Wednesday, July 28, 2010

FDH Lounge Show #112: July 28, 2010

By Rick Morris

THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on SportsTalkNetwork.com) rolls on with yet another star-studded edition filled with the type of variety that can only be delivered by the show where “nothing is off-topic.”

We lead as always with The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries and our look at This Week in The FDH Lounge before we bring in our first guest, Eric Bolling, host of the brand-new Fox Business Network program Money Rocks. He has been utilized all over Fox Business and Fox News because of his varied and diverse background and now he is the centerpiece of the show being counted on to anchor the Fox Business prime time lineup. We’ll talk to him about his present challenge in building this franchise, everything that has led up to that and probably a bit about baseball as well – since he was a player in the Pirates’ minor league organization before suffering a career-ending injury.

Right after that at the start of Hour Two, we bring on a player who is familiar with severe injury – and the process of rehabbing from it, because one of the most famous surgeries in the world is named after him. One of the greatest pitchers of the last 50 years, Tommy John, comes on our show to talk about his wonderful career and his ongoing business work with Sportable Scoreboards. From there, FDH Lounge Original Dignitary Nate Noy comes on to deliver his detailed breakdown of the 2010 college football season.

We start Hour Three with old friend Colin Delany, founder and chief editor of the outstanding political analysis website epolitics and one of our absolute favorite sparring partners for breaking down the political scene. He just got back from the Netroots Nation conference, so he can report on the mood there as well as the Shirley Sherrod firing, the Afghan war documents leak, an overall look at the midterm elections and so much more. Then, THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER examines some key aspects of the 2010 fantasy football season: injury risks, projected breakthroughs and rookie rankings. We are continuing to lead up to the August 1 release of FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFTOLOGY 2010, a joint effort of your favorite 21st Century Media Alliance entities – with the fantasy content powered by your pals at FantasyDrafthelp.com, of course!

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. Also, you can now catch THE FDH LOUNGE VAULT, a compilation of our best interviews and roundtables, now every weeknight from 6-7 PM, also on SportsTalkNetwork.com.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume III, Issue XXIX

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 FantasyDrafthelp.com 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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

MLB power rankings for mid-July

By Rick Morris

Start of July power rankings in parentheses.

TOP TIER (Playoff Contenders)
1 New York Yankees (1)
2 Tampa Bay (6)
3 Atlanta (4)
4 Texas (3)
5 San Diego (5)
6 Boston (2)
7 Cincinnati (7)
8 St. Louis (11)
9 Chicago White Sox (17)
10 Los Angeles Angels (8)
11 Colorado (15)
12 Los Angeles Dodgers (12)
13 San Francisco (16)
14 New York Mets (9)
15 Philadelphia (14)
16 Detroit (13)
17 Minnesota (10)
SECOND TIER (Playoff Longshots)
18 Toronto (18)
19 Oakland (19)
20 Florida (20)
21 Milwaukee (21)
22 Chicago Cubs (23)
23 Washington (22)
24 Kansas City (24)
THIRD TIER (The Dregs)
25 Houston (27)
26 Cleveland (28)
27 Seattle (25)
28 Arizona (26)
29 Pittsburgh (29)
30 Baltimore (30)

BIGGEST RISERS: Chicago White Sox (8 spots), Colorado and Tampa Bay (4 spots), St. Louis and San Francisco (3 spots)

BIGGEST FALLERS: Minnesota (7 spots), New York Mets (5 spots), Boston (4 spots), Detroit (3 spots)

Midseason motorsports update: NASCAR

By Rick Morris

The biggest story of the year in NASCAR concerns the man at the top of the season’s leaderboard – a Chase qualifier from 2006 to 2008 who tumbled to 19th last year.

Kevin Harvick has rebounded in stunning fashion and has rounded out his game to levels unforeseen by just about anyone. For example, he did not average a Top-20 finish on restrictor plate tracks in ’09, but won the Bud Shootout and also the July Daytona race this year. His name was not among those widely speculated as those having a decent chance to dethrone four-time defending champ Jimmie Johnson, but he has established himself on that short list with a fury as the top driver at present.

Elsewhere on the landscape …

^ Jeff Gordon (second at present), Jimmie Johnson (third), Denny Hamlin (fourth), Kurt Busch (fifth), Kyle Busch (sixth), Matt Kenseth (eighth), Tony Stewart (ninth), Carl Edwards (tenth), Greg Biffle (eleventh) and Clint Bowyer (twelfth) are all in position to qualify for the Chase as was expected by most observers. Kyle in particular is putting the fluky 13th-place finish of 2009 behind him strongly. Jeff Burton (seventh after a 17th place finish in ’09) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (13th after a 25th place finish in ’09) are also sitting in Chase contention at present with decent comeback campaigns. Lil’ E still has a current winless streak of more than two years; however, his recent Nationwide series win at Daytona is expected to deliver momentum to he and his team. We shall see.

