Friday, October 30, 2009

NCAA football picks Week Nine

By Rick Morris

Last week 2-3, 24-25-1 on the season.

Ohio -6 1/2 over Ball State
Ohio State -44 over New Mexico State
Oregon +3 over USC
Georgia +14 1/2 over Florida
Oklahoma State +9 1/2 over Texas

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

FDH Lounge Show #78: October 28, 2009

By Rick Morris

Variety with a capital "V," that's what you always get with THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EST on

After The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries and a look at This Week in The FDH Lounge, we welcome in legal eagle and fellow member of The 21st Century Media Alliance Steve Kallas, whose Sports Plus/Kallas Remarks blog is a must-read for matters of sports, ethics and the law. He'll be helping us dissect the ESPN/Steve Phillips/Deadspin controversy and helping us figure out if any of these moving parts might end up in a court of law. He's also covering the case of the lawsuit involving a boy killed by a ball hit by an aluminum bat. Is this ambulance chasing or a legitimate issue? Opinions may well differ on this point!

At the bottom of Hour One, we will be pleased to speak with one of the greatest pro wrestling managers of all time, Jim Cornette! He's had an outstanding career, from the Midnight Express to the SMW promotion in the '90s to his recent TNA-to-ROH move and he'll be here to talk about all of that and much more!

In Hour Two, our FDH Lounge Pigskin Report examines present developments in college football and the NFL and then Sportsology's Russ Cohen comes on board for our World Series preview.

In Hour Three, THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER breaks down NFL Week 8 and we then bring on KFFL Senior Editor Cory J. Bonini for his thoughts on the fantasy football landscape. We wrap up with THE GOON SQUAD with a look at the present NHL standings, Chris Chelios going to the minor league Chicago Wolves in an attempt to get back to the big time, vintage Hartford Whaler gear now available and implications in a new book that French-Canadian players are being discriminated against in the NHL.

As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

2009 World Series preview

By Rick Morris

While the rest of the country is not very much engaged in a championship tilt or series between any two of the three Northeastern cities of New York, Boston or Philadelphia, it is undeniably compelling anytime that it happens because it is so very rare (indeed, it cannot even happen in the modern NBA or NHL because of the geographic alignment of the conferences). Historic sports cities, fanatical fans ... it's a great atmosphere.

Now, I had forecast an all-SoCal World Series before the LCS began and my overall playoff prediction record is only 2-4 right now, so I'm not going to say that I saw this one coming. For what it is worth, though, I did forecast these two teams to win their LDS series.

Here are a few interesting tidbits before we break it down in earnest:

^ This is the 19th time since the divisional playoffs began in 1969 that a manager with a World Series title (Philly Cholly) has faced a manager who hasn't won one yet. Previous winners are 10-8 in that span, although they are only 1-3 this decade. The good news for Joe Girardi? The last time before this year that a manager was the only one in the Final Four without a World Series title, he captured it that autumn (Ohio University's Bob Brenly in 2001).

^ Both teams can make a real argument for "Team of the Decade" with a win here, especially the Yankees, who would have two World Series titles (bracketing the decade) with two additional pennants.

^ The Phillies are trying to become the first NL team to repeat since the Reds of 1975-76 and the first MLB team since ... well ... the Yankees! Back in 1998-2000, to be exact.

^ With the Knicks-Sixers and Giants-Eagles games this weekend (and those NBA and NHL teams being the ones with the highest percentages of Yankee fans among their fanbase among Gotham franchises), the NY-Philly hatred will be on overdrive.

Now some notes on the matchup itself:

^ At least in recent history, has there ever been a better infield vs. infield matchup in the World Series? Granted, the Phillies' approach to putting together an infield is to find three All-World players and put the equivalent of yours truly at third base, but these are easily the two best such units at the game and both would rate high in the history of the game. Within these infields are great individual matchups, such as Elite Power Hitter (ARod) vs. Elite Power Hitter (Ryan "The Temp" Howard) and two of the best all-around players in the game in ARod and Chase Utley. Neither team has a world-class outfield, but they are either slightly above-average (the Yankees) or above-average (the Phillies, paced by career years from Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth). Overall, both teams are very powerful and with the bandbox parks hosting the games, we are probably in for several slugfests.

^ The AL almost always has a significant World Series advantage in terms of being built for the games where a DH will come into play, but the disparity is magnified this year. While New York can get by without Hideki Matsui in Philly, the Phils will be very wounded by having to insert the slaptastic Ben Francisco in the lineup in the Big Apple.

^ The matchup of Two Aces vs. Two Aces tilts away from Philly, Cole Hamels' big success last October notwithstanding, because he hasn't quite been the same pitcher this year. Cliff Lee has been awesome since the Phillies stole him from the hapless Mark Shapiro, but the Yanks have the edge on paper with the CC/AJ combo. Surprisingly, Sabathia has put his lifelong "big game choke" tendencies behind him this fall and by pitching up to the level of his abilities, he has been the pitcher the team so desperately needed. The Yanks have better depth also. Pedro Martinez in Game Two? Uh, somebody might want to tell that old-timer that this won't be a September game against the Padres!

^ The Philadelphia bullpen has been excellent so far this postseason and it will have to continue to vastly outperform the regular season tallies in order for the team to win. Brad Lidge in particular may well be the key player in the series. New York, meanwhile, has won despite surprisingly mediocre setup pitching in this postseason. They cannot win the series with more of the same.

^ This is ARod's first World Series appearance. It's notable that some of the most dominant hitters of this generation haven't been on this stage that much (i.e. Barry Bonds in 2002 and Albert Pujols in 2004 and 2006).

^ The Yankees still have some pieces remaining from their championship core of 1996-2003 that won four World Series titles and two additional pennants: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte. It's unusual, but not unprecedented, in the recent history of the game for such a core to return and win a world title over half a decade after the last appearance. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia nucleus of Hamels/Howard/Utley/Jimmy Rollins can make an outstanding case for being regarded as big-time winners on a par with the aforementioned Yankees or the Big Red Machine with a successful title defense.

How will this one end up? Well, it's one of the rare times when we can be sure that the two best teams are meeting for all the marbles, especially with what they surmounted thus far. The Yankees tore up the American League as the season moved along. As Tim Foust and I discussed during a late-season baseball roundtable on THE FDH LOUNGE program, the Yankees spent money last offseason that will surely be very inefficient in a few years (just as it was from 2005-08, repeating the cycle) but is supremely efficient in the short term. Right now, and likely for the next two years or so barring injuries, they are getting their monstrous money's worth. Meanwhile, the Phillies have been a machine over the past two offseasons and arguably could be going for a three-peat had they not run into the Colorado buzzsaw in that lethal October of '07. Philadelphia just keeps coming at the other team, finding ways to beat them and being led by their awesome stars. In this matchup, though, with a bench that is inferior to New York's, a bullpen that cannot yet be assumed to be solid once again and a rotation that seems marginally less effective on paper, the champs have their toughest battle yet. I have loathed the pinstripes my entire life, so this one hurts and I dearly hope I am wrong. Yankees in 6.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stratfor: The US Challenge in Afghanistan

By Rick Morris

The great geopolitical website Stratfor sometimes posts content that can be syndicated by any website willing to give attribution to it. We're glad and grateful to reprint some of their great columns here; we have before and we probably will again. This one illuminates the difficult choices currently facing the United States in the Afghan war.

The U.S. Challenge in Afghanistan

By George Friedman and Reva Bhalla

The decision over whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan may wait until the contested Afghan election is resolved, U.S. officials said Oct. 18. The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is approaching a decision on the war in Afghanistan. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama argued that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, but Afghanistan was a necessary war. His reasoning went that the threat to the United States came from al Qaeda, Afghanistan had been al Qaeda's sanctuary, and if the United States were to abandon Afghanistan, al Qaeda would re-establish itself and once again threaten the U.S. homeland. Withdrawal from Afghanistan would hence be dangerous, and prosecution of the war was therefore necessary.

After Obama took office, it became necessary to define a war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan. The most likely model was based on the one used in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, now head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility covers both Afghanistan and Iraq. Paradoxically, the tactical and strategic framework for fighting the so-called "right war" derived from U.S. military successes in executing the so-called "wrong war." But grand strategy, or selecting the right wars to fight, and war strategy, or how to fight the right wars, are not necessarily linked.

