Saturday, June 18, 2005

NL West: Padres Hang On Despite Skid

SAN DIEGO (1st - 37-31) streaked through May with a 21-6 ledger, but the Padres had a June Swoon of their own as they were 3-12 through the first 15 games, including a 5-game losing streak going into the second game of a three-game set in Minnesota on Saturday night. The Friars are batting 80 points lower and have hit only eight home runs with 34 RBI since the calendar changed. They averaged 5.7 runs per night in May, but only 2.3 this far in June.....Catcher Ramon Hernandez deserves acclaim for his contributions so far as he has 66 hits, tieing the league lead for catchers, and he ranks among the top 10 among NL catchers in seven different categories. He leads SD with 17 multi-hit outings....Padres fifth starter Darrel May is 0-1 with four no decisions after coming out of the bullpen nine times. Two of his five starts have only lasted five innings......CF Dave Roberts is such a quiet contributor to the Friars' fortunes. He is 13-for-29, batting .448 with runners in scoring position.

Arizona (2nd, 35-34, 2.5 GB) - Offseason additions of Troy Glaus, Shawn Green, Jose Cruz, Jr., Javier Vazquez, and reacquiring Craig Counsell have reasserted the Diamondbacks as a key player int he NL West. Last year's team did not register its 35th win until Aug. 4.....Check out starter Brandon Webb. He was 6-0 after his first nine starts and currently holds a 7-3 record after a 3-1 loss to Cleveland on Saturday night. His ground ball to air ratio is 3.65 thanks to one of the game's top sinkers. Only 15% of his 267 outs going into Saturday night had been hit into the air.....Glaus continues to be a stalwart for manager Bob Melvin. He is 8-for-20 on the Diamondbacks' current trip through Chicago (AL) and Cleveland. In Friday night's 13-6 loss to the Tribe, Glaus doubled singled and walkeed as he currently is 16-for-42 at .395 during his 10-game hitting streak.

Los Angeles (3rd, 33-34, 3.5 GB) - The Dodgers are 0-5 on their current three-game road trip as Yhency Brazoban blew a save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday night when the White Sox scored four times for a 5-3 win. The decisive blow was delivered by A.J. Pierzynski who delvered a two-out, two-run home run. Over brazoban's last six appearances he had given up only two hits and zeros walks in six innings.....Stopper Eric Gagne's return to the DL gives LA 15 players on the Dl so far this season for a total of 409 missed games.....SS Cesar Izturis leads the Nl and is tied for the MLB lead in multi-hit games with 28. Izturisis second in the NL in clutch hitting at .472, 17-for-35.

San Francisco (4th, 28-38, 8 GB) - The Giants' three-game win streak was snapped in Detorit, 8-2 Saturday night. That was SF's longest run since a four-game streak from May 21-25 while they were 2-15 between the two streaks.....The Giants have been able to get on base, but not score runners this season as they are 4th in the NL in batting average at .273, but 12th in runs scored at 293. The team's 4.98 ERA is 14th in the NL as the starters' ERA is 5.20, also 14th.....OF Moises Alou is probably SF's best All-star candidate. He is 11th in the Nl with a club high .322 batting average and had an eight-game hitting streak where he batted .481 snapped Friday night.

Colorado (5th, 22-42, 13 GB) - Starter Jason Jennings pitched seven strong innings in Colorado's 2-1 win at Baltimore Friday night. Jennings is 3-1 with a 22.81 ERA in his last five outings. He started the season 1-6 with a 7.05 ERA in nine starts.....33 ofthe Rockies' 66 games this season have been decided by two runs or less. Colorado is 13-20 in those games.....The Rockies are featuring many new names in their lineup as they are pretty much out of playoff contention already. 3B Garrett Atkins is batting 15-of-46 at .326 as he has hit safely in 11 ofhis last 13 games for a .377 clip.....OF Brad Hawp is 15-for-47 with runners in scoring position. Hawp ranks fifth in the NL with a .455 (5-for-11) average as a pinch hitter.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins is the most synonymous person with UC since Oscar Robertson in the early 1960s. Huggins deserves a new multi-year contract as he leads the Bearcats into the Big East next season. Posted by Hello

Huggins Deserves Better

How appalling!!! Bob Huggins, Cincinnati Bearcats basketball coach, spends the golden years of his career in Ohio's Queen City, takes the Bearcats to 16 NCAA tournaments in his 17 years, and leads them to a Final Four and two Elite Eights. Then, the kicker, UC President Nancy Zimpher refuses to reup Huggins contract as two years remain. The story of another no-name school president trying to take on an iconistic and renowned coach of a valued revenue program.

