Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dan vs. Bucci: Playoff Edition

As often as I poke fun at John Buccigross in this space, I will admit that his predictions have certainly been a fuck of a lot better than mine so far this NHL season. Looking back to my NHL Regular Season predictions, I find that I got five playoff teams correct in the East, misstepping on the Flyers, Maple Leafs, and Hurricanes, and placing my Penguins second to last in the conference (intentional reverse karma, I swear), though I was the only one in the world who correctly had the Islanders in the playoffs, which I think might have been a joke to amuse myself at the time. I went 6 for 8 in the West, stupidly forgetting that Colorado isn't Colorado anymore and that L.A. is still very much L.A.

Bucci went 6 for 8 in the East, picking up the Rangers and Thrashers, who I missed, and predicting a Philly demise, which I also missed (though have dreamed about for years), but Bucci homered in the awful Bruins at 8th and had the Islanders dead last in the conference, as though they were some sort of joke. He also went 7 for 8 in the West, missing just the Oilers as the 8th seed, giving him 13 playoff teams to my 11.

However, Bucci also spent half of his East preview whining about his "beloved Uncle Kenny," whereas my preview did not mention his stupid dead uncle once. I feel that gives me an additional three points, vaulting me to a 14-13 victory in the regular season standings. Also, he once again used a bunch of dumbass song references in his column, including lyrics by Rascal Flatts and Guster, which is a 10 point deduction. The real score: Dan 14, Buccigross 3.

So, I crushed Bucci in the regular season, but every hockey fan knows, nothing matters til the playoffs, and in the world of predicting things on the internet, this rule is no different. I predicted five first-round series correctly - Buffalo, New Jersey, The Rangers, Detroit, and Vancouver - though I did stupidly go homer and take the Pens over Ottawa, violating my shrewd reverse-prediction from the regular season and costing Pittsburgh the chance to advance. I also made a gutsy Minnesota-over-Anaheim upset pick, and even though Anaheim took it in five games, I feel my boldness earns me one more point. So let's say I got six.

Buccigross got 7 out of 8 series correct, missing just the Penguins over Ottawa. This appears impressive at first glance, except he took Anaheim over Minnesota in seven games, and Anaheim only needed five, so that's pretty much like getting it wrong. He also titled his column "It's my most wonderful time of the (hockey) year," implying that other hockey fans have other more wonderful times of the NHL season than the playoffs; I know my favorite time of the hockey year is January, cause you just can't beat good ol' regular season games 45 through 60! So yeah, really dumb column title, that costs him two more picks. Also, in reference to Pavel Datsyuk, he quotes the entire chorus of "The Real Slim Shady," which docks him two more.

That puts the total playoff score at Dan 6, Buccigross 2. I can't believe he only predicted two series correctly! How does this guy still have a job?

Alright, Bucci, you've got a chance to redeem yourself in Round Two - I see your playoff predictions, and I raise you my (correct) ones!

1) Buffalo vs. 6) NY Rangers

The Sabres are loaded with potential unlikely heroes, but it will be extremely likely hero Chris Drury not-shocking the world and scoring the series clincher in overtime of Game Six. Sabres in 6.

2) New Jersey vs. 4) Ottawa

This is an exact NHL equivalent of Patriots-Colts. I know the Colts won this year, but I also know that if my life depended on one of these matchups, I'd take the Patriots every time. Also, if the Colts had Ray Emery, he would suck, and not just because he doesn't play football. Devils in 6.

1) Detroit vs. 5) San Jose

I've underestimated San Jose all season, and they've proven time and time again that Ron Wilson isn't just some asshole who spews angering sound bytes to the media, that Joe Thornton isn't just some big, glorified Adam Oates who never shoots the puck but the North American media can't help but try to fellate him at every opportunity, and that despite still being known more for inspiring a Starter Jacket than for playing hockey, The Sharks are a viable cup contender. What I'm saying is, why should I stop underestimating them now? Red Wings in 7.

2) Anaheim vs. 3) Vancouver

GM Brian Burke going against his former Vancouver franchise is probably the biggest story in professional sports right now. This series will shock the world when it draws more viewers on Versus than CSI and American Idol combined, and the Ducks, having already beaten the Hawks, Team Iceland, and Varsity in similarly high-pressured situations, are clearly better equipped to handle that kind of pressure. Ducks in 6.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sorry for the spotty posting the last week or so, I've been splitting my powerful online charisma between here and Band Madness, which is getting closer to the finals.

