Tuesday, July 29, 2008

FDH Insider/Goon Squad July 30

By Rick Morris

This week's edition of the FDH Wednesday night on SportsTalkNetwork.com contains a variety of strong content from across the fantasy landscape.

On THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER (7-9 PM EDT), we begin by breaking down some interesting concepts for your team as the stretch run of the fantasy baseball season approaches -- specifically, the idea of biorhythms, which may be complete gaga in terms of validity vis-a-vis human health, but may have some applications for how to understand the management of a fantasy (or real) baseball team. From there, we preview next week's Olympic medals fantasy draft and our college football team draft on August 20 -- and, we make an announcement about additional FDH fantasy content to be coming your way in August.

At the end of Hour One and for all of Hour Two, we continue our build towards our August 13 fantasy football mock draft show by taking a look at our brand new free FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFTOLOGY 2008 guide and elaborating on some of the contents within. It's very safe to say that as useful as this publication is, that it will be even more useful after hearing us elaborate on the thought process that went into it. Also, we'll break down some oddities in a mock draft in the most recent ESPN Magazine and we'll look at the most widely disputed players of 2008 -- those who are being rated both very highly and very low by many in the fantasy media prior to the season.

On THE GOON SQUAD (9-10 PM EDT), we continue our summer previews of every division in the NHL for 2008-2009 as we go through the Southeast and the Northeast, team by team.

Be sure to join us for our usual informative three-hour block this Wednesday night only on the Sports Talk Network!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Greatest lineup introduction of all time

By Rick Morris

Hat tip to Awful Announcing, one of the great sports blogs anywhere. Will Ohman of Atlanta channels an all-time great from The Great Beyond -- convincingly. [Oh, and a side note to Fox Sports, who apparently bullied YouTube into taking down this video -- it's the 21st century, Einsteins, you're not going to censor every version of every video that appears anywhere. Be grateful that for once something on one of your lowest-common-denominator, sportscasting-ruining telecasts generated a scintilla of buzz for once.]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Free FDH Fantasy Football guide released!

By Rick Morris

Here it is! FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFTOLOGY 2008, a product of your good buddies at FantasyDrafthelp.com and Sportsology! You could pay for a glossy bundle of newsstand fluff, or you could download for free the ultimate draft board and outstanding supplemental materials in a mere eight pages. Your choice!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Anyone Want to Be a MLB GM?

By Tony Mazur

Hey kids! Have you always dreamed about becoming a general manager on a Major League Baseball team? No matter what age you may be, I'm positive that you can do a better job that Cleveland Indians' GM Mark Shapiro.

Rumors were swirling all week about the Tribe's third baseman/utility infielder Casey Blake possibly going to a playoff-contending team, which is not surprising. That happened this morning.

Casey Blake has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher Carlos Santana (no, not that one) and pitcher Jonathan Meloan.

This has been the second major trade the Indians have conducted this month, the first being the exodus of CC Sabathia to Milwaukee.

I've made it known that I was never the biggest fan of Casey Blake. I still believe he's a dime-a-dozen ballplayer. But come on, can they get SOMEthing out of a deal instead of obscure, no-name players?

I may be young, and I do not have much business experience, but I do not how NOT to run a business.

Going into the 2008 baseball season, the Cleveland Indians' salary was a whopping $78,970,066, which comes in at #16 on the list of team payrolls.

Let's do some math, shall we?

CC is to make $11 million this year, Blake received a disgusting $6.1 million, RHP Jorge Julio made $1 million, and RHP Joe Borowski, before being designated for assignment, made $4 million.

With the acquisitions of 3B Morgan Ensberg and RHP Juan Rincon, the Cleveland Indians team payroll is roughly $61 million. That puts them at 24th on the list of overall team salaries, just above the Kansas City Royals.

The only reason the payroll is that high is because the same players have been resigned. Jake Westbrook, Travis Hafner, Rafael Betancourt, and Fausto Carmona were all signed to big deals in the past year, and each one has not earned their paycheck.

In this day in Major League Baseball, a team cannot win a championship without a $100+ million salary.

This same lesson goes for the Colorado Rockies, and, no matter where they finish this year, the Tampa Bay Rays.

I'd just love to be a fly on the wall in the offices at Ontario and Carnegie.

Leave the Mittens behind, McCain!

By Rick Morris

Disturbing reports continue to leak out of the John McCain camp indicating that the brown-nose campaign of Mitt Romney and Hugh Hewitt, which began during Romney's concession speech back in February, is having a significant effect and may well lead to a Republican McCain-Romney ticket. DON'T DO IT, JOHN! [See, just to prove my sincerity, I did not refer to him as "Juan McCain."]

I would refer McCain and his peeps to my Romney take-down of last October 17, in which I pithily summed up the major arguments against Mitt Romney ever being allowed anywhere near the levers of power in a country that purports to be a serious-minded constitutional republic. Searching on the Romney tabs on this site alone would provide enough reasons to go against Romney, let alone what's available on the rest of the old Interwebs.

But I'll make my closing argument to John McCain on a visceral, grudge-filled level. It's well-known that McCain makes many arguments for and against dealing with people based on whether he likes or dislikes them, and dislike for others does not fade easily for him. Just in case he's reaching a sufficient comfort level with his sycophantic former rival and beginning to fall for the idiotic JFK/LBJ "parallels of 1960" that every desperate campaign trots out as a reason to pick somebody completely out of sync with the top of the ticket, consider these more relevant examples:

^ 2004: John Kerry more or less had John Edwards forced on him by Democratic insiders after Edwards waged a shameless public VP campaign for months. In a campaign that was very close and where Edwards failed to make any kind of a difference, do you think that Kerry might want a mulligan on that decision?

^ 1996: Bob Dole always had a tenuous-at-best relationship with the supply-side wing of the Republican Party (due to Dole's lack of understanding of how economic forces work). When he finally broke through and captured the GOP nomination, he knew he had to find somebody to excite the base -- since they were notably ho-hum about him. His reluctant choice? Kemp. Did Kemp play attack dog on the Democrats that fall? Nope. Would Dole make the same choice again? Nope.

These are just the two most recent examples of a nominee swallowing his bile and choosing to share his once-in-a-lifetime spot on a national ticket with somebody who he probably did not exchange Christmas cards with before or (certainly) since. Now, as my fellow FDH Lounge Dignitary points out to me, Reagan/Bush in 1980 is an example that cuts the other way, but this is at best a mixed bag. Is the sacrifice of personal trust and comfort between a nominee and his second-in-command worth the tradeoff when the brass ring is within reach? In a vacuum, not necessarily, and when the choice is the Romnoid, not at all.

In the interest of being helpful, here are the only good choices for McCain:

1. Bobby Jindal: A brilliant and proven mechanic in terms of government reform, he reinforces all of the (good) aspects of the McCain economic and governing message. Along with Alaska's Sarah Palin and South Carolina's Mark Sanford, he is one of the three best governors in the country. Palin is now having a few troubles in her administration, so she's sadly dropping off the radar and Sanford is (unfairly) not being considered because he was not on the McCain bandwagon during the South Carolina primaries. Fred Thompson is another pick at least as good as these three, but insipid fear of the "two old white guys" ticket will sink what would be on substance an outstanding selection.

2. Eric Cantor: While I as a paleocon am a bit wary of the blank check for militarism that he seems to indicate that he would extend to Israel, he's so good and so principled on so many issues that I think he's on balance a great and exciting choice.

3. Tim Pawlenty: Acceptable on social conservative grounds, acceptable on economic grounds, good blue-collar pedigree. Not the most inspiring of choices, but at least not an empty suit like Romney, Charlie Crist, Bushee Rob Portman, Tom Ridge or any of the other wannabees.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

FDH Insider/Goon Squad July 23

By Rick Morris

Tonight's FDH Wednesday night on SportsTalkNetwork.com stirs up fond thoughts of the sports landscape to come this autumn.

On THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER (7-9 PM EDT), we will devote the lion's share of the program to breaking down our FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFTOLOGY free guide, which is to be released within days. We'll talk about the overvalued and undervalued players of 2008, the rookies worth drafting, "Don't Be That Guy," the overall fantasy landscape for this year, our rankings by position and overall and much, much more. You are not going to want to miss our free guide when the download is available shortly.

On THE GOON SQUAD (9-10 PM EDT), we are joined once again by co-host Kyle O'Rourke, who returns from his summer hiatus. We will catch up with him regarding his thoughts on the NHL Awards, the Hot Stove League transactions, the 2008-2009 league schedule and other matters and then we turn our sights to our division-by-division breakdowns that we are delivering all summer. Tonight, the Central Division, home of the Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings and several up-and-coming teams, takes its turn in the spotlight.

