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Preview: Sports on a Schtick

Sports on a Schtick

Mostly Rants about the Mariners Also Statistical Analysis and Commentary Occasional Photoshop Fun Never Filtered

Updated: 2018-03-07T07:32:04.480-08:00


New Name, New Mediocre Content


Please join me at Sports on a Shtick. There'll be hunting, charades, and ever so many delightful romantic misunderstandings?

Mariners-Angels, 8/12/12


It was a hot Sunday afternoon at Angels Stadium but an enjoyable game for me at least. The Mariners won 4-1, Jered Weaver lost, Jesus Montero smacked a couple home runs, wow Mike Trout is fast and my ass there were 35,000 fans in attendance.

Jason Vargas kept the Angels lineup in check all day. He didn't waste any time in between 96 pitches through 8 1/3 innings and was rarely threatened. Howie Kendrick struck out to end a bases-loaded threat in the 3rd inning while Albert Pujols grounded in a Rally Monkey killing double play in the 8th. I'm glad the Mariners didn't sell low on Vargas at the trade deadline since he's a pretty decent #3 starting pitcher who throws a lot of effective innings. The long ball, which has been Vargas' weakness this year, didn't hurt him today although a couple balls did approach the warning track.

Outside of Montero the M's didn't have much luck against Jered Weaver's assortment of offspeeds and angles. To their credit the Seattle lineup was patient enough to draw four walks on the day. Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher didn't like what he saw early and was tossed in the first inning for arguing strikes and balls.

Mike Trout is electrifying. He almost bunted for a base hit in the first, was incorrectly called out on a routine grounder to third and scaled the center-field wall to nearly rob Montero of his first home run. I've never seen anyone run as fast as he does on a baseball diamond. The fact that he's chiseled makes his speed even more astounding. Just an amazing player to witness in people.

John Jaso has an OPS of nearly .900 and is without question the best all-around bat in the Mariners lineup at the moment. Hard to believe he was the third-string catcher earlier this season. Kudos to GM Jack Zduriencik for identifying Jaso to fill the void at catcher -- at least until Mike Zunino arrives.

Thanks For the Memories Ichiro


Thanks for a decade of uncanny hitting, stellar defense, a cannon for an arm and a sports quote that rivals anything uttered by the great Muhammad Ali:
"To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying."
 Best of luck in the Bronx in your quest to win a World Series. See you in the Hall of Fame.

Financial Profitability of the Seattle Mariners and Their Competitors


This is a guest post by Vincent Ramos

There are questions that can forever nag even the most ardent fan, one who wants to be able to tie on-field success and failure to the team coffers. How do you know what a baseball team is really worth compared to its competitors? If it’s more profitable or losing money? The answer depends on how you look at the statistics.

With an estimated value of $585 million the Seattle Mariners are the 12th-most valuable team in Major League Baseball. Out of 30 franchises the M's place 14th in revenue at $210 million but a lowly 26th in operating income with a profit of just $2.2 million.

Yet with $20 million of excess working capital on the balance sheet and receivables of $21 million Seattle is one of only three clubs with a debt-to-value ratio of zero! That means its financial health looks a lot better compared to last year’s anemic .414 winning percentage, one that left the team 29 games behind the American League West-winning Texas Rangers, 22 behind the Oakland A’s and 10 behind the Angels.

So how do we balance these two sides of modern baseball; the winning off the field and the losing on it? Actually it's not as uncommon as one would think. Take for instance Texas. Or New York. Or Los Angeles. To wit:

  • The Texas Rangers declared bankruptcy because billionaire owner Tom Hicks accumulated too much debt. 
  • The New York Mets lost their Bernie Madoff-supplied bankroll when Madoff’s billion-dollar Ponzi scheme collapsed, revealing that the Mets had “feasted in debt for a decade.”
  • Los Angeles Dodgers fans are rid of debt-riddled and near-bankrupt owner Frank McCourt, he of a soap-opera style divorce between the rich and infamous. Bill Wrigley, famed (and long-gone) owner of the Chicago Cubs, once called baseball a “very peculiar business.”

True enough – and yet in Wrigley's day baseball had yet to help coin the parlance of "big-market clubs and "small-market teams."