Afghanistan, Iraq and the McChrystal Plan

Making sense of the arguments over Afghanistan requires an understanding of how the Iraq war is read by the strategists fighting it, since a great deal of proposed Afghan strategy involves transferring lessons learned from Iraq. Those strategists see the Iraq war as having had three phases. The first was the short conventional war that saw the defeat of Saddam Hussein's military. The second was the period from 2003-2006 during which the United States faced a Sunni insurgency and resistance from the Shiite population, as well as a civil war between those two communities. During this phase, the United States sought to destroy the insurgency primarily by military means while simultaneously working to scrape a national unity government together and hold elections. The third phase, which began in late 2006, was primarily a political phase. It consisted of enticing Iraqi Sunni leaders to desert the foreign jihadists in Iraq, splitting the Shiite community among its various factions, and reaching political -- and financial -- accommodations among the various factions. Military operations focused on supporting political processes, such as pressuring recalcitrant factions and protecting those who aligned with the United States. The troop increase -- aka the surge -- was designed to facilitate this strategy. Even more, it was meant to convince Iraqi factions (not to mention Iran) that the United States was not going to pull out of Iraq, and that therefore a continuing American presence would back up guarantees made to Iraqis.

It is important to understand this last bit and its effect on Afghanistan. As in Iraq, the idea that the United States will not abandon local allies by withdrawing until Afghan security forces could guarantee the allies' security lies at the heart of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, e.g., before local allies' security could be guaranteed, would undermine U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. To a great extent, the process of U.S. security guarantees in Afghanistan depends on the credibility of those guarantees: Withdrawal from Iraq followed by retribution against U.S. allies in Iraq would undermine the core of the Afghan strategy.

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy in Afghanistan ultimately is built around the principle that the United States and its NATO allies are capable of protecting Afghans prepared to cooperate with Western forces. This explains why the heart of McChrystal's strategy involves putting U.S. troops as close to the Afghan people as possible. Doing so will entail closing many smaller bases in remote valleys -- like the isolated outpost recently attacked in Nuristan province -- and opening bases in more densely populated areas.

McChrystal's strategy therefore has three basic phases. In phase one, his forces would fight their way into regions where a large portion of the population lives and where the Taliban currently operates, namely Kabul, Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The United States would assume a strategic defensive posture in these populated areas. Because these areas are essential to the Taliban, phase two would see a Taliban counterattack in a bid to drive McChrystal's forces out, or at least to demonstrate that the U.S. forces cannot provide security for the local population. Paralleling the first two phases, phase three would see McChrystal using his military successes to forge alliances with indigenous leaders and their followers.

It should be noted that while McChrystal's traditional counterinsurgency strategy would be employed in populated areas, U.S. forces would also rely on traditional counterterrorism tactics in more remote areas where the Taliban have a heavy presence and can be pursued through drone strikes. The hope is that down the road, the strategy would allow the United States to use its military successes to fracture the Taliban, thereby encouraging defections and facilitating political reconciliation with Taliban elements driven more by political power than ideology.

There is a fundamental difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, however. In Iraq, resistance forces rarely operated in sufficient concentrations to block access to the population. By contrast, the Taliban on several occasions have struck with concentrations of forces numbering in the hundreds, essentially at company-size strength. If Iraq was a level one conflict, with irregular forces generally refusing conventional engagement with coalition forces, Afghanistan is beginning to bridge the gap from a level one to a level two conflict, with the Taliban holding territory with forces both able to provide conventional resistance and to mount some offensives at the company level (and perhaps at the battalion level in the future). This means that occupying, securing and defending areas such that the inhabitants see the coalition forces as defenders rather than as magnets for conflict is the key challenge.

Adding to the challenge, elements of McChrystal's strategy are in tension. First, local inhabitants will experience multilevel conflict as coalition forces move into a given region. Second, McChrystal is hoping that the Taliban goes on the offensive in response. And this means that the first and second steps will collide with the third, which is demonstrating to locals that the presence of coalition forces makes them more secure as conflict increases (which McChrystal acknowledges will happen). To convince locals that Western forces enhance their security, the coalition will thus have to be stunningly successful both at defeating Taliban defenders when they first move in and in repulsing subsequent Taliban attacks.

In its conflict with the Taliban, the coalition's main advantage is firepower, both in terms of artillery and airpower. The Taliban must concentrate its forces to attack the coalition; to counter such attacks, the weapons of choice are airstrikes and artillery. The problem with both of these weapons is first, a certain degree of inaccuracy is built into their use, and second, the attackers will be moving through population centers (the area held by both sides is important precisely because it has population). This means that air- and ground-fire missions, both important in a defensive strategy, run counter to the doctrine of protecting population.

McChrystal is fully aware of this dilemma, and he has therefore changed the rules of engagement to sharply curtail airstrikes in areas of concentrated population, even in areas where U.S. troops are in danger of being overrun. As McChrystal said in a recent interview, these rules of engagement will hold "Even if it means we are going to step away from a firefight and fight them another day."

This strategy poses two main challenges. First, it shifts the burden of the fighting onto U.S. infantry forces. Second, by declining combat in populated areas, the strategy runs the risk of making the populated areas where political arrangements might already be in place more vulnerable. In avoiding air and missile strikes, McChrystal avoids alienating the population through civilian casualties. But by declining combat, McChrystal risks alienating populations subject to Taliban offensives. Simply put, while airstrikes can devastate a civilian population, avoiding airstrikes could also devastate Western efforts, as local populations could see declining combat as a betrayal. McChrystal is thus stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this one.

One of his efforts at a solution has been to ask for more troops. The point of these troops is not to occupy Afghanistan and impose a new reality through military force, which is impossible (especially given the limited number of troops the United States is willing to dedicate to the problem). Instead, it is to provide infantry forces not only to hold larger areas, but to serve as reinforcements during Taliban attacks so the use of airpower can be avoided. Putting the onus of this counterinsurgency on the infantry, and having the infantry operate without airpower, is a radical departure from U.S. fighting doctrine since World War II.

Seismic Shift in War Doctrine

Geopolitically, the United States fights at the end of a long supply line. Moreover, U.S. forces operate at a demographic disadvantage. Once in Eurasia, U.S. forces are always outnumbered. Infantry-on-infantry warfare is attritional, and the United States runs out of troops before the other side does. Infantry warfare does not provide the United States any advantage, and in fact, it places the United States at a disadvantage. Opponents of the United States thus have larger numbers of fighters; greater familiarity and acclimation to the terrain; and typically, better intelligence from countrymen behind U.S. lines. The U.S. counter always has been force multipliers -- normally artillery and airpower -- capable of destroying enemy concentrations before they close with U.S. troops. McChrystal's strategy, if applied rigorously, shifts doctrine toward infantry-on-infantry combat. His plan assumes that superior U.S. training will be the force multiplier in Afghanistan (as it may). But that assumes that the Taliban, a light infantry force with numerous battle-hardened formations optimized for fighting in Afghanistan, is an inferior infantry force. And it assumes that U.S. infantry fighting larger concentrations of Taliban forces will consistently defeat them.

Obviously, if McChrystal drives the Taliban out of secured areas and into uninhabited areas, the United States will have a tremendous opportunity to engage in strategic bombardment both against Taliban militants themselves and against supply lines no longer plugged into populated areas. But this assumes that the Taliban would not reduce its operations from company-level and higher assaults down to guerrilla-level operations in response to being driven out of population centers. If the Taliban did make such a reduction, it would become indistinguishable from the population. This would allow it to engage in attritional warfare against coalition forces and against the protected population to demonstrate that coalition forces can't protect them. The Taliban already has demonstrated the ability to thrive in both populated and rural areas of Afghanistan, where the terrain favors the insurgent far more than the counterinsurgent.

The strategy of training Afghan soldiers and police to take up the battle and persuading insurgents to change sides faces several realities. The Taliban has an excellent intelligence service built up during the period of its rule and afterward, allowing it to populate the new security forces with its agents and loyalists. And while persuading insurgents to change sides certainly can happen, whether it can happen to the extent of leaving the Taliban materially weakened remains in doubt. In Iraq, this happened not because of individual changes, but because regional ethnic leadership -- with their own excellent intelligence capabilities -- changed sides and drove out opposing factions. Individual defections were frequently liquidated.