Be sure to join us for another great night of FDH programming on SportsTalkNetwork.com.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The FDH Lounge Pantheon -- First Inductees

By Rick Morris

Yesterday, The FDH Lounge inducted its first class of enshrinees into The Pantheon, our new virtual institution designed to honor the best of the best in various categories. Categories in The Pantheon are extraordinarily wide-ranging, matching the diverse content found both here and on our Internet TV show, where we argued the merits and demerits of the various candidates. As always, we urge you to check out the archives of the program from the SportsTalkNetwork.com website.

Our Senior Editor Jason Jones joined me as always during the broadcast, as did two members of our new Friends of FDH Club: Russ Cohen from Sportsology and Paul Belfi from SportsTalkNetwork. We also opened ballots from many other Dignitaries: Bob Glassman, Nathan Noy, Joe Lindway, Tony Mazur, Samantha Jones, Steve the FDH New York Bureau, Mike Morris, Chris Galloway and Jon Adams. The four of us who participated in the broadcast broke any ties that arose in the different categories.

Time to announce our inductees. Unless otherwise noted by a number in parentheses, each candidate received one vote. Also, please note that some of our Dignitaries had some fun with the proceedings, as they were free to do, so some votes (just a few here and there) were cast primarily with mirth in mind.

BEST PRESIDENT: Ronald Reagan (4 votes)
OTHER CANDIDATES: John F. Kennedy, (2 votes), Teddy Roosevelt (2 votes), Calvin Coolidge, Andrew Jackson, George Washington, Harry Truman, John Quincy Adams
NOTES: Although it might surprise some, I was not among the Reagan voters, casting my ballot for Coolidge instead. As was the case with most categories, the arguments deployed on behalf of different presidents were very strong.

OTHER CANDIDATES: Italy (2 votes), United Kingdom (2 votes), Australia, China, Rome (the Republic before the Empire)
NOTES: Belfi about fell off of his stool laughing when I cast my vote for Canada and noted, "Now, I admit, this is the only other country I have ever visited." Nevertheless, I'm qualified to opine on any land! America's Hat wins in a landslide.

BEST MOTION PICTURE: The Godfather (2 votes)
OTHER CANDIDATES: The Whole Nine Yards, Transformers, Castaway, Spartacus, The Natural, Animal House, Blazing Saddles, Pirates of the Caribbean, Rocky III, Citizen Kane, The Shawshank Redemption
NOTES: We had a very wide field of potential candidates here, with nominated films being included from several genres.

BEST THESPIAN: Kevin Costner (2 votes)
OTHER CANDIDATES: Bruce Willis, Johnny Depp, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Cheech & Chong, Robin Williams, John Wayne, Jason Alexander, Michael Caine, Jimmy Stewart, Al Pacino, the first ancient Greek to portray Oedipus
NOTES: Top that field for diversity of performers!

BEST FEMALE BOMBSHELL: Raquel Welch (2 votes)
OTHER CANDIDATES: Erin Andrews, Kate Beckinsale, Heidi Klum, Sarah Michelle Geller, Phoebe Cates, Bo Derek, Carmen Electra, Pam Anderson, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Newmar, Christie Brinkley (circa first SI swimsuit cover)
NOTES: Even at age 67, Raquel is still bringing it, although the votes cast for her were cast with her prime in mind. Remarkably, none of us voted for Helen Mirren even with her new bikini pics having been released!

BEST MUSICAL PERFORMER/GROUP: Bon Jovi (2 votes -- wins on tiebreaker)
OTHER CANDIDATES: Linkin Park (2 votes), Rush, Van Halen, Yes, The Eagles, U2, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queen, Beethoven (!!!)
NOTES: How ironic that Jason and I, the FDH principals, would have never countenanced a vote for Bon Jovi -- and indeed, we lobbied heavily for Linkin Park on the tiebreaker vote -- and our event ends up bestowing this honor anyway. Ah, irony.

BEST TV SHOW: All in the Family (2 votes -- wins on tiebreaker)
OTHER CANDIDATES: The Office/NBC version (2 votes), Heroes, The Odd Couple, Curb Your Enthusiasm, St. Elsewhere, The Brady Bunch, Family Guy, Cheers, Ninja Warrior G4, Happy Days
NOTES: Again, Jason and I are overridden as our efforts on behalf of The Office went for naught in the tiebreaker. Our favorite caller Andy from Toledo sent in the email that broke the tie, although an email voting for The Office followed not long after that. Our crop was heavy on sitcoms, but fairly diverse in terms of types of them.

OTHER CANDIDATES: Jerry from Tom and Jerry, Tom and Jerry collectively, Lion-O, Boris Badanov, Smurfette, Bullwinkle, Toki Wartooth, Charlie Brown, Krusty the Clown
NOTES: We had a fairly wide range of cartoon characters represented in this group.

OTHER CANDIDATES: Batman (2 votes), Spiderman (2 votes), Jughead, Tony Stark/Ironman, Veronica, Professor Charles Xavier, Brown Hornet, Spawn
NOTES: The majority of votes were collectively cast for what were perhaps the three biggest names in the genre. One of the funniest moments of the night: I prefaced my vote by saying that I was voting on the basis of the character I found most personally entertaining, not the biggest superhero, whereupon Jason (without ever hearing me discuss this character before) correctly called my Jughead vote. When I asked how he could have predicted it, he said merely, "I know you." When I then asked if I was that predictable, everyone answered simply, "Yes!"

BEST PRO WRESTLER: Ric Flair (3 votes -- wins on tiebreaker)
OTHER CANDIDATES: Roddy Piper (3 votes), The Rock, Bruno Sammartino, Abdullah the Butcher, Johnny Powers, Scott Steiner, Mankind, Buzz Sawyer
NOTES: This one ran across a wide spectrum as well. Deservedly, though, the Nature Boy earned his spot in The Pantheon once the tiebreaker round ended.

BEST FOOTBALL PLAYER: Jim Brown (4 votes)
OTHER CANDIDATES: Lawrence Taylor, Leroy Kelly, Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Peyton Manning, LaDainian Tomlinson, Rocket Ismail, Red Grange
NOTES: Old school, new school, complete buffoonery, we were all over the place on this one.

BEST BASKETBALL PLAYER: Michael Jordan (6 votes)
OTHER CANDIDATES: Larry Bird (2 votes), Lebron James (2 votes), Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving
NOTES: I couldn't get anybody to go along with my "Big O" pick, but the Jordan cliche pull was just too strong for too many.

BEST RACE CAR DRIVER -- ANY CIRCUIT: Richard Petty (2 votes -- wins on tiebreaker)
OTHER CANDIDATES: A.J. Foyt, (2 votes), Ricky Bobby (2 votes -- couldn't have been an original joke if two people thought of it!), Mario Andretti, Danica Patrick, Michael Schumacher, Bill Vukovich Sr., Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Jeff Gordon
NOTES: My pick, Foyt, probably didn't get enough respect for being the single greatest all-around driver ever in light of his vast success at both open-wheel and stock car driving. My runner-up pick of Big Daddy Don Garlits certainly deserved to be nominated by somebody.

BEST HOCKEY PLAYER: Wayne Gretzky (5 votes)
OTHER CANDIDATES: Mario Lemieux (2 votes), Bobby Orr, Patrick Roy, Mark Messier, Brett Hull, Gordie Howe, Andy "Death Machine" Busch
NOTES: As with Reagan, somebody could look at this list and think that I as the resident Red Wing honk voted for "Mr. Hockey." I did not, instead casting my vote for a player who changed the game with his revolutionary offensive greatness on the blue line, Bobby Orr.

BEST BASEBALL PITCHER: Nolan Ryan (3 votes)
OTHER CANDIDATES: Mariano Rivera (2 votes), Greg Maddux (2 votes), Tom Seaver, Walter Johnson, Randy Johnson, John Rocker, Satchel Paige, Babe Ruth
NOTES: From Walter Johnson (my pick) to Randy Johnson, this was another category where our thoughts were all over the place. I did think that we ended up wrong on this one, as Ryan had a great long career, but had few dominant seasons.

BEST BASEBALL HITTER: Babe Ruth (4 votes)
OTHER CANDIDATES: Tony Gwynn (2 votes), Pete Rose (2 votes), Willie Mays (2 votes), Ted Williams, Manny Ramirez, Hank Aaron
NOTES: Babe Ruth was the only inductee nominated in more than one category, as he also received a vote for Best Pitcher! Given that the stated criteria included defense as a consideration, I cast my vote for Mays as the single greatest all-around position player ever.