Big-market teams support the smaller ones through revenue sharing, an arrangement that skews all the finances anyway. And let us not forget that most team owners have always demonstrated fancy ways of cooking their books

Are the Mariners profitable? Well, barely. Are they better off than a lot of other teams? You can make that case. Can it get better? Perhaps.

On one hand, the Mariners are at the beginning of a 10-year, $450 million television deal with Root Sports, which hooks them up with 8.3 million cable/satellite subscribers in 18 states. On the other, you can expect the Mariners to lose a slew of Japanese advertisers – and their yen – when 37 year-old Ichiro Suzuki finally calls it quits sometime in the next couple of years.

So again, you can look at the numbers any way you want and draw just about any conclusion you want from them. Only one thing is for certain – winning always helps.

As of today the Mariners are 7-10. For a lot of people those are the only numbers that really count.

Early Review Of The Mariners Offense


Because when you think of the best hitter on Seattle you think Brendan Ryan. Believe it or not the slap-hitting SS has been the most productive batter for the M's through April 19th according to Fangraphs. Here's what the numbers say:


* Overall the team offense ranks 4th-worst in the majors based on WAR. On the bright side the Mariners are middle of the pack in terms of scoring, having plated 52 runners in 13 games, which is twice as many as the Pirates. Wow the Pirates are bad.

* Despite what his pedestrian stats may suggest Ichiro has been tattooing the baseball. His 27.5% line drive and 5.3% strikeout rates suggest he's been zeroed in at the plate. It's difficult to tell if Suzuki has change his approach since being moved to the 3-hole but he looks markedly improved from last season.

* Justin Smoak still looks lost in the batter's box. He's constantly falling behind the count and his swing is way too long. Sad to see Michael Saunders syndrome has been passed on.

* Appears as if Kyle Seager will be the M's third baseman for now. I've been very impressed by his ability to square up the ball. Wouldn't be surprised to see a few 30 double / 15 home run seasons out of him.

* I'm surprised Jesus Montero has been flailing at bad pitches as often as he has, smacking 47% of batted balls into the ground. For a guy with supposedly elite batting skills something's not right. The same could be said for Dustin Ackley, who's not working the count and making a lot of weak contact.

All that being said it's still very early in the season. But keep an eye on Seager. He's possessed solid hitting skills since his college days at UNC and it looks like he's developing into a nifty player.

The Seattle Mariners Offense Should Be Sorta Bad Instead Of Historically Bad


Two games into the season and M's fans are already writing the narrative for the remaining 160 games. Same ol' shitty offense.

Seattle scored four measly runs in twenty innings against Oakland. Now there are a lot of reasons not to panic about the offense. First of all, Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon are decent pitchers. Secondly the games were played in Japan and perhaps playing in a foreign land screwed with their mojo (then again wouldn't it also mess with the Athletics as well???). And thirdly, IT'S ONLY BEEN TWO FUCKING GAMES.

The 2012 version of the Mariners possesses several upgrades from last year's anemic 556-run output, most notably the addition of DH/C Jesus Montero. Defensive questions aside there's not a baseball mind out there who doesn't believe the former Yankee won't hit for average and power. In addition to Jesus the M's should also expect improvement from Justin Smoak, who clubbed a home run in last night's/this morning's game. Smoak dealt with the loss of his father as well as a myriad of injuries last season and should rebound to become at least a league average 1B.

Throw in the potential of Michael Saunders, the development of Dustin Ackley and a bounce from Ichiro then it starts being reasonable to expect an offense capable of producing 600 runs. Doesn't sound like much but the 2010 squad scored only 513 times and was one of the worst offenses in MLB history.

Of course this year's team is already behind the 8 ball. Slow and steady goes the tortoise...

2012 Trojan Invitational



On Saturday I descended upon Cromwell Field at Loker Stadium to watch my first collegiate track meet. The 2012 Trojan Invitational featured high schools from the LA area as well as the home team USC Trojans, BYU, Michigan, 3-time Pac-12 Champion Oregon, 3-time National Champion Texas A&M, Washington and Washington State.