^ Of the other drivers widely expected to be in contention for the Chase, Mark Martin is in 14th place and won’t need to run too much better than he has thus far to edge into the qualifying. Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne are positioned not far behind him. Brian Vickers’ blood clots sadly cut short his campaign and took him out of contention altogether. Juan Pablo Montoya has been a huge disappointment, following his breakthrough finish of eighth in 2009 with a plunge back to 21st at present.

^ As expected, David Reutimann, phenom Joey Logano and Martin Truex, Jr. are on the absolute periphery of Chase contention at the moment. They are joined at that level by surprise Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray, who predictably was not able to sustain that early level of success.

^ AJ Allmendinger and Sam Hornish, Jr. continue their fitful transitions from open-wheel racing and each has to be eyeballing what would be significantly greener pastures back in IndyCar right about now.

NASCAR chairman Brian France has indicated that the series is considering tweaking the Chase rules for 2011 to try to ensure that more drivers are in strong contention leading up to the final races. This would of course dilute the effect of strong racing all throughout the Chase, which is the exact element that has allowed Johnson to more or less coast to the title at the very end frequently through the course of his four consecutive victories. Such a modification would be reminiscent of the creation of the Chase in the first place, when Matt Kenseth floated through the 2003 season with only one win but claimed the title anyway and led series officials to believe that a playoff format was necessary. Unsurprisingly, Johnson thinks little of the proposed changes, which would cause the championship to be decided over a smaller sample size over the last month or so. He likes the system just the way it is – and why wouldn’t he?

Midseason motorsports update: IndyCar

By Rick Morris

The IndyCar series, in its second year of reunion under a common banner after almost a decade-and-a-half of ruinous internecine warfare, is regaining some of its momentum with a spirited points chase among many talented drivers. While the exodus to NASCAR has not been reversed to the necessary amount yet, the circuit is regaining its footing with an enthralling chase involving many top drivers.

^ Australian Will Power, whose previous best finishes had been sixth in 2006 and fourth in 2007 under the old Champ Car banner, has had his breakthrough year as a part of Team Penske and currently leads all drivers.

^ Dario Franchitti, who captured his second Indianapolis 500 crown this year, won his second consecutive IndyCar series title last year (with his disastrous and ill-advised ’08 stint in NASCAR in-between) and is hot on the heels of a third straight championship with his current second-place status.

^ Scott Dixon has finished the last four seasons in the top four in points – the last three first or second, highlighted by a 2008 championship – and is keeping his “dependable threat” streak alive into this year with a third-place standing at present.

^ In a comparable vein to Dixon, Ryan Briscoe finished fifth and third, respectively, in his past two seasons – the first two with Penske – and is in fourth at the moment.

^ One of the most accomplished, and quite possibly the most famous, driver on the circuit, Helio Castroneves, continues to run strong in pursuit of his elusive first series championship. Since 2002 with Penske, he has never placed lower than sixth (and has placed lower than fourth only twice), yet has not come any closer to the top than his 2002 and 2008 runner-up finishes. Presently, he is in sixth place. In some ways, with his three Indy 500 titles, his career has been the opposite of Mario Andretti, who managed a single Indy 500 win but was a four-time series champion.

^ Also conversely to Helio, Tony Kanaan is probably the best active racer never to win at Indy, but did capture the series title in 2004 and only spent a single season outside of the top four between 2003-2008 (and only a single season outside of the top three between 2004-2008). His sixth-place finish in 2009 and seventh-place standing at present raise questions about whether he can return to the top amidst the deeper field of today, though.

^ Dan Wheldon, who peaked (at least thus far) with a win at Indy and for the series title both in 2005, ended the run he began in 2004 with no series finishes outside the top four in 2008. Like Kanaan, he fell off in 2009, to tenth place and is in ninth at current.

^ The Marco Andretti treadmill continues on, with the streak he has been on since the start of his IndyCar career in 2006 of finishing between seventh and 11th currently intact with a tenth-place record.

^ Danica Patrick, splitting her time with the NASCAR Nationwide Series, hasn’t been a factor in eleventh place, but given that she’s only placed as high as fifth once (last year), the hype exceeding her production is nothing new.

The Penske and Ganassi teams continue to dominate, with occasional resistance from Andretti. The races have been exciting, but have suffered from the same “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?” sensation suffered by the NHL – which also has most of its national broadcasts on the sparsely-carried Versus network.

