Interesting Things about the 2011 MLB Season

  • Curtis Granderson leads the league in home runs and triples but not in total bases.  Adrian Gonzalez holds that lead.  The only other player in baseball history to lead the league in triples and home runs but not total bases is another former Yankee centerfielder.  Mickey Mantle, in 1955, led the league with 11 triples and 37 home runs, but his 316 total bases were second to Al Kaline’s 321.  Granderson is the first player to lead the league in triples and home runs since Jim Rice did so in 1978.
  • Adrian Gonzalez is on pace to hit 28 home runs and drive in 125 runs.  If he continues at this pace, he will be only the 4th player since 1982 to drive in that many runs with no more than 28 home runs.  In 2008, Justin Morneau and in 2007 Vladimir Guerrero and Magglio Ordonez did so.  Before 2007, it had not happened since Hal McRae in 1982.
  • James Shields currently has 10 complete games and 10 losses.  The last pitcher to throw at least 10 complete games and have the same or more losses than CGs was Phil Niekro in 1979 who threw 23 complete games but lost 20 games.  Before that, it was Niekro again, who in 1977, had exactly 20 CGs and 20 losses.
  • Jose Bautista leads the league in home runs and walks, a feat not done often.  In the last 50 years, the only players to do that were David Ortiz (2006), Barry Bonds (2001), Mark McGwire (1998), Mike Schmidt (1983), Frank Howard (1970), and Harmon Killebrew (1969 and 1967).
  • Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver are dominating American League batters.  The last time two AL pitchers had ERAs lower than 2.40 with at least 200 IP each was 1997 when Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens were lights out.   Before that it was Clemens again, this time with Chuck Finley in 1990.
  • Paul Konerko hit 39 home runs last season and already has 28 in 2011, at the age of 35, projected to have 34 by season’s end.  That 73 home run total in his age 34 and 35 seasons would be tied for 10th most all-time with Hank Aaron.  Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Andres Galarraga, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Willie Mays, Johnny Mize, Babe Ruth, and the leader Mark McGwire (135 HRs) are ahead of Konerko.
  • Michael Young is hitting above .300 for another year, his seventh of his career.  Since 2001, only four players have more seasons of .300 or better  – Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, Todd Helton and Vladimir Guerrero.  Matt Holliday and Derek Jeter each have seven as well.
  • The Phillies pitching staff, as expected, is dominating.  Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels all have ERAs under 2.75 and are all on pace to throw at least 200 innings.  The last team to have three pitchers do that was the 1972 Baltimore Orioles staff consisting of Mike Cueller, Pat Dobson, and Jim Palmer.
  • On the flip side, the Atlanta Braves bullpen may be one of the greatest of all time.  Craig Kimbrel,  Jonny Venters, and Eric O’Flaherty all have an ERA+ over 200, with at least 50 innings pitched already.  Only four other bullpens in history have done that – 2005 White Sox (Neal Cotts, Dustin Hermanson, and Cliff Politte), 2003 Dodgers (Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota, and Paul Quantrill), the 2002 Braves (Chris Hammond, Darren Holmes, and Mike Remlinger), and the 1992 Brewers (Jim Austin, Cal Eldred, Mike Fetters).
  • Ryan Braun is on pace to hit 30 home runs, drive in 105, score 110, hit .331, and steal 36 bases.  The only members of the 30/100/100/.330/30 club include Vladimir Guerrero (2002), Larry Walker (1997), Ellis Burks (1996), and Ken Williams (1922).
  • At the age of 35, Lance Berkman is currently leading the league in OPS+ with 170.  Only Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, Rogers Hornsby, Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams, Mike Schmidt, Hank Aaron, Bob Johnson, Ty Cobb, and Cy Williams have ever led the league in OPS+ at age 35 or older.
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For Pat

I’ll get the hate out of the way early. As a UCONN fan, I was raised to absolutely despise Tennessee women’s coach, Pat Summitt. She was on the level of Hillary Clinton, Ann Coulter and the succubus from South Park in terms of despicability. Then the news broke earlier this week: Coach Summitt was suffering from early onset dementia. When someone is diagnosed with a terrible illness such as this, it’s tough to keep the hate train rolling. It’s almost impossible to not to bury the hypothetical hatchet. Sometimes you have to realize that, even in the ones you despise the most, there is at least a little bit of good in them.