Many thanks to all who participated to make this such a great event. We will be bringing our second installment in late 2008 or early 2009.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

FDH Lounge Show #33: July 20, 2008

By Rick Morris

Tonight’s 33rd edition of THE FDH LOUNGE (8-11 PM EDT on SportsTalkNetwork.com) is completely devoted to the debut of a segment that will henceforth be at least semi-annual in regularity: THE FDH LOUNGE PANTHEON!

As a celebration of FDH’s five-year association with SportsTalkNetwork, FDH associates of the past and present are weighing in on their choices in a multiplicity of categories designed to honor the best of the best in a number of fields. Inasmuch as The Lounge prides itself on being the place where “nothing is off-topic,” the category list is aggressively eclectic exactly as one would expect. Here are the categories; they will be voted upon in this order during our three-hour Internet TV broadcast.

















Ballots have been returned all week from The Dignitaries who will be unable to weigh in directly on Sunday night and the opinions are flowing freely on all subjects. Dignitaries who will be participating in the broadcast will break ties that arise in the balloting in any categories based on everyone’s second choice, third choice, etc. Hearty and passionate debates, a staple of the first 32 editions of The Lounge program, will surely be a big part of #33 as well.

We will certainly post the winners here this week, along with a complete list of everyone who received votes in every category. We are extraordinarily excited about this show, which is an opportunity for us to celebrate excellence in a wide range of areas. Already, we are anticipating a sequel to this event, which will come in late 2008 or early 2009 and we will continue to stimulate entertaining debate and discussion in more areas than any other source would dare to tackle. Be sure to catch us either live this week or via the STN archives and follow along with us as we induct our first class of awardees into The FDH Lounge Pantheon.

Israel’s Schizophrenia

By Rick Morris

I am a man of very strong opinions on a variety of subjects; I could not sit at the helm of this FDH Lounge otherwise, inasmuch as it is teeming with strong-willed and intelligent individuals. This group really keeps you on your toes – it’s pretty easy to be humbled by the knowledge of some of these Dignitaries when they start discussing a subject they know well.

But as I’ve said to fellow Dignitary Burrell Jackson, the subject of Israel is one that vexes even the ability of someone like me to form a strong opinion. I support wholeheartedly the right of the Israeli people to live securely within their borders, but I’m not in agreement with the most militant Likud uber-hawks who see perpetual war against enemies far and wide as a feasible option. Burrell’s general skepticism of Israeli foreign policy is certainly a more coherent point of view than my hesitant support and hesitant denunciation of different moves made by that country.

So it figures that I’m very confused by two developments coming out of that very consequential country this past week. But the rub is that I don’t support either policy and I’m more militant than Israel on one issue and much, much less so on the other. Confusing times indeed!

First, this asinine hostage swap that the nation made with Hezbollah. They traded a bunch of murdering thugs, including a proud and unrepentant child-killer, for two mutilated bodies? WHAT???

That episode was very instructive, however, in that the aforementioned murdering dirtbags were celebrated as heroes not only by the usual cowardly suspects in Hamas and the avowed terrorist groups, but also by the “moderate” Fatah and Palestinian Authority leadership. File that note away for future reference.

Next, word comes from an authority in Israel (who sure sounds like he’s in the know) that the country will attack the Iranian nuclear facilities sometime during the US presidential transition period from November to January. Apparently, the government is scared by what they perceive as Barack Obama’s pacifism and they don’t want to wait to be constrained by his administration (side note: can anyone deny anymore the concept of “peace through strength”?). This attack, as Friend of FDH Scott Pullins has chronicled, would have disastrous effects for the region and almost certainly the entire world. Arnaud de Borchgrave, one of the foremost authorities on the Middle East, has predicted oil at $400 or $500 a barrel in the wake of the catastrophic aftermath of an attack and Iranian countermeasures (including widespread terrorism).

In a world already inflamed by an ill-advised American campaign in Iraq that bled what had been the world’s lone superpower of blood and treasure, the consequences of the Bush/Cheney “wink and a nod” to Israel can hardly be overstated. Any hope that the “12th imam” suicidal dodobirds in Tehran are not going to try to take the world down in flames with them will be extinguished once they are at war with their mortal enemy. This will include the activation of sleeper cells worldwide (including the follow-up to 9/11 that we have avoided on American shores), horrific attacks on our troops in Iraq just as the country is finally being pacified and complete disruption of the world’s oil supply. The final factor alone will kill a great many poor people across the globe, an element that should, but will not, show up on the pros-and-cons list regarding a war that will be easily started and almost impossible to finish. The Bush Administration’s belated 11th hour attempts to work out a way to avoid this war through back channels are almost certainly too little, too late, although they’ll certainly be trumpeted by this crowd as (false) evidence that they did everything they could to avoid the coming Armageddon.

For Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a man who seems to be neither fish nor fowl as a man of neither the left nor the right, this schizophrenia has been etched in the DNA of his wretched stewardship of the country. When the country moved into open war against Hezbollah in 2006, a move that had some justification given the attacks that had been waged against civilian territory out of Lebanon, he waged it with one hand tied behind the nation’s back. Are you seeing a pattern here?

^ Go to war against Hezbollah. Appease the right.

^ Fight a subdued war. Appease the left.

^ Give Hezbollah a huge victory by returning murderers and bloodthirsty terrorists. Appease the left.

^ Prepare to start what will almost surely become a globe-shaking nuclear (and/or biological/chemical/radiological) war against Iran. Appease the right.

I’m not a citizen of Israel, just an observer half a world away, but here’s a radical thought. What do you say you install a leader who doesn’t try to pander to both extremes at the same time, but somebody who rationally tries to navigate the most trying set of circumstances that any national leader anywhere on Earth faces? It couldn’t hurt to try.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Revisiting preseason MLB predictions

By Rick Morris

At the beginning of April and also back in February, I produced preseason MLB predictions right here in The Lounge. With not a small bit of trepidation about the apparent foolishness of some of these picks in a year with so many unpredictable circumstances (due in part, I believe, to a combination of a new crop of superstars asserting themselves and the declining influence in the game of not just steroids but also amphetamines), here's a look ahead combined with a look at what was previously forecast.

Here are my projected final standings, with my original prognostications in parentheses:


X-Boston 95-67 (92-72 – they are who we thought they were)

Y-Tampa Bay 92-70 (82-80 – I knew they’d be good, but this good, this soon?)

New York Yankees 89-73 (89-73 – thought that record would make the playoffs – I think I was wrong)

Toronto 78-84 (82-80 – they need to petition for a switch to the NL)

Baltimore 76-86 (60-102 – much better than I thought)


X-Chicago White Sox 91-71 (78-84 – there was more to the offseason tuneup than met the eye – my eye, anyway)

Minnesota 87-75 (80-82 – I never would have believed they’d accomplish this much without Lirano)

Detroit 86-76 (91-71 – haven’t been able to outslug the bad pitching like I thought)

Cleveland 79-83 (88-74 – many people thought I was a basher and I was actually excessively optimistic)

Kansas City 77-85 (77-85 – next year’s Tampa Bay?)


