me for a gossip blogger.

After last years fanfare and endless hype, Beckhams actual impact was a bit underwhelming. But you cant really blame him, running on a bum ankle hurts, and doest do much for your soccer game. Many fans were a bit angry at Beckham for the injury, as their home teams often made them buy multi-game packages to get a ticket to see the LA Galaxy come to town. This year will at least start off better. Beckham is fully healed, and even played for the English national team in a recent World Cup Qualifying tune-up against France. Beckham won't be the only star on the Galaxy, with American soccer poster/pretty boy Landon Donovan and Carlos Ruiz, who returns to the team after 3 years in Dallas, giving the team a chance to contend. Really, being based in heavily Hispanic Los Angeles, the Galaxy should have the best team in the league, but they dont. That honor goes to Houston, who is coming off back-to-back championship seasons.

Now, Beckham playing soccer in LA was obviously the biggest story of last year, but most Americans were more interested in the fallacious $250mil salary that he was supposed to be paid over five years. In reality, that was one mans (whose, ehhh, I'm too lazy to find out) estimate on how much Beckham could make with endorsements in toto. Beckham really did take a massive paycut to come to America. And how has that worked for the league so far? Since he came over, a few other big names in international soccer have followed, such as Marcelo Gallardo, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Denilson and Juan Pablo Angel. These additions, especially the ones from Central and South America have helped boost attendance and increase the overall quality of play. Attendance and merchandise sales have been increasing over the last few years, specifically since teams started building soccer-only stadiums(as opposed to renting football stadiums), with a league-wide per game average of 16,771 last year.

Since the founding of MLS, teams have been banking on the fact that since soccer is the biggest youth sport in the US and Canada(yes, even Canada), a few youngsters would grow up to be life long soccer fans. The growth has been slow, and sometimes steady, but the league is still around, and theres something to be said for survival. On a side note(as if this has been a consistent post), one of New York's Red Bulls, Jozy Altidore, writes a weekly blog for the Times here. The guy can write a coherent sentence, which makes him a rarity in the sports world. Anyway, soccer isnt going away any time soon. Sorry haters.

Dear SUS staff, your esteemed leader knows what he wants for his birthday, so start saving...

G's Up, Ho's Down-Yankee opening night

The beginning and end of the baseball season are always my favorite times of the year, if only because there are more sports going down around this time than any other part of the year. In October, you could potentially have playoff baseball, mid-season NFL, and early season NHL going down at the same time. And in April, you normally have early baseball, the end of the NHL and NBA seasons, and the upcoming, if overrated NFL draft. Good time to be alive. Especially last night when the Yankees opened their season, Pedro made his '08 debut, the Devils played the Isles, and locally in DC, the Caps played the 'Canes in far and away their most important game since the lockout. I took it all in at RFD, across the street from the Verizon Center, though most of my attention was on the Yankees:

G's up: Yankees. Methodically took care of business against Halladay, even though he was more on his game than CMW. Congrats to Joe Girardi for his first win in a real league.

Ho's down: Jason Giambi, 1st baseman, 5th hitter. Really Joe? We're going to pretend that it's 2003 and Jason Giambi can be a productive member of society, let alone the Yankees? Why exactly are you doing this? 2 thoughts: 1. Dougie Baseball (Mientkiewicz) hit .277, 5 home runs and provided stellar defense. Do you really need any more from this from a first baseman when the middle of our infield should challenge for the batting title and our 3rd baseman is A-Rod? Wouldn't you be better off with the guy who plays gold glove defense, can bunt, and hits about .280 over the the guy who hits his share of hrs, but is terrible defensively and makes us look agonizingly old and slow? This team doesn't need another guy who can hit home runs (Though when you look at the Yankee lineup, A-Rod is our only pure home run hitter.) It needs someone who can get his share of hits, bunt guys over, and play some defense.

Ho's down: My Jason Giambi assessment, for one night at least. Giambi didn't really hit last night, but that's ok, most of the team didn't hit either. They will (hopefully) as the season moves on. But was it just me or did Giambi have a good night running the bases and playing defense? At one point, he avoided a double play by making the 2nd baseman tag him, which Aaron Hill didn't do. And my eyes might be deceiving me, but I think he made a few nice scoops on throws as well as a nice catch on a line drive.

G's up: Melky Cabrera. Taken by themselves, Melky hit a home run that is a fly out in the other 29 stadiums, and made two catches which were each probably a 6.5 out of 10. But the fact that he did all three of these in the same game, including his two catches on back to back plays, makes it Melky's world.