The series has healed some remaining wounds from the sport’s longtime civil war as longtime IRL honcho Tony George – probably more responsible for the state of affairs than any other individual – resigned from the board of directors in January. And the legacies of both the road-dominated Champ Car and the oval-dominated IRL are both being celebrated as IndyCar is awarding a trophy named for AJ Foyt to the racer who tallies the most points on ovals this year and the award named for Mario Andretti will go to the equivalent road-track racer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FDH Lounge Show #111: July 21, 2010

By Rick Morris

The long national nightmare of the LeBron story is behind us (however momentarily) as THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on SportsTalkNetwork.com) proves yet again the mantra that “nothing is off-topic.”

We open as usual with The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries and our look at This Week in The FDH Lounge before we bring in a representative of a wonderful charity. Patches of Light provides vital assistance of many, many different kinds to families with critically ill children. CEO Mindy Atwood represented this organization at the recent Major League Baseball All-Star Game as part of baseball’s salute to charitable efforts. She’ll join us to discuss everything that this extraordinary foundation is doing to help those who need it most.

At the top of Hour Two, an author with a very useful book makes his first trip to The FDH Lounge. Scott Singer, whose tome How to Hit a Curveball: Confront and Overcome the Unexpected in Business has met with numerous critical raves, comes in to talk about successfully navigating challenges in business – and life. Then, a week before his former Reds teammate Sean Casey comes into The FDH Lounge, we welcome a member of one of baseball’s most storied families. ESPN baseball analyst Aaron Boone had a lengthy career in the majors and made it through heart surgery rehabilitation in the last year. He’ll be on to talk about his saga and his analysis as the baseball season chugs into the second half.

We start Hour Three with a return guest who we really enjoyed having on previously. MLB.com Senior Writer Jonathan Mayo authored the book Facing Clemens: Hitters on Hitting Against Baseball’s Most Intimidating Pitcher (with a foreword from ol’ Rog himself!) and maintains the B3: Big, Bald and Beautiful blog for MLB that is one of the most indispensable resources on baseball prospects that can be found anywhere. Post-Strasburg, what are the prospect developments that you need to know as a baseball fan? He will tell us that and much more. Then, THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER examines the Overvalued and Undervalued Football Players of 2010, as well as the players with the biggest variance of opinion among prominent magazines and websites this year. We are continuing to lead up to the July 31 release of FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFTOLOGY 2010, a joint effort of your favorite 21st Century Media Alliance entities – with the fantasy content powered by your pals at FantasyDrafthelp.com, of course!

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. Also, you can now catch THE FDH LOUNGE VAULT, a compilation of our best interviews and roundtables, now every weeknight from 6-7 PM, also on SportsTalkNetwork.com.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Midseason motorsports update: Formula One

By Rick Morris

The most dominant racer in Formula One over the past decade – and one of the greatest open-wheel drivers in history, for that matter – returned to the track this year after three seasons away and has not come close to living up to his former greatness (ninth place at present). Of all the intriguing storylines in F1 this year, that one must be at the top of the list.

In the absence of Michael Schumacher from 2007-09, a host of top young drivers filled the void in exciting style, with perhaps the most impressive being 2008 series champion and 2007 series runner-up Lewis Hamilton, who leads the standings thus far this year.

Here’s more of the landscape at the top:

^ Jenson Button, who never tallied higher than third during the Schumacher Era (in 2004), continued to progress the past few years en route to the 2009 title and a second-place spot thus far this year.

^ Mark Webber, a journeyman all throughout his career up until last year’s breakthrough fourth-pace finish, is in third this year.

^ Sebastian Vettel, who did not hit the big time until just after Schumacher’s retirement, came in second in 2009 and is fourth thus far this year.

^ Fernando Alonso, who beat out Schumacher for the title during his last two years in the sport in 2005-06, could have told the mighty German that he was in for a rough time against this enhanced competition. He finished fifth in ’08 and fell to ninth last year, although he has rebounded back to fifth thus far this year.

^ Like Alonso, Felipe Massa had his best season at the end of Schumacher’s run, placing third in 2006. He fell back slightly to fourth in ’07, bested both of those seasons with a second-place finish in ’08, plummeted to 11th last year and has come back slightly to eighth thus far in ’10.

^ After spending five consecutive years between second and fourth place in the series from 2000-04, Rubens Barrichello has also had a rougher time against this crop in recent year – and is currently in 11th place – although he did place third in 2009. That finish certainly looks like an outlier relative to his recent seasons, though.

Schumacher does have some legitimate excuses in terms of the Mercedes equipment he has had at his disposal – an amusing reversal, some would say, from his days of dominance at Ferrari. However, given his rust and the possible effects of age, the risks that he took to his legacy upon his return appear very real at this point.