X-Los Angeles Angels 97-75 (93-69 – disappointing stretch of first-half hitting will fade, as will Texas and Oakland)

Texas 80-82 (72-90 – rebuilding is further along than many, including myself, thought)

Oakland 78-84 (74-88 see Texas)

Seattle 63-99 (88-74 – biggest disappointment in baseball bar none – incapable of being carried by excellent 1-2 punch at top of rotation)


X-Philadelphia 91-71 (87-75 – Myers collapse evened out by acquisition of Blanton and excellent bullpen)

New York Mets 87-75 (97-75 – now out of the deep hole they dug for themselves, but may be a bit too old to keep up with Phils down the stretch)

Florida 78-84 (60-102 – 1997/2003/2009 – they’re due for another World Series next year and have a nice young nucleus like the last time)

Atlanta 77-85 (88-74 – dark horse World Series pick for many is just not far along enough in the rebuilding yet, but they will be soon)

Washington 63-99 (68-94 – predictably bad in an unpredictable season)


X-Chicago Cubs 94-68 (87-75 – best-balanced team in the NL)

Y-Milwaukee 91-71 (88-74 – will be tough to beat in a short series with that 1-2 punch if Sheets stays healthy, which is always the proviso)

St. Louis 86-76 (78-84 – never doubt LaRussa and Duncan)

Cincinnati 78-84 (78-84 – outside of Tampa Bay and Arizona, may be positioned as well as anyone in baseball over the next several years)

Pittsburgh 75-87 (74-88 – about to get left behind by Cincy in the Ohio River Perpetual Rebuilding Race)

Houston 72-90 (70-92 – still a team with a bit of an incoherent philosophy about how they are building)


X-Arizona 83-79 (91-71 – super-talented but young team not as far along as I thought yet)

Los Angeles Dodgers 81-81 (88-74 -- mediocre pitching a surprise, mediocre hitting not so much)

San Diego 73-89 (87-75 -- huge disappointment, must find a way to construct a team that can hit enough at Petco)

Colorado 71-91 (89-73 – ashes to ashes, dust to dust)

San Francisco 65-97 (65-97 – blended in unobtrusively with a shockingly bad division most of the year)


Los Angeles Angels over Tampa Bay in 5

Boston over Chicago White Sox in 5

Philadelphia over Milwaukee in 5

Chicago Cubs over Arizona in 4


Boston over Los Angeles Angels in 6

Chicago Cubs over Philadelphia in 6


Boston over Chicago Cubs in 6 (Los Angeles Angels over New York Mets was preseason pick)

Here’s my series of predictions for the different postseason awards, with my previous picks in parentheses:

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Evan Longoria (Ian Kennedy)

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Jair Jurrjens (Colby Rasmus)

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton (Vladimir Guerrero)

NL MVP: Albert Pujols (David Wright)

AL CY YOUNG AWARD: Roy Halladay (Justin Verlander)

NL CY YOUNG AWARD: Johan Santana (Johan Santana)

AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Joe Maddon (Mike Scioscia)

NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Lou Piniella (Ned Yost)

Here’s how I predict the divisions in baseball will end up in terms of overall strength. This is taken by calculating the cumulative number of games above or below .500 for the division. I list my projected numbers for each division in parentheses.

1. AL East +22 (Even) – This division has been baseball’s biggest surprise, in large part because of Tampa Bay, but also due to improvements from Toronto and Baltimore.

2. AL Central +15 (+9) – A year ago, I pronounced this division as very overrated before the season and was proven right. This year, I expected improvements and have seen them from all teams except Cleveland. While there are no dominant teams here, the ChiSox, Minnesota and Detroit are better-than-average teams with some flaws.

3. NL Central +10 (-5) – Like the AL East, this one surprised me. St. Louis has been way better than they have had any right to be, but nobody in this division has been absolutely deplorable.

4. AL West -6 (+1) – This division has been very strange. Collectively, it’s been much better than I thought even with Seattle’s unforeseeable collapse, but Oakland and Texas will probably fall off enough in the second half to allow the Mariners to depress the collective record even lower than I anticipated.

5. NL East -9 (-5) – There are probably fewer surprises here than in any other division. Florida has been better than expected so far and the Mets worse than people thought, but they will probably each regress or progress to expectations in the second half.

6. NL West -32 (+15) – While most of the teams except San Francisco are too good not to bounce back next year, this year has been shockingly brutal for all of them.

Hannity working to elect Obama

By Rick Morris

I've had off-air conversations with my colleague on THE FDH LOUNGE program Chris Galloway (who is an elected official and political consultant, so he's somebody actually in the business) about how Republicans can stop Barack Obama. We don't agree at all on the overall strategic approach that they would have to take if they are to have any chance at success and I look forward to debating Chris on our program in the next month or two.

In short, he believes that the "kitchen sink" approach will work, and I do not. He thinks that to renounce the use of anything and everything to negatively define Obama is to concede the election. I believe strongly that it is merely a concession to reality.

People don't want to hear anything perceived as a personal attack this year -- even though the tactics Chris advocates ARE NOT personal attacks, but would be successfully portrayed as them by a pliant media. This is not a time of peace OR prosperity; the stakes are higher in this election than in the last several and people are casting about for answers and policies that can help our country regain its greatness. More importantly, there is still room to persuade them to abandon their support for policies that will only make our bad situation even worse.

I urge the use of a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer not because I am any less opposed to Obama's election than Chris is; I have serious problems with many of the policy proposals an Obama Administration would put forth and I believe strongly they would only exacerbate our country's real problems. That is precisely why I am against the type of sloppy campaigning that I feel does nothing but ultimately play into the hands of the Obama campaign. In speaking with somebody who identifies himself as a proud moderate, he misunderstood my concerns as aligning with his own that John McCain and his surrogates would end up alienating the middle. He was wrong. I don't care about the middle any more than I do the left (perhaps less in some ways, as I find people on the left to at least be committed about their wrong-headed policies) -- what I do care about is alienating people who are largely apolitical, but who do share conservative thoughts and ideas when they do actually think about them.

Last Sunday night, as I was channel-surfing, I came across another propagandistic effort from Fox News' Sean Hannity. The MO of Hannity, as I have observed before, is to take the same stupid template from previous efforts against previous politicians and use it almost verbatim. He's only plagiarizing himself, but the crime is against the policies he claims to be supporting. In his rants about flip-flopping and character, if you took out Obama's name and inserted Al Gore or John Kerry, these cut-and-paste idiocies could have aired during either of the last two presidential elections.

[I should note also that what Hannity does differs not at all from the blatherings of Rush Limbaugh or Hugh Hewitt, but aside from a few cameo appearances that these two make on cable TV, they're merely preaching to the choir on their own programs. Feeding cliche-ridden gaga to "Dittoheads" doesn't hurt the effectiveness of right-wing ideas outside of the insular neighborhood of talk radio.]

Anybody who is not already inclined to vote against Barack Obama must be screaming at the television flipping the bird when they see Hannity's tired and intellectually lazy schtick and that's what outrages me. If you think negative campaigning even in this climate is the way to go, I can go along with that. John McCain's got enough baggage with his own record and some of his goofy beliefs (cap'n'trade, Gang of 14 judicial sellouts, etc.) that he's not going to win without sowing significant doubts about Obama. But do it in a way that's going to stick!

The ONLY way to persuade enough people not to take a chance on Barack Obama is to draw a straight line between his promises and the negative effects that will come from the execution of those policies -- nothing more, nothing less. While he is out there claiming to be the agent of change from the Bush Administration, his open advocacy of Big Government (covertly built up by the Bushies) represents complete continuity! Now, McCain has a tightrope to walk in terms of not alienating the 5% of the people in the country who still believe in Bush and think things are rosey and peachy, but he has to attack Obama in terms of the mess his policies will engender.

This might come as a shock to those who like to do nothing but regurgitate Republican Establishment talking points, but reusing the same talking points deployed against Gore and Kerry will backfire because the majority of the American people would vote against Bush if given the chance. As someone who voted (gleefully) for Buchanan in 2000 and Bush (reluctantly) in 2004, I don't count myself among those who would vote Democrat if given a second chance (I haven't voted Democrat in a national election and would be shocked if I ever even considered it), but I know these people exist because I talk to them all the time. Even when the Bush Administration has had successes, they've been completely incompetent in communicating them to the American people. John McCain needs to avoid the "McSame" tag at all costs and the efforts of his supposed supporters and surrogates are so stupid, so completely without the slightest shred of potential effectiveness that they raise legitimate questions as to who Sean Hannity and the tactics-as-usual crowd really support in this presidential campaign.

Video Clips: Fun Timewasters

By Rick Morris

From time to time, we try to accommodate our Lounge content consumers who just want some fun, light entertainment. Hence this edition of our Video Clips series, entitled "Fun Timewasters."

These are simply some video clips that you can enjoy and consume in the form of good, mindless entertainment. On with the show!

I must've missed this one. Frank Costanza addressing a joint session of Congress to inform them about the merits of Festivus.

The standards for male models were apparently a bit different back in the '70s:

Here's some first-rate nostalgia: player introductions for the 1980 NHL All-Star Game, held at the newly-opened Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Making his return to Motown as an All-Star just back in the National Hockey League: Gordie Howe!

One of the greatest rasslin' characters of all time came from somebody long thought too bland to portray anyone interesting: Bob Backlund. Here you see some classic video footage of his 1996 campaign for president:

The wonder that is Dwight Schrute:

Police chase video. Yay!