Ho's down: YES. Hey did you realize that this is the Yankees' last year in Yankee Stadium? OMG, I had no idea! You mean this is their last year playing in the House that Ruth Built? Is there any station that can show me every single highlight that has ever gone down in this stadium? Wait, there is? YES will be there for me? Fantastic! Man, this is going to be a long and nauseating season as far as reminiscences go.

G's up: Our relievers. Something to be said for getting a run in the 7th, going up 1, and then realizing that the game is over, as it's Joba/Mo time. And a quick anecdote-I was about to head out last night after the 7th inning, but I really wanted to see Joba pitch. This was the first time I can remember wanting to stay and watch a Yankee pitch. That's probably the nicest thing I can say about Joba right now.

Ho's down: Tonight's nationally televised game. And by that of course I mean the Yankees' starting pitcher, one Michael L. Mussina. Predicted pitching line: 3 1/3 innings, 7 runs, 8 hits, 2 bb, 1 k, and a grand slam by either Rios or Wells that knocks out Mussina in the 4th.

Some other thoughts from the evening:
Props to Pedro for having everything go wrong. What's worse than hitting the first batter of the year? How about a 2 run-homer by potential hall of famer Dan Uggla. But what could possibly be worse than that? How about a pulled hammy in the 4th. There's a burning lower case "t" on your front lawn Pedro, time to leave. And ladies and gentlemen, presenting your #2 and 3 starters...Oliver Perez and John Maine! (Still not a bad 2 and 3 if you get the expected hitting and Johan.)

-Props to the Washington Capitals, owning their game against the 'Canes. Both teams now travel to Florida, to play a game apiece against Tampa and Florida for the Southeast Division and a playoff spot.

-Also props to the Devils, for clinching a playoff spot and a likely date with the Rangers, who they are 0-7 against, in the first round this year.

The best possible Eastern conference playoff matchups as far as old time rivalries are concerned: Pitt/Philly, Montreal/Boston, Washington/Ottawa, Devils/Rangers. 3 bonafide rivalries and in the Caps/Sens series, a chance for Ovechkin to shine on the national stage (or at least, as much of a national stage as Gary Bettman will ever let the NHL have.) Oh, and if it's Devils/Rangers, I'm picking Rangers in 3.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yes, I Believe he is Correct...

Battle of the amazingly awful team songs

Lets Go Mets Go vs. Hail To the Redskins vs. Miami Dolphins.

Who ya got?

First up, we got the theme to the '86 Mets, Let's Go Mets Go (God bless Joe Piscopo)

Next, it's Hail To The Redskins!

And finally, for my family in South Florida, it's the Miami Dolphins!

Personally, I gotta go with the Dolphins theme song. Why? Because when you're talking Miami Dolphins, you're talking Super Bowl!

In More Ways Than One Evidently....

Nice editing job there sport.

Props to Seriously!OMG!WTF!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Mets 2008 Season Preview (Part Two)

Happy Opening Day!! The Mets/Marlins game will be starting at 4:10 weather permitting. I'm glad that the boys aren't opening at home today, the weather in NY (and Jersey) sucks. Last night I previewed the starting 8 and the 5 pitchers in the rotation. Now I'm gonna finish up with the Bullpen and the Bench...

Bullpen. The good news... Guillermo Mota, the cancer that helped the Mets die a slow death last season, is gone. Matt Wise was impressive during Spring Training.
Is it good news? Joe Smith made the team. Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano are back. Billy Wagner has changed his routine and will start to throw from a full wind-up, not from the stretch as he did in the past.
The bad news... Scott Schoeneweis is back. Duaner Sanchez is back...on the DL.
In an ideal world, the Mets have the bullpen from 2006. Remember Chad Bradford? I honestly still miss him and his ability to get hitters out in the clutch. Remember pre-car accident Sanchez? He was pretty much lights out. Heilman and Feliciano are both work-horses, but they make me nervous more than they should. Hopefully Schoeneweis will improve from last year (0-2, 5.03 ERA, 41 strike outs) and whatever Wagner has changed can keep hitters from hitting game-tying/walk-off home runs off of him. Let's look to see how long Smith stays in the Bigs this time and how well Matt Wise adjusts.
Overall Grade: an uncertain B-

Bench. I will forever love Marlon Anderson and Endy Chavez. Endy for his Catch and dedication to the team, even as a part-time player. Marlon for his pinch-hitting. Brady Clark did well in Spring Training and at the end of the season for the Padres. In 21 games he hit 306 with 6 RBI. Let's see if choosing him over Fernando Tatis pays off. The lone infield reserve is Damien Easley. I like him, but I wish they would have kept Ruben Gotay or Tatis who can play both infield and outfield positions. Meanwhile, with back-up catcher Ramon Castro on the DL, frequent Spring Training starter Raul Casanova will catch when Schneider doesn't. He's a switch hitter with a 253 average, 11 home runs and 6 RBI last year. Unless the Mets decide to stay with 3 catchers, he'll go back down to the minors as soon as Castro is eligible to come back, whenever that may be.
Overall Grade: B

Listen, the game's about to start, so I gotta go watch some pregame things and get wicked excited with Gary, Keith and Ron!!