I have not yet been able to sort out my feelings on the Penguins / Senators series, let alone write them down, so for now, just read this Gene Collier column that sums it up pretty well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

ESPN covers the NHL playoffs

What an amazing first night of the NHL playoffs! Dallas and Vancouver play four overtimes, Nashville scores two goals in the third to take San Jose to overtime, the Ducks score with five minutes left to beat Minnesota, and Sidney Crosby makes his playoff debut, although it's viciously spoiled by the fired-up Ottawa Senators! I can't wait to see what ESPN has say about this!

This was the front page of's NHL page today. The Second Annual Barry Melrose Mullet Madness Gallery. They couldn't talk about mullets on any other day of the calander year except for the one right after the most important night of hockey in the last 10 months? I guess the references to Paul McCartney and 80s Michael Keaton are pretty topical.

I can't wait til Wildcard Week in the NFL next year, I want to see who makes the Second Annual John Clayton Turkey Neck But Also Wearing Glasses Madness Gallery, which I imagine will be on the morning after the first two playoff games.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NHL Playoff Predictions

Reelin' In the East:

1) Buffalo vs. 8) New York Islanders
Depth: Buffalo
Goaltending: Buffalo
Hilarity provided to me by owner, GM: Islanders
Verdict: Buffalo is too deep, the Isles get bounced out in five, although the North American press raves over Ryan Smyth's two rebound goals in New York's 8-3 loss in Game 4.

2) New Jersey vs. 7) Tampa Bay
Offense: Push
Defense and Goaltending: Undefined; NJ cannot be divided by zero.
Coach Press Conference Profanity: Tampa Bay
Verdict: Whoever this new Devils coach is had better watch out, cause Lou Lamiorello is pissed and he'll have him on a super short leash. Devils in five.

3) Atlanta vs. 6) New York Rangers
Offense: Atlanta
Defense: Rangers
Fatness: Atlanta (bolstered by Tkachuk, Zhitnik acquisitions at deadline)
Hey, Remember Mark Messier?: Rangers
Verdict: The Rangers are all defense with one offensive threat, while the Thrashers are all offense with a defense that is extremely threatening. Rangers in six.

4) Ottawa vs. 5) Pittsburgh
Offense: Push
Experience in playoffs: Ottawa
Experience of having choked a lot in playoffs: Ottawa
Ability to shrewdly reference "Anchorman," other recent, hip comedies: Pittsburgh
Verdict: The Senators are no longer literally pillows, but if they lose this series, the coach and GM will both get fired and replaced by fresh, new sixty-year-olds. I gotta go homer and bank on Ottawa's silver-haired suits feelin' that pressure. Pens in seven.

Wake Up Mr. West!

1) Detroit vs. 8) Calgary
Depth: Detroit
Crime Rate: Detroit (actually declined slightly after Bertuzzi acquisition)
Being really annoying to play against, like Minnesota: Calgary
Verdict: Detroit surrenders about eighteen shots a game, but it will probably take about twenty shots in a game for Calgary to snap Dominik Hasek's groin. I don't see that happening. Red Wings in seven.

2) Anaheim vs. 7) Minnesota
Offense: Anaheim
Being really annoying to play against, like Minnesota: Minnesota
Collective anonymity reminiscent of the Borg from Star Trek: Minnesota
Verdict: Anaheim does have two defenseman capable of logging 58 minutes of ice time a night, but the analysis doesn't lie. Wild take the series in seven WILD* games.

(* = wildly low-scoring and defensively efficient)

3) Vancouver vs. 6) Dallas
Offense: Vancouver
Goaltending: Vancouver
Friend who's been there tells you the city was 'kind of cool, really chill': Vancouver
Having curvey whale breaking out of ice on jersey, despite no connection whatsoever to actual team nickname: Vancouver
Verdict: The facts don't lie. Unless a monumental officiating error causes all games to be decided in shootouts, I'm taking the Canucks in five.