The season began in the aftermath of a serious skirmish between many of the top teams and the sport’s governing body regarding a proposed budget cap and the fairness of how it would apply to both the top teams and the ones lower on the totem pole. The differences were ultimately papered over through 2012.

In big off-track news, F1 will be reestablishing its foothold in North America – such as it is – with the return of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal this year and the reestablished US Grand Prix, to be held for the first time since 2007 in Indianapolis. It comes to Austin, TX for the first time on a ten-year deal beginning in 2012.

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume III, Issue XXVIII

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 FantasyDrafthelp.com 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.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FDH Lounge Show #110: July 14, 2010

By Rick Morris

During the dog days of summer and baseball’s All-Star break, fear not: THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on SportsTalkNetwork.com) always has your entertainment needs covered.

Right off the bat, even before The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries and our look at This Week in The FDH Lounge (which will actually kick off Hour Two this week), we bring in a very special guest: legendary pro wrestler and announcer Jerry “The King” Lawler. He has been continuously in the spotlight longer than anyone not named Ric Flair and we’ll talk to him about all of the changes he has seen and experienced since the early 1970s. Then, we welcome another very special guest: TMZ on TV Co-Executive Producer Charles Latibeaudiere. We’ll touch on all of the big celebrity stories currently percolating on TMZ.

In Hour Two, we bring your most comprehensive coverage of the aftermath of LeBron’s “Decision” and all related events that you will find anywhere. Based as we are in Cleveland, we certainly have some unique insights on the subject – and plenty of information that the rest of the media just isn’t providing. Fear not, we will fill that void as we always do.

In Hour Three, we examine whether America’s embrace of soccer during the recent World Cup could mean anything that the sport deemed “the beautiful game” by so many could reach its potential on these shores at long last. We have not one, not two, but three ideas along those lines (the third one is the best: bringing the top Euro soccer clubs to America and pairing them with US cities for a short-season league) and we’ll break down the pros and cons of each. Then, THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER examines your FDH Five Fantasy Guidelines for 2010.

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. Also, you can now catch THE FDH LOUNGE VAULT, a compilation of our best interviews and roundtables, now every weeknight from 6-7 PM, also on SportsTalkNetwork.com.

Dream Sporting Event: Real American Soccer (Part III)

By Rick Morris

As a part of last summer’s “Dream Sporting Event” series, I broached the subject of how soccer could potentially be elevated into an upper-tier sport in America. I even threw out a motive for why the Powers That Be might be interested in such a project:

“The premise is that FIFA would decide to make real penetration of the American soccer market its “Manhattan Project” as a means to expand its reach in a true global sense by tapping into the world’s most dominant consumer market. FIFA does have it within its reach to apply the pressure needed on the world’s soccer circuits and tournaments to be able to make this league happen.”

The league, as I imagined it, would be a short-season, every-other-year league comprised of the world’s best players. I’m not going to recap it in its entirety, so I urge you to click through to read about it.

Part II of the series was posted just prior to this one and it concerns an expansion of the English Premier League that would incorporate four American franchises. But I think Part III contains the best idea of all. (Unsurprisingly, some would say) it wasn’t my idea.

Our Senior Editor Jason Jones hatched a plan that would involve the best of the best club teams in the world coming over to America for a short-season league with playoffs to follow. Given that the best teams are in Europe, I’m limiting this to 16 teams from that continent. Because of the strength of the various leagues, I’m including four teams from England, four from Italy, four from Spain, two from Germany and two from France.

Similar to my Part I plan, it would only involve play in odd-numbered years, given that it would otherwise overlap with the World Cup and the European Championships in even-numbered years.

The only point where my plan differs from Jason’s – for the better, I believe (I can say that since I already admitted that he had the best overall idea!) – is that he envisions a draft every time the league convenes, with cities re-choosing from a list of the top teams in the world every time the league plays. I believe strongly that his idea, while admittedly building interest in a “what are they going to do?” type of way, would undermine the bonds that would exist between these American cities and the teams involved. I believe that if each city “kept” a team for the purposes of this biennial league/tournament, that there would probably even be some interest in what the teams did in their own leagues, inasmuch as there would be at least a partial reflection back on the US “sister city.”

So I assigned the top club teams from each league to American cities, taking regional ethnicities into strong account. Teams from the Spanish league will obviously draw better in certain areas and the same with German and Italian teams, etc. Ethnicity was not a uniform reason for these assignments, but it did factor into many of them.