But Taliban leaders have not shown any inclination for changing sides. They do not believe the United States is in Afghanistan to stay. Getting individual Taliban militants to change sides creates an intelligence-security battle. But McChrystal is betting that his forces will form bonds with the local population so deep that the locals will provide intelligence against Taliban forces operating in the region. The coalition must thus demonstrate that the risks of defection are dwarfed by the advantages. To do this, the coalition security and counterintelligence must consistently and effectively block the Taliban's ability to identify, locate and liquidate defectors. If McChrystal cannot do that, large-scale defection will be impossible, because well before such defection becomes large scale, the first defectors will be dead, as will anyone seen by the Taliban as a collaborator.

Ultimately, the entire strategy depends on how you read Iraq. In Iraq, a political decision was made by an intact Sunni leadership able to enforce its will among its followers. Squeezed between the foreign jihadists who wanted to usurp their position and the Shia, provided with political and financial incentives, and possessing their own forces able to provide a degree of security themselves, the Sunni leadership came to the see the Americans as the lesser evil. They controlled a critical mass, and they shifted. McChrystal has made it clear that the defections he expects are not a Taliban faction whose leadership decides to shift, but Taliban soldiers as individuals or small groups. That isn't ultimately what turned the Iraq war but something very different -- and quite elusive in counterinsurgency. He is looking for retail defections to turn into a strategic event.

Moreover, it seems much too early to speak of the successful strategy in Iraq. First, there is increasing intracommunal violence in anticipation of coming elections early next year. Second, some 120,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq to guarantee the political and security agreements of 2007-2008, and it is far from clear what would happen if those troops left. Finally, where in Afghanistan there is the Pakistan question, in Iraq there remains the Iran question. Instability thus becomes a cross-border issue beyond the scope of existing forces.

The Pakistan situation is particularly problematic. If the strategic objective of the war in Afghanistan is to cut the legs out from under al Qaeda and deny these foreign jihadists sanctuary, then what of the sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal belt where high-value al Qaeda targets are believed to be located? Pakistan is fighting its share of jihadists according to its own rules; the United States cannot realistically expect Islamabad to fulfill its end of the bargain in containing al Qaeda. The primary U.S. targets in this war are on the wrong side of the border, and in areas where U.S. forces are not free to operate. The American interest in Afghanistan is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent the emergence of follow-on jihadist forces. The problem is that regardless of how secure Afghanistan is, jihadist forces can (to varying degrees) train and plan in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia -- or even Cleveland for that matter. Securing Afghanistan is thus not necessarily a precondition for defeating al Qaeda.

Iraq is used as the argument in favor of the new strategy in Afghanistan. What happened in Iraq was that a situation that was completely out of hand became substantially less unstable because of a set of political accommodations initially rejected by the Americans and the Sunnis from 2003-2006. Once accepted, a disastrous situation became an unstable situation with many unknowns still in place.

If the goal of Afghanistan is to forge the kind of tenuous political accords that govern Iraq, the factional conflicts that tore Iraq apart are needed. Afghanistan certainly has factional conflicts, but the Taliban, the main adversary, does not seem to be torn by them. It is possible that under sufficient pressure such splits might occur, but the Taliban has been a cohesive force for a generation. When it has experienced divisions, it hasn't split decisively.

On the other hand, it is not clear that Western forces in Afghanistan can sustain long-term infantry conflict in which the offensive is deliberately ceded to a capable enemy and where airpower's use is severely circumscribed to avoid civilian casualties, overturning half a century of military doctrine of combined arms operations.

The Bigger Picture

The best argument for fighting in Afghanistan is powerful and similar to the one for fighting in Iraq: credibility. The abandonment of either country will create a powerful tool in the Islamic world for jihadists to argue that the United States is a weak power. Withdrawal from either place without a degree of political success could destabilize other regimes that cooperate with the United States. Given that, staying in either country has little to do with strategy and everything to do with the perception of simply being there.

The best argument against fighting in either country is equally persuasive. The jihadists are right: The United States has neither the interest nor forces for long-term engagements in these countries. American interests go far beyond the Islamic world, and there are many present (to say nothing of future) threats from outside the region that require forces. Overcommitment in any one area of interest at the expense of others could be even more disastrous than the consequences of withdrawal.

In our view, Obama's decision depends not on choosing between McChrystal's strategy and others, but on a careful consideration of how to manage the consequences of withdrawal. An excellent case can be made that now is not the time to leave Afghanistan, and we expect Obama to be influenced by that thinking far more than by the details of McChrystal's strategy. As McChrystal himself points out, there are many unknowns and many risks in his own strategy; he is guaranteeing nothing.

Reducing American national strategy to the Islamic world, or worse, Afghanistan, is the greater threat. Nations find their balance, and the heavy pressures on Obama in this decision basically represent those impersonal forces battering him. The question he must ask himself is simple: In what way is the future of Afghanistan of importance to the United States? The answer that securing it will hobble al Qaeda is simply wrong. U.S. Afghan policy will not stop a global terrorist organization; terrorists will just go elsewhere. The answer that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is important in shaping the Islamic world's sense of American power is better, but even that must be taken in context of other global interests.

Obama does not want this to be his war. He does not want to be remembered for Afghanistan the way George W. Bush is remembered for Iraq or Lyndon Johnson is for Vietnam. Right now, we suspect Obama plans to demonstrate commitment, and to disengage at a more politically opportune time. Johnson and Bush showed that disengagement after commitment is nice in theory. For our part, we do not think there is an effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan, but that McChrystal has proposed a good one for "hold until relieved." We suspect that Obama will hold to show that he gave the strategy a chance, but that the decision to leave won't be too far off.

NFL picks Week 7

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. Each week, we will single out our three strongest plays. NOTE: We did not have Ryan Isley’s picks last week, but he honestly assures us they were 0-3!

STEVE CIRVELLO (2-1 last week, 12-6 overall)
Indianapolis -14 over St. Louis
NY Giants -7 over Arizona
Carolina -7 over Buffalo

RICK MORRIS (1-2 last week, 0-1 with my best pick, 10-8 overall, 3-3 on best picks)
Pittsburgh -6 over Minnesota (my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for this week)
Atlanta +4 over Dallas
San Diego -5 ½ over Kansas City

SEAN TRENCH (1-2 last week, 10-8 overall)
Houston -3 over San Francisco
Carolina -7 over Buffalo
Chicago +1 over Cincinnati

DAVE ADAMS (1-2 last week, 8-10 overall, 4-10 last week and 47-43 overall in the ESPN Pigskin PickEm contest as The Swami under Here, Piggy Piggy)
New England -15 over Tampa Bay
NY Giants -7 over Arizona
Indianapolis -14 over St. Louis

RYAN ISLEY (0-3 last week, 8-10 overall)
Indianapolis -14 over St. Louis
Minnesota +6 over Pittsburgh
San Diego -5 ½ over Kansas City

My remaining picks (7-7 last week, 45-43 overall)
Indianapolis -14 over St. Louis
Chicago +1 over Cincinnati
Green Bay -9 over Cleveland
New England -15 over Tampa Bay
Houston -3 over San Francisco
Oakland +6 over NY Jets
Carolina -7 over Buffalo
Miami +6 ½ over New Orleans
Arizona +7 over NY Giants
Philadelphia -7 over Washington

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLII

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NCAA football picks Week Eight

By Rick Morris

Last week 2-2-1, 22-22-1 on the season.

Ohio State -16 over Minnesota
Kent State +10 over Ohio
Notre Dame -7 1/2 over Boston College
Michigan +4 1/2 over Penn State
Michigan State -1 1/2 over Iowa

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FDH Lounge Show #78: October 21, 2009

By Rick Morris

SECOND EDIT: Technical issues for anybody tuning in and not finding us tonight. We apologize greatly and will hopefully reschedule everyone soon. So hopefully everything below applies to shows in the near future!

EDIT: Some last-minute reordering is taking place here, updated from when this was posted earlier today.