MLB All-Star thoughts

By Rick Morris

^ The Josh Hamilton story from the Home Run Derby was great and heartwarming. Some pundits, apparently looking to play contrarian at all costs, have questioned whether he is more deserving of praise than a player who has kept his nose clean from Day One. I say that that is asking the wrong question. Anybody that doesn't get it should go read the Prodigal Son story from the Bible. Josh Hamilton certainly isn't more worthy of admiration than somebody who never screwed up, but he has the chance to be an inspiration to those who have. There are some heartless people who want to point to the fact that he was the top pick in the 1999 MLB Draft as evidence that he willfully threw away the chance for fame and fortune when he turned to drugs. These idiots are ignorant of the fact that, despite his gifts and the extreme likelihood of material success, he had a large void in his life, one that he filled with drugs then and has filled with his relationship with God now. Jeff Allison, who walked a similar path as a 2003 first-round draft pick who was derailed by drugs, has stated that he is using Hamilton for inspiration and Hamilton, when informed of that this week, offered to do whatever he could to help -- proof if proof were yet needed that sometimes a story is every bit as great as it appears on the surface.

^ The Hamilton-Edinson Volquez deal has been hailed as one of the rare ones that worked for both teams, and that will be the case as Hamilton will probably win more than one MVP award for Texas and Volquez looks up to the challenge of pitching in that tough park in Cincy and taking home some Cy Youngs. But in light of Hamilton's showing this week, it's just a wee bit ironic that Volquez helped cost the NL their first All-Star win since 1996 by serving up JD Drew's game-tying shot.

^ Nothing against Justin Morneau, an outstanding young player, but I was pretty cheesed off when he won the Derby, because MLB really needs to start adding an accumulative factor to the scoring. There's nothing sillier than seeing someone like Hamilton actually get penalized for his amazing first-round run when he's too pooped in the finals to be able to make solid contact. Having said that, Morneau proved what a class act he really is by acknowledging that the night really belonged to Hamilton for his otherworldly display.

^ The pregame ceremonies were nice, but the repetitive nature of these events diminishes them all collectively. When the NBA convened their 50 Greatest Players at the 1997 All-Star Game, that was something. When Ted Williams was given that awesome tribute at the 1999 MLB All-Star Game, that was something (and man, am I angry that's not on YouTube -- I've got it on VHS, but I would love to embed it here). But it's human nature for people to get somewhat jaded when these events become more commonplace. I wouldn't expect anyone at Fox Sports to understand that, though, because they're all about anything that they think can squeeze up the ratings another .0001%.

^ Now that Drew won the MVP of the All-Star Game due to his game-tying home run, you just know that the Phillies are going to be the NL team that gets rooked out of home field in the World Series. It can't possibly go any other way, right?

^ I can't really argue with Drew winning the MVP, much as it irks me as a "skill elitist" to see this career underachiever gravy-train his one season of not stealing a paycheck into such an award. This game had more of a paucity of deserving candidates than any that I can remember. Perhaps it would be too mean, but I almost think Dan Uggla should be nominated as MVP for the AL team! Poor Uggla. Unless the player is a jerk like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, you hate to see anybody have as many bad moments as that, over and over and over again. Given what that ballpark meant to him and his dad, I'm sincerely glad that none of his miscues cost his team the game.

^ Memo to Terry Francona: They're starting pitchers, not china dolls. Feel free to leave them in for more than an inning at a time, then you won't look like a putz having to contemplate putting position players on the mound in extra innings because "They didn't give me enough players!" Given the crapstorm that he endured when the game was tied in 2002, if I were Bud Selig and Francona came crying to me for a solution to his self-imposed problem, I'd have jammed some wasabi right up his nostrils.

Enough about Brett Fav-ruh

By Rick Morris

I always really liked and respected Brett Favre as a player. I said exactly that in this space when he retired. But enough already of him putting his needs above those of his team and of ESPN fanning this story in their usual hysterical manner.

On our FDH Lounge program, I questioned his decision to retire because of a few key points:

1. He only won one Super Bowl in his career and clearly hungered for a second one.
2. He suffered through several down years in Green Bay only to see the team make an unexpected huge leap forward in 2007, one that almost landed him back in the Super Bowl. Clearly he now had the support he needed around him again.
3. He threw a poor interception at the end of the NFC Championship Game, a game at home in which his team was solidly favored, guaranteeing that his career would end on a sour note if he walked away then.
4. He could still play the game on a Pro Bowl level.

But he did retire. And now his "to be or not to be" routine which already had gotten old over the past few years as he pondered retirement every season only to ultimately return, has reached absurd heights.

There's a lot of folks with "surface-level knowledge" running around in the media right now screaming about how the Pack should welcome him back, just hand him the starting job and act like nothing ever happened. These are of course people with no clue whatsoever about the dynamics of a locker room.

Green Bay invested a #1 draft pick and significant time and money in Aaron Rogers as the quarterback of the future. He has patiently waited behind Favre for three years, an unprecedented necessity for a QB coming into the league with his stature. For the past few months, during offseason workouts, he has consolidated his position as the team's starter and on-field leader. And now, all of that is cast aside because Brett Favre decides that this week a return sounds good to him? Nuts to that, as Jesse Jackson might say.

The Packers might take a step backward at quarterback with Rogers this year, but there's more to the success of a franchise than short-term wins and losses. If Favre were to come back, the team's relationship with their future QB Rogers would irretrievably suffer -- plus, they'd again be hostage to Favre's year-to-year (or is it now week-to-week?) questions about whether he wants to keep playing. You have to move on at some point. I really wish that Favre hadn't walked away in March, but he did and he changed the equation completely. Because of my respect for him, I'm not going to bash him more than I already have or label him as selfish, but I side with the team completely on this one -- and that includes the matter of an unconditional request. The franchise would be derelict in its duties to its fans and shareholders if it were to yield to his request for an unconditional release, a move that would surely land him with one of the three QB-deficient teams in the NFC North. Loyalty to a legend must not include popping a cyanide pill just because he asks you to do so. The team should accommodate a move, but it should be outside the division and preferably, outside the conference.

Let me note also how much I enjoyed the fact that Favre steered his public statements to Greta's show on Fox News, not because I enjoy her boring program, but because he kept his comments away from ESPN. The Worldwide Monopoly on Cable Sports Coverage was already beating this story into the ground enough during the sports news vacuum that is MLB All-Star week; it didn't need his efforts to legitimize their repetitive, say-nothing drivel. I don't mean to put down great reporters like Chris Mortensen or John Clayton, just the talking heads who chew over what comes out of the interviews they conduct. Any time the masters of mind control, who want us to take seriously their insipid, make-believe events like "The ESPYs," end up losing, we all win.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jesse Jackass

By Tony Mazur

Last week, the fake reverend Jesse Jackson made an off-the-record comment about democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, saying that he wanted to castrate the Illinois senator for talking down to black people.

"Only he didn't say 'black people'. He said 'the word'. The N-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash word."

(If you've seen A Christmas Story, you'd understand the creative reference)

Jackson claimed that Obama "talks down to nig$%&#" and "tells them how to behave".

Let me get this straight. Isn't this the same "reverend" that fought, along with Al Sharpton, to ban the N-word after the Michael Richards fiasco?

Can this guy be a bigger hypocrite?

Since I'm not of African descent, I do not know how black people react when they hear that word. I mean, if a white person says it, you know there's trouble. But how are black people reacting to a self-appointed black leader spewing this word when referring to another black role model?

What I don't understand is why Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are still relevant. Following his somewhat fall from "grace", why did Duane "Dog" Chapman feel the need to run straight to Al Sharpton to beg for forgiveness? Who cares how they feel? It's bad enough that grown men and women tattle on each other like school children. It's even worse that you are apologizing to a man with no job.

My only hope is to have black men and women get together and tell Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to take a long walk off a short pier. I also hope that white people begin to realize that we shouldn't answer to every one of Jesse's and Al's beckoning calls. We'll all be much happier. But until then, walk on eggshells around these "respected" men.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

FDH Insider/Goon Squad July 16

By Rick Morris

Tonight's FDH Wednesday night on SportsTalkNetwork.com features more of the variety that people have become accustomed to from their Midweek Sherpas at FantasyDrafthelp.com.

On THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER (7-9 PM EDT), we continue our full-throated football coverage. On the last two shows, we examined the quarterback and running back positions; tonight we break down the wide receivers and take our first look at our overall draft board rankings. This discussion will carry us a quarter of the way into Hour Two, at which time we will be joined by our good friend Jake Digman of NAAFS as we unveil the first ever joint fantasy game between FDH and NAAFS and conduct a draft (of sorts) for the circuit's amateur MMA fighters for the July-December 2008 time period. The North American Allied Fight Series has long been promoting the finest amateur fights in the country and is now expanding into the pros and female fighters. We are proud that our first ever fantasy game directly held in conjunction with a sports league is being conducted with them.