Here are the teams from each league that would be most likely to make the cut in a given year and the American cities to which I have assigned them:

Germany: Columbus (Bayern Munich), St. Louis (Werder Bremen), Milwaukee (Hamburger SV), Indianapolis (VfL Wolfsburg), Cincinnati (VfB Stuttgart) Minneapolis (Borussia Monchengladbach), Baltimore (Borussia Dortmund)

Italy: Philadelphia (AC Milan), Chicago (Fiorentina), Miami (Internazionale), Pittsburgh (Roma), Detroit (Juventus), Providence (Sampdoria), Oakland (Palermo)

Spain: Los Angeles (Real Madrid), Seattle (Barcelona), Dallas (Sevilla), San Diego (Villareal), Houston (Valencia), Phoenix (Deportivo La Coruna)

England: New York (Manchester United), Atlanta (Chelsea), Denver (Arsenal), Washington D.C. (Liverpool), Cleveland (Aston Villa), Charlotte (Tottenham Hotspur), Nashville (Blackburn), Orlando (Manchester City)

France: New Orleans (Lyon), Boston (Bordeaux), San Francisco (Marseille), Las Vegas (Lille), Tampa (Auxerre)

Remember, not all of these teams can qualify, just 16 each time, so not all of these American cities will be represented each time. Additionally, on the chance that any underdog teams that are not listed above make a strong run in their respective leagues, a “supplemental draft” could take place in the March before the league starts with the following cities (listed in no particular order) being allowed to sift through these additional potential participants:

Kansas City
Anaheim
Austin
Buffalo
Memphis
El Paso
Birmingham
Portland (games played in Corvallis, roughly 90 miles away)
Oklahoma City (games played in Norman, roughly 25 miles away)
Louisville

Four divisions would be carved out each time the league convenes, since it is unlikely that the same 16 teams would be represented on a regular basis. Each division would contain one team from England, one from Italy, one from Spain and one from either Germany or France. There would be six regular-season games, three against the rest of a team’s division and three against another division. The one team that a team would not play from the other division would be the one from its own country (i.e. an English team would not play another English team from another division in the regular season). The theory behind this is that the teams already play one another in the regular season of their own leagues and that this league is all about delivering fresh matchups. For these purposes, French and German teams would not play one another in the regular season also, but this cannot be avoided under the rest of this setup. Divisions would take geography into some account, but not to a huge degree inasmuch as there are only three home and three road games in the first place. They would be comprised taking into account existing sports rivalries between cities. These are some potential rivalries to guide in the divisional formulation.

Cleveland-Pittsburgh
Cleveland-Columbus
Cleveland-Cincinnati
Cleveland-Detroit
Columbus-Detroit
Cincinnati-Detroit
Chicago-Milwaukee
Tampa-Orlando
New York-Boston
New York-LA
New York-Philadelphia
New York-Miami
LA-San Francisco
Oakland-San Francisco
Oakland-Denver
Boston-Los Angeles
Miami-Orlando
Chicago-St. Louis
Detroit-St. Louis
New Orleans-Dallas
New Orleans-Houston
New Orleans-Atlanta
Dallas-Washington D.C.
Philadelphia-Washington D.C.
Philadelphia-Dallas

Based on current UEFA club rankings, for the sake of argument, I was able to construct what a 2011 season might resemble. These rankings were used to project the top teams from each league and thus, the participants in what would be the inaugural version of this league.

Division A
New York (Manchester United)
Los Angeles (Real Madrid)
Philadelphia (AC Milan)
Boston (Bordeaux)

Division B
Washington D.C. (Liverpool)
Dallas (Sevilla)
Pittsburgh (Roma)
Columbus (Bayern Munich)

Division C
Chicago (Fiorentina)
St. Louis (Werder Bremen)
Denver (Arsenal)
Seattle (Barcelona)

Division D
Atlanta (Chelsea)
New Orleans (Lyon)
Miami (Internazionale)
San Diego (Villareal)

And here is a potential league schedule. The first half of regular-season games would all be in-division. It is almost certain that ESPN/ABC would quickly snarf up at least partial or perhaps full broadcast rights for such a league.