If any celebrity were endorsing the 78th edition of THE FDH LOUNGE on (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EST), it would have to be Eric Cartman saying, “Respect our VA-RIE-AH-TIE!”

After The Opening Statements of The Dignitaries of The FDH Lounge and a look at This Week in The FDH Lounge, we lead off with another edition of The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report, examining the latest headlines in the pro and college games. From there, we welcome the chance to speak with Pat O’Conner, President of Minor League Baseball as he talks about continuing developments with the national pastime’s representation at the grass roots level.

Right at the top of Hour Two, we start our FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER early as we go over with you in depth all that you can gain from FANTASY HOOPS DRAFTOLOGY 2009, our brand-new guide available now for free download. Additionally, we’ll touch on an excellent article in The Hockey News about fantasy hockey and the plus-minus rating -- and how it ties into one of our core philosophies about regression/progression to the mean.

At the bottom of the hour, we are pleased to welcome one of the most versatile actor and voiceover talents in Hollywood over the past few decades. Curtis Armstrong has been able to take part in big TV productions (Moonlighting, American Dad and Boston Legal to name just a few) and big movies (Risky Business, Dodgeball, Van Wilder and of course the legendary “Booger” in the Revenge of the Nerds series just to name a few) and thus, he has a set of perspectives like few in the business. We’re very happy to talk to him about them.

We return to the FANTASY INSIDER to break down NFL Week 7 and we then bring on KFFL Senior Editor Cory J. Bonini for his thoughts on the fantasy football landscape. We wrap up one half hour early tonight to make way for a very special edition of TOTAL EXTREME LIVE on the Network. The reason? Our friend Chris Rickles, CEO of Total eXtreme, will be interviewing the one and only Robert Englund, just in time for Halloween!

As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

NFL Week Six power rankings

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Last week's ratings in parentheses.

1 New Orleans (2)
2 Indianapolis (4)
3 Minnesota (3)
4 NY Giants (1)
5 Denver (6)

6 New England (11)
7 Atlanta (5)
8 Pittsburgh (10)
9 Baltimore (9)
10 Chicago (14)
11 Cincinnati (8)
12 Green Bay (16)
13 San Francisco (13)
14 Philadelphia (7)
15 San Diego (15)
16 Miami (17)
17 NY Jets (12)

18 Dallas (18)
19 Arizona (19)
20 Houston (21)
21 Seattle (20)
22 Carolina (24)
23 Jacksonville (23)

24 Washington (22)
25 Detroit (25)
26 Tennessee (26)
27 Cleveland (27)
28 Buffalo (28)
29 Oakland (31)
30 Kansas City (29)
31 Tampa Bay (30)
32 St. Louis (32)

BIGGEST RISERS: New England (5 spots), Chicago and Green Bay (4 spots)

BIGGEST FALLERS: NY Giants (3 spots), Philadelphia (7 spots)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

NFL picks Week Six

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. Each week, we will single out our three strongest plays. NOTE: We will post Ryan Isley’s picks subsequently.

STEVE CIRVELLO (2-1 last week, 10-5 overall)
Philadelphia -14 over Oakland
Houston +5 over Cincinnati
New England -9 over Tennessee

RICK MORRIS (2-1 last week, 1-0 with my best pick, 9-6 overall, 3-2 on best picks)
NY Jets -9 ½ over Buffalo (my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millenium for this week)
San Diego -3 ½ over Denver
Baltimore +3 over Minnesota

SEAN TRENCH (2-1 last week, 9-6 overall)
Minnesota -3 over Baltimore
Seattle -3 over Arizona
Carolina -3 over Tampa Bay

RYAN ISLEY (2-1 last week, 8-7 overall)

DAVE ADAMS (1-2 last week, 7-8 overall, 6-8 last week and 43-33 overall in the ESPN Pigskin PickEm contest as The Swami under Here, Piggy Piggy)
Tennessee +9 over New England
Denver +3 ½ over San Diego
NY Giants +3 over New Orleans

My remaining picks (7-7 last week, 38-36 overall)
Kansas City +6 over Washington
Houston +5 over Cincinnati
Pittsburgh -14 over Cleveland
St. Louis +9 ½ over Jacksonville
New Orleans -3 over NY Giants
Carolina -3 over Tampa Bay
Detroit +14 over Green Bay
Philadelphia -14 over Oakland
Arizona +3 over Seattle
Tennessee +9 over New England
Atlanta -3 over Chicago

Saturday, October 17, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLI

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

NCAA football picks Week Seven

By Rick Morris

Last week 4-1, 20-20 on the season (surging after a 7-13 start!).

This week:

Oklahoma +3 over Texas
Purdue +14 over Ohio State
Wisconsin -2 1/2 over Iowa
Miami (OH) +14 over Ohio
Notre Dame +10 over USC

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

FDH Lounge Show #77: October 14, 2009

By Rick Morris

We’ve got another absolutely amazing edition of THE FDH LOUNGE on (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT) with Episode #77. Check out the first hour alone!

After The Opening Statements of The Dignitaries of The FDH Lounge and a look at This Week in The FDH Lounge, we lead off with famed WWF/AWA/NWA/WCW ring announcer Gary Michael Capetta, a man who has introduced a veritable Who’s Who in the industry. His book Bodyslams! Memoirs of a Wrestling Pitchman is a wonderful look at the business and we’ll talk about the changes he saw from the mid ‘70s to the mid ‘90s.

And then … we bring in one of our most famous guests ever, the one and only Tommy Lasorda! He’ll talk about the baseball playoffs in progress, especially the last round and next round involving his beloved LA Dodgers. It’s no surprise that Tommy would be progressive enough to come onto our Internet TV show; he’s knee-deep in the world of New Media himself! Check out Tommy’s Twitter account and Tommy Lasorda’s World MLBlog.

We won’t even wait to catch our breath in Hour Two as we head right into a Dignitary roundtable about the Rush Limbaugh/Al Sharpton/NFL ownership controversy and then another installment of The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report, focusing on both the college and pro games. From there, an early start to THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER gets underway with a look at our 2009-10 hoops mock draft – which sets us up nicely for the release this weekend of our FANTASY HOOPS DRAFTOLOGY 2009 guide. We then break down NFL Week 6 and we then bring on KFFL Senior Editor Cory J. Bonini for his thoughts on the fantasy football landscape.

Our final half hour as always is taken up by THE GOON SQUAD as we examine the NHL standings, panic in Toronto over an unthinkably slow start and more panic in Chicago as there are mass freak-outs ensuing at the thought that Cristobal Huet could keep the team out of the Finals.

It’s going to be a great program and we hope you can be a part of our audience. As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!


By Rick Morris

By definition, no fewer than 12 games must be played in all of the MLB Division Series collectively. Only 13 were played in the round that just concluded, as three of the four series were sweeps and the other one went four games – and yet, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that more drama could have been jammed into those relatively few contests:

^ Seemingly impregnable closers Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Ryan Franklin and Huston Street all bit the dust at the worst times possible. And after a horrific season, Brad Lidge was “The Man” once again!

^ Alex Rodriguez (or was it Vladmir Guerrero? or CC Sabathia?) and Manny Ramirez seemingly had a “body-snatchers thing” going on in terms of their October production.

^ The Phillies avenged their unlikely playoff sweep of 2007, while the inspired Angels overwhelmed the Red Sox to get the large Beantown monkey off their backs.

^ Controversy will drag well into the winter as a result of the “phantom ground-rule double” from Twins Yankees Game Two, as well as the controversial safe-at-first ruling on Chase Utley late in Game Four.

^ Already a participant in one of the “plays of the decade” (the did-he-or-didn’t-he touch of home plate to wrap up the epic ’07 wild card play-in game), one of the great sluggers of this generation became a big goat on another big play when Matt Holliday lost a ball in the lights/waving white towels and allowed the Dodgers to come back and take the decisive Game Two.

Now that the Angels have advanced to the ALCS, baseball continues a 19-year drought since the last time that four truly “old-school” franchises made it to the league finals (stipulating that the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins do not count in this regard since those franchises moved to different cities AND assumed different identities – to differentiate them from such teams as the Oakland As and Atlanta Braves). In 1990, the Reds and Pirates squared off in the National League, with the Red Sox and As battling in the Junior Circuit. Also in terms of history, this is the first time since 2001 that neither wild card team advanced to the LCS -- and it's also the first time since 2001 that three of the four teams are managed by skippers with World Series rings. But good news, Joe Girardi, Ohio University's own Bob Brenly was the only one of those four without a title in '01 and he proceeded to win one then!