What started as a cloudy morning turned into a bright and sunny afternoon. Likewise the Trojan Invitational heated up late, saving its best event for the end as USC's 4x400m quartet of Bryshon Nellum, Joey Hughes, Reggie Wyatt and Josh Mance beat defending champ Texas A&M with a blistering 3:02:24. It was the second-fastest 4x400m in school history and the fastest time of the year.

I remember watching RS senior Nellum and senior Hugues on TV during their glory days at Long Beach Poly, which makes me feel old. Bryshon was a huge track star in high school and was expected to become a huge star. An unfortunate gunshot wound to the leg and several injuries perhaps robbed him of fulfilling his potential but Nellum, having also won his 400m heat in 46.45, is off to a good start this season.

Mance and Hughes finished first and third in their 400m heat with times of 45.65 and 46.24 respectively. Meanwhile Wyatt electrified the crowd with a blistering sub-50 second effort in the 400m hurdles.

All that speed built high expectations for the final 4x400m and the Men of Troy did not disappoint. In other events:

Marquise Lee won the long jump with a 23'11.5" leap that looked silky smooth. That the football team will retain him for at least two more seasons makes me giddy.

Indoor champ Ameer Webb ran an excellent 20.46 in the men's 200m.


The In-N-Out Burger Truck showed up on campus!

Sam Barkley, brother of Trojans QB Matt, ate in on his final hurdle in the 400m hurdles. I know what an awful feeling that is, myself having tripped in high school while finishing the 330m hurdles. Trooper that he was Sam finished the race.

Taft High looks like it will field a very strong track team this season.

Welcome USC Trojans To The Dregs Of College Basketball


Technically USC has not suited up the worst team in college basketball this season. The Trojans are ranked 263rd out of 344 according to In fact USC isn't even the worst team in the conference. That (dis)honor goes to the 272nd-ranked Utah Utes, which gave the Trojans their only win in Pac-12 play.

The Trojans (6-25, 1-16) have been tremendously awful this season. Preseason injuries to Jio Fontan and Dewyane Dedmon robbed USC of much of its 2012 potential. What has followed is a quick and sloppy race to the bottom. And the sad part is that team isn't half bad. Or rather USC basketball plays well during 50% of the game. Kevin O'Neill has always been known as a defensive head coach so despite a severe lack of depth his undermanned squad has stayed competitive in many games thanks to its suffocating D.

But the offense. Oh the offense. How abysmal has the lack of scoring been? Consider that the Trojans have:
* never scored more than 66 points in a game
* scored less than 50 points in 13 games
* scored less than 40 points twice

The numbers don't do justice to the ineptitude. There's no semblance of a plan or strategy. Instead the Trojans run down the shot clock before throwing up a disaster that may or not hit the rim. The end result has been awful and really, really boring basketball.

Tomorrow USC will play crosstown rival UCLA in the first round of the Pacific Life Pac-12 Tournament. Ever since the "scandalous" SI article came out the Bruins have been playing with the fervor of a dozen Reeves Nelsons. Presumably the Trojans will lose and this season can mercifully come to a conclusion.

Rooting For Robert Griffin III


RGIII ran a blistering (unofficial) 4.38 in the 40-yard dash this afternoon at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. It's the fastest time for a QB in at least 12 years and just another notch in his remarkable season: from the massive opening game against TCU to a 87-yard deflected TD pass to the winning touchdown pass against Oklahoma to winning the Heisman Trophy and finally culminating with the ridiculous 67-56 Alamo Bowl victory. It's been a whirlwind campaign that has catapulted Robert to perhaps the No. 1 pick in April's NFL Draft.

Born in Japan to a pair of Sergeants in the US Army RGIII is remarkably articulate, disciplined, charismatic and well spoken -- when his college coach Art Briles actually lets him talk. He's also one of the most polished and talented dual-threat QBs ever. Put it all together and it's difficult not to root for such a special person.

UPDATE 2/27/12: Griffin is officially the cover athlete of NCAA Football 13. Is there a jinx with that game like there is for Madden? If so we must now root AND pray for Robert.

Chink In The Armor Is Just The Latest Unfortunate Headline From ESPN


Recently the improbable rise of New York Knicks' PG Jeremy Lin was dealt two major blows. First Lin struggled mightily in a 89-85 loss to the lowly New Orleans Hornets, snapping NYC's 7-game winning streak and dropping the team back below .500.