Summitt was born and raised on a farm in northern Tennessee. In her book, Reach for the Summitt, she mentioned that her childhood was troublesome, her father abusive, their opportunities limited. There is one thing that Summitt’s father did support: his daughter’s love for basketball. The family moved to a different town when she entered high school because the one in her old town didn’t have a women’s program. Because Title IX hadn’t come into effect at the time, Summitt was not able to play collegiate ball, but she was selected to play in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the first Games to feature women’s basketball. Eight years later, she would coach the United States women’s national team to a gold medal.

As head coach of Tennessee, she has won eight NCAA championships and been named NCAA Coach of the Year seven times. Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, Summitt dominated the women’s sports scene—she led the Volunteers to NCAA Championships three consecutive years (1996-1998)—and who better to lead the charge than someone who had seen the inferiority of women firsthand as a child?

“It seemed to me that my mother worked as hard (or harder) than my father and my brothers,” Summitt once said. “…When my last brothers would finish their tea, they’d hold up their empty glasses and rattle them. They wouldn’t say a word; they’d just lift their glasses and shake them until my mother served them…My mother waited on them, and I thought, ‘that isn’t right.’”

Decades later, she is regarded as a pioneer of women’s sports and one of the greatest basketball coaches ever. Similar to John Wooden, Coach Summitt preached a specific set of values—the “Definite Dozen” as she called it—to her players. It taught hard work, discipline, loyalty and respect. She applied these points to her coaching, which has undoubtedly contributed to the success of the Lady Vols’ squad.

This is, however, by no means an obituary. Pat Summitt, though occasionally forgetful, is reportedly still sharp, even cracking jokes about her condition. In time, her condition will deteriorate, but Coach has always been a fighter and, though I’ve lambasted her in the past for her sternness and tenacity, those traits will help her to motor through. When I was younger, our next door neighbor had advanced dementia. There would be times where he would just be standing in his yard, staring at who-knows-what for minutes on end, almost like he was dazed. One morning, I heard that there was a major accident on Interstate 84 here in West Hartford; it was my neighbor. He had driven up the wrong ramp and into oncoming traffic. Though the accident didn’t kill him, I remember my neighbor always being a shell of a person. Pat Summitt has never been a favorite of mine, but I would never wish for her (nor anyone) to undergo the same experience my old neighbor did. We at Hamster Wheel Sports wish Coach Summitt the best as she deals with this horrible disease.

Hamster Wheel Fantasy Football Draft is in ONE WEEK!! I know it’s hard, but try to contain your fake excitement. Stay safe during tonight’s hurricane, folks.

TEN RB Chris Johnson Talks to a Fan

Good morning everyone! Please refer to yesterday’s column (Fantasy Football Roundtable) as it is a great indication of how four of your favorite columnists from Hamster Wheel Sports feel about this Fantasy Football season.

I received a note this morning from a great Fantasy Football site I subscribe to – Footballguys.com.  One of their readers sat on a plane next to Chris Johnson yesterday and talked to him about this upcoming season.  Here is the story from here:

OK for everyone wondering if he is going to sign….I kind of have an answer….from CJ himself.

I took todays 12 oclock flight on southwest from nashville to orlando and who was in the check in right in front of me head twitches and all…cj himself. We boarded and I sat right in front of him and his brother and his friend believe it or not in the very back of the plane in coach class. We talked about how he was ONLY offered from one college, East carolina, and how he wanted to play for the canes but broke his leg and no one really wanted him anymore. Anyhow I asked him and his brother seperately if he was going to sign soon and the lack of a positive response was the answer. It didnt sound good. Anyhow things change quickly when you realize your best player isnt in camp and you need to up your offer. I did hear him make mention of 10 to 10.7 to his brother and I dont know weather it was offered by tenn or wanted by him. He seemed like a decent guy, took a picture with him and he signed autos for a few folks, but most people didnt recognize him because he doesnt look like a giant nfl player.

My impression it may not get done as soon as it should and he is pretty small (by nfl standards), a couple inches shorter than me (maybe 5’10”) and about the same size (190lbs)…certainly we have different bursts, ability to cut and stop on a dime (oh and future income). He said he would be ready though and had been training but you cant substitute a 300lber falling on you and the reps you get in camp. I hope he does well since he is one of my favorite players and certainly one of the most dynamic but I could easily see him get injured or pulling a groin or something early this year. I asked him if he thinks jeff demps will break his 4.24 combine record and he said no…I told him he would…twice! He didnt agree but laughed about it.