Thursday, June 9
New York at Los Angeles

Friday, June 10
Philadelphia at Boston
Washington at Dallas

Saturday, June 11
Pittsburgh at Columbus
Chicago at St. Louis
Denver at Seattle

Sunday, June 12
Atlanta at New Orleans
Miami at San Diego

Tuesday, June 14
New York at Philadelphia
Los Angeles at Boston

Wednesday, June 15
Washington at Pittsburgh
Dallas at Columbus

Thursday, June 16
Chicago at Denver
St. Louis at Seattle

Friday, June 17
Atlanta at Miami
New Orleans at San Diego

Saturday, June 18
Boston at New York
Philadelphia at Los Angeles

Sunday, June 19
Columbus at Washington
Pittsburgh at Dallas

Tuesday, June 21
Seattle at Chicago
Denver at St. Louis

Wednesday, June 22
San Diego at Atlanta
Miami at New Orleans

Thursday, June 23
Dallas at New York
Los Angeles at Washington

Friday, June 24
Columbus at Philadelphia
Boston at Pittsburgh

Saturday, June 25
New Orleans at Chicago
St. Louis at Atlanta

Sunday, June 26
San Diego at Denver
Seattle at Miami

Tuesday, June 28
New York at Pittsburgh
Los Angeles at Columbus

Wednesday, June 29
Philadelphia at Washington
Boston at Dallas

Thursday, June 30
Chicago at San Diego
St. Louis at Miami

Friday, July 1
Denver at New Orleans
Seattle at Atlanta

Saturday, July 2
Columbus at New York
Pittsburgh at Los Angeles

Sunday, July 3
Washington at Boston
Dallas at Philadelphia

Monday, July 4
Atlanta at Chicago
San Diego at St. Louis
Miami at Denver
New Orleans at Seattle

Saturday, July 9
Seed #3 vs. Seed #6
Seed #4 vs. Seed #5

Wednesday, July 13
Semifinal Match #1
Semifinal Match #2

Sunday, July 17
Championship Match

Honestly, if you couldn’t get a good degree of American interest for a virtual all-star league like this one, you could pronounce the game hopeless on US soil once and for all.

Dream Sporting Event: Real American Soccer (Part II)

By Rick Morris

As a part of last summer’s “Dream Sporting Event” series, I broached the subject of how soccer could potentially be elevated into an upper-tier sport in America. I even threw out a motive for why the Powers That Be might be interested in such a project:

“The premise is that FIFA would decide to make real penetration of the American soccer market its “Manhattan Project” as a means to expand its reach in a true global sense by tapping into the world’s most dominant consumer market. FIFA does have it within its reach to apply the pressure needed on the world’s soccer circuits and tournaments to be able to make this league happen.”

The league, as I imagined it, would be a short-season, every-other-year league comprised of the world’s best players. I’m not going to recap it in its entirety, so I urge you to click through to read about it.

I reference that column here because of a very thought-provoking idea thrown out at Sports by Brooks: an American incursion into the English Premier League. With the World Cup upon us, Brooks tackles the quadrennial question of why soccer has never lived up to the billing of its backers in this country.

The idea is radically different from my own in terms of concept application – but the concept itself is the same: bring top-flight soccer to America in order to appeal to a sporting audience that yawns at anything but the highest level of competition. Now, I do share in the general skepticism that soccer could ever elevate past a certain level in this country, owing in general to the pace of play and level of attention that is demanded, but we will never know for sure until we are seeing (at least many of) the best of the best battling it out on the pitches.

The way to do this would be to expand the EPL from 20 teams to 24, keeping the rest of the format the same. American franchises would be best utilized in New York, Seattle (which has already become an ideal soccer market in one year of having an MLS franchise) and the Los Angeles & Houston markets to tap into vast Latino interest. A case could be made for switching out Houston and Toronto in order to bring another country’s fanbase into the mix. Scheduling would not be super-easy to be sure, but you could bring over four UK-based teams at a time to rotate through the American (or North American) games and send each of the American/North American teams on lengthy road trips through the UK in order to reduce travel issues.

Relegation would be an obstacle, to be sure. The poorest-performing Premier League teams are sent down to a lower league, with others promoted in their place. The only way to make the American or North American teams work in this equation would be to replace any of them worthy of being sent down with MLS franchises, so as to keep the number of representatives on this continent constant.

In the end, Brooks’ idea is equally as valid as mine and probably more realistic – keeping in mind that neither is especially realistic in the short term because powerful entities often are afraid to roll the dice on change. The league is already the most viewed worldwide, seen regularly by half a billion people in 202 countries. So the barons in charge of this venture could be forgiven for thinking that it can’t grow any bigger. I disagree strongly. Drop the New World into the mix and watch the printing presses cranking out money go into hyperdrive.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All the best to Stevie Y

By Rick Morris

As I’ve said a million times before on multiple platforms, Steve Yzerman is my all-time favorite athlete, and yeah, a hero of mine. He got me into watching hockey years ago and got me into his Red Wings. Excerpting from my column about him at the time of his Hall of Fame induction last November:


“I would like to mention why he is my favorite. He had outstanding God-given talent, but also radiated class and became, in my opinion, the greatest leader in team sports. His two decades with the captain's ‘C’ set a record by quite a wide margin, one that I believe will never be approached, much less surpassed. Hockey players as a whole tend to be the humblest and classiest in team sports and Steve Yzerman exemplified that better than most. I do not believe that we will see anyone quite like him ever again … The best way to sum up what he means to his fans is this: the best word that comes to mind when we think of his is ‘respect.’ The Canadian Olympic team chose to vacate the #19 during the Turin Games when Yzerman withdrew from the team for health reasons -- and that's saying quite a bit, because so many players of this generation wear that number out of respect for him. Respect, there's that word again. And as the Red Wings have become over the last decade hockey's version of the New York Yankees, the single most polarizing force in the sport, rarely if ever will you hear opposing fans speaking ill of Stevie Franchise. They will bash the ownership, or other Wings players, or Wings coaches, but not The Man. They know in their heart of hearts that they would kill to have him wearing their colors -- and we who love him know how fortunate we were that he wore ours.”