Secondly, described the loss as "Chink In The Armor" (H/T The Big Lead):


Sadly this isn't the first time has run an unfortunate NBA headline:




Random Thoughts


* Went to my first Clippers game of the season last week when LA hosted Memphis. The Grizzlies were rocking old school yellow & green ABA uniforms that were almost as hideous as some of the jump shots...

* I've been going to Clippers games for a few years now and the crowd has never been more into the game on a minute-by-minute basis. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and his Lob City cohorts have certainly infused life to the Staples Center. Tickets are getting harder to come by as well...

* Looks like the Mariners will sign Hong-Chih Kuo to solidify the bullpen. Seattle's offseason has been a series of small moves and one massive blockbuster. I need more time to think about the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda swap but I'm coming around to it. Soon I'll throw up my annual offseason grades for the M's with more details.

* What an amazing Super Bowl XLVI. Congrats to the Giants. That pass from Eli Manning. The catch by Mario Manningham! Probably better than David Tyree's helmet grab. Really feel for Tom Brady and Robert Kraft. I don't like the Patriots but they're classy guys. Can you believe the NFL almost locked out this season?

Hitler Reacts To The Firing Of Hue Jackson


Courtesy of Vampa at Silver and Black Pride:

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Raiders Head Into Uncharted Territory With GM Reggie McKenzie


It's been widely reported that the Oakland Raiders are prepared to make Green Bay Packers Director of Football Operations Reggie McKenzie their first GM. The Raiders have refused to comment even though McKenzie personally texted ESPN to confirm the news.

The fact the Raiders still persist in trying to put up a shroud of secrecy is exactly the reason why the organization needs a massive shakeup. Of course Al Davis was always the de facto GM for Raider Nation when he was alive -- for better or worse. His hands-on meddling on and off the field contributed to the recent precipitous fall from face for the Silver and Black. After all it's been almost a decade since the Raiders have reached to the playoffs and the nine years since have been littered with embarrassments, busts and, most importantly, plenty of losses.

Shortly after Oakland fell yet again short of the playoffs Al's son and current Raiders owner Marc Davis brought in a group of former Raider greats including Ron Wolf and John Madden to assist in the GM search. In the end that group endorsed Reggie McKenzie.

Reggie McKenzie represents hope. He's been with the Packers front office since 1994. During that time Green Bay has been one of the most successful teams in the NFL, punctuated by Super Bowl victories in 1997 and last year. He was considered one of the rising GM candidates in the league. He's also a former Raider having began his football career as an Oakland linebacker in 1985.

The first order of business for Reggie will be to determine whether to fire the current head coach. Hue Jackson left a bad taste after torching the team after it laid an egg against the Chargers in the season finale. Also many football pundits believe he grossly overpaid for Carson Palmer and generally wants too much influence within the organization.

Whatever happens with the Raiders going forward this offseason... In Reggie We Trust.

The Running Collection Of DJ Steve Porter NFL Remixes From ESPN


Whatever ESPN is paying Skip Bayless it should instead reward DJ Steve Porter for his amazing Auto-Tune remixes.

Props to sportsremixes for uploading these videos:

Tebow Magic
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Philly Dream Team
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Can't Wait To Play (Patriots vs. Jets)
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2011 NFL Offseason Review
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Chris Paul Got Bojangled By The NBA


What David Stern did last night was unethical. When the commissioner blocks a trade that would send arguably the best point guard in the game to the most glamorous team in the league due to the transaction not fulfilling "the best interests of the game" something is horribly wrong.

Bill Simmons hits all the rights notes in his latest Grantland column about why this power move feels so wrong. This blockade smacks of NBA owners, who collectively own the New Orleans Hornets, imposing their wills on Stern. They whined to get what they wanted from the lockout and now they whine and win again. It sets a unfair precedent the likes of which sports fans haven't seen since the arcane days of pre-free agency baseball when players were essentially treated like property.

New Orleans GM Dell Demps was supposedly "disconsolate" following last night's cancellation. Who could blame him? Demps is working in a no-win situation yet still managed to orchestrate a blockbuster deal that would have maximized a return on Chris Paul. It got leaked that Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, perhaps the whiniest and most shameful of all the NBA owners (and that's saying something), wrote Stern an email pleading with him to not let the trade go through. Gilbert wishes he had a GM with the foresight to trade a NBA superstar before he flees your mediocre franchise.