Interesting, VERY interesting.  With this latest news, I might have to retract my statements yesterday saying I would take Chris Johnson at any point in the back-half of the 1st round.  I think he really might be pressing into the 2nd round if I had to draft today.

Next week I will have my annual Busts/Breakouts/Sleepers/Avoid list.  Until then, any fantasy-related questions can be posted as a comment here or sent via email to: mccannjeffrey[at]gmail[dot]com.

Jeff McCann is a writer for HamsterWheelSports.com.  He loves Chris Johnson as he has done him wonders in fantasy football the past two seasons.  Please CJ2K come back, please!

Fantasy Football Roundtable – COME GET SOME

We are just 2.5 weeks away from opening night and many people have NO IDEA who to take in Fantasy Football this season.  Maybe it’s because of the lockout, player holdouts, the multitude of players changing teams or a combination of everything.  One thing is for sure – we know who to take here at Hamster Wheel Sports and we want to help you DOMINATE the competition.

This roundtable will involve four key members of the HWS family – Matt Angrisani, Poul Carstensen, Bill Serpe and Jeff McCann.  These four talking heads will be touching on a number of topics relating to Fantasy Football for this season.

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Topic #1: Chris Johnson –  If you were drafting today, August 22, at what pick in the 1st round would you HAVE to take Chris Johnson if he fell to you?  He was an automatic top-4 selection.  Now, not so much.

Matt Angrisani:  I was thinking about this the other day actually.  He still is a top talent but this holdout is going to mess him up a bit at first with his team.  Without a holdout, he would be a top 3 pick easily but now, I would have to draft him if he dropped to around the 6th pick.

Bill Serpe:  I wouldn’t take him top 10.  I would pass on him until the 2nd round, for sure.  I’m sure of his talent, but your first round pick should be the person who you most expect to give you results, and if there is any doubt at all, he shouldn’t be a first rounder.

Poul Carstensen:  I’ve done a few mock drafts, and in probably half of them he’s fallen out of the first round. He’s not expected anywhere near camp until labor day.  I agree with Bill- he’s not a true first rounder anymore.  Maybe he’s the wraparound pick for the guy who has the last slot. I think that’s the smart move.

Jeff McCann:  I will tell you this – in a number of my drafts I am sitting in the 9th or 10th slot out of 12 teams.  If he falls to me there I will be SURE to take him.  You have to remember that you are drafting your team to win a Championship – NOT for the first couple of weeks.  If he isn’t in game shape until week 3 then I am fine with it.  The only thing you need to do is grab his backup earlier than expected so you are covered.

Matt Angrisani:  I agree with Jeff.  Anyone who can snag top talent, even as high as the end of the first round, will be given a huge advantage as the season progresses.

Poul Carstensen:  He’s taking a harder line than most have in the past in holdouts. When you tack on missed games (2 or 3) plus getting back into game shape and used to the speed again (2, maybe 3), is it worth it to blow a first rounder on a half-season’s worth of talent? And that’s IF he comes back. I’d be wary of it. He’s talent for sure, but this is a high risk pick.

Jeff McCann:  But if you are sitting there with the 9th pick, and you have a choice between Chris Johnson, the VERY injury-prone Darren McFadden, a deteriorating Maurice Jones-Drew or a top WR (Andre Johnson will probably already be gone, so either Roddy White or Calvin Johnson), who are you going to take?  If you already factor in McFadden and MJD’s missed games due to injury, wouldn’t that equal CJ2K’s missed/slow first couple of weeks?  And who says he hasn’t been getting into game shape by himself?

Matt Angrisani:  The only other thing to think about is that, unlike previous years, there is decent depth at the RB position so maybe Johnson can slip a bit more, as those high level WRs are becoming more scarce.  I would still probably take Johnson but Roddy White is a great pick there as well.

Poul Carstensen:  A player getting ready on his own is almost always behind those who have been training with the team, which lends itself more readily to injury.  The Titans have a new coach in Mike Munchak and two new quarterbacks. A new system + turnover in personnel leads to an increased workload.  Pair that with an unknown level of conditioning, and I think its cause for concern.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t take him, I’m just saying its more risky than I think we’re making it out to be.