First of all, Zimpher is an "egghead" who has no clue about what Bob Huggins means to the university, its basketball program, and the city. Huggins is an iconic figure in Cincinnati and deserves to be treated as such. He has more visibility than any of baseball's Reds or football's Bengals in Cincinnati's sports circles. Zimpher needs to realize that she pales in comparison to Huggins in popularity and if she tries to pull a power play in two years, it could backfire and she, not Hugs, will be the Cincinnati employee packing bags and getting out of Dodge. Huggins has plenty of support in the power structure and in the structure of UC basketball.

Zimpher, like many of her overinflated brethren (sistren) in the academic game, does not realize the dollar value a person like Huggins brings a university and the notoriety. It is highly doubtful that, given the path of UC's hoops program before Huggins came to Cincy, the Bearcats would be headed for the Big East Conference as they start in the autumn of 2005 with the fall sports. Too many times, coaches are expected to be the babysitters of their players 24 hours per day and seven days per week. University presidents, the media, and fans, in general, do not realize that as a coach, you cannot possibly account for every player's whereabouts all the time.

Hopefully, as Bearcats AD Bob Goin retires in another year, Huggins will get another supportive AD who will stand in his corner, as the egotistical Zimpher will try to stare one of the country's great basketball coaches into retirement.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

LSU Looks Primed For SEC West, BCS, and Possibly A Rosey Postseason

LSU vs. Florida looks like a potential showdown in Atlanta on the first weekend of December. The Tigers will have to fend off Alabama and Auburn in the always competitive SEC West. If LSU gets by Florida and out of the league wars with only one loss, a trip to Pasadena could be in the offing.

1) LSU - Les Miles comes to Baton Rouge to replace Nick Saban, who led LSU back to the pinnacle before bolting the bayou for the Miami Dolphins. Miles has a nice athletic QB in Jamarcus Russell, but Russell could be unseated by confident true Freshman Ryan Perriloux, who picked LSU over Texas and vowed to be the starter opening day. Regardless of the starter, his backfield is deep with Joseph Addai, Justin Vincent, Alley Broussard, and Shyrone Carey competing for the bulk of the carries. LSU lost several key players to the NFL including Marcus Spears and Corey Webster, but the talent on defense is so deep that new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini will be licking his chops at the options come the fall.

2) ALABAMA - The Tide's main concern is to keep QB Brodie Croyle healthy. His passing threat will make the backfield of Tim Castile and Ken Darby all the more effective. Croyle will have a nice pair of receivers in junior Tyrone Prothro and sophomore Ezekial Knight. Prothro is a playmaker extraordinaire and needs to be the focal point of Mike Shula's passing game. Knight had a big spring and will literally try to use that as a springboard into a successful season. Alabama returns nine starters on defense and their top five defensive backs as safeties Charlie Peprah and Roman Harper could be one of the top duos around. If you are looking for an SEC darkhorse, here it is. Bama gets Florida, Tennessee, and LSU at home before the Nov. 19 pilgrimmage to Auburn.

3) AUBURN - Key questions for the Tigers will be how well QB Brandon Cox steps in for Jason Campbell and then who will replace Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown in Tommy Turbeville's backfield. Cox will have plenty of talent to throw to in WRs Ben Obomanu, Devin Aromashodu, Courtney Taylor, and TE Cooper Wallace. Tre Smith or South Carolina transfer Kenny Irons looks like the workhorse in the backfield although Turbeville has six RBs on the roster that should vie for playing time. Defensively, DEs Stanley McClover and Quentin Groves could form one of the top rush tandems in the SEC.

4) ARKANSAS - After five straight bowl trips (and wins), Arkansas was 5-6 and shut out of the postseason a year ago. That in itself will be motivation enough for the underrated Houston Nutt, who has spurned lots of offers to stay in Fayetteville. Nutt must place Robert Johnson in the QB spot and let him endure on the job training to replace the departed Matt Jones. Johnson has speed and a rocket arm which should make him an exciting part of the offense. RB De'Arrius Howard will be the focal point of the offense early as will WR Marcus Monk in the passing game. Nutt hired Reggie Herring away from NCST as his defensive coordinator. Herring presided over the nation's number one defense in Raleigh last season.