Why I hated 21

How two big fictions of 21 ruin the movie:


Movie: Laurence Fishburne sees the main character counting cards and takes him to a Scorcese-like back room, where he channels his inner Ike Turner and beats the white out of some of the kids.

Book/Real life: The kids’ scam is discovered and they are soon banned from playing blackjack at any casino in the globe. They are not beaten severely about the head and shoulders, but simply made to leave, like a drunk patron.

Comment: Why were they not beaten? Because casinos do not do that anymore. All the casinos can do with regards to card counting, a legal practice, is make the card counters leave. Let me say that again so I can look as angry as I feel about this: IF YOU ARE CAUGHT COUNTING CARDS, AMERICAN CASINOS WILL NOT PHYSICALLY HARM YOU. In the book, two of the kids did get beaten, but that’s because they financed their own card counting scheme and tried it at sketchy casinos outside of the U.S. And frankly, what the movie misses by skipping this detail is the scam’s beauty: the kids were taking money from the casino and were able to get out of the game with their health and their money. Which brings me to my next point:

Movie: Kevin Spacey is the teacher who ends up as this high and mighty puppet master, able to screw with everyone’s personal life and steal their money when they turn against him. He also makes a point of stealing their money when they decide to create their own team.

Book/Real life: There was a teacher, and he ran things, but he was not sinister in any way, other than wanting to make money. In fact, other than being the ringleader, he was a fairly uneventful character, and he never stole any money from any of the players, because as I said THEY ALL LEFT THE SCAM WITH HEFTY BANK ACCOUNTS.

Comment: Maybe it makes for a better story arc to have Kevin Spacey as an evil character, but again, the simple truth is that it’s not real. In the real story there were bad guys, but they had very minor roles and hardly interacted with the main characters. Maybe it’s not as cinematic, but it’s true. And that’s where 21 screwed up and let me down. If I hadn’t snuck into Stop-Loss afterwards, I would’ve demanded my money back. (Very good movie except that I kept waiting for Ryan Phillippe to say “I. Don’t Want. Your life.”)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

AL East Preview

AL East (Heavyweight Division)

New York Yankees- 95 wins 1st place

Call me a homer if you want but this team reminds me of the 2006 Tigers. The 08 Bombers offer a plethora of talented young pitchers who are blossoming at the same time, an excellent lineup and an even better bullpen headlined by emerging superstar Jobah Chamberlain and all time great closer Mariano Rivera. Although I have waxed and waned on the Yanks this off-season, when Robinson Cano, a career 300, hitter is batting 8th in your lineup, you are doing something right. Expect Abreu to have a great season as all baseball players seem to during their walk years. Jeter is Jeter and A-rod is still the best player in the game. I admit if Hughes and Kennedy do not make major contributions to this year’s club, the Yanks may not even make the playoffs. However, I loved what I saw of Kennedy last year and Hughes’s relief appearance in game 3 of the ALDS would have been talked about for years if not for Chien -Ming Wang’s implosion in game 4. Speaking of the only Yankee whose autograph I have; I think Wang will be fine this season, psychologically speaking, as he has generally shown he is a cool customer in the face of adversity. People forget how well he pitched against the Tigers in the ALDS in 2006. Pettite might drop down a bit from last season’s totals but I expect the rise of Hughes and Kennedy to more than compensate for Pettite’s moderate tailing off. I don’t think anyone in major league baseball can beat the Tigers this year but I think the Yankees will give them a fight in the ALCS.