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Topic #2: Breakout Year –  Who is going to be this year’s Arian Foster?  Think of a guy that won’t go into at least the 3rd round of drafts, who seems to be over-hyped, but could DOMINATE if/when given the chance?

Bill Serpe:  I can be pretty dumb when it comes to drafts, but a lot of times, I go by how I expect the teams to do.  New Orleans is an offensive juggernaut, and I actually expect big numbers from rookie RB Mark Ingram.  Yahoo has him ranked #57, which puts him a few rounds into the draft.  Even though he’s a rookie, and it could be a learning experience, he has the talent which won him a Heisman Trophy a few years ago, and I would jump and get him a little early.  But, as I said, I’m pretty dumb sometimes, too.

Jeff McCann:  I have to disagree on the Ingram pick.  He is going VERY early in all FF drafts right now and I don’t know why.  He has too much going against him to be taken in the first couple of rounds – the presence of Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles in the backfield, the fact that New Orleans doesn’t use one specific RB all game long, and the transition to the NFL is a tough one.  I think his rookie year resembles more of Darren McFadden (solid but used sparingly and injured more often than not) than Adrian Peterson.

Matt Angrisani:  Not to sound like a homer, but Mario Manningham.  He has a solid season under his belt and now that Manning doesn’t have Smith or Boss, Manningham will be relied on a lot more.  Remember, he was going to be a late first round talent out of college but his interview on NFL Sirius got him knocked down to the 3rd round.  Steve Johnson in Buffalo is also interesting.  Not much offense at all in Buffalo so Johnson may get enough passes thrown to him that he could have a big year.  I don’t think it will be anything spectacular since his quarterback is Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he’s definitely someone to keep your eye on.

Poul Carstensen:  Can we count Mike Tolbert? He emerged last year when Ryan Mathews started slow, and he’s getting all the #1 work in camp and in preseason action. He was a touchdown vulture that turned into a good back, so an earlier/mid round flier on him may be worth the investment.

Jeff McCann:  My breakout guy this year is Dez Bryant.  He was an undeniable presence when he was on the field last year, and that was with Jon Kitna at QB.  Even with the amount of talent surround Bryant (Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Felix Jones), there will plenty of offense to go around as Dallas plays catch up all year-long due to their horrendous defense.  That also makes Tony Romo a great option at QB for fantasy purposes this year.

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Topic #3: Top Players –  Who is going to be the #1 performing fantasy football player at each of the skill positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) this season?

Bill Serpe:

  • QB – Aaron Rodgers  – No explanation needed.
  • RB – Adrian Peterson – I would pass over Foster and likely take AP 1st overall.
  • WR – Larry Fitzgerald – I expect him to put up better numbers now that he potentially has an adequate QB.
  • TE – JerMichael Finley – Just because of his QB.

Jeff McCann:

  • QB – Tom Brady – Brady lost Randy Moss last year, gained Deion Branch and never lost a step.  Now add Chad Ochocinco, a healthier Wes Welker, and 2 more pass-catching RB’s to his arsenal.  WOW.
  • RB – Jamaal Charles –  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love me some JC.  He took a huge leap forward last year, showing that he is an absolute beast once he learned how to hold onto the football.
  • WR – Calvin Johnson – Johnson put up great numbers last year with the 12 quarterbacks Detroit threw out there.  Now give him Matthew Stafford for an entire year and watch him get close to 15 TDs.
  • TE – Dallas Clark – If you combine Clark and Jacob Tamme’s #’s from last year – 104 catches, 978 yards, 7 TD – that’s impressive.  Expect Clark to put close to those numbers up this year as he regains his role as Peyton Manning’s favorite target.

Matt Angrisani

  • QB – Aaron Rodgers – Stealing Poul’s pick before he makes it.
  • RB – Adrian Peterson – I think he will become a more Brian Westbrook type back with Donovan McNabb as his quarterback.  I can see Peterson getting a bunch more receptions this year than usual.  
  • WR – Roddy White – Another year with Matt Ryan under his belt.  With the WR position not being as daunting, White should be on top of the mountain.
  • TE – Jason Witten – With Romo back, Witten is going to get many more throws than last year with Kitna.