4) Nashville vs. 5) San Jose
Offense: Push
Defense: Nashville
National Interest: Detroit
Having five injured goaltenders all on the ice at the same time: Push
Verdict: Joe Thornton and Peter Forsberg both refuse to shoot the puck and pass so frequently that the series eventually devolves into them passing to one another really fast until the puck goes off some defenseman's skate and into the net, causing every game to end 1-0 in overtime. San Jose's skates are a little larger than Nashville's, so I'm taking the Predators in seven.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A-Rod Bias Alert
On Saturday night, Alex Rodriguez hit a walk-off grand slam against the Orioles - his second homer of the game - to lift the Yankees to a dramatic, 10-7 comeback victory and avoid a three-game losing streak. Rather than just go ahead and compliment the guy, though, made sure to reach back two days to diminish the accomplishment. Check out this graphic:

Remember When:

What a difference two days make. On Thursday, A-Rod popped out with the bases loaded to end the 8th inning in a 7-6 loss to the Devil Rays.

Would ESPN have brought this up for any other player? For some sadistic reason, they felt compelled to remind everyone that awful, clutchless A-Rod had the nerve to fucking MAKE AN OUT in the 8th inning of a game two days ago.

Not only do they incorrectly note that the bases were loaded (there were runners on second and third, but let's just toss a ghost runner on first to make A-Rod look chokier), but they fail to mention that two players, including what had to be some clutchless imposter wearing Derek Jeter's uniform, grounded out before A-Rod even came up. Jeter also made two errors in the game and was caught stealing, but if Jeter had hit the walk-off homer in Saturday's Oriole game, would ESPN have felt the need to tell everyone "wait a minute! Don't get too excited! This guy had a bad game two days ago!"

I am aware that pointing out the media's biases towards A-Rod and Jeter is about as difficult as finding the slant in FOX News, and equally pointless and dead-horse-beating, but I just can't help myself. Maybe tomorrow I'll write a lengthy, groundbreaking post explaining why the media likes Juan Pierre more than Manny Ramirez.

Monday, April 09, 2007

LaRoche unable to handle pressure of playing in Pittsburgh

It was a disastrous debut week for Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche, whose 3-for-25 performance in his first six games already has fans wondering if the former Atlanta Brave can handle the pressure of playing in Pittsburgh.

"Some guys start to feel it a bit when they put on that storied Pirates uniform," said teammate Jack Wilson, a longtime Pirate whose career .306 On Base Percentage can likely be attributed to his comparable intimidation. "You have to prove to the fans that you can hit .250, or maybe make a diving catch once before they really welcome you."

The Pirates' rabid fanbase has a reputation for being unwelcoming to new acquisitions, informally requiring players to prove themselves by winning somewhere in the neighborhood of 72 games before they can be deemed "True Buccos."

"You have to remember," said former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, "these are the same fans that booed Mike Williams out of town after just five seasons of being the team's closer. Al Martin played on the team for seven years without having a winning season, and the fans were right on the verge of booing him too. So it can be pretty brutal."

"There's a mystique surrounding PNC Park," admitted former Pirate Jeromy Burnitz, who hit .230 in his only season with the Pirates in 2006. "When you think of all the great players that have sat in that opposing dugout - Roger Clemens, Albert Pujols, Greg Maddux - I know I had trouble concentrating on playing well."

Despite the admissions of his teammates, LaRoche shrugged off the idea that he is intimidated by playing in Pittsburgh.

"Um, no? Intimidated by what?" said a straight-faced LaRoche. "What do you mean by 'the aura of PNC Park?' I'm pretty sure there's a 1979 World Champions banner in the outfield somewhere, I guess maybe that could be a little intimidating. Sorry, I have to go take batting practice."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Single Greatest Column In the History of Sports Journalism

This article, by Seattle Mariners columnist Art Thiel, may be the greatest column ever written, and I don't feel bad typing this, because if a more ridiculous column does exist out there, my mind would instantly explode, thus giving me no time to regret the title of this blog post.

Thiel combines all the wonderfully irrational sportswriter hyperbole - in this case, arguing that the season-opening three-game series between the Mariners and Oakland A's will determine the Mariners' ENTIRE SEASON - with a heaping helping of confusing, dated, and irrelavent pop culture references packed into (and sometimes wholly comprising) paragraphs. Here are some of the highlights, though picking highlights from this article is sort of like coming up with a tracklist for a Beatles' "Best Of" album (see, I can reference pop culture too!)

If the A's sweep the Mariners -- The cataclysm, as predicted in the movie "Ghostbusters": "Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together -- mass hysteria."