Paul is now likely a lameduck with the Hornets for the entire season and will certainly not resign with the team in 2012. Had Chris been traded to the Lakers he would have been able to sign a huge contract extension as well as benefit from a season of playing in Hollywood. The nixed traded probably cost him several tens of millions in potential wages and marketing. Yea, no wonder he's allegedly reached out to Billy Hunter about the possibility of suing the NBA.

The NBA: Where Appalling Happens

Rolando McClain Arrested For Almost Shooting A Guy In The Head


From The Washington Post:
Oakland Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested Thursday on misdemeanor assault, firearms and other charges after police said he fired a gun during a fight in his Alabama hometown.

McClain, 22, held a gun beside a man’s head during an altercation and the man begged him not to shoot, according to a statement released by Lt. John Crouch of the Decatur Police Department.

McClain, an All American at Alabama during his junior year, moved the gun but fired a round beside the man’s ear.
To be fair the guy Rolando threatened to shoot was JaMarcus Russell.

USC Trojans Finish Strong


If I told you one year ago that between Joe Paterno and Lane Kiffin one coach would be unceremoniously dismissed in scandal while the other would be credited with reviving a powerhouse program...

Funny how quickly things can change.

Credit to Kiffin and the coaching staff for getting the team to play with maximum effort in the second half of the season. Following the loss to Arizona State and with contests looming at Notre Dame, Stanford and at Oregon the Trojans could have easily imploded. Instead USC, led by Heisman contender Matt Barkley, played with brilliance and toughness the rest of the way. Only a triple-OT loss to Stanford would be the only blemish in the second leg of the 2011 campaign, which included upsets at South Bend as well as at Eugene and culminated in last night's 50-0 bulldozing of crosstown UCLA.

Even with no possibility of playing for the Pac-12 Championship or bowl game the Trojans performed with tenacity and precision not seen since the Pete Carroll glory days (ironically those times are what led to the current sanctions against the team. But I digress). Monte Kiffin should feel especially vindicated as the linebackers and secondary gelled and USC's defense "zoned" in on opponents.

I think most USC fans coming into the season would have considered 10-2 (with wins against the Irish and Bruins) a roaring success. While 2011 will be remember with sunny fondness 2012 is looking a lot murkier. Juniors Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, TJ McDonald and Nick Perry all projected to jump to the NFL. But in his sophomore year as head coach Lane Kiffin proved the doubters wrong. The football monopoly in LA isn't going anywhere.

RIP Greg Halman


Tragic news this morning as 24-year-old outfielder Greg Halman was murdered at a home in the Netherlands. His 22-year-old brother has been taken in as a suspect.

I always rooted for Greg. He oozed athleticism yet was extremely raw as a ballplayer. Halman could swing at a slider three feet in the dirt and smash a fastball 450 feet in the same at-bat. Either way there was never a dull moment watching him.

2012 was going to be a critical season for Greg's development. He was one of many young, talented outfielders who had been accumulated to play left and potentially replace CF Franklin Gutierrez and RF Ichiro Suzuki.

Halman could have went in any direction. Perhaps his hand-eye coordination would improve to the point he would develop into a solid Major Leaguer. Maybe he'd always struggle hitting offspeed stuff. There was even a chance he would have been traded this winter.

But now all of that is meaningless. Greg Halman has left all of us far too soon and we're left to look for answers.

God Bless Tim Tebow


For that incredible 95-yard drive at the end of tonight's Jets-Broncos game, punctuated by Tebow's twenty-yard dash into the endzone. Love him or hate him Tim keeps a game interesting.

God curse the Broncos for blaring "Cotton Eye Joe" at Sports Authority Field.

Raiders Implode Against the Broncos


This afternoon the Denver Broncos, led by Tim Tebow's legs and Eddie Royal's really fast legs, scored 24-unanswered points to upset the Silver and Black 38-24 in Oakland. The Raiders now sink to 4-4 and might be the worst team in the AFC West.