Poul Carstensen:

  • QB – Aaron Rodgers – Too many weapons not to be successful.
  • RB – Jamaal Charles – He was an incredibly productive back last year while being horribly misused by Todd Haley.  He’ll explode this year.
  • WR – Larry Fitzgerald – He’s the hardest working receiver in the league.
  • TE – Jason Witten – He and Romo are prison-showers close.  I wanted to put Jermichael Finley up here, but I don’t want to appear to be a massive homer.

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And that does it for this week’s edition of HWS Roundtable.  I hope you all enjoyed our first take on the 2011 Fantasy Football season.  It only gets better from here on out, so tune back to HamsterWheelSports.com each and every day as we will bring new insight into your lives.

Jeff McCann is a writer for HamsterWheelSports.com.  He is an avid fantasy football enthusiast as well as an accomplished champion.  Listen to what he predicts for the fantasy football season and you will go far. Trust him, and send him gifts.

NBA 2K12 Legends Preview:

Being that there will probably be no NBA next season, oen would think the NBA 2k11 would take a big hit in sales. It was probably the most well received and best selling NBA game that the public has seen in awhile. Why you ask? Two words- Michael Jordan. The fact that you could play through Michael Jordan’s career in NBA2k11 was a major selling point, combining that with sharp game play and great graphics, one is not surprised why it did so well.So what has the developer of this game, 2kSports, done to continue their award winning franchise’s recent run as the best selling video game on the market even though there is a risk of no NBA season this year? ADD MORE LEGENDS!!! 15 to be exact, three of which are featured on their own individual covers; Bird, Magic, and Jordan.Recently it has been revealed whom the 15 legends will be as well as the classic games you can play as them in, and I just want to do an overview on who the legends are and how cool the games you can play as them will be.Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar:
Game: 86’-87’ Lakers vs. 86’-87’ Celtics

The fact that you can be Kareem in this game is awesome due to the fact that he really hasn’t been featured in many NBA games as a legend recently (still waiting on Barkley, and Reggie Miller). I can just imagine posting up with him and delivering smooth sky hook after smooth sky hook and then getting continually frustrated as Magic gets more of the credit. Speaking of Magic, this is 86’ Magic Johnson! The one with the goatee that had sex with every woman he saw. Not the slightly slower 91’ Magic who was at the end of his career for various reasons, and didn’t really have sex with as many women.

Magic Johnson
90’-91 Lakers vs. 90’-91’ Blazers

Okay so we still get this version of Magic, but heck, you get him with rookie Vlade Divac and the rest of the early 90’s Trailblazers, and yes kids that includes legendary NBA player Danny Ainge.

Larry Bird
85’-86’ Celtics vs. 85’-86’ Hawks

Any opportunity to play as Larry Legend is a great one, the smooth shot, the trash talking (seriously read up on it on his Wikipedia article…hilarious). Plus one of the greatest duels of all time was between him and Dominique Wilkens, and that is the exact game that is featured. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxqKLEMTBo4

Wilt Chamberlain
71’72 Lakers vs. 71’-72’ KnicksSo many good things about this. First of all, Wilt in his time was DOMINANT. He scored 100 points in a game, 100 points (Note: against weak competition). Still I’m hoping for a separate mini-game where Wilt and Magic are at a bar and see how many women they can sleep with on any given night. The other awesome thing? THE KNICKS! (now when is the last time anyone has said that) Willis Reed, Walt Frasier, Earl Monroe, and the legendary, Phil Jackson, who is guaranteed to be high as a kite on and off the court.Julius Irving
84’-85’ 76ers vs.84’-85 BucksDr.J is an awesome addition to the game, just for the dunks alone. If they implement his crazy lay up against the Lakers into the game I will go nuts. The Bucks are nice…..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGzFXALUrbQ

Patrick Ewing
94’-95 Knicks vs. 94’-95’ Magic

Honestly, they did the whole Knick team last year, so I am not that excited. I mean this was the last great Knick’s team so maybe there is something in that. However, the Magic; young Shaq, young Penny, Horace Grant, and Nick Anderson along with many others. This team had as much talent as anyone back in the day. Watch Shaq’s face as he waits for his contract to be up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK88MQWsYj8

Michael Jordan

92’-93 Bulls vs. 92’-93 Hornets

Not much to say about Jordan, they got him arguably in his prime though and against a team that he loved to play against, and future owner of, the Charlotte Hornets. A team that featured Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson (freaking grand ma-ma) and Muggsy Bogues. (Yes, I know, stupid Barkley and Shawn Bradley not being in the game. We could have had the Space Jam roster) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thbUkBW_ftM

Karl Malone
97’-98 Jazz vs. 97’-98’ Spurs

Another guy we got last year. Still Malone was one of the best power forwards ever, and will probably be a beast in this game. Not too mention part 2 of the best pick and roll combo ever, More on that later. I’m excited about the Spurs, seeing the Twin Towers of David Robinson, and a dominant Tim Duncan will be a sight to behold.

