Friday, August 22, 2008

Live from the Outer Banks, iiiiiittttt'sss the Aaaaannnngry Fan

So, I've been in Corolla, NC, for the last week (I'm still there as I type this on the porch of the beach house the family has rented). It's been a little difficult to give a rat's ass about a whole lot going on when I've been sitting in breezy low 80 degree temperatures. It has also been kind of hard to focus with my two daughters and four nieces tearing around the house like miniature banshees. So I have largely been spending days at the beach cranking through Dennis Lehane novels.

Some quick thoughts and then my pre-season take on the NFC West...

Is it just me, or has there been a domino effect on the bullpen every time Clay Buchholz has pitched lately? He struggles, they go to the pen, and they struggle. It's almost as though they're taking their cue from whoever the starter is and if the starter sucks it up, so too does the pen. I haven't looked closely to see if this is true, but it certainly feels like this is what's been happening lately. It's probably for the best that Buchholz was sent back down.

If the Sox can't come up with a viable replacement for Buchholz, a guy who can go at least .500 in his place, the Sox are going to lose out on the division, and likely the playoffs, as the AL Central looks like it has a pretty strong chance of sending two teams to the big dance.

Carl Pavano is expected to start for the Yankees on Saturday. Stick a fork in 'em. Right now this is their rotation -

Mike Mussina
Carl Pavano
Darrell Rasner
Andy Pettitte
Sid Ponson

That's not only not a championship rotation, it's a rotation that's barely average. Only one of the starters gives up fewer than four runs per nine innings pitched, and that's Mike Mussina. Not exactly known for coming up big in the late season pressure games (sure, he hasn't been awful in the post-season, but 7-8 with a 3.42 ERA is hardly dominating, or impressive).

Now onto the West...

This is a hard one to call because, like the AFC West, the NFC West is rife with mediocre and bad teams. It's hard to ascribe any separation between the Rams and the 49ers, as well as the Cardinals and the Seahawks. The two duos definitively make up the top and the bottom of a bad division. One of the teams might surprise, it's always possible, but this is how I see it...

4. 49ers - I think this is a team going backwards. They appear to lack a true NFL quality quarterback, instead having three guys that would be back-ups on other teams. Frank Gore is solid at running back, but the passing game and the defense are suspect. I have a hard time seeing this team improve on the five wins of a year ago, and suspect that they could slip to a four win season easily.

3. Rams - Like San Fran, I'm not convinced of this team's improvement. However, with contests against the rival 49ers (twice), the Jets, Dolphins, Falcons, and Bills, there's a chance this team could eke out five or six wins, although, I suspect at least one loss to the Niners, and possible losses to the Jets and Bills. I wouldn't be surprised by three wins, but I would be by any more than six.

2. Seahawks - I haven't been thrilled by this team's personnel moves since the Super Bowl loss to the Steelers. I think they overpaid for Deion Branch, an oft-injured, undersized receiver who got it into his head, and into the Seahawks' heads that he was better than really is. They let one of the better offensive linemen on the team walk away. They signed TJ Duckett, who I feel has never quite lived up to what little hype has surrounded him. The only signing I liked was Julius Jones. While they are clearly one of the most consistent teams in the NFC, I believe time has chipped away at their hold on the division and that they may be in danger of missing the post-season this year. All that said, I'm looking at nine wins, maybe ten for this team.

1. Cardinals - I'm buying into the hype. The last time I did, I got burned, but I'm going to ride with it again. Knowing the history of this team, they could easily wind up at the bottom of the division, but I think they're poised for a playoff run. They have a young, high-octane offense in place that has shown signs of life the last two seasons. With the offensive weapons in place, the Arizona brain trust has concentrated on their defensive shortcomings, and the buzz out of the desert is that the D could be pretty good this year. If that happens, this could be a team that makes some noise. They'll have their work cut out for them with all the teams from the East on their schedule, but I can see them stealing one here and there to fight their way to around ten wins.

No comments: