September 2006

Leach's Top-10

As we steam ever closer to Football Nirvana on Saturday, I only wish that the Cardinals-Giants game that day weren’t scheduled for a 3:05 start. Alas. Anyway, here’s the top-10. Every week it becomes more a measure of what you’ve actually done, and less of how good I think you are.

1. Ohio State. Um, yeah. Very impressive. Clear favorites to make the title game.
2. USC. I expect them to beat Nebraska soundly.
3. Notre Dame. PSU is overrated, I think, but that was still an impressive win.
4. Auburn.
5. LSU. At least one of these two teams is a legit top-5 team; we’ll know more in four days.
6. Florida. Another team that will show more of its true colors this Saturday.

This is where it gets interesting. I have seven teams for the next four spots, and no real idea where to put them. Each has a strong selling point and nearly every one has a strong negative. Let’s go with…

7. Louisville and its awesome offense, even minus Michael Bush.
8. Oregon, because I give plenty of points for a win at Fresno State.
9. Tennessee, with one great win and one awful win.
10. Virginia Tech, with a terrifying defense, great special teams and an uninspiring offense.

The three I left out: Texas (they got manhandled, even if it was by the No. 1 team), Georgia (either beat somebody, find a QB, or both), Florida State (Troy? TROY??)

Other teams to watch: WVU, Michigan, BC, UCLA, Alabama.

Game of the week: Geez, do I have to pick one? Let’s say LSU-Auburn, annually one of my favorite games. But there are so many! Louisville-Miami should be a fun unstoppable force-immovable object game. FSU-Clemson is always fun. ND-Michigan. And so on.

Currently playing on iTunes: Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Get Happy!

-M.

Late changes — UPDATED

Andy Pettitte was a late scratch by the Astros, meaning several lineup changes for the Cards. And we now have a current lineup in hand. Woohoo!

Old lineup:
Wilson, Spiezio, Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Belliard, Miles, Molina, Carpenter

New lineup, vs RHP Taylor Buchholz:

Miles SS, Duncan RF, Pujols 1B, Rolen 3B, Spiezio LF,  Encarnacion CF, Belliard 2B, Molina C, Carpenter RHP

-M.

Remembering

Sometime around 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, the phone rang in my Brooklyn apartment. I had been out the night before, and with a night shift scheduled for Tuesday, 10 a.m. was an hour I had intended to sleep through.

The phone woke me, though. And on the other end was my mother, and the first words out of her mouth were, "Are you OK?"

In a haze, I just said, "Sure. Why?"

And then she told me what had happened, or at least as much as anyone knew of what had happened at that point. And like everyone else, I was glued to the TV for the rest of the day. I was in a strange position — living in New York, but in a lot of ways, relatively unaffected. I didn’t know anyone who was physically injured, or worse yet, who didn’t make it. I knew people who were greatly affected, of course, but I escaped unscathed in a lot of ways.

I spent the day working from my little apartment, trying to check in with friends and letting people know that I was OK. And trying to stay online, since it was still the dialup era. It was a couple of days before I was able to go back to our office in Manhattan. I still remember the first subway ride I took across the Manhattan Bridge, seeing the open space where the towers used to be.

It’s striking to me the number of things I still remember vividly. I remember what I did the night before, extremely clearly. I worked until well into the early evening, probably 7:30 or 8 o’clock, before going out to have barbecue and a beer and watch Monday Night Football. For that reason, I’ll always remember that the attacks happened on a Tuesday.

I remember walking back down 14th Street on the first day I actually returned to the office, just walking all the way from our office on 9th Avenue to Union Square, and just taking it all in. I remember that I stopped for dinner at Taco Bell. Little things, little visuals that are still fresh five years later.

By far, the most striking sight over the following days was the flyers. On every telephone pole, every open space, every window, people had posted flyers with photos and contact information, trying to find their friends and family members. Even for someone who didn’t lose anyone, it’s still hard to make myself remember those flyers. The memory of them is still heartbreaking — I can only imagine being in the position of someone missing a spouse, parent, son, daughter…

But remarkably, the atmosphere that I recall in the city over the ensuing days wasn’t one of despair. It was overwhelmingly supportive and communal. I’ve never experienced anything like it, before that or since. The strength of New York, and of people in this country, was truly remarkable. I have my bouts with misanthropy, but it wasn’t possible in those days. As much as people were angry and frustrated and scared at what had been done to us, the supportiveness and togetherness were genuinely inspiring.