Scottie Pippen
95’-96 Bulls vs. 95’-96 Sonics

Okay, they may not want to admit it, but the only reason Scottie is featured in this is because;
A. They wanted the 96’ Bulls team in the game
B. They wanted the Sonics in the game

It’s not that Scottie isn’t one of the greatest, he is, but let’s not kid ourselves as to why he is featured.

Oscar Robertson

70′-71 Bucks vs. 70′-71 LakersAh, the Big O. A triple double machine in his time, not really sure what he will play like because you generally don’t see too much footage of Oscar in his prime. Still he averaged a triple double for a season, so i would suspect he is very well rounded and very good. He goes up against the Lakers; Chamberlain, West, and Pat Riley. (Am I the only one who can’t wait for the pickup game one-on-one, Phil Jackson vs. Pat Riley?)Hakeem Olajuwon93’-94’ Rockets vs. 93’- 94’ Nuggets

Ah, “ the dream.” People forget how dominant Hakeem was, but let me assure you, if you look at his stats, you will see how great he was. If they add in the dream shake it would make his game very complete. As for the Nuggets, well, it’s Dikembe Mutumbo, expect action, and a lot of crying on the ground staring at a basketball. ( I will draft him onto the modern day rockets just so he can be with Luis Scola, his friend from Argentina) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goSbuA53Iqo

Isiah Thomas
88’-89 Pistons vs. 88’-89 Bulls

Once again having Isiah in the game does several things
A. He was as dominate and as exciting of a point guard as we have ever seen, and those, “Bad Boy” Piston teams were one of the great parts of the late 80’s and early 90’s.
B. Their match-ups with the Chicago Bulls were always classic games. Watch as Jordan does everything in his power to take a mediocre team to the promised land of the finals, yet constantly loses. (At least until 91’)

Bill Russell
64’-65 Celtics vs. 64’- 65’ Lakers

I imagine this will happen to a lot of gamers who play this game.
“Awesome I can be Bill Russell, my dad said he is one of the greatest of all time.”
(Hours Later)
“Wait all he wants to do is rebound, defend, pass and win games.”
(Minutes Later)
“I’m Bored”

John Stockton
97’-98’ Jazz vs. 97’-98 Lakers

Complete with the last pair of short shorts used in the 90’s. Another one of the great point guards who no one talks about, it’s John Stockton. Part 1 of the greatest pick and roll combo of all time. His sound fundamentals and great basketball skills are fantastic, especially for a guy who looks like he could be your dad. The 97’ Lakers is exciting. Dominate weight gaining Shaq complete with; bald, air-balling, and raw talent Kobe Bryant. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws2yhBzJjis

Jerry West
70’-71’ Lakers vs. 70’-71 Hawks

Being Jerry West is awesome, Mr. Clutch, the logo, one of the greatest scorers of all time.
But the real reason why this is AWESOME. The Hawks, that’s right, the Hawks. Why you ask?
Ever heard of “Pistol” Pete Maravich? No look passes, insane dribbling and trick shots galore. I love Pistol Pete!

BONUS TEAMS:
90-91 Warriors- Um, Chris Mullen anyone?

01’-02’ Kings- Chris Webber in his prime, Mike Bibby, Bobby Jackson, Peja Stojakovic. This was one of the great teams of the early 2000’s that just never won a championship, due to those darn pesky Lakers.

Teams I wish were in the game:

I already talked about Barkley and Miller, but another matchup I would have loved to see would be the 2002 Lakers, and Nets. Seeing Kobe and Shaq give each other dirty looks after every time out would have been a joy to watch.

As for the Nets; Kidd, Martin, and Keith Van Horn. Also let’s not forget the Kerry Kittles factor.