The story of the game was Denver's rushing attack. Willis McGahee broke off a pair of TD runs and Tebow used naked bootlegs and QB draws to scamper for over a hundred yards. The Broncos constantly gashed the hapless Raiders on the ground to the tune of 298 yards. The Oakland front seven only mustered two sacks and gave up leverage in the trenches. It did well to hamper Denver's offensive line with holding penalties and pressure but in the end it wasn't enough.

Oakland's secondary didn't fare much better, giving up a pair of 26-yard TD passes. Michael Huff in particular was beaten badly on several occasions.

Special teams was awful too. Eddie Royal returned a punt for a touchdown and although Sebastian Janikowski nailed a 48-yard field goal his thunderous left leg looked tentative. Still recovering from a hamstring injury his kickoffs were short all game long.

Carson Palmer and the offense was up and down. He threw a pair of touchdowns that couldn't have been any prettier. He also threw three interceptions and could've thrown a couple more. Michael Bush had a good game though Darren McFadden was definitely missed. Surprisingly the Oakland receivers had a great game. Denarious Moore and Jacoby Ford in particular really meshed with Palmer while TJ Houshmandzadeh looked rusty.

And finally, 15 penalties for 130 yards. Hidden yards the Raiders just give away every single damn game. A special shoutdown to OLB Aaron Curry, whose horrific out of bounds shove on Tebow on 3rd on 20 resulted in a first down that proved deadly.

Sloppy and stupid. The Raiders did not execute in all three phases of the game and suffered a well-deserved loss. Normally I would say the division title is out of reach but the Chargers and Chiefs looked awful this week as well. Oakland still has half the season to right the ship and reach the playoffs.

But will they? Probably not.

Sadly The Cubs and Angels Might Be Getting Good


It appears Theo Epstein will make the move to Chicago and become the president of the Cubs. And while it's doubtful he takes any of the Red Sox personnel guys with him Epstein will reportedly poach former Red Sox assistant GM and current Padres GM Jed Hoyer.

A brain trust featuring Epstein and Hoyer is a powerful and proven combination. Chicago is a big and popular market where they have the opportunity to replicate the success Boston enjoyed last decade.

Meanwhile the Angels fired GM Tony Reagans and are currently looking for his replacement. Supposedly Rays GM Andrew Friedman is atop their wish list. It's doubtful Friedman, who is loyal to Tampa Bay's owner and supposedly has a stake in the franchise, will move 3,000 miles and leave behind the promising team he's built.

However the Angels are targeting other interesting names: Kim Ng, Rick Hahn, Thad Levine and Jerry DiPoto are all experienced assistant GMs and respected throughout baseball circles. Each one would inherit a popular owner, smart manager, big market and promising farm system. Not a bad way to begin one's career as a MLB general manager.

The Carson Palmer Trade



That's what I wrote in an email upon hearing the news the Oakland Raiders traded their 2012 first-round pick and a contingent 2013 first-round pick for Cincinnati Bengals QB-in-exile Carson Palmer.

I've had more time to digest the transaction. I still don't like the deal but it's somewhat understandable. First off, the Raiders quarterback situation was never on solid ground. Jason Campbell was a competent signal caller before a pair of Browns defenders smashed his collarbone the other day. If backup Kyle Boller is the answer then your team is asking the wrong question. And Terrelle Pryor might develop into a good NFL QB down the road but he needs a lot of seasoning.

So the 4-2 Raiders obviously need a quarterback moving forward to reach the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade. Perhaps the most logical QB on the market, David Garrard, wasn't healthy and opted for surgery. Instead of picking up another retread like Josh McCown the team decided to make a huge splash.

It's an enormous price to pay. Two first-round picks could have started the conversation for acquiring a Landry Jones, Matt Barkley or even Andrew Luck several months from now.

And who knows how well Carson Palmer will respond? There are all sorts of pros and cons with him. He's a pretty good QB but on the wrong side of thirty. He's well rested... to the point of perhaps being rusty. He was a leader on his team... and later quit on said team.

Palmer had some of his best years when Raiders head coach and current de-facto GM Hue Jackson was coaching him in Cincinnati early in his career. The gunslinger will have plenty of toys to throw to in Oakland. Jacoby Ford is a speedy deep threat, Denarius Moore has emerged as a promising rookie and Derek Hagan is a physical possession guy. Also Chaz Schilens is getting healthy, Kevin Boss is a reliable TE and even the maligned Darrius Heyward-Bey has improved. Perhaps the Silver & Black will rejuvenate the former overall #1 pick.