I don’t know how to end this, and I don’t know that I’ve done any justice to the events or added anything to the discussion. But I’ve been thinking back to that day all day. Above all, I’m thankful for my own wellbeing and that of the people I love who might have been wounded or even lost. I guess the best closer is this…

Please think back today not only to Sept. 11, 2001, but to Sept. 12 and 13 and 14 of that year. Think about the perspective and generosity and everything else good that you found in yourself and in other people over those days, and try and summon some of it again. Thanks, and thank you for reading.

-M, listening to "Flying" by Living Colour (if you know the song, you know why).

My Lucky Seven

Here are my answers to my own questions (someting the MGR and players probably think we do all the time), as I wonder why VaTech is always rated so low at the start of every year. Defense, special teams and run the ball. They always do it and they’re always a top-10 team. Anyway, with iTunes on shuffle, here goes…

1. I honestly believe he’ll be back in StL. Just like with Morris a couple years ago, I was convinced he’d be out the door up until the day I heard he was having surgery. Now I think he’ll return on a one year deal or one year with an option.

2. I don’t believe standings should dictate MVP votes, but of course they always do. With that said, I think Ryan Howard will win it if the Phils make the postseason, and Pujols will win it if they don’t. At this moment, Albert would get my vote, with Howard, Cabrera and Beltran getting serious consideration. I’d vote Carpenter for NL CY, and I think his chances are excellent — especially with Brandon Webb tailing off some. Oswalt may make a run, too.

Over in the AL, Jermaine Dye is going to win it, but I’d have Joe Mauer, Derek Jeter and Travis Hafner all very high on my ballot. It’s pretty clear that Santana should, and will, win the Cy Young. He’s just awesome.

3. Miles has done a surprisingly solid job of getting on base since moving into that spot. I think when he knows he’s supposed to work a count, he does a pretty good job of it. I also think John Rodriguez would be an interesting out-of-left-field option sometimes. I like Wilson more lower in the order.

4. I’m very curious to see what Chris Narveson can do.

5. It used to be right now, because Labor Day weekend used to be the Southern 500 along with football and baseball. Instead, I think I’ll go with October — playoff baseball, college football is fully into conference play and rivalries, NFL is in full swing and the NBA and NHL are starting up.

6. As much as I can, while intermingled with running errands and having non-football time with my wife and dog and cat. But tonight is a great, great night of sports TV — Texas-OSU and the race at Richmond, plus some other very intriguing college games like Georgia-South Carolina.

7. Snakes on a Plane is alone at No. 1 of course. I was the only person in the world who really liked Miami Vice, and I laughed my head off at both Talladega Nights and Clerks 2.

Talk to y’all again soon. Current song: "Bleachman" by Revenge.

-M.

Quick thoughts on the ninth

Just a couple quick thoughts on the ninth inning while Isringhausen is out/unavailable…

Ideally, I’d vote for a purely matchup/situational based approach. If you need a groundball against a RHH hitter in the seventh, use Looper then. If you happen to need a K against a RHH in the eighth, use Wainwright. And if that leaves you with Hancock in the ninth, or Flores, so be it. To me, that’s the ideal way. Use WW at the highest-leverage point, and just go with your best chances to get the outs.

Failing that, if they want a designated ninth-inning guy, I’d go with Looper. Not necessarily because he’s the best pitcher out there, but because Wainwright’s multi-inning availability is a huge asset. I love having a guy that you can bring in with one out in the seventh and get through the eighth. I know they used Looper for two innings last night, and he did well. Overall, though, it seems he’s best suited for shorter outings. So I’d go with WW the way he’s been used, and Looper as the main ninth-inning guy — unless it’s a lefty-heavy ninth.

What about y’all?

-M.

currently playing: shuffle, with "Rooster" by Alice in Chains the last tune.

Lucky Seven strikes back

Hopefully this week’s lucky seven will take some minds off the frustration of Wednesday. Here goes.

1. Where will Mark Mulder be next year? What sort of effort should the Cardinals make to bring him back for another year or more?

2. Who’s the NL MVP at this point? How about the AL? Cy Young winners in both leagues?

3. What’s your take on the leadoff spot since Eckstein has been out? Keep up the platoon situation? Go with one guy all the time? If so, who? What’s the best option until the usual guy gets back?

4. Of all the September callups, which one intrigues you the most?

5. What’s the best time on the sports calendar? Right about now, with pennant races and football starting? October? March/April with the NCAAs and baseball starting? Some other time?

6. How much football will you watch over this five-day stretch?

7. What were your favorite movies this summer?

-M.

Currently playing on the computer speakers: Pearl Jam, live at MSG July 8 2003

Today's game

OK folks, here’s the deal.