As if it's not far enough off the deep end to equate losing three baseball games to the rapture, Thiel doesn't even just say "the end of the world," or describe it, he instead draws on Bill Murray's quote from "Ghostbusters" about the rapure. That's like saying, Facing Albert Pujols is like that part in Jurassic Park: "Oh my god, that dinosaur is coming after us!!"

Nothing has been more intensely urgent since the paternity line formed for Anna Nicole's baby. This team, in this circumstance, is the personification of the Rev. Leroy and the Church of What's Happenin' Now. No green-bananas outfit here, baby.

His rate of references per second is unquantifiable by standard methods. Either he's joking about how serious the Anna Nicole thing is, or he's using a fake serious thing to show how serious this A's series is? Followed by an amazingly specific "What's Happenin'" reference, then a casually worded non-reference to a "green-bananas outfit," which I guess refers vaguely to the idea of not being ripe? What is going on here?'

These Mariners are so in the moment that they nearly will be out of date before today's national anthem, which, by the way, better damn well be sung by Mick Jagger, accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma and backed by the New York Symphony Orchestra. This is no time for KazooKlub.

How does the singer of the national anthem correllate to the specific urgency of this series? It's just Thiel making outrageous demands for who he wants to see sing the anthem. Or maybe, it's an excuse to jam some references together? And "KazooKlub"... just...amazing. A completely meaningless reference to nothing. You starting to see why I'm confident this is the best column ever?

Last year, the A's were the organ grinder, the Mariners the monkey. The A's were George Bush, the Mariners were Tony Blair. The A's were Penn, the Mariners were Teller. Not since Moe last frying-panned Curly have we seen such a cringe-inducing tribute to dope-slapping.

The A's played the Mariners like an instrument, the A's commanded a more powerful nation than the Mariners and the Mariners therefore followed suit with Oakland's political actions, the A's are a magician who speaks, the Mariners are also a magician but they do not speak. Also, he couldn't think of a more recent reference to getting nailed in the face, or did he think about it and conclude that the Mariners losing to the A's was, in fact, the greatest comic violence to occur in the last seven decades?

I suppose some crank among the readership will say I'm exaggerating the importance of the series, reminding me that there will remain 159 games. Well, thanks for that, Alex Trebek. Let me save some time by having you talk to the hand while I explain.

"Alex Trebek" takes a very rational approach to evaluating a baseball season. And "talk to the hand." Good ol' "talk to the hand." How I missed you.

This isn't just "Git 'er done," an expression so yesterday. This is "Git 'er done -- yesterday."

Sometimes, you can't explain certain great works of art with words. I'll just step back and admire.

Thanks, as always, to for being on top of all things awesome.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Dan's Infallible 2007 Baseball Preview

AL East

1. Red Sox - Schilling/Matsuzaka/Beckett/Wakefield may not be 100% reliable, but they're better than Injured Wang/Injured Pettite/Probably Injured By the Time You're Reading This Pavano/Youngie McWhothefuck.

2. Yankees (Wildcard) - Return of "True Yank" Pettitte should make up for the loss of Bernie Williams; offense will top 800 runs, but without pinstripers like Scotty Brosius and Jimmy Leyritz, none of them will count.

3. Blue Jays - Should again have no problem winning the AL East NIT

4. Orioles - Did Leo Mezzone make the Braves pitchers good, or did Bobby Cox just make Leo Mezzone good? Or how about, the good Braves pitchers were better than the shitty Oriole ones?

5. Devil Rays - Still at least two, three years away from being two, three years away again.

AL Central

1. Tigers - Sheffield should give the Tigers' lineup some bite, and some roar, and some accidentally mauling the zookeeper.

2. Indians - Poised to make a pennant run, have the entire bullpen get injured, and say "we could have made a pennant run if the entire bullpen didn't get injured."

3. Twins - The virtual deaths of Liriano and Radke last year have the rest of the rotation worried in a "Final Destination" kind of way.

4. White Sox - Erstad acquisition brings toughness, hopefully better pitching to Sox.

5. Royals - I'm predicting a 9-13 record, 5.12 era, and an All-Star appearance for Gil Meche.

AL West

1. Angels - Hoping that Matthews Jr can flukily repeat some of the fluky fluke stats from his fluke yearfluke.

2. A's - Piazza replaces Thomas' clubhouse presence, but won't take up as much space.

3. Rangers - Can the hilarity of Sammy Sosa distract teams from pounding their flimsy pitching staff?

4. Mariners - Baseball's version of "Where Are They Now?" and also, "Why Are They Now Terrible?"

NL East

1. Braves - Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano should set up lots of nice, fat save opportunities for Bob Wickman.