5) OLE MISS - Ed Orgeron knows a thing or two about national championships as he was the defensive line coach for Pete Carroll at USC the past two years and he coached on national championship teams at miami in the 1990s. Orgeron dismissed RB Vashon Pearson earlier this month and that threw his projected offensive repitoire into a flux. Oregeron should have a healthy QB competition between Michael Spurlock, Ethan Flatt, and Robert Lane. The Rebs return three starters in the secondary, led by FS Charles Clark who tallied 76 tackles in 2004. Former coach David Cutcliffe was very successfula s he had six consecutive winning seasons followed by last year's 4-7 campaign where he refused to dismiss his coordinators. If Oregeron struggles mightily, you have to wonder how patient the Ole Miss brass will be.

6) MISSISSIPPI STATE - Coach Sylvester Croom has been lauded for his recruiting class although the Bulldogs are still a long way from being a player in this conference. Croom will build his offense around QB Omar Conner and RB Jerrious Norwood. Norwood is the type of player who could put up numbers, but go unnoticed based on the talented playmakers in the SEC. MLB Quinton Culbertson may be Croom's best defensive player. He will play MLB this season where Croom can take advantage of his lateral skills.

LSU RB Alley Broussard will anchor a deep backfield that will allow coach Les Miles lots of versatility in 2005. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Gators Could Be Chompin' SEC East

Ultimately, the SEC title is going to come down to three dates - Sept. 17, Tennessee @ Florida; Sept. 24 Tennessee @ LSU; and then Oct. 15, Florida @ LSU. This is an early peak into what should be a totally enthralling race in what is the deepest and most competitive conference in the nation, by far.

1) FLORIDA - Ron Zook collected the talent, but couldn't put the game plans together and make the decisions on gameday to lead the Gators to the key wins necessary to win the conference and eventually compete on the national level. Enter Urban Meyer whose organization and gameplanning is already legendary. Meyer will have one of the top quarterbacks in the country in junior Chris Leak. The key will be pass blocking for him out of Meyer's spread offense. Leak has a fleet group of receivers in OJ Small, Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker, Jemelle Cornelius, and Chad Jackson, so it will not be long until electricity once again fills the air in The Swamp. With the talent acorss the boards, the Gators could wind up smelling roses.

2) TENNESSEE - Phil Fulmer says this could be his deepest team ever in Knoxville, even more depth than the 1998 National Championship team. Erik Ainge will be back under center with his own fleet group of WRs, headlined by Jason Swain and Robert Meacham. Fulmer should be able to control the line of scrimmage as he loves to do with a workhorse running back in Geral Riggs, Jr., whgo averaged 5.7 yards per carry a year ago. Parys Harrelson and Jesse Maholona return to anchor the defensive line while Jason Allen will call the shots in UT's defensive backfield.

3) SOUTH CAROLINA - Welcome Back, Steve Spurrier!!! Columbia will be under a microscope every Saturday afternoon as one of the game's great coaches returns to the SEC. Spurrier's biggest challenge will be making a decision at quarterback. He has Blake Mitchell and Antonio Heffner already on the roster, but true freshmen Tommy Beecher and Cade Thompson could figure in the mix. Spurrier is high on two incoming frosh at WR in OJ Murdock and Carlos Thomas, who was ranked the No. 9 WR in the country by Prep Star. The Gamecocks' defense will have to be assertive early. LB Ricardo Hurley and safety Ko Simpson will be the key playmakers on the unit.

4) GEORGIA - A rebuilding year of sorts for Mark Richt and Company as the Bulldogs must replace the most successful QB in school history in David Greene. D.J. Shockley will get the nod. He is a nice sprint out QB with lots of game experience, so the transition should be smooth. WR will see key competition with Sean Bailey and Bryan McClendon likely to get the first shot at replacing Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson. TE Leonard Pope could be the best receiving option early. Georgia's deoth at running back will be key with Thomas Brown, Danny Ware, Kregg Lumpkin, and Tyson Browning. The jokesters have laughingly told Richt that he should just run the Wishbone. Defensively, the Dogs lost just as much as David Pollack and Odell Thurman were both drafter by the Cincinnati Bengals. DT Darrius Swain and S Tre Battle will be prime contributors to a defense that lost coordinator Brian Van Gorder to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

5) KENTUCKY - Coach Rich Brooks has already stated that if the Wildcats do not show improvement over last year, a new face will be leading the football fortunes at UK. QB will be an interesting position as Andre Woodson is the heir apparent; however, if he struggles freshman Curtis Pulley could be thrown into the fray. The Cats are switching to the 4-3 defense, but they are thin as usual across the boards. SS Muhammad Abdullah looks like the leader to a generally weak unit.