With the leading candidate for “Team of the Decade” now out of the way in the form of Boston, three candidates remain – and not coincidentally, the Yankees, Phillies and Angels are among the grittiest teams in baseball. Epic League Championship Series seem to await.

ANGELS vs. YANKEES: It’s not on par with Boston’s mastery over the Angels this decade (or also, depending on how you look at the timeframe, stretching back to the 1986 ALCS meltdown), but the Angels have given the Yankees fits this decade, bouncing them in the 2002 and 2005 ALDS. They remain a problematic matchup this year with their ability to run most of the way through the order and Jorge Posada’s difficulties contending with that aspect of the game. The Angels’ starting pitching is also kind of a collective cipher: some years the young arms live up to the billing (Ervin Santana last year, Jered Weaver this year) and some years they don’t. Most of the time, John Lackey looks like one of the best hurlers in baseball, but he’s never had the one breakout year to reach true superstardom. LA is probably a bit deeper in terms of starting pitching production regardless, although the Yankees have been substantially better as advertised this year. The Hughes-Rivera combo at the back end of the bullpen makes the Yanks extremely hard to beat if they have a late lead. Neither team has yet been hampered by offensive issues that might have reared their heads this year (slaptastic production at third base for the Angels, age at key spots in the lineup for the Yankees), so they probably will not come into play in this round. In short, the teams appear evenly matched and a great series should ensue. While I picked the Yankees to make the World Series prior to the last round based on a favorable matchup with Boston, I have to reverse that pick now. The Angels proved against Boston that they truly have reached another gear with the motivation to play for their fallen comrade Nick Adenhart and in an otherwise too-close-to-call series, I see that factor as the tiebreaker. ANGELS in 6.

PHILLIES vs. DODGERS: Just like in 1977-78, we have a rematch of these two teams for the National League Championship. The Dodgers swept that pair and now will try to keep the trend alive in this decade of teams winning the following season’s LCS matchup (following the Astros over the Cardinals in ’05 and the Red Sox over the Yankees in ’04). Late in the season and in the unlikely sweep of St. Louis (avenging 1985 and 2004 playoff losses to the only team that has rivaled them for NL dominance over the decades), the Dodgers finally looked like the team that blew through the National League like greasy nachos through a digestive system early in the year. They have some interesting opposite strengths, as the Phillies are powered by their awesome infield and the Dodgers by their supersonic outfield (although career years by Philadelphia outfielders Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth give the East Coasters a collective edge). Additionally, the teams are polar opposites in the bullpen as Brad Lidge can be unhittable if he’s on (which he may well be again), but can also be very shaky – matching his setup men, while the Dodgers have the game’s best bullpen and can protect a lead after six innings like nobody else. In terms of the starting rotation, Philly has a big edge on paper with the Cole Hamels/Cliff Lee 1-2 punch, the prototype for postseason success (think Curt Schilling/Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling/Pedro Martinez or other tandems of recent vintage). But Hamels has had an off-year by his standards and the Dodgers have an ace-in-the-making who had a heck of a 2009 in his limited starts at the big league level in Clayton Kershaw. It’s not completely unprecedented for a youngster of this caliber to essentially “turn the clock ahead” in the postseason and temporarily become the pitcher he’s going to be – think Josh Beckett in 2003 – and he can lead the team’s above-average rotation successfully, LA can take this series and possibly even the big one. With Manny Ramirez overdue to break out, look for the Dodgers to avenge last year’s loss at this level, move into an all-SoCal World Series and give manager Joe Torre a chance to avenge his aforementioned 2002 and 2005 playoff defeats to the Angels. PHILLIES in 6.


NFL Week Six Power Rankings

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Last week's ratings in parentheses.

1 NY Giants (1)
2 New Orleans (3)
3 Minnesota (4)
4 Indianapolis (2)

5 Atlanta (10)
6 Denver (11)
7 Philadelphia (8)
8 Cincinnati (13)
9 Baltimore (6)
10 Pittsburgh (12)
11 New England (5)
12 NY Jets (7)
13 San Francisco (9)
14 Chicago (14)
15 San Diego (16)

16 Green Bay (17)
17 Miami (20)
18 Dallas (15)
19 Arizona (18)
20 Seattle (23)
21 Houston (19)
22 Washington (24)
23 Jacksonville (22)

24 Carolina (26)
25 Detroit (27)
26 Tennessee (25)

27 Cleveland (32)
28 Buffalo (21)
29 Kansas City (30)
30 Tampa Bay (28)
31 Oakland (29)
32 St. Louis (31)

The end to the epic Office wedding episode

By Rick Morris

For any huge fans of NBC's THE OFFICE like myself, last week's big wedding episode was going to be must-see TV at its finest.

Jim and Pam chose to elope at Niagara Falls, but were followed by their friends, family -- and office-mates once Michael gave them two days off as what was apparently his final decision as sole boss of the domain. Much chaos predictably ensued, as Jim accidentally revealed Pam's pregnancy at the rehearsal dinner, Andy shredded his scrotum by falling on his keys after doing the splits in an ill-advised dance move and everyone else pretty much acted like idiots.

Jim and Pam disappeared from the church just prior to the ceremony, then came back together and were very late for the start of the ceremony. This video, which closed the episode, splices together where Jim and Pam went (and what they did) and the wedding service at the church, hijacked by The Office gang and Jim's brothers. In short, the wedding went down as only an Office wedding could. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

NFL picks Week Five

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. Each week, we will single out our three strongest plays.

STEVE CIRVELLO (3-0 last week, 8-4 overall)
NY Jets -2 over Miami
NY Giants -15 1/2 over Oakland
Philadelphia -15 1/2 over Tampa Bay

RICK MORRIS (1-2 last week, 0-1 with my best pick, 7-5 overall, 2-2 on best picks)
Indianapolis -3 1/2 over Jacksonville (my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millenium for this week)
Pittsburgh -10 1/2 over Detroit
Minnesota -10 1/2 over St. Louis

SEAN TRENCH (1-2 last week, 7-5 overall)
Cincinnati +8 1/2 over Baltimore
Detroit +10 1/2 over Pittsburgh
Houston +5 1/2 over Arizona

DAVE ADAMS (1-2 last week, 6-6 overall, 7-7 last week and 37-25 overall in the ESPN Pigskin PickEm contest as The Swami under Here, Piggy Piggy)
New England -3 over Denver
Indianapolis -3 1/2 over Jacksonville
NY Jets -2 over Miami

RYAN ISLEY (0-3 last week, 6-6 overall)
Minnesota -10 1/2 over St. Louis
Indianapolis -3 1/2 over Jacksonville
NY Jets -2 over Miami

My remaining picks (7-5 last week, 30-28 overall)
New England -3 over Denver
NY Jets -2 over Miami
Oakland +15 1/2 over NY Giants
Philadelphia -15 1/2 over Tampa Bay
Kansas City +7 1/2 over Dallas
Carolina -4 1/2 over Washington
Cleveland +6 over Buffalo
Baltimore -8 1/2 over Cincinnati
Atlanta +2 1/2 over San Francisco
Houston +5 1/2 over Arizona
Seattle -1 1/2 over Jacksonville

Friday, October 9, 2009

NCAA football picks Week Six

By Rick Morris

Last week 4-6, 16-19 on the season.

Akron +3 1/2 over Ohio
Ohio State -16 over Wisconsin
Florida -7 1/2 over LSU
Tennessee -1 over Georgia
Michigan +8 over Iowa

Thursday, October 8, 2009

NFL Week Five power rankings

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Last week's ratings in parentheses.