Boston Red Sox- 93 wins 2nd place (wildcard)

The 2007 World Series champion Redsox (ahh, that goes down a little easier when I think of the Superbowl simultaneously) are everyone and their mother’s favorites to win it all again this year. People seem to just assume that their young pitchers will seamlessly transition to the more prominent roles they will be asked to fill due to Curt “I’m a right wing zealot doucehbag” Schilling’s latest injury. I think Bucholz is going to be an excellent pitcher sometime in the next few years and I think Lester’s comeback from cancer is a wonderfully inspirational story. However, unless Dice K lives up to the ridiculous, even by Yankee’s standards, contract he was given before the start of the 2007 season, the Sox rotation is not that great. They have a phenomenal closer and a very good but not great lineup. Ortiz and Ramirez are probably the best 3, 4 any lineup has put together in my lifetime and I think Pedroia and Ellsbury are going to be stars sooner than later. But I expect Lowell to tail off after a contract season boom and Varitek just isn’t a good hitter anymore. I think the nation will be represented in this year’s postseason tournament but will do so as a wild card entrant.

(The middle weight division)

Tampa bay Devil Rays- 80 wins 3rd place

Can you see it now? The confetti being thrown about inside the Trop. Carl Crawford being carried off the field as a hero. The Devil rays might engage in such a celebration this season because they are threatening to actually win over 75 games. They have a very talented lineup which features the great Carl Crawford and slugging 1b Carlos Pena and rising stars like BJ Upton Akinori Iwamura. Super prospect Evan Longoria has struggled in the minors so his move up to the big club has been temporarily delayed (this information courtesy of my friend the BEG). They even have a respectable rotation now that they acquired Matt Garza from Minnesota for Delvin Young. Apparently negations were held up until the Rays agreed to part with the bat he threw at that umpire a few years ago as well. (HIYOO!) Seriously though, Garza slides into the third spot in the depth chart behind talented lefty fireballer Scott Kazmir (imagine if he was your 5th starter Mets fans) and surprise 2007 stud James Shields. They even have a real bullpen this year with 2 solid setup men in Dan Wheeler and AL Reyes to go along with newly acquired prehistoric closer Troy Percival. (Didn’t this guy retire like 5 years ago?) Youth and having no decent 4th and 5th starters will force the Rays to watch as the two heavyweights go at it for the division crown but this team and organization appear to finally be on the right track.

Toronto Blue Jays (80 wins) Third place tie

I have a lot of respect for how great a healthy Roy Halliday and AJ Burnett are. I also have respect for BJ Ryan and Scott Rolen. There is just one problem; THEY ARE NEVER FREAKING HEALTHY! Rolen will begin the year on the DL and Ryan missed almost all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. Halliday is a hall of fame caliber pitcher and Burnett is an all-star in his own right. If they actually both stay healthy for a full season, this team might even threaten to get to the 90 game mark. However, the loss of Troy Glaus will somewhat weaken a lineup that was already fairly top heavy. I do expect Vernon Wells to actually give a shit this year and not just sit on his piles of money like he did all of last season; so that should help the Jay’s cause. Alex Rios has finally lived up to his potential earning his first all-star selection this past season. However, a top heavy rotation that is counting on two injury prone aces and a lineup that is solid but not scary will not be enough to compete with the heavyweights.

(The Baltimore Orioles division)

Baltimore Orioles (68 wins) 5th place

How can Peter Angelos even stomach the team he has put together for the 2008 season? The Orioles had the kind of off-season that even the Twins and A’s are laughing at. They traded their best position player SS Miguel Tejada to Houston and CY young caliber ace Erik Bedard to the Mariners and got back nothing of consequence in return. This leaves Baltimore with Millar being its most potent power bat and with the immortal James Guthrie as the opening day starter; yikes. I love Brian Roberts and New York’s own Nick Markakis and Adam Jones has a fairly big upside but that won’t help the Orioles fans deal with their ballpark being invaded by the obnoxious members of Sox Nation and by the equally entitled fellow Yankee backers. Hey, at least they have a great stadium and Cal Ripken’s legacy to fall back on.

Start Your Amazins: Mets '08 Season Preview!! (Part One)

Next year is now. Your season has come. Those were the slogans for the 2006 and 2007 Mets respectively. This year's, 'Final Season! at Shea Stadium', seemingly puts a lot less pressure on the boys from Queens. I don't really like it, but maybe a lot less pressure is something the Mets need in their slogan because there's lots of pressure on the team in general: pressure on Willie Randolph to recover after last year's collapse; pressure on Johan Santana to live up to his new role as savior; pressure on Omar Minaya to show that he truly can put together a winning team with an approximate $128 million payroll; pressure on the rest of the team to do some of their own recovering. With the season starting tomorrow in Miami, the Mets are poised and rearing to go. Let's take a look at what they have to offer (as long as everyone stays healthy)...