6) VANDERBILT - The Commodores boast one of the SEC's better QBs in Jay Cutler although the talent around him is thin. Cutler runs the ball out of various option formations and throws very well to be known as an option QB. He raised eyebrows when he though about entering the NFL draft. Vandy needs road wins over Wake Forest and Arkansas to start the season; otherwise, a one or two win campaign is once again likely. Moses Osemwegie will lead the defense from the LB spot.

Florida QB Chris Leak will embrace new coach Urban Meyer's spread offense in a move that could send the Gators to Pasadena for a shot at the National Championship. Leak completed 59.3% of his passes for 29 TDs and only 12 interceptions in 2004. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki can become only the third major leaguer since 1900 to get 1,000 hits in 700 games if he can connect in his next six outings. He currently has 999 career hits in 694 games played. Posted by Hello

AL WEST: Kennedy Sparks Angels on Recent Road Swing

ANGELS 2b Adam Kennedy was a blistering .489 (17/39) ont he Angels 6-6 road trip through Chicago (AL), Boston, Atlanta, and New York (NL). He was the first Angels to record four hits this season in a June 4 loss to the Red Sox.....On the road trip, the bullpen proved to be sketchy as it was 3-5 with a 5.34 ERA. Brendan Donnelly gave up a 3-run homer to Cliff Floyd in the bottom of the 10th Saturday night as the MEts defeated the Hals, 5-3. Frankie Rodriguez allowed an insdie the park home run to Marlon Anderson in the botom of the ninth which tied the game 2-2 and sent it to the 10th.....The Halos are batting .310 over the alst 15 games after only a .238 mark over the preceding 23. Rookie 3B Dallas McPherson is a key in the improvement as he has batted .300 over the last 14 games with 4 HRs, 13 RBI, and 10 extra base hits.

The RANGERS return to the Ball Park at Arlington for a 3-game set withthe Atlanta Braves. Texas went 4-8 on its recent road trip through Detroit, KC, Philadelphia, and Florida after a perfect 8-0 mark on the previous homestand.....2B Alfonso Soriano has the longest hitting streak in the majors at 14 as he has batted .352 with 4 HRs and 10 RBI during the streak. Soriano homered in his first two at bats Monday night against Atlanta.....1B Mark Texiera's 16 HRs tie for third in the AL. Texiera has gone 11 at bats without a hit, but he is a vital part of the lineup in the field as well as at the plate. Texiera has gone 85 consecutive games without an error.

The top of the MARINERS' lineup in Ichiro Suzuki and Randy Winn continue to garner the headlines. Winn has hit in seven straight games, going 15/31, and has a hit in 15 of his last 16 outings. He has multi-hit games in seven of his last 10 while batting a team high .307 on the year.....Suzuki has 999 hits in 694 career games and is on pace to be only the third major leaguer since 1900 to connect 1,000 times in 700 games. Ichiro is currently batting .295 as it is the first time since May 12, 2004 that he has been below .300.....Stopper Eddie Guardado has enjoyed a hot streak of his own. He has not allowed a run in his last 11 outings and has retired 26 of 28 batters faced during that period. Guardado has convereted all nine save opportunities in those 11 games.

ATHLETICS' 3b Eric Chavez has struggled this year, but he looked like an all-star in Sunday's 11-5 win over Atlanta. Chavez went 5-for-5 with two home runs. Chavez is 17/39 with six homers and 14 RBI in 11 games in June. He batted .194 in April and .239 in May.....As the A's took two of three over the weekend in Atlanta, it was their first road series win since defeating Baltimore to start the season. Oakland is 2-8-2 in road series this season.....Oakland is batting only .248 this season, just ahead of Cleveland's .246 mark. The club has scored 3 or fewer runs in 30 of 62 games and is 4-26 in those contests......Starter Barry Zito went to 3-7 with Sunday's win in Atlanta. Zito has been the recipient of some hard luck so far. He has pitched seven or more innings in five of his 13 starts. He is 38-14 with a 1.80 ERA in 68 starts where he has lasted at least seven innings. The A's have scored just four runs in his seven losses this season, 11 runs in his four no decisions, and 25 runs in his three wins.