1 NY Giants (1)
2 Indianapolis (3)
3 New Orleans (2)
4 Minnesota (4)
5 New England (7)
6 Baltimore (5)

7 NY Jets (6)
8 Philadelphia (8)
9 San Francisco (13)
10 Atlanta (9)
11 Denver (17)
12 Pittsburgh (11)
13 Cincinnati (16)
14 Chicago (15)
15 Dallas (12)
16 San Diego (10)

17 Green Bay (14)
18 Arizona (18)
19 Houston (22)
20 Miami (22)
21 Buffalo (20)
22 Jacksonville (24)
23 Seattle (23)
24 Washington (26)
25 Tennessee (23)
26 Carolina (27)

27 Detroit (25)
28 Tampa Bay (28)
29 Oakland (29)
30 Kansas City (31)
31 St. Louis (30)
32 Cleveland (32)

BIGGEST RISERS: Denver (6 spots), San Francisco (4 spots), Cincinnati (3 spots)
BIGGEST FALLERS: San Diego (6 spots), Dallas, Green Bay and Houston (3 spots)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tony's 2009 Postseason MLB Awards

By Tony Mazur

In years past, the awards handed out at the end of the season were pretty clear-cut. Throughout the 1990s, it was always obvious as to who would win the Cy Young Award or the MVP trophy. In 2009, the choices were not so cut-and-dry, which made the season more interesting. Here are my postseason awards for the 2009 season.

AL Cy Young Award: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

This choice may come as a shock, but check his stats. "King Felix" went 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA for a much improved Mariner team. While Zack Greinke has looked dominant most of the year, Hernandez has made even the best teams look silly. He may be the most underrated pitcher in the game today.

Runner-Up: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals

NL Cy Young Award: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

This will be up for debate for years to come, but Wainwright, in my humble opinion, should win the award. Unlike teammate Chris Carpenter, Wainwright has stayed healthy all year, and has provided the stability the Cardinals needed, especially in the second half, as they trounced the Cubs significantly. Also, a .263 ERA with 19-8 record doesn't look to bad, either.

Runner-Up: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants

AL MVP: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

For the majority of the season, I was pretty sure the award would have gone to the Yankees' Mark Teixeira. But Mauer is indeed the Most Valuable Player. Aside from Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, and, for one year, Todd Hundley, catchers aren't known for their bat. Mauer has won his third batting title in four years, a feat even Ichiro hasn't accomplished. Mauer also hit 28 home runs, more than doubling his previous record of 13 set in 2006.

Runner-Up: Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

Is there any doubt? Pujols led the league in home runs with 47, and ranked near the top of every other offensive category. He also covers a lot of ground at first base, similar to former Cardinal first baseman Keith Hernandez. Pujols just might be one of the greatest right-handed hitters to have ever played the game.

Runner-Up: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers

AL Rookie of the Year: Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox

This was a very tough choice, but I chose Beckham because of his style of play. Beckham was one of the few bright spots to a mediocre White Sox club. One can make a case for Elvis Andrus, Rick Porcello, and Nolan Reimold, which would also be understandable. In my opinion, this one is a toss-up.

Runner-Up: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

NL Rookie of the Year: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

Yes, the Pirates are certainly not a model organization, but I loved the performance from McCutchen. He has the skills to become a five-tool player in the near-future, even if the Bucs trade him for more prospects. What sets him apart from the rest is his speed. McCutchen stole 22 bases in 108 games, and pounded out 9 triples. He reminds me of Marquis Grissom in his Montreal days.

Runner-Up: Chris Coghlin, Florida Marlins

AL Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Angels have been a favorite in the baseball circles for a few years, but Scioscia has kept this team together after the tragic death of Nick Adenhart. Also, he has groomed players like Kendry Morales and Maicer Izturis to fill the big shoes of the injured Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero, and they stepped up greatly.

Runner-Up: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins

NL Manager of the Year: Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies

After an 18-28 record, the Rockies fired Clint Hurdle and replaced him with Jim Tracy. Since then, the Rockies went 74-42, and won the Wild Card for the second time in three seasons.

Runner-Up: Tony La Russa, St. Louis Cardinals

AL's Most Improved Team: Texas Rangers

Traditionally, the Rangers are stacked with hitters, but are thin in the pitching department. That improved immensely with Scott Feldman and Kevin Millwood, though they still have work to do if they want to give the Angels a run for their money. Still, an 87-75 mark is something nice to build on.

Runner-Up: Seattle Mariners

NL's Most Improved Team: Colorado Rockies

Can you blame me for picking the Rockies to finish in fourth in the NL West? The Rockies used the magic beans from 2007 and implemented them into the current team. Their 92 wins was third in the National League, though "Rocktober" may be short-lived.

Runner-Up: Atlanta Braves

AL's Biggest Disappointment: Cleveland Indians

Personally, I did not pick the Tribe to win anything this year, but many of my colleagues drank the Kool-Aid. When you part ways with all-stars and replace them with unproven prospects, negative results typically ensue. 2010 does not look too promising, either.

Runner-Up: Tampa Bay Rays

NL's Biggest Disappointment: New York Mets

For the fourth year in a row, the Mets let their fans down. This time, however, the Metropolitans finished 22 games under .500, reminiscent of the underachieving teams of the early '90s. The team fell short on everyone's expectations, though key injuries to Carlos Delgado, David Wright, and Jose Reyes did not help matters.

Runner-Up: Milwaukee Brewers

FDH Lounge Show #76: October 7, 2009

By Rick Morris

The next edition of THE FDH LOUNGE on (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT) features more of the variety you have come to expect from us, including some good long-form Dignitary roundtable segments.

After The Opening Statements of the Dignitaries of The FDH Lounge and a look at This Week in The FDH Lounge, we lead with our NBA season preview roundtable. Can the Beasts of the East contend with the Lakers and the resurgent Spurs? Who are all of the legitimate MVP candidates? How does the 2010 free agency picture affect this season? We’ll break it all down for you. From there, we examine the latest twist in the biggest year for the late-night NBC-CBS wars since 1993: newly top-rated David Letterman’s confession of multiple crimes against his family. Will this have an effect on his ratings and on his contract, which is set to expire next year? We have our opinions on the subject.

Then, at the top of Hour Two, we break into another exciting edition of The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report. Undefeated teams are dwindling fast in college football and the legitimate undefeated ones are falling by the wayside even faster. We’ll take a look at what lies ahead. In the NFL, the wheat and the chaff are already starting to separate. What will be the effects of Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree moving into their new situations? Who’s for real and who’s not? We’ll get into all of that. At that point, we welcome in WFAN radio host Evan Roberts. He has relevant thoughts on a number of topics, from the Yankees playoff run to the Mets’ tank job to the Edwards acquisition by the Jets to the follies and foibles of Monday Night RAW.

Then, shortly before Hour Three begins, we get into the first part of our FANTASY DRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER by looking ahead to NFL Week 5 action. Our fantasy football talk is sandwiched by a call at the top of the third hour to ESPN hockey analyst Scott Burnside, who examines the early days of the 2009-2010 NHL season and looks ahead with us to what should be a memorable campaign. After resuming the fantasy talk with some hoops analysis, we then bring on KFFL Senior Editor Cory J. Bonini for his thoughts on the fantasy football landscape.

We close with THE GOON SQUAD in our last half hour by resuming our hockey talk and predictions for 2009-10.

It’s going to be a great program and we hope you can be a part of our audience. As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

2009 ALDS/NLDS Preview

By Rick Morris

The one word that sums up this forthcoming October like no other is “continuity.” One factor that I like to examine each year (by the way, here are links to the 2008 and 2007 playoff previews) centers around star players making their postseason debuts. Last year, I counted 14 such players (as teams like the Dodgers, Brewers and Devil Rays were taking the stage with some fine young talent) – this year, I count only four, all of whom are pitchers: Rick Porcello, Edwin Jackson, Randy Wolf and JA Happ – and two of them won’t be playing if the Tigers lose the play-in game on Tuesday. And since Wolf is a little long in the tooth for the “young star makes his playoff debut” storyline, that just drives home the reality even more.