2. Phillies (Wildcard) - Team starts off slow, fans boo, Charlie Manuel gets fired, team goes on a tear, makes the playoffs for the first time since 1993, fans boo.

3. Mets - In need of a pitcher, they confused "Moises Alou" with "Felipe Alou," who also wasn't a pitcher.

4. Marlins - Their child laborers work a lot harder and cheaper than the rest of the league, but they're gonna have to weave a lot of baskets to compete in the East.

5. Nationals - Love Manny Acta, but this is easily the worst team in baseball. At least they'll always have the memory of that one glorious night with Alfonso Soriano.

NL Central

1. Astros - Boring rotation, boring lineup, and solid, boring defense shouldzzzzzzzzzzz.........

2. Cubs - Can they "reverse the curse" of having lots of bad baseball players playing baseball badly year after year?

3. Cardinals - Like the division's older brothers, it's Pujols and Carpenter vs. All in the NL Central this year.

4. Brewers - Lots of talent, but if Sheets goes down again, they're going to be in deep Sheets. Oops, typo. I mean shit. They're going to be in tons and tons of shit. Shit, not Sheets. Shit. Sorry about that.

5. Pirates - Presence of a couple actual major-league baseball players may confound their franchise plans, but it shouldn't stand in the way of that fifteenth straight losing season.

6. Reds - Working on another three-everyday-players-for-two-injured-relievers deal to get them over the hump of being completely terrible again.

NL West

1. Dodgers - Absence of Drew means Kent is going to have to step up the general dislikeability factor.

2. Padres - Solid pitching staff, and not just because of Petco's 410-540-9,000 ft. dimensions.

3. Diamondbacks - Spunky, talented young group could emerge as last year's Marlins, only with people in the stands.

4. Giants - This is the single oldest team I have ever seen assembled in any professional sport. No snarky comments, it's just a literal truth.

5. Rockies - Helton may have lost his power, and trading Jason Jennings leaves a huge hole in the rotation, but something something Matt Holliday something something.

ALCS: A-Rod hits .960 with 8 homers and 19 RBI against the Tigers, but after Mariano Rivera walks the bases loaded in the 9th inning of game 7, a Derek Jeter error costs the Yanks the series and confounded Yankee fans take their own lives in a city-wide mass suicide.

NLCS: The Astros defeat the Braves in an exhilerating seven game series; with the Braves down 4-3 in the ninth, Andruw Jones hits a grand slam to give them a lead, but the Astros load the bases in the bottom of the inning and Craig Biggio hits an improbable, series-clinching walk-off home run. TV Ratings for the series are the lowest in history.

World Series: The Tigers defeat the Astros in five games, winning two games on throwing errors by pitchers Chad Qualls and Jason Jennings, and two others on boop singles by Craig Munroe, who is instantly labelled as a "gutty, gritty winner" and given a seven year, $60 million deal by the Angels while still on the field accepting the Series MVP trophy. People remember why they don't enjoy baseball.

Kev's Picks:

AL East: NY Yankees - Lineup is stupid good, starting pitching is shaky. Please use Pavano as frequently as possible before he gets road head again.

AL Central: Detroit Tigers - Fiery Leyland coaches fiery baseball. The players will literally be so fired up they will literally combust and play while on fire.

AL West: Oakland A’s - Don’t buy the Angels and Colon’s fat skull. A’s are consistent and look like a bunch of dudes that surf a lot and listen to Jack Johnson and can play 3 songs on the guitar, including "Satellite" by the Dave Matthews Band.

NL East: NY Mets - Sick lineup, questionable pitching, still use that ghetto apple for home runs. Please bring back John Franco or sign someone older like Ricky Henderson. Actually don’t, because on the Mets, they will somehow be above average again.

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals - Have one of the best players ever, and a bunch of boring white dudes who show that the fundamentals aren’t that fun to actually watch

NL West: LA Dodgers - Overreacted in the offseason and started acquiring a fantasy pitching rotation from two years ago. For hilarity’s sake, signed Mike Lieberthal.