Check out the complete list of players in the game here
*Gregory Binder is a writer for Hamster Wheel Sports and is wondering if you saw the Patriots on Thursday….I mean….seriously…did you? Discuss with him @grbinder and gman526@gmail.com

Congratulations to Jim Thome and Jeff McCann

Two nights ago, Jim Thome hit his 599th and 600th home run, joining Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa, and Alex Rodriguez as part of the exclusive 600 home run club.  Hours later, as the clock struck midnight, Jeffrey McCann turned 26 years old.

Jim Thome is coming near the end of his career and his Hall of Fame resume is superb.  Along with 600 home runs, Thome also has 1,662 RBI (27th all-time), a .402 career on-base percentage (50th all-time), 1,710 walks (8th all-time), a 147 OPS+ (tied with Edgar Martinez, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, and Mike Schmidt for 40th all-time), and 74.0 offensive wins above replacement (44th all-time).  Thome’s longevity is extraordinary, hitting at least 20 home runs in 16 seasons, walking over 100 times in 9 seasons, and slugging over .500 in 13 full seasons.  Thome’s reputation as a good guy is well-known and his ability to stay out of any steroid scandal is a feat amongst itself in this day and age.  It is safe to say his Hall of Fame plaque is being made as we speak.

Jeff McCann is no slouch either.   The fantasy sports  enthusiast has an impressive resume, as well.  As Jim Thome played for five different teams, McCann is on his fifth different car.  McCann was the winner of the inaugural Monroe Ultimate Frisbee Summer League.  McCann has been a modified softball all-star, doing it all without a gall bladder.  McCann’s back hair is legendary, often scaring away children, senior citizens, and various farm creatures.  McCann is one of the few to have placed wagers on Australian sports and Women’s Basketball.  As Thome is part of the exclusive 600 home run club, McCann was once part of the exclusive Nocturnal Speed club, meeting at the local diners and Pizza Huts to discuss their automobiles.  Do his favorite NBA and NFL teams change when there is a full moon?   Perhaps.  Does he only sing one line from famous songs over and over again?  Indeed.  But that just adds to his flavor, the flavor of a man, like Thome, who is fulfilling a life of greatness.

Congratulations Jim Thome and Jeff McCann…for being awesome.

Alright, Alright, I’ll Talk About the New York Jets

With football ending the lockout and kicking off the most chaotic free agency period in league history (which was more of a representation of the time-frame and less of the players), there have been a lot of topics and stories to cover. I was disappointed in the NFC West for not making bigger splashes, but I loved the roundtable and hearing what my co-columnists had to say about the goings-on of the sports world. Unfortunately, I neglected the one thing in football I care most about:

J! E! T! S! JETS! JETS! JETS!

Gang Green has teased me these past two seasons, reaching the AFC Championship and falling just short of the Super Bowl. Each year, head coach Rex Ryan boasts that his Jets will win the Super Bowl, and with each successful yet unsatisfying season, I vacillate between believing him and ignoring him. It’s so much fun to get caught up in the guarantees and think before a single meaningful game has been played that this is the year your team reaches and wins the Super Bowl. It also leaves an extremely barren heart when they fail.

So let’s get rid of the emotion and breakdown exactly what the Jets have done from the end of last year until now and see if a Super Bowl run truly is in their future.

Quarterbacks: Starting with the less flashy, Mark Brunell is back as the backup/mentor to Mark Sanchez. Brunell was originally cut, only to be brought back for less money. Former QOTF (my new acronym for Quarterback of the Future) Kellen Clemens and spy Kevin O’Connell have been cut, leaving the third place on the depth chart for late-round pick Greg McElroy from Alabama.  He’s looked solid in camp, you know, playing against other third-teamers.

As for Sanchez, this is the year. He has to put everything together: the accuracy, the scrambling, the play-calling, the progressions. He has shown flashes of greatness, and he has shown flashes of complete ineptitude. The latter were less prevalent in Year Two, but for the Jets to truly contend for the Super Bowl, he’ll need to make sure we see none of it in year one. Look for Sanchez’s completion percentage to get above 63% this season.

Running Backs: Again, not much change here. Like Brunell, LaDanian Tomlinson is making less money this year after a contract negotiation. LT figures to see less touches this season as he really wore down at the end of last year. The Jets need to be smart about keeping gas in his tank for the postseason. This means Shonn Greene is going to carry the majority of the load. He’s vastly improved his receiving abilities and has focused on his fumbling problems, so my main concern for Greene is staying healthy. Also, the Terminator, John Conner, takes over the fullback position full-time. Opposing defenses beware.