On THE GOON SQUAD (9-10 PM EDT), with last week's show preemption, our discussion of the NHL's Northwest Division got pushed back to tonight. Additionally, we'll break down the Pacific Division and take our first real look ahead to the 2008-2009 season as we go through a third of the teams in the NHL.

Be sure to join us tonight for another wide-ranging, fun look at the sports landscape with FDH and STN.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

RIP Tony Snow and Bobby Murcer

By Rick Morris

Two seemingly disparate men, one who was at various times a nationally syndicated columnist, political talk show host and White House spokesman, the other a famous baseball player and subsequently an announcer. But both came down with lethal forms of cancer, both battled it for a few years and both passed away over the weekend.

Most importantly, though, both were God-fearing men who were beloved by their friends and family and both are in a far better place right now, removed from their physical suffering and the trials and tribulations of a world that gets more insane each day.

Tony Snow was a gifted communicator of conservative ideas, a "happy warrior" to use a phrase that has seen much traction in recent days. When he was working in the Bush White House, he was always far, far, far better than the material he had to work with and the policies he had to defend. Listening to him at the podium as he confidently sketched out a vision of an ideologically sound and committed executive branch, it always struck me that he was painting a picture of the White House that I wished actually existed. Had the men and women of this administration actually lived up to the descriptions that this idealist attributed to them, we'd all be much better off as a country. Having said that, I would in no way insinuate that he ever worked to mislead anyone; Tony Snow saw the best in everyone and wanted this administration to follow his lead and do their jobs as well as he did his. Given the complete and utter failure of this administration to communicate a coherent vision to the public both before his tenure and afterwards, I'm not exaggerating when I say that he almost singlehandedly restored some semblance of balance to the two-party system in this country during his time at the communications helm for Bush. By the accounts of his friends he was also a kind and decent man who cared far more about others than he did himself.

As a small child, I knew Bobby Murcer toward the tail end of his career as a solid, above-average major league baseball player. I was startled to learn at that time that he had actually been projected at the outset of his career to be the next piece of the Ruth/DiMaggio/Mantle Yankee lineage. Obviously, that did not transpire, notwithstanding his best efforts, and he toiled through some of the darkest years in team history in the late 1960s and early 70s. After the 1974 season, he was exiled to San Francisco in a swap for another victim of unfair expectations, Bobby Bonds -- who was expected to be the "next Willie Mays" (remember Murcer and Bonds the next time anyone complains about how the blogosphere has ruined baseball by setting impossible expectations for players!). Eventually, he worked his way back to the team in the late years of his career and played his most memorable game mere hours after eulogizing his close friend Thurman Munson -- as he almost literally willed the team to victory in honor of their fallen teammate. In later years, he became a Yankee broadcaster and remained always a supremely popular figure in the eyes of the fans. Given the burden of perceived potential and the inability to live up to it, the ability to remain revered in such a hard-bitten media market is extraordinary indeed. This heartwarming story about how the BBWAA got a chance to tell Bobby Murcer how much he meant to them before it was too late is a great one, and our friend Russ Cohen of Sportsology has up a great podcast of an interview with Murcer.

Both men took their fate with a grace that puts the rest of us to shame. RIP to two great men, Tony Snow and Bobby Murcer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Home Run Derby Predictions

By Tony Mazur

Tonight's the night of the 23 Annual Home Run Derby, brought to us by State Farm Insurance. Why I plugged them, I don't know. Unintentional.

A couple of comments before I begin my predictions.

Take a look at the lineup:

Lance Berkman, Houston
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
Josh Hamilton, Texas
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
Justin Morneau, Minnesota
Grady Sizemore, Cleveland
Dan Uggla, Florida
Chase Utley, Philadelphia

Notice anything about these players?

They're all great hitters. But they're not home run hitters. They can hit home runs, but they are more known for their hitting.

Anyways, here's how I see this going down.

The right field stands at Yankee Stadium favors the left handers, with it being only 314' down the line. The left field line is only 318' from home plate, but it quickly opens up a mere 20' from the foul pole.

That being said, I predict that we'll see two lefties and two righties make it to the second round.

I have Lance Berkman kicking the show off with some bombs into the upper deck right field, enough to make it to the second round.

Ryan Braun will surprise the casual fan with a few blasts of his own, punching his ticket to the second round.

I believe that Hamilton, Longoria, and Sizemore will struggle in their moon shot attempts, thus leaving them just shy of going to the next round. But Justin Morneau will hit his share of line drives over the short fence in right and move on.

I say that Dan Uggla will hit enough home runs to make it to the second round, but he'll really show his power in round number 2.

The player with the most home runs in the regular season on this team will hit a lot of would-be extra base hits, but remember, it only counts if the ball goes over the fence in fair territory. Utley is out.

Lance Berkman powers his way past Braun to move onto the finals.

Dan Uggla shows that he's an MVP-caliber players by hitting some bombs, knocking out Morneau.

In a hard-fought battle, Dan Uggla is your 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby champion.

Tony's Midseason Awards

By Tony Mazur

We are now at the midpoint of the baseball season.

Well, not really. That occurred a week or two ago.

But it is the All-Star Break, and it's time to play the taboo card and dish out some midseason awards.

American League Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

Longoria has shown, so far, that he is the type of third baseman that will make coaches and fans drool. For the better part of a decade, third basemen have been a mere shadow of their former selves. Remember when third basemen hit a ton of home runs and flashed some solid leather at the hot corner? Nowadays, third basemen are just utility infielders with no other place to go (i.e. Chone Figgans, Casey Blake, Melvin Mora). Longoria possesses the tools to become an MVP-caliber player.

Runners Up: Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Gonzalez

National League Rookie of the Year: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs

In a time where we have weak-hitting catchers, Soto is a breath of fresh air. A guy who has already become a leader on this heavy-hitting Cubs team, Soto can be the key piece to help lead the Cubbies back to the World Series.

Runners Up: Justin Upton, Cameron Maybin (I will NOT put Fukudome on this list. I don't buy the hype)

American League Cy Young Award: Cliff Lee, Cleveland Indians

Lee has been one of the few bright spots to this predictably struggling Cleveland team. Lee's ERA, innings pitched, and strikeouts per nine innings are excellent, especially for the fact that he doesn't throw that entirely hard. But Lee has some stiff competition, so he'll need to keep this up until the end of the year.

Runners Up: Joe Saunders, Justin Duchscherer

National League Cy Young Award: Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati Reds

The surprise phenom in the Josh Hamilton trade, Volquez has been another breath of fresh air to a struggling Central Division Ohio team. The ERA may not stay that low come September, but look for him to receive a nice paycheck from the Reds.

Runners Up: Brandon Webb, Ben Sheets

American League Most Valuable Player: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

This is another taboo subject brought up on both the three and four-letter network. However, Hamilton has been a surprise to baseball fans everywhere (not me, though, because I knew his potential when he was with the Devil Rays). Here's Hamilton's stats: .310 BA, 21 HR and 95 RBI. I can't think of anyone else in the American League with better numbers than that.

Runners Up: Ian Kinsler, Alex Rodriguez

National League Most Valuable Player: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins

This may come as a shock to baseball fans everywhere, but I think Ramirez is an MVP-caliber player. As Rick Morris pointed out last year, his overall stats are the best in baseball. And even though his RBI total is low, remember that he is the leadoff hitter. He helps set the table for Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, Mike Jacobs, etc.

Runners Up: Chase Utley, Lance Berkman

American League Comeback Player of the Year: Cliff Lee, Cleveland Indians

Cliff has had a hell of a season so far, and even if he's unable to keep it up, he should win this prestigious award. If you can recall, Lee was sent back to Triple-A Buffalo last season, and didn't even make the postseason roster. was the one who said that the Indians should designate Cliff for assignment. My crow tastes pretty good right now.

National League Comeback Player of the Year: Fernando Tatis, New York Mets

Who?! Remember the guy who hit two grand slams in the same inning? Yep, that's him. Tatis battled injuries during his stint with the Montreal Expos, and even spent a few years in the minor leagues, desperately trying to make it back to the big show. Well, he's back, and he has made a significant impact on this red-hot New York Mets team since May.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Belfi Makes A Stand

By Paul Belfi

Please click the play button on the media player.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

McCain vs Obama early analysis

By Rick Morris

With the worst electoral landscape for an incumbent party since 1980, Barack Obama enters the lead-up to the fall campaign as a solid favorite -- but not the overwhelming one that he should apparently be at this time. The Real Clear Politics composite poll puts him at a 4.2% lead presently, roughly in line with my gut feeling that he's up about six points nationally. Why isn't the lead bigger right now given the degenerating state of affairs in this country that has been an albatross around the neck of the entire Republican brand?

