Monday, September 29, 2008

New York teams say 'bye' to MLB playoffs

What’s the best storyline about the upcoming Major League Baseball playoffs?

How about the fact that there are not any New York teams involved for the first time in more than a decade …

As much as the TV networks jam New York down our collective throats, it’s nice to see the playoffs commence with some truly compelling possibilities for smaller market teams.

What about:

Tampa Bay being in for the first time ever
Milwaukee being back for the first time since winning the World Series in 1982
The chance of Minnesota getting back in if it survives in the AL Central

Then the bigger markets:

The Chicago Cubs trying to win a World Series for the first time in 100 years
The Los Angeles Dodgers trying to win their second playoff GAME since a World Series title 20 years ago
Philadelphia looking for its first championship in 28 years
The Anaheim Angels shooting to win it all for the second time in six years
The Boston Red Sox attempting to make it three titles in five years

The happiest guy of all in the playoffs may be Manager Joe Torre of the Dodgers.

He’s taken so much criticism for the Yankees seemingly losing in the first-round each year lately. (Without him, the Yankees won’t face such a fate while looking from the outside in from the beginning.)

That coincides with the best news of all: No New York teams!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chargers' LT loves 'Raider Week'

If you’re looking for LaDainian Tomlinson to have his first breakout game of 2008 for the Chargers, this could very well be the week.

As former coach Marty Schottenheimer used to say: “It’s Raider Week.”

And few – if any – Charger players have performed better over the years against the hated Oakland Raiders than LT.

In fact, three of his top eight career rushing games came vs. Oakland:

Dec. 28, 2003: Career-high 243 yards
Oct. 14, 2007: Both 198 yards and four touchdowns
Sept. 28, 2003: Best game at Oakland with 187 yards

Based on this, we should find out this week if LT is just off to another slow start or hurt worse than some are letting on with his toe injury.

There are a couple of significant notes this week.

First of all, with a win, the Chargers will become the first team ever to beat the Raiders 10 straight times.

And most of all for Oakland, it will likely be the last game for head coach Lane Kiffin; who is expected to be fired the following week when the Raiders have a bye.

Either the Raiders will go all out for Kiffin this week, or they will just lie down because they are tired of interference from owner Al Davis.

Prediction: Chargers 38, Raiders 23
College prediction: San Diego State 31, Idaho 20

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Padres problem: Not the hitting coach!

Dave Magadan was fired as hitting coach of the Padres in June 2006.

Sixteen months later, he was hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox when they won the World Series.

Merv Rettenmund replaced Magadan and was fired in July 2007.

He was long considered among the best hitting coaches in Major League Baseball.

Wally Joyner has just resigned as hitting coach of the Padres.

Does anybody see a pattern here?

Maybe, just maybe, it isn’t the hitting coach. Gee, do you think that maybe the problem is the hitters … not the hitting coach … for the Padres?

Give somebody chicken salad and that’s what your final product will be. But give them chicken manure … and guess what that smells like?

How about the Padres hitting …

Certainly, Petco Park has been a hindrance to Padre hitters the last five years. But other teams play in expansive parks, and they don’t go through hitting coaches on an annual basis.

Rather than continue the merry-go-round on hitting coaches, isn’t it about time that the higher ups in the front office be held accountable?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chargers primed to beat Favre, Jets

Did you know Brett Favre is quarterback of the New York Jets now, lol.
You probably haven’t heard it more than 10,000 times on ESPN ... and 20,000 times elsewhere.

That being said, the new Mr. Jet (not to be confused with Joe Namath) brings his team to town for Monday Night Football against the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

So much seems to point in Favre’s favor:

He is 5-0 vs. the Chargers
He beat them in Week 3 last year in Green Bay (this happens to be Week 3)
He’s almost always at his best on Monday Night Football

Well, there is another way to look at this.
The Chargers are 0-2, playing in a nationally televised night game.

The last time that happened was in 2005, when Eli Manning and the New York Giants came to town.

Manning was booed unmercifully for his disparaging comments the year before about San Diego; the Chargers beat the Giants, 45-22.

Although Favre will receive a much warmer reception than Manning, the rest of this game smells a lot like 2005.

Prediction: Chargers 38, Jets 24

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Will Trevor Hoffman make Hall of Fame?

Is Trevor Hoffman destined for the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Apparently, a lot of people in Los Angeles don’t think so.