In the American League, every pennant winner this decade except for 2005 (White Sox) and 2008 (Rays) is represented in the playoff lineup, again, if the Tigers make it in. In the National League, every pennant winner since 2004 except 2005 (Astros – man, 2005 was a weird year, wasn’t it?) is included. No less than five teams still have a chance to nail down “Team of the Decade” honors and they are all, unsurprisingly, represented in this postseason: Boston (two World Series titles, two ALCS losses), New York Yankees (one World Series title, two pennants, one ALCS loss), Philadelphia (one World Series title), LA Angels (one World Series title, one ALCS loss), St. Louis (one World Series title, one pennant, three NLCS losses). Granted, the Angels and Phillies would probably have weaker claims than the Red Sox if they were to win the World Series, but this much uncertainty as to the best team of the decade is almost unprecedented with the last games on the horizon (with the only potential parallel coming ten years ago when the Braves could have tied the Yankees for most World Series wins in a decade with two and would have had three additional pennants and two NLCS losses as a handy tiebreaker).

By the way, while the Florida Marlins were due to win the World Series this year, having previously done so in 1997 and 2003, many key players from the 2003 team are represented this fall, in keeping with the team's "potential dynasty that wasn't" theme that sprung from the financially-induced breakup of the core. Josh Beckett, AJ Burnett, Carl Pavano, Mike Lowell, Miguel Cabrera and Juan Pierre all still have a chance to win a ring this postseason.

Here’s a look at the individual series, with both potential Yankee series being mentioned rather than holding this column until Tuesday night:

TIGERS vs. YANKEES: Coming into the season, it appeared as though the top four teams in the AL were, in any order, the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Angels. While the Rays faded late and the Rangers were a factor for longer than anyone could have possibly anticipated, the basic premise still applies inasmuch as it is anything but clear that the Tigers are one of the top four teams in the American League. Conversly, when FDH Baseball Analyst Tim Foust and I broke down the pennant races on our FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on program back in August, I noted to him that the Yankees certainly spent their offseason free agent money inefficiently in the long run – but that the money was well-positioned in 2009 and 2010 at least. Surely, this team is light years away from the salary inefficiency in 2007, when they were vulnerable to an upset from the incredibly flukish Cleveland Indians of that year. While history tells us that the long-term big-money deals given to CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett will look bad before they expire and while Mark Texeira doesn’t quite fit the profile of a megaslugger who should command that kind of salary, the Yanks did what they had to for 2009 when they were looking to make a ginormous impact in their new park. They have few weaknesses, a bullpen that is a serious threat to make games seven-inning affairs for the first time since Mariano Rivera filled the Phil Hughes role in 1996 and an infield that took a good first step towards being considered the best of all time. Meanwhile, the mediocre Tigers limped pathetically into the postseason. They have a puncher’s chance with the ace arms at the top of their rotation (ironically, the same situation as 2007 when the Sabathia/Carmona-led Indians gave the Tribe whatever semblance of a chance they had on paper going into the series) and much inconsistency in their lineup. One thing is for sure: if Miguel Cabrera (the lineup’s only megastar) gets any big hits to eliminate the Yankees after what he did in the World Series six years ago, the Steinbrenner family will not be pleased! YANKEES in 4.

TWINS vs. YANKEES: While the Twins have pulled off several miracle runs in their years in the HHH Dome, they may have saved their most miraculous one for last. When we held our October baseball preview roundtable on THE FDH LOUNGE program last Wednesday, they were not even remotely on our radar and as such were not discussed at all. This Minnesota team is different from the ones of recent vintage, though, in that they are not anchored by one ace in Johan Santana or two (the 2006 Twins had both Santana and the pre-injury Francisco Liriano). No, their starting pitching barely qualifies as average these days, but their usual slaptastic lineup now has more pop as bona fide slugger Justin Morneau has been joined by no-longer-a-slappy Joe Mauer and power generators Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. The rest of the lineup, with only a few exceptions, can be pitched around, leaving only the team’s outstanding middle and late relief as a true area of parity with the Yankees. In a horrible matchup for the Twinkees, that won’t be enough. YANKEES in 3.

RED SOX vs. ANGELS: The famous 1986 collapse against Boston in the ALCS presaged a tough 2000s decade for the Angels against the Sox, as they lost in 2004, 2007 and last year in the ALDS. They have matched up very well with Boston every time on paper, though, as most Angels playoff teams of this decade have actually been better on paper than the ’02 World Championship squad that has kept this decade from being a complete bust. Both teams are actually somewhat mirror images of each other right now, as both had ace pitchers with somewhat disappointing regular seasons (Beckett, Lester, Lackey), both had secondary starting pitchers who really fell off (Dice-K, Santana), both had DHs who were unable to deliver the foundation production expected (Ortiz, Guerrero) and both had pretty good power up and down the line. The Red Sox do have a deeper and more reliable bullpen, as well as a better bench. The Angels have the element that cannot be quantified: motivation to play for their fallen comrade Nick Adenhart and his friends who were in the tragic DWI crash in April. As we saw with the Red Wings in the 1998 Stanley Cup, sometimes that intensity can be so overpowering that it overcomes all obstacles. However, while these Angels will be the sentimental favorite for many people (including me), they still need to prove that they can surmount what appears to be an obvious mental block in the form of a team that is not any better than they are but has still owned them in recent years. They have proven me wrong before when I picked them, we shall see if they can do the same in reverse. RED SOX in 5.

ROCKIES vs. PHILLIES: In the midst of their historic 21-1 run in ’07, the Rockies knocked off Philadelphia in their only previous postseason matchup. Given that Colorado was in “the zone” to such an inhuman degree before Boston brought them back to earth in the World Series, it’s impossible to extrapolate anything from that result. Then, as now, that unlikely team from the mountains had no ace pitcher and did not have an overwhelming lineup. Then, as now, they benefited from a thin NL wild card field, as the slap-heavy Giants actually provided them with their main opposition for most of this summer. There are differences, though, as the ’07 Rocks had franchise slugger Matt Holliday and had a different manager in Clint Hurdle. When Hurdle was fired this year, the team mounted another rampage to get back into the playoff chase with Jim Tracy now on the bench. Timely hitting and a “hero of the day” mentality pervades this Colorado team once again and Troy Tulowitzki has taken Holliday’s place as the main superstar in the lineup with Brad Hawpe still providing a great secondary presence. The bullpen, now anchored by Huston Street, provides the only real advantage over Philadelphia, who is flailing about now that Brad Lidge has rediscovered his ’05 postseason vintage. The starting rotation is much stronger than Colorado’s from top to bottom and the lineup has been above-average and well-balanced now that Jimmy Rollins remembered that he was Jimmy Rollins at the same time that Raul Ibanez remembered that he was Raul Ibanez. Jayson Werth’s career season is a bit of a wild card in the equation, as is Ryan Howard’s improved contact rate this year. While the Phillies could be at a distinct disadvantage in the late innings, they have too much lineup and rotation strength to presume that they will be down late in most games. PHILLIES in 4.

CARDINALS vs. DODGERS: The two most storied franchises in the history of the National League (Cards have ten World Championships and seven other pennants; Dodgers have six World Championships and 12 other pennants), whose paths have not crossed over the years that much in consequential games, do battle for the fourth time since the National League playoffs began 40 years ago. And while their crosstown rivals the Angels are dealing with a much more obvious albatross in terms of the constant losses to the Red Sox, the Dodgers also have never beaten their opponent in postseason play, dropping the memorable 1985 NLCS and also the 2004 NLDS. The 1980s were actually a microcosm for how these teams have been the most successful in the history of the NL as well as how their paths didn’t cross much: they made it to the NLCS (which, back then, was the only round of the NL playoffs) a combined five times and they were a combined 4-1 with the only loss being the aforementioned Dodger defeat in ’85 – and they were the most successful teams in all of baseball that decade as the Dodgers won two World Series and the Cards captured one World Series and two additional pennants (and were arguably a Don Denkinger call away from surmounting the Dodgers for “Team of the Decade”). This Dodger team is actually the quietest of the NL field over the course of this decade, only really coming into their own over the past two seasons due to the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, a young core of talent that was probably the best in the minor leagues 3-4 years ago and the steadying hand of Joe Torre. Like their fellow countrymen from the West the Rockies, they lack a true ace, as Chad Billingsley seemed ready to seize the title in the first half of the season but has looked like garbage for much of the time since then. Aside from their superlative outfield, they’re not going to scare too many pitching staffs with Russell Martin’s disappointing year and James Loney’s Wally Joyner-esque production at the power position of first base. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are quite simply the best-balanced team in the entire playoff field, moving from a position off the radar of most analysts coming into the season to the status as arguably the team to beat after the Matt Holliday acquisition, Chris Carpenter’s unbelievable comeback and the amazing development of the rest of the rotation and bullpen. Barring any injuries along the way, St. Louis cannot come into any postseason series without being regarded as a favorite. CARDINALS in 4.