1. John McCain isn't perceived as a typical Republican or a clone of George W. Bush -- no matter how much the Democrats push that narrative. It's a cliche, but he does have that maverick image. It's been said by many that he's the only Republican that could have had a chance this year -- I disagree as I still think that Fred Thompson could have been an absolute machine if he had been nominated -- and it's true that his distance from the wildly unpopular present administration works greatly in his favor.

2. Obama is the freshest face to be nominated by a major political party since Jimmy Carter. He has to surmount the suspicions of voters who still don't know him all that well. In many ways, his circumstances are similar to the ones faced by the man who beat Carter, Ronald Reagan, in 1980. With the country suffering greatly, the biases against Reagan because of his age and his (alleged) extremist ideology mattered less than the fact that he projected a take-charge image that people needed. Like Reagan, Obama has to cross that threshold of acceptability with enough people and he will win, perhaps by a solid margin. If not, he could still squeak by or he could lose narrowly.

3. The race issue is cutting into what would be a bigger lead by Obama. Many blacks and whites will, frankly, cast their ballots solely because of race. It's sad but true. It's an absolute disgrace when people choose to vote on this basis as opposed to legitimate issues, but it will happen and the unprecedented turnout and mobilization that will occur in the black community will not make up for the whites who won't vote for Obama because of pigmentation. I do believe that the final results will demonstrate that fears of massive white bigotry working against Obama are way overblown, though.

I would classify this race as Obama's to lose, with McCain having a chance if he were to pull the political equivalent of an inside straight. Everything would have to line up perfectly for him, but if it does, he could certainly win this race.

Presently, RCP has the race projected at 304-234 for Obama in the Electoral College and I would concur with their projections in all of the states right now except I see McCain winning Indiana's 11 electoral votes, so I have the race at 293-245. 538.com, another excellent political source, has Obama up 312.4-225.6. I see the most winnable states for McCain that are presently in Obama's column as follows, in order of likelihood of switching:

1. Ohio (20 electoral votes)
2. Michigan (17)
3. Colorado (9)
4. Pennsylvania (21)

With McCain needing to flip 25 electoral votes from the present map by my calculations, you can see some of his potential combinations shaping up right there. Be mindful that certain scenarios are floating around that would put the candidates at a 269-269 tie, throwing the outcome according to the Constitution to the tender mercies of Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives.

Because Obama opted out of the public financing system for the general election, contrary to his previous promises, our good friend (who is part of our new content-sharing club) Scott Pullins of The Pullins Report broke it down a few weeks ago:

"... campaign finance experts and Democratic fundraisers say a conservative estimate of Obama’s general election fundraising potential hovers around or above $300 million.

Such a massive financial advantage will allow Obama to compete in more states than McCain and force his rival to defend states that should rightfully be Republican wins."

And that's the key to the entire matter. On a state-by-state basis, Obama can flood the ones leaning his way with money and can also pour vast money into ones that McCain is straining to defend. With McCain limited to $84 million and Obama at the helm of a money machine that could approach $500 or $600 million, cash is the single most important reason that Obama is a solid favorite. Republican-oriented 527s look like a paper tiger in this election season, as no credible sources seem to be emerging to fill that money gap in any way.

Both men face tremendous challenges in selecting running mates, with deep but flawed fields of contenders on both sides. Each must balance several competing imperatives.

McCain must check off as many boxes as he can on this list:

^ Acceptable to a base that still views him with suspicion but not easily painted as out-of-the-mainstream (and yes, John, much of the base still despises Mitt Romney!)
^ Someone with their own strong reform credentials (possibly a big-time populist like Alaska Governor Sarah Palin)
^ Someone who is not tied to the Bush Administration in any way (nice knowing you, former Bush trade representative Rob Portman)
^ Someone who is young enough to reassure voters that a vibrant person is waiting offstage if fears about McCain's age and health come to pass (working against a great candidate like Thompson, who would enable the Democrats to tar the ticket as "two old white guys")
^ Someone to balance out McCain's very little executive experience (which hurts Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who has performed many administrative functions but is still relatively new in his job)
^ Someone who can ignite some actual enthusiasm for McCain among Republicans (Mike Huckabee would accomplish this with social conservatives, but he is still viewed with suspicion by many economic conservatives)

Simultaneously, Obama must go down a list of his own:

^ Someone who can placate still-angry Hillary voters (so a woman like Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is right in the mix)
^ Someone who can reassure skeptical voters that Obama is not a left-wing nut job but still in the American mainstream (Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is almost right from Central Casting in terms of this consideration)
^ Someone who can balance Obama's complete lack of executive experience (putting governors like Pennsylvania's Ed Rendell, a key Hillary ally from a critical state, on the short list)

This is a year in which micro considerations like "so and so can help carry this state" will not be a factor -- in order to be selected, a running mate will have to demonstrate an ability to "move the map" in different geographic areas and also demographic categories.

Another "X factor" in the race will be Obama's decision to deliver his Democratic nomination acceptance speech in the Denver Broncos' football stadium rather than at the convention hall. The image of 76,000 passionate Obama supporters delivering multiple standing ovations will be one of the dominant snapshots of the fall campaign.

For all of Obama's experience, he has had an extraordinarily well-run campaign, one that toppled a virtual incumbent in Hillary Clinton. McCain cannot hope to win based on rookie mistakes, because they will not materialize. His only conceivable path to victory lies in convincing enough people in enough close states that Obama's policies would accelerate our nation's present decline and lead us off of a cliff. As someone who is casting my vote purely on that basis, a deep fear of the outcome of Obama's proposed public policies, I am living proof that McCain can find persuadable people. He is extremely unlikely to win the popular vote, which will enrage liberals anew if another Republican president takes office that way, but that is a Constitutionally irrelevant detail. At the moment, McCain needs everything to go right, but he can still pull off the upset. I'd say the odds are 70-30 Obama as of today.

Handicapping the Leno sweepstakes

By Rick Morris

This week's Entertainment Weekly explores the circumstances surrounding the upcoming Jay Leno jockeying among various networks and syndication entities. To recap briefly: in 2004, Leno announced that he would be retiring and handing over "The Tonight Show" in 2009 to Conan O'Brien. Faced with potentially losing O'Brien to a competing network, NBC was more than happy to implement this plan and rumors spread quickly that Leno did not jump, but was pushed. Given that Leno does not plan to completely retire -- he will certainly be maintaining, and perhaps expanding, his schedule of stand-up comedy traveling -- suspicions that Leno plans another high-profile job are well-founded.

By the time this is all said and done, the story will probably rival the circus of the early 1990s, when late-night legend Johnny Carson relinquished the "Tonight" throne. At that time, Carson too was thought to have been at least nudged out the door; Leno's ruthless operative Helen Kushnick (played to devastating effect by Kathy Bates in the awesome movie "The Late Shift," which dramatized the Carson succession process) took it upon herself to try to get Carson out of the way and keep David Letterman from moving up one hour on the schedule at NBC. Having followed the tale in the media as it unfolded at that time and having greatly enjoyed "Shift," I didn't think that late-night TV would ever see another saga quite like that one. But notwithstanding the segmentation that has materialized from an ever-increasing number of cable television channels, the late-night universe apparently remains lucrative enough that big-time TV potentates want somebody they consider to be a legitimate franchise player.

And Leno, despite a comic persona that Entertainment Weekly correctly notes does not cater to television's ever-present desire for the young and the fresh, is perceived by these executives potentially as one of the biggest cash cows in TV even into the future. A battle with Letterman that ensued when "The Late Show" debuted on CBS in 1993 was once close, but is now in the process of being decisively won by Leno for the 13th consecutive year. Leno's farewell tour will begin in earnest in a few months, making a 14th straight victory inevitable. Truly, he will have gone out on top -- and this admission comes from someone who isn't quite in tune with his older sense of humor.

So where does he end up when the succession plan is set to take effect next year? The FDH Lounge handicaps the odds ...