And it pretty much goes on in that vein.

This is, of course, being re-posted after reflection on Stevie Y being hired to run the hockey operations by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Selfishly, I would have liked to see him still with the Red Wings, still in line to take over one day. But realistically, Ken Holland, the best GM in the league, is nowhere near ready to be put out to pasture and his assistant, Jim Nill, is also the best at his job in the league. Icon or no icon, Number 19 wasn’t taking over anytime soon.

So as a commodity already in some demand across the league because of his legendary quiet-but-effective leadership, his star rose to new heights when he put together the organization to lead Team Canada back to Olympic gold in February. More offers, better offers, were going to keep coming. So the day of his departure was going to be inevitable, as much as I was in denial about it – much like how I was in denial about his retirement four years ago.

At a time like this, you can either take the low road, like Penguins fans who will go to their graves MF’ing Marian Hossa for leaving them when he was a hired-gun deadline-rental in the first place, or you can give the departed the respect they deserve. I am very pleased to report that Red Wings fans have almost without exception chosen the second option, the classy one. There are even a lot of folks on message boards proclaiming that they are adopting Tampa Bay as their favorite team in the East, their “1A” franchise in the league, if you will. I have seen traces of this phenomenon previously when Nebraska football fans joined the outstanding message board devoted to my alma mater, Bobcat Attack, and adopted us as their “1A” team when we hired Frank Solich as coach – after he had been driven out of the Cornhusker state in such a despicable manner.

Well, I can report that I am completely on board with this movement. I am adopting Tampa Bay and will root for them in all situations not involving the Red Wings. This isn’t the first time I have done this, as I used to root for Ottawa during their underachieving but star-filled days, sympathizing with them and seeing similarities to the pre-’97 Red Wings who the hockey world always buried with glee. But this adoption has actual meaning behind it. Steve Yzerman will be propagating the “Red Wing Way” – something that he had a very strong role in helping to create over the past quarter-century – in a new place, further validating the ways that this organization helped to redefine winning in the NHL. My all-time favorite athlete now has the opportunity to completely reshape a franchise from the ground up and I feel that I have to support him.

Famously, New York talk show host Joe Benigno of WFAN in New York disagrees with me and he more or less hijacked a segment of Episode #72 of THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on SportsTalkNetwork.com) to inform me of this. I disagreed with him then as I disagree with him now. Having a “1A” does not dilute your love and your passion for your favorite team. In circumstances not involving your “1,” I see nothing wrong with showing interest in another team. I would root for Tampa Bay to win the Cup if they are not up against Detroit. If they are, of course I stick with the Red Wings.

And you know what? There’s no doubt in my mind The Captain would understand – and approve.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A tribute to Ernie Harwell and John Wooden

By Rick Morris

It’s been several weeks now since two sports legends – nay, two AMERICAN legends – passed away. Ernie Harwell and John Wooden both lived long, full lives, but were both brought down in the end by diseases that their aged bodies could no longer fight.

I didn’t know either man personally, but I was fortunate enough to speak to Ernie on-air one night and it is still one of the biggest highlights of my life. He agreed to be the keynote guest on one of the “Up All Night” marathons that we broadcast on SportsTalkNetwork.com as a fundraiser for my mother’s memorial scholarship fund, the Carol Morris Scholarship Fund at Bowling Green State University (with proceeds going to help make possible educations of those who are going into the special education field). He was a class act and a wonderful storyteller. I felt bad, feeling like I was bogarting the interview with my queries, but my two co-hosts, both older than I and therefore guys who had listened to Ernie for far longer than I had, were too starstruck to ask many questions! It was a wonderful experience.

But both men were the type who you felt like you knew even without having conversations with them. Both were modest despite their vast success. Both are on a short list for the greatest of all time in their chosen professions, Ernie behind the mike and John coaching a team. Both preached the really important virtues in life that put sports in their proper perspective. Both were, to paraphrase Vin Scully in one of the videos below, MEN.

RIP Ernie Harwell and Coach John Wooden. We have assembled some videos that show the essence of each man.