During a Los Angeles Dodgers telecast on KCAL Channel 9 recently, viewers were asked whether they believed the Padres’ closer would make the Hall of Fame.

The responses:

Never: 38%
Eventually: 36%
First ballot: 26%

Even Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully said on the air that he was surprised by the low support for Hoffman.

After all, Hoffman is the all-time saves leader with 552. (But the man he passed, Lee Smith, still isn’t in the Hall of Fame.)

Normally, we could blame the oversight on Hoffman due to East Coast bias. But these were West Coast fans in the Los Angeles area.

It kind of makes you wonder just when ... or if ... Hoffman will get his due respect in the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mountain West is great ... minus S.D. State!

Jesse Palmer sure got it right during "College Football Live" on ESPN-TV this week.

Palmer said that the Mountain West Conference is clearly better than the Big East or Atlantic Coast conferences so far this season.

That being said, why do the Big East and ACC have automatic bids into the Bowl Championship Series ... but not the Mountain West?

Thus far, the Mountain West is 5-0 vs. the Pac-10. And if you think it has been weaklings of the Pac-10 vs. the best of the Mountain West, think again:

UNLV, which was picked to finish last in the Mountain West, beat No. 15 Arizona State in overtime last week.

BYU won 59-0 over a UCLA team that had upset Tennessee in its first game.

New Mexico, expected to be a middle-of-the-road team, downed Arizona.

TCU beat the same Stanford team that had upset Oregon State two weeks previous.

There is an exception in the Mountain West. It’s San Diego State (0-3), whose losses have included Cal Poly and San Jose State.

If SDSU one day drops football and leaves the Mountain West, the conference would be better off for it in football.

SDSU aside, the Mountain West certainly deserves to be there during the BCS competition this season!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Referee Ed Hochuli ... dumbest man in the NFL!

Referee Ed Hochuli clearly looks like the strongest referee in the NFL.

After Sunday, it’s safe to say he is all brawn and no brains.

Hochuli’s incompetent officiating clearly cost the San Diego Chargers a 39-38 loss at Denver.

All of America could plainly see Broncos’ quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled the ball away to San Diego in the game’s waning moments, which should have closed out a 38-31 win.

But Hochuli let his muscles get in the way of his vision by ruling it an incomplete pass and blowing his whistle; costing the Chargers the ball and blowing the game.

"That’s not acceptable," Chargers’ coach Norv Turner rightfully said more than once in the aftermath.

Oh, sure, the Chargers still could have held the Broncos from the 10 – or stopped a two-point conversion – to win the game a second time.

But once you’ve won the game, why have to win it a second time?

And what was with the instant replay not working in the first quarter?

All of America could see on TV replays that San Diego’s Chris Chambers was obviously down after catching a pass. Hochuli’s crew called it an interception, which was news to TV viewers but not the incompetency in the replay booth.

That was bad enough. Hochuli’s ridiculous call at the end was the worst thing some of us have since the Holy Roller 30 years ago by the Oakland Raiders.

There’s no excuse for Hochuli’s incompetency ... or the Chargers’ 0-2 start!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pittsburgh Steelers: Clubhouse leader in the AFC?

Let’s see now:

You can stick a fork in the New England Patriots without Tom Brady.

The Indianapolis Colts looked horrible against the Chicago Bears, even with Peyton Manning.

The San Diego Chargers will miss greatly Shawne Merriman on an already beleaguered defense.

The Jacksonville Jaguars couldn’t even beat the Tennessee Titans in Week 1.

So who does that leave as the early frontrunner in the AFC?

How about the Pittsburgh Steelers …

Few people are talking about the Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers; this less than three seasons after their Super Bowl victory.

But with all the “powerhouses” in the AFC falling around them, Pittsburgh could once again figure in the hunt at the end.

One week does not a season make … but it makes the once-dominating AFC seem like a weakened bunch in 2008.

Weekend Predictions:
Chargers 24, Denver 13
San Jose State 31, San Diego State 23

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Manny Ramirez sure energizes the Dodgers!

Does Manny Ramirez energize the Los Angeles Dodgers, or what?

His 12 home runs and 36 RBIs in 37 games as a Dodger speak volumes.

But what he’s injected into younger players … specifically Andre Ethier … may be even more impressive than Manny’s personal numbers.

What has Ethier accomplished in the 12 games he’s been batting in front of Manny?