Speaking of picks it's disheartening to have Oakland once again lose draft picks. In recent years the franchise has done a good job of selecting quality players particularly in the later rounds.

But for now the Raiders clearly aren't concerned about the future. Just Win, Baby. The eternal flame that represents Al Davis must be burning bright this morning.

Looking Ahead To The 2012 Seattle Mariners


Lost in the delirium of crazy Wild Card finishes was that the final game of the regular season wasn't Boston's collapse nor Tampa Bay's classic clincher. No, the final contest of the 2011 MLB regular season ended with a whimper as the punchless Seattle Mariners were shut out by the Oakland A's 2-0.Another season, another 95+ loss campaign for the M's, their third in the past four years. The level of losing has surely grated fans and players but the higher ups in the organization believe the team is headed in the right direction as GM Jack Zduriencik recently received an extension and manager Eric Wedge will return in 2012 as well.But what will 2012 look like for the M's? One thing we know for sure: Seattle owns the #3 pick in next June's MLB Draft. That being said it's way, way to early to predict who the M's are targeting. After all, it was about a year ago when Anthony Rendon was the consensus pick to go 1.1 and he ended up dropping to the Nationals at #6. Then there's top-five talent Matt Purke, who fell to the third round, coincidentally also to Washington.Otherwise everything else is an educated guess. For now the Opening Day roster projects something like this:C Miguel Olivo - $3.5M1B Justin Smoak ~ $1M2B Dustin Ackley ~ $2MSS Brendan Ryan ~ $2M3B Kyle Seager ~ $1MLF Casper Wells ~ $1MCF Franklin Gutierrez - $5.5MRF Ichiro Suzuki - $17MDH Mike Carp ~ $1MINF Chone Figgins - $9MOF Michael Saunders ~ $1MOF Trayvon Robinson ~ $1MC Adam Moore ~ $1MOlivo isn't good but the pitchers seem to like him. Plus good catchers aren't growing on trees these days. Prepare for twenty passed balls! This was a lost season for Smoak due to hand/face injuries but his mighty struggles were bookended by a hot start and good finish. If his true talent is a .400 slugging first baseman then we should've got Jesus Montero. Look for Ackley's BB:K ratio to spike up as he develops into a more complete player and possible All-Star. Ryan is cheap, a great glove and fiery-clubhouse type every team should have there's little need to replace him. I suspect the M's will play Ackley's college teammate on the hot corner until Seager proves as ineffective as Chone Figgins.Oh, this outfield. So many questions. Will Ichiro not suck? Will Franklin not really suck? Can Casper Wells cut down on his strikeouts? If not there's an entire cadre of AAAA outfielders (Robinson, Greg Halman, Carlos Peguero, Michael Saunders) waiting in the wings. There's a real chance the outfield in 2013 is something crazy.In an ideal world Figgins grows into a super utility role who fills in a hundred games. If he gets traded or released then Luis Rodriguez fills his spot on the roster. I'm not exactly sure how the outfield reserves will play out as it's reasonable that a guy like Halman could find his way on the 25-man team. Or the M's could even go with one outfielder, use Carp as an emergency LF and bring up Alex Liddi to shore up infield depth. But I think that's not a good plan. The Mariners do have some flexibility to experiment with their bench especially if the team decides to go with 11 pitchers instead of twelve. I'm assuming Adam Moore recovers from a huge injury, which is a lot to ask at such a demanding position. In that case prepare for the return of Josh Bard. Or maybe even Chris Gimenez!As for the arms:SP Felix Hernandez - $18.5MSP Michael Pineda ~ $1MSP Jason Vargas ~ $4.5MSP Charlie Furbush ~ $1MSP Blake Beavan ~ $1MBrandon League ~ $5M...and th[...]

UCLA Football Is In Midseason Form


Chris Foster of the LA Times tweets:
UCLA practice ended poorly. How poorly? Coach Rick Neuheisel addressing the team after shouted, "I CAN'T BE THE ONLY ONE WHO CARES!"