4-1: Staying in the NBC Universal television family. NBC will pull out all the stops to continue utilizing Leno in either a singular role or a multitude of roles across channels. With several cable channels that could benefit from his presence (including USA and Bravo) and NBC potentially dangling a 10 PM talk show that could air on the big network a few nights a week, the possibility of hanging around the present environs in a kind of Tom Brokaw Elder Statesman role could appeal greatly to him. Also, Leno cannot legally entertain any other offers before November 2009 and can't move anywhere until the next year, so any acceptance of another job would have to wait until well after his final program. Hence, unless he accepts an offer to stay put before the farewell tour commences, he will leave under a cloud of uncertainty and intrigue as to what his next move will be -- something that cannot thrill NBC.

6-1: Moving to ABC for a three-way battle with O'Brien and Letterman. ABC came hard after Letterman back in 2002, demonstrating that they would jettison "Nightline" under the right circumstances. They would risk offending their current 12 PM host, Jimmy Kimmel, who they have tried very hard to push as a top late-night entity in his own right, but Kimmel would then become the heir to a potential empire at 11:30 PM if Leno, approaching his 60s, would retire for real in a few years. Smelling blood in the water with NBC losing the reigning ratings king and CBS locked into Letterman until at least 2010, Disney can be expected to push hard to make a deal happen.

8-1: Syndicating a show through Sony or Tribune. Syndication is not looked upon as a very viable option by many in television, owing to the fact that Arsenio Hall's program was eventually outgunned by his network rivals in 1994. If Leno accepts this option, he moves off of most network-affiliated local stations (and therefore moves off most of the highest-rated local stations), but he would own a substantial piece of the pie and could earn the rights to produce other shows. More than almost any other option, it has substantial pros and cons.

10-1: Moving to CBS to take over for Letterman. Dave has had well-known health issues and has stated that he doesn't see himself in the "Late Night" chair for the rest of his life. CBS, operating under the assumption that if you can't beat them, you should ask them to join you, might try to finagle Leno in that chair with or without Letterman's consent to move on peacefully. Such a move, particularly if it were to happen over Letterman's objections, would be particularly ironic -- not merely because Leno beat him out for "Tonight" back in 1991, but because Letterman paved the way for years of ratings defeats at Leno's hands by watering down his act and being less daring at 11:30 as an alleged means of competing with Leno. Given a choice between a legitimate practitioner of middle-aged and older humor (Leno) and someone who cast aside his wild 12:30 humor to try to succeed in a more mainstream time slot (Letterman), CBS may opt for the original and not the imitator.

15-1: Staying at "The Tonight Show." NBC would have to pay O'Brien a $40 million penalty for taking the job back and they'd have to resolve a separate issue of Jimmy Fallon being slated to replace O'Brien at 12:30, but this option is not completely impossible. Five years ago, O'Brien was perceived as the rising star at NBC late-night, but as the time for the switch draws nearer, some executives may be wondering if they should just go ahead and risk the embarrassment of reneging on the changeover. This option is unlikely, but far from impossible.

20-1: Moving to FOX to do a show at 11 PM. The legacy of FOX late-night failures from the early days of the network, from Chevy Chase to Joan Rivers, lives on. The notion of having to follow the late local news a half hour earlier (and competing with other local news programs, a not-inconsiderable variable for Leno's demographic) makes the vast amount of money that Rupert Murdoch could throw something of a non-factor to a man who already has more money than he could ever spend.

30-1: Moving to CNN to take over for Larry King in 2010. Rumors that Leno would inherit King's show have lived on for years, but it's not a great fit. No matter the desperation of CNN executives, Leno could surely earn a bigger check elsewhere, and a show that doesn't leave room for his beloved monologue doesn't seem a great fit for him.

Pullins Report: Phil Gramm needs to drive down Main Street

By Rick Morris

On the heels of running our first syndicated piece through our new Friends of FDH Club, the great Gridiron Evaluations profile of Knowshon Moreno, we bring you thoughts on a more serious and depressing topic: the current state of the economy. This week, one of John McCain's leading economic advisers, former Senator Phil Gramm, really stuck his foot in his mouth when he dismissed the very real economic problems facing this country and the anxieties that people feel about how these issues have affected their own lives. For some reason, Republican leaders (and many so-called conservative activists) always feel compelled to defend the status quo when a Republican occupies the White House, no matter how much said Republican might have spent like a drunken sailor to get us into a bad situation.

But not political analyst Scott Pullins, my longtime friend whose Pullins Report has joined our Friends of FDH Club. This allows us to syndicate, with permission, his rejoinder to Gramm. If only Gramm would take a ride through Flyover Country as Scott suggests, he'd be singing a different tune.

Memo to Senator Gramm: Recession isn't Just in Our Heads
By Scott Pullins
Publisher, The Pullins Report

My friend Tim Russo alerted me to these comments from former Senator Phil Gramm:

“You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession,” he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. “We may have a recession; we haven’t had one yet.”

“We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he said. “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline” despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

Amazing. It's just in our heads.

I live in rural Knox County, Ohio, a Republican stronghold. I can look out my downtown Mount Vernon office window, across the street, and see a beautiful, historic home that sold for a fraction of its value at a Sheriff's auction. It was formerly owned by a local homebuilder and his family who are now facing their own "mental recession".

As I drive home tonight I will see car after car, sitting in yards with for sale signs. The fact that their owners have lost their jobs or can't afford to commute 50 miles each way for a job just over minimum wage must be in their imaginations.

Likewise, the empty, bank owned homes, scattered throughout my planned community, must also be just in our heads. The truckers who are parking their rigs because they can't afford to drive them, just a mirage.

Senator Gramm, come here to Republican Knox County Ohio. You can sleep on my couch. I'll give you a personal tour and you can see for yourself how this war and this economy has bled this community and its people.

Gridiron Evaluations: Knowshon Moreno

By Rick Morris

As we announced yesterday, we are syndicating some new content to The FDH Lounge through relationships in our new Friends of FDH Club. The overwhelming majority of content produced here will continue to come directly from within FDH, but we will be featuring some additional material as well.

The first installment comes from our associates at Gridiron Evaluations. This outstanding site, piloted by our buddy Ken Becks, delivers tremendous insights about college football players and where they will fit into the NFL in future years. When we at FDH speak of "The Scout," there can only be one man we have in mind and that is Ken.

Gridiron Evaluations has a feature on the site under the Gridiron Articles heading that breaks down the game of Knowshon Moreno, one of the most exciting players in the country. If you read the article on the site, you can view compelling videos of this breathtaking athlete. We now reproduce here, with permission, the text of the Moreno profile. Read it, then go check out the videos Ken posted, and you'll see just what a bright future this young man has in front of him.

Player Spotlight: Knowshon Moreno
By Ken Becks
Gridiron Evaluations

Knowshon Moreno

Running Back #24
5-11, 207
Speed: 4.47

Knowshon Moreno did not take long establishing himself as one of the more productive and exciting young runners at the collegiate level. Though he is only a true freshman he runs with a wisdom beyond his years. He runs the ball with an authority as though each carry could be his last. He looks to maximize each and every run.

He displays a passion for the game and leadership skills not normally seen by a player his age. Despite his age he is also one of the emotional leaders on the offensive side of the ball for the Bulldogs. Pumping up his teammates whenever he senses they need it.

He is a decisive runner who makes quick decisions with the ball in his hands. He hits holes at full speed and does so with a physical demeanor. He runs with more authority than his size would indicate. He is especially effective running between the tackles; where he becomes a downhill runner. He is a hard runner to knock off his feet, possessing excellent balance and leverage.

Moreno has the mentality of delivering first blows to defenders instead of absorbing the contact. He has a relentless running style and gives repeated second effort gaining considerable yards after contact (YAC) from defenders. He is a person who has a knack for keeping his legs moving; allowing him to consistently break tackles. He has the knack of leaning forward, finishing off runs after contact; which is a trait most top tier running backs are very effective at.

He reminds me of current NFL running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. They have the same exact running style along with the same body structure and frame; though Knowshon is far ahead of "Cadillac" when it comes to early success.

He shows the ability to hit the corners of defenses equally as effective. Once he reaches the second level of defenses, he is looking to find the shortest distance from A to B which is north and south. He runs the ball as though he lacks patience and looks for immediate gratification. And many times, he finds what he was looking for.

Once he breaks into the open he seems to gain separation on defenders the longer the play goes on. Some question his durability going into the future, with his reckless running style. He has held up well thus far, and even with the number of carries he had last year, his ball security can not be questioned.

He shows an effectiveness catching the ball out of the backfield and knows what to do with it. I would like to see him receive the ball more in the passing game. His production of 12.6 yards per catch seems to lean towards that assumption. Moreno has a running style geared more toward the NFL game. So he has a chance of being more effective as a pro than collegian.