Last point on running backs: you heard it here first, Joe McKnight is going to make an impact. Every day since he vomitted in camp last year, he’s gotten better and better, and he had a chance to showcase that against the Bills in Week 17 last year. I’m not saying McKnight is going to blow up and lead the league in rushing, but he will have a role in the offense and will be effective in that role. Don’t be surprised if he sees some Wildcat action and leaves you in awe rather than leave you shaking your head.

Wide Receivers: This is a hard pill to swallow. The 2010 Jets had Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Jerricho Cotchery. Holmes is back, but Edwards and Cotchery have been replaced with Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason. Now, I will say that Mason is an upgrade over Cotchery, even at the advanced age of 37. Cotchery was disgruntled and injured, and foolishly squandered $4 million dollars this year for less money and less playing time with Pittsburgh. The Burress signing I still fail to understand. He’s 34, hasn’t played football in two years, and already has an injured ankle. This guy was worth $3 million guaranteed, and Edwards could only get $1 million from San Francisco plus unreachable incentives? Edwards is seven years younger and HAS BEEN PLAYING FOOTBALL THE PAST TWO YEARS! Now, he probably got a low contract because of his recent bar fight while on probation, and he needs to show more maturity, but he’s still a very competent receiver with improving hands and a big frame. Maybe the Jets shouldn’t have brought back Edwards, but Malcolm Floyd was available for the same money Burress got, and he’s a big target as well. Burress could be explosive, I understand the logic, but he’s just older and out of football shape, and that frightens me.

For tight ends, Dustin Keller should have a bigger role this year (I feel like I’ve said that each of the past two years), but that loss of Ben Hartsock in the blocking game is huge. No, not really, blocking tight ends are a dime a dozen. Matthew Mulligan will do just fine.

Defensive Line: As it has been famously known, Shaun Ellis was offered very little to remain a Jet, and the rival Patriots gave him four times as much to divulge all of Rex Ryan’s secrets and play defensive end for them. The Jets still have improved their line, in a way that is recently uncommon to them: the draft. First-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson and third-round pick Kenrick Ellis have both impressed at DE and DT, respectively, and have re-energized what was an aging line. They both have great size and strength, and with a little learning, could really develop into a destructive three-man front with Sione Pouha or Mike Devito. Also getting back into the rotation is Ropati Pitoitua, who suffered an ACL injury last preseason and missed the entire season, just as he was about to make an impact. Many people view the Jets’ defensive line as a weakness, but I think it’s improved over last year, and it could be by a large amount.

Linebackers: Not much has changed here. David Harris inked a new long-term deal, and it is much deserved. Bart Scott did more with his mouth than his tackling last year, and took a paycut for it. Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace are on the outsides, and they are looking to benefit from the help on the D-Line. The value here is the backup, Jamaal Westerman. Westerman is a smart player from Rutgers who excelled on special teams last year, and is turning heads at OLB in practice. He’s playing his way into the rotation and could be an effective edge rusher this season.

Defensive Backs: The Jets missed out on Nnamdi Asomugha, and had to overspend to bring back Antonio Cromartie, but Darrelle Revis is still here. Revis hasn’t slowed down a step and is still very young, and another year under Cromartie’s belt might prove very beneficial for him. Donald Strickland returns to the team after spending a year on the West Coast, and he’ll replace Drew Coleman in nickel and dime packages. James Ihedigbo left for greener pastures, but Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and Jim Leonhard are still at safety, and Rex can draw up diverse and complex blitz packages for each of them out of the backfield.

Special Teams: Mike Westhoff is still the coordinator, so this unit will be top-5 regardless. Kicker Nick Folk is losing a camp competition to unproven Nick Novak, and practice squad punter TJ Conley is losing his own competition to Chris Bryan, an Australian football player. Whatever decision Westy makes, you have to figure it’s the right one.

What does this breakdown tell you? Not much has changed, really. Some aspects are better, some aspects are worse, and it seems pretty even. Looks like another AFC Championship loss for the Jets. What piece of jewelry can I break this year?

Matthew Wolfe is already depressing himself about losing in football. And this is him being optimistic. To cheer him up, leave a comment below, email him at matthew.wolfe86@gmail.com, or tweet him @MattWolfe53.