I know you’re all frustrated. And that was a bad, bad loss. I’ll have some more thoughts on it later.

But in the meantime, I ask — no, insist on — the following…

Keep it civil. No personal insults. No "you don’t know anything about baseball." No "he couldn’t pitch for my little league team." If you have a reasonable, civil point to add, I’m all for it. I want to hear it. If you have solutions, I want to hear it. If you just want to vent and say that one guy is terrible and has to go, or to tell me that I don’t know anything, I don’t want to hear it. Take it somewhere else. That’s not what my blog is about.


In fact, I just noticed that over at VEB, they have something specifically designated as a "postgame vent thread." If you just want to let out some venom, please, take it there. Correction: As Larry appropriately points out below, they don’t want venom at VEB either. I do think a "vent thread" ist still more appropriate for what some people may want to do than what I want to have here, but PLEASE respect his site too. It’s a quality operation, and they try to keep the level of discourse high.


Thank you.

The Dude abides.

Cool?

-M.

Wednesday tidbits

A few updates from the park today…

* Scott Rolen is receiving a routine and scheduled day off. He’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow and the plan is for him to play every day at least until the off day a week from tomorrow.

* Juan Encarnacion is back in the lineup after missing two days with a muscle strain in the hip/glute area. He’s batting cleanup.

* Preston Wilson again gets the leadoff job against a LHP, playing in LF. Taguchi is in CF and batting second, and Encarnacion is in right. Spiezio has third base.

-M.

New arrivals

As I wrote yesterday, John Nelson and Josh Kinney are here. Additionally, Chris Narveson was called up — something that I would have found extremely surprising six weeks ago, but that became much likelier as the season went on. Schumaker should arrive within a couple of days. Not sure how they’ll use these guys, but it’s great for them to get the experience.

Not a lot interesting in the lineup — Taguchi leading off and in Center, but aside from that it’s mostly the same old, same old.

-M.

Obviously, I'm not a football analyst

That much will be proven true in the following paragraphs. I am, however, a rabid college football fan, and so here are a few thoughts on last night’s contest, and other events from the weekend in CFB.

Throughout the lead-in to this game, my greatest fear as a Florida State fan was UM tight end Greg Olsen. UM tight ends have made a habit of killing FSU over the years, thanks to a cover-2/aggressive pass rush scheme that leaves openings for them. FSU made a point of covering Olsen heavily this time around, and Kyle Wright and the WRs were unable to exploit the openings elsewhere. Major point in this game.

One of my best friends from college — the person who knows more about football than just about anyone I’ve ever met — has a belief about how games turn out. Actually, he has a lot of them, but one in particular stands out regarding this game. I actually call it the Wamsley Principle — the team that takes physical control of a game in the second half of the third quarter tends to win. There’s an initial rush early in the third, but the team that starts dominating the line of scrimmage and dictating play AFTER that is the team that will win. FSU was absolutely that team last night. Even before they had taken the lead, they were in control of the game.

Drew Weatherford’s game reminded me of Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl — and yes, I do intend that as a compliment. He never made the major mistake (OK, the pick was really bad, but it was only one), and when he had chances to make plays, he made them. Nice scramble to avoid a 3rd-and-very-long, couple of big passes, he looked like a winner.

FSU stubbornly stuck to "establish the run" a little too long. But not a lot too long. So I guess that’s a small victory.

Elsewhere in college football…

I’m feeling pretty good about USC as No. 1. … Not feeling so good about having been on the Cal bandwagon. Ouch. … Mitch Mustain is really exciting, but the boos from the Arkansas fans for Johnson were uncalled for. … Under-the-radar good game of the day, for me, was BYU-Arizona. Love the late night TBS game.

And now, to close this out, this week’s top-10.

1. USC. Not many teams had quality wins this weekend, but they had one.
2. Texas. I think they beat OSU on Saturday.
3. Ohio State. Northern Illinois is a pretty tough opponent.
4. Notre Dame. I give them credit for beating GT on the road, even if it was ugly.
5. FSU. Put aside the rivalry — it’s tough for anybody to beat UM in the Orange Bowl
6. LSU. Don’t know any more about them than a week ago.
7. Auburn. Conference road game is a good opening win, even against one of the worst teams in the SEC.
8. Florida. Took care of business.
9. Tenneseee. Best win of the weekend.
10. WVU. Overrated most places, but a good team.

Teams to watch: Oregon, Clemson, Georgia, Iowa.
Game of the week: Texas-Ohio State, of course. But Clemson-BC is a very intriguing matchup, as is ND-Penn State.

I promise my next post will be baseball.

-M.

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