Starting Pitching...
1. Johan Santana.
While I am still nervous about all of the hype, I got to watch some of his Spring Training outings and I liked what I saw. I had a special place in my heart for Tom Glavine (even though he has gone to the HATED Braves), it is great to have an Ace once again. Not since the Mike Hampton era have I felt secure about that #1 spot in the rotation.
2. Pedro Martinez. Apparently the most fit he's been in his career, it will be nice to have a healthy Pedro back in the rotation full time. Maybe he's a little pissy about not being #1, but he makes one hell of a #2.
3. John Maine. What's great about the addition of Santana is that a good #2 becomes a great #3. He was 3-4 in his last 10 games last year, but remember how the last month or so went for the Mets as a whole. His overall 15-10 for 2007 sounds nice to me.
4. Oliver Perez. Sweet. I got to see him last year in 2 very impressive outings. When he's on, he's on and you'll know it early. When he's not...eep he's not. Get that long relief ready. Ended the season 5-3 and had a season total of 15-10. Not too shabby, #4!
5. Mike Pelfrey. This was one of the big Spring stories, who will win the #5 position- old man Hernandez or Pelfrey? Up until, well, yesterday it looked like El Duque had earned it, but it seems like he's going on the DL for at least the beginning of the season. Pelfrey was roughed up in his last few spring outings, so it makes me a little nervous that he's starting in the rotation. Mike will hopefully prove himself as he did in a few of his games last year. All 3 of his wins came at the end of the season, so let's hope that momentum stays with him to the beginning of this year.
Overall Grade: A-

Starting 8...
1. Jose Reyes (SS).
Something happened to Senor Reyes at the end of last season and he has vowed to make certain adjustments to change his bad fortunes. As much as I thought he needed to focus more last September, I don't want him to take away his handshakes and the attitude that make him such a fun player to watch. Hopefully he can get back some of his mojo without changing too much about himself. Let's watch to see if he can he beat his career and Mets-high 78 stolen bases from last year. Maybe he'll get some more hits on the ground this year as opposed to hitting it in the air so much. Triples and inside-the-park home runs are also something to watch out for this season. Watch the throws to first! Keep the errors down. Keep the handshakes.
2. Luis Castillo (2B). Since he was recovering from knee surgery early during Spring, Luis has made some good progress. He's older and with that surgery his injury-risk is up, but he did a nice job as the #2 hitter for the team last year. Good 2nd baseman. Let's see if his knee holds up well enough to get those grounders.
3. David Wright (3B). The Mets' golden boy is poised to have a fantastic season. At 25, he has not yet hit his prime, has emerged as a leader of the team and he had a great year last season with 30 home runs, 107 RBI and a 325 average. His defense is also improving every year. In one pre-season prediction, he was picked as NL MVP. Whew.
4. Carlos Beltran (CF). So he's not quite the man that the Mets signed in 2005. I heard on WFAN that Wright is in front of Beltran in the line-up because the Mets are afraid to have him run. His knees are weak. He won't steal as many bases this year. Here's how I see it- Beltran will be 31 next month. He can still hit. Well. He can still field. Well. If he doesn't steal bases, he doesn't steal bases. That's not something I'm really worried about. Actually, Carlos Beltran isn't someone I'm really worried about.
5. Carlos Delgado (1B). Someone I am worried about is Carlos Delgado. He had a flat out bad season in 2007. He was injured in Spring Training. There are lots of questions- Was last season the beginning of the end or just an off year? Will he be able to hit in the clutch (even a little bit)? I'm hoping that Carlos (my mom says, 'David Wright is cute, but Carlos Delgado is HANDSOME') can regroup to his 2006 form. I like him 5th in the batting order though. Not as much pressure there.
6. Angel Pagan (LF). Once Moises Pees-on-his-Hands Alou gets back from his hernia (ouch), he'll be the starting left fielder. Until then we have Pagan, who kicked some ass during Spring Training. He played to make the team and earned his spot. Let's see how he does when the games count.
7. Ryan Church (RF). He's new and he was out for a lot of the Spring. First he had that head-on collision and then his wife had a baby. Last year he hit 15 home runs, had 70 RBI and an average of 272. He's the starting right fielder either way, so I'll guess we'll just have to wait and see.
8. Brian Schneider (C). More of a defensive catcher than an offensive powerhouse like Mr. Mike Piazza, we'll get to see the new guy call some great games. Six home runs, 54 RBI and a 235 average aren't great numbers, but he supposedly knows how to handle a pitching staff, so let's hope he's recovered fully from his Spring Training injuries.
Overall Grade: B

Check back tomorrow afternoon for a look at the Mets' bullpen and bench! Until then, have fabulous baseball-filled dreams.