Here are my predictions for the subsequent rounds:

ALCS: Yankees over Red Sox in 6.
NLCS: Cardinals over Phillies in 5.
World Series: Cardinals over Yankees in 6.

Coming to THE FDH LOUNGE ... Kevin Smith!

By Steve Cirvello (posted by Rick Morris)

Kevin Smith will be 'Shooting the Sh*t'....on The FDH LOUNGE!!!!!

This past Thursday night in Manhattan, a historic meeting took placebetween Actor/Writer/Director Extrordinare Kevin Smith.....and yours truly, The FDH New York Bureau! As a result, your feerless producer has managed to reel in one of the best guests thatwe will ever have in The Lounge, so stay tuned for an official announcement in The FDH Lounge Multimedia Magazine as events develop.

The occasion was a special Book Signing/Q&A Discussion for his new book - "Shooting The S*it With Kevin Smith" at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, New York City. After a brief address to the over 500 people in attendance, Kevin took some questions from the crowd. In somewhat of an abbreviated form, here's what went down:

In true FDH fashion, Kevin addressed the peeps with his own 'Opening Statement' - "I don't mind telling you I feel like a f&%$in' fraud, but we'll try to make it work, I guess, as far as books go."

Q: What would you do if you ever came home and you found your daughter Harley was smokin' some?

KS: As soon as she's of age, I only ask two things: Don't take naked pictures with your boyfriend, and if you're gonna smoke weed, bring some home for me too.

Q: Any chance you'll make 'Mallrats 2: Die Hard in a Mall'?

KS: It was rumored once around '95, but probably not, unless I really have to pay off my mortgage.

Q: I'm really looking forward to (new film) 'A couple of Dicks'.

KS: Really, sir? Do you like dicks?

Q: (con't) I hope it's a huge hit.

KS: Why does it have to be a huge hit? I don't care! Will it make money? I didn't write it, so I don't have that much invested in it. When you write your own s*it, you want more people to embrace it. Who wants to invest in a Kevin Smith movie - not ME! Well, maybe 'Dicks 2 - It just got harder.'

Q: What comic book is your dream to work on?

KS: I'm already doing it. The Batman miniseries, it's my favorite comic of all time, but there's nothing else out there that I'd want to do.

Q: How did you wind up on DeGrassi? (a Canadian teen high school drama he appeared on with Jason Mewes)

KS: "When they brought it back as 'The Next Generation,' I watched it and it was really good. The kids were easier to look at. The storylines were better. I loved what they were doing and where they were going. They let me come on and let me be ME. I wanted to direct one of them, I would just kill or die to direct one of those episodes. I called the creator of the series and she told me because they get their financing from the Canadian Government, the director and writer has to be Canadian. I brought that into my marriage too. I'll say, 'Let's rock a little anal tonight,' and she goes, 'We can't, because you're not Canadian."

Q: Has 'Entourage' ever asked you to write for the show?

KS: No, and I would love to write for Entourage. That'll be the episode where Ari Gold is in prison and gets f*&%ed in the ass (screams). I was surprised when they mentioned me on there, because it's like they made fun of me the whole time. Rob Weiss (writer) on the show dosen't like me, because I think I called him 'Vanilla Weiss' once in an interview. It's a total guilty pleasure for me. By the way, hundreds of people congratulated me for scoring the 'Aquaman II' gig!"

NFL picks Week Four

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. Each week, we will single out our three strongest plays.

RICK MORRIS (2-1 last week, 0-1 with my best pick, 6-3 overall, 2-1 on best picks)
Cincinnati -6 over Cleveland (my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millenium for this week
Dallas -3 over Denver
Pittsburgh -6 ½ over San Diego

RYAN ISLEY (2-1 last week, 6-3 overall)
Tennessee -3 over Jacksonville
Cincinnati -6 over Cleveland
Baltimore +1 ½ over New England

SEAN TRENCH (2-1 last week, 6-3 overall)
San Diego +6 ½ over Pittsburgh
Chicago -10 over Detroit
Baltimore +1 ½ over New England

DAVE ADAMS (2-1 last week, 5-4 overall, 13-3 last week and 30-18 overall in the ESPN Pigskin PickEm contest as The Swami under Here, Piggy Piggy)
Tennessee -3 over Jacksonville
Miami +1 over Buffalo
Dallas -3 over Denver

STEVE CIRVELLO (3-0 last week, 5-4 overall)
San Francisco -9 ½ over St. Louis
New England +1 ½ over Baltimore
Indianapolis -10 over Seattle

My remaining picks (7-7 last week, 23-23 overall)
Houston -8 ½ over Oakland
Tennessee -3 over Jacksonville
New England -1 ½ over Baltimore
New York Giants -9 over Kansas City
Detroit +10 over Chicago
Tampa Bay +7 ½ over Washington
Indianapolis -10 over Seattle
New York Jets +7 over New Orleans
Miami +1 over Buffalo
St. Louis +9 ½ over San Francisco
Minnesota -3 ½ over Green Bay

Saturday, October 3, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XXXIX

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

NCAA football picks Week Five

By Rick Morris

Last week 5-0, 12-13 on the season. Skyrocketing upwards!

Washington +12 over Notre Dame
Georgia -3 ½ over LSU
Miami +7 over Oklahoma
Michigan State -3 ½ over Michigan
Bowling Green -3 over Ohio
Indiana +17 ½ over Ohio State
California +4 over USC
Illinois +7 over Penn State
North Carolina State +3 over Wake Forest
Boston College +4 over Florida State

Thursday, October 1, 2009

100 RANGERS GREATS interview

By Rick Morris

This interview, exclusive to The FDH Lounge Multimedia Magazine, is part of the 21st Century Media Alliance coverage of the release of 100 RANGER GREATS -- and another exclusive interview at fellow 21st Century Media Alliance member Outside the Boxscore can be found here. Russ Cohen of Sportsology and Card Corner Club is one of the co-authors and he provides the answers for these questions.

1 How did this book come to fruition, from the initial kernel of an idea to the assembling of the team to the distribution of labor involved?

Adam Raider called me one day and asked if I wanted to work on a book with him and then we decided on this topic, but when we wanted to rank the older players, we knew we needed additional expertise that only John Halligan could supply. Thankfully, he agreed to work on this project. The book took over a year to construct and then almost a year to get it out on the market.

2 Talk about the process of determining where players would be slotted on the list and how in a collaborative atmosphere you could get consensus on spots 1-100.

First, we made a list of well over 100. Then we started to whittle down the players based on a mathematical formula and then additional factors, like time of service with the club, fan appeal, team awards, league awards – and after five or six conference calls, we had a consensus.

3 How did you address the issue of comparing statistics and accomplishments across different eras?

It’s nearly impossible, but you have to do your best and try to realize which eras were high-scoring and which ones weren’t.

4 In making the determinations, how much did individual accomplishments play into the slotting and how much was based on substantive contributions to team success?

Team success wasn’t a big factor. Sure, winning a Cup looks great on anybody’s resume, but in a book like this, individual accomplishments are huge. But if a player could make his teammates better, that weighed heavily in his favor.

5 In addition to the actual information and analysis, this coffee-table book is very striking visually with the striking and very beautiful photography. How did you acquire the rights to use all of these images?

John Halligan had many of the images and the New York Rangers gave us permission for many others. After that, a few nice photographers granted us usage rights and we purchased the rights for some of the shots from the Hockey Hall of Fame as well. The publisher also purchased some photos, so that was a collaborative effort as well.

6 As a Red Wings fan, I am also appreciative of Original Six history of this nature. Talk about some of the material in the book that will be of interest to those with an interest in hockey heritage in general.

Well, there are tremendous pictures of Gordie Howe, Stan Mikita and many other great players who played against the Blueshirts on a regular basis. The profiles include a lot of information about Stanley Cup games, and that means that a lot of people’s favorite teams also get mentioned in this book. Much of this material and many of these photos have never been seen before.