How about hitting .500 with eight doubles, two triples, 14 RBIs, nine walks and 15 runs scored …

Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully put it quite succinctly on the most recent Dodgers telecast. He noted than when Ethier was asked why he was so hot, the answer was one word/name: “Manny.”

(Sorry, our apologies go out to Jeff Kent for such a statement!)

Manny is rubbing off on Ethier in other ways. For instance, Ethier was spotted in the Dodger dugout during their most recent victory wearing a Manny wig.

The Dodgers are having fun … Manny is leading the way.

It could be a tough combination to beat in October from a team that may win its division with barely a .500 record.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The line isn't good on the Chargers

Some of us still remember that old high school cheer, “Hold that line.”

In a nutshell, that’s exactly what’s wrong with the Chargers.

The reason they lost to Carolina, 26-24, on opening day Sunday was simple: The Panthers beat up the Chargers on both the offensive and defensive lines.

The Panthers averaged 4.9 yards per rush against a weakened Chargers defense, even without the benefit of a breakaway run to inflate the statistics.

And when the Chargers had the ball, they certainly weren’t as effective up front without injured center Nick Hardwick and tackle Marcus McNeill.

Also, we discovered that people who don’t play in the exhibition season because of nagging injuries aren’t going to be effective from the start.

How else do you explain Jamal Williams and Shawne Merriman only being in on two tackles apiece?

And even Antonio Gates, despite his late 24-yard touchdown reception, looked rusty as he still recovers from last season’s toe injury.

The Chargers need to make a quick recovery when they go to Denver this week, otherwise they will find themselves 0-2 in what is supposed to be a Super Bowl season.

The redeeming factor?

The AFC West is so weak that the Chargers could likely win it by going 8-8 or 9-7.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Chargers should at least make it to Super Bowl

Injuries aside, and there are plenty of them, the Chargers should finally make it to the Super Bowl this season.

They have an incredibly weak schedule with six games against their own AFC West division, four against the AFC East and four vs. the NFC South.

Even when you throw in games against Pittsburgh and Indianapolis since the Chargers are playing a first-place schedule; this season has 12-4 or 13-3 written all over it for San Diego.

Here are division-by-division predictions:

AFC West
San Diego
Kansas City

AFC East
New England
New York Jets

AFC North

AFC South

AFC Wild Cards: Tennessee, Cleveland

NFC West
San Francisco
St. Louis

NFC East
New York Giants

NFC North
Green Bay

NFC South
New Orleans
Tampa Bay

NFC Wild Cards: Philadelphia, New Orleans

AFC Championship: San Diego (finally) over New England
NFC Championship: Dallas over Philadelphia
Super Bowl: Dallas over San Diego

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

NL West has seen worse days than now

So you think the NL West is terrible this season?

Maybe so, but it’s not as weak as it was three years ago.

Consider the standings after Sept. 1, 2008; compared to what they were in 2005:

LA Dodgers
San Francisco
San Diego

San Diego
LA Dodgers
San Francisco

As you can see, at least there’s a “race” to the finish this season (which is more than happened in 2005.)

But this time, the Padres aren’t going to win it. And same as last time, nobody deserves to win … but somebody has to!

(* Thanks so much to David A. West of Biola University for information used in this blog.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Milwaukee Brewers need to quit crying

The Milwaukee Brewers need to quit crying over whether CC Sabathia pitched a no-hitter Sunday in Pittsburgh.

There are two reasons Andy LaRoche’s leadoff single in the fifth inning deserved to be called an infield hit:

No. 1: Sabathia tried to bare-hand the ball. Whenever somebody does that, it means they know there is a 50-50 chance at best of getting the runner.

If every player was given an error who tries to bare-hand a ball, Major League Baseball would need to change its scoring rules and call hundreds of more errors each season on such plays.

No. 2: Sabathia is left-handed. He not only needed to pick up the ball; he needed to turn his body to make the throw (it would have been much easier for a right-hander.)

There’s even a third compelling reason not to change the call. Had the play been ruled an error, the Pirates may have played the game differently from then on in an attempt to get a hit.

(Perhaps someone could have tried for a bunt single to break up a no-hitter; such as Ben Davis of the Padres did years ago vs. Curt Schilling of the Padres; or Steve Garvey of the Dodgers did vs. San Diego’s Bob Owchinko in the late 1970s.)

The Brewers are a great team. Here’s hoping they win the World Series ... and quit crying about a one-hitter by Sabathia that should stay that way!