Ernie Harwell










John Wooden







Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume III, Issue XXVII

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 FantasyDrafthelp.com 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.

Friday, July 9, 2010

One potential Cavs quick turnaround scenario

By Rick Morris

UPDATE: In this fast-changing world, two big developments happened after this column was posted. The Cavs made a sign'n'trade deal with Miami for LeBron, bringing back draft picks and cap considerations that could perhaps be used in lieu of some of the pieces-parts laid out below. Also, word came out that Chris Paul has signed with LRMR, LeBron's marketing company. Now, this could certainly make CP3 less likely to want to reunite with Byron Scott, but since Dan Gilbert knows where the bodies are buried regarding #23's time in Cleveland, methinks he can send word down south not to even try to poison Paul's mind.

In the past 24 hours, I have joked with FDH Lounge Dignitary Nate Noy that he is still stuck in the bargaining phase of grieving about the LeBron departure, while I passed through to acceptance in May (when I actually wondered to myself if the team could be OK signing Joe Johnson in free agency instead!!!). He has tried to rationalize how the Cavs could get back to legitimate contention (meaning a legitimate chance to go deep into the playoffs every year) quickly, while I have been resigned to the tear-down/rebuild through draft picks and salary cap room.

But ... there is an exception to every rule. I do believe that if you can get players capable of becoming megastars that you have to do so at all costs in the NBA. That is why I defended the Memphis decision to give Rudy Gay a max contract; sure, he's been a tease (I won't say a Gay tease!) pretty much ever since UConn, but we all know the insane upside he possesses at age 23 and he started to flash a bit of that last year. You either acquire such a player or you develop one if you are going to win titles, period.

With word that Minnesota and New Orleans are among the franchises suffering the worst through the financial crunch, rare opportunities could be in place. Sure, the Cavs weren't able to trade for Chris Paul in time to keep LeBron in Cleveland, but CP3 has made no secret of his desire to play for Byron Scott once again and he can leave the Bayou in 2012. If he forces the issue with management, there is no way management lets him play out the string. But it must be strongly emphasized -- this deal does not get done without Paul taking the initiative in that way and forcing his team's hand. The Hornets really want to move Emeka Okafor's monster contract, so Cleveland would have to swallow hard and accept it -- which they almost assuredly would in the overall context of the deal.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, the Wolves are actively dangling Al Jefferson because of their frontcourt logjam and financial situation.

I worked Oklahoma City into the deal, figuring that if they could acquire a talented veteran to add to their core like Antawn Jamison without adding too much salary that they could fill out the multi-team mix.

I ran this scenario through the ESPN Trade Machine and it hung up the few times I tried to enter it -- I did not get a definitive answer. However, it did reject some of my versions that involved teams other than Oklahoma City, so my belief for right now is that the objections were limited to the fourth team being over the cap (which the Thunder is not). Regardless, this structure should serve as the foundation for a possible deal even if a few tweaks would be necessary here and there.

TO CLEVELAND
Al Jefferson (from Minnesota)
Chris Paul (from New Orleans)
Emeka Okafor (from New Orleans)
Nick Collison (from Oklahoma City)
Nenad Krstic (from Oklahoma City)

TO MINNESOTA
2012 #1 pick (from Cleveland)
2014 #1 pick (from Cleveland)
Anthony Parker (from Cleveland)

TO NEW ORLEANS
Delonte West (from Cleveland)
JJ Hickson (from Cleveland)
Mo Williams (from Cleveland)
Anderson Varejao (from Cleveland)

TO OKLAHOMA CITY
Antawn Jamison (from Cleveland)
Leon Powe (from Cleveland)

It should go without saying that the Cavs would be doing sign-and-trade extensions with Paul and Jefferson as a part of this mega-deal.

So if you're the Cavs, here's what the lineup looks like after the wholesale roster reshuffling with this deal.

C - Emeka Okafor
PF - Al Jefferson
SF - Jamario Moon
SG - Rashad McCants (veteran minimum signing, on summer league roster)
PG - Chris Paul

Wow, Jamario Moon as the only player off the '09-10 roster to be a starter -- and he didn't even start last year, backing up #23!

The rest of the rotation would be as follows:

C - Nenad Krstic
PF - Nick Collison
SF/SG - Danny Green
SG/PG - Boobie Gibson
SG/PG - Sebastian Telfair

Remaining roster spots could go to:

C - Nathan Jawai (veteran minimum signing, on summer league roster)
PF - Maciej Lampe (veteran minimum signing, on summer league roster)

Moon and McCants would be fairly marginal starters, with Okafor being fairly functional if (relatively, which may be the best you can expect) healthy. The bench would be decent, with Gibson as a pretty good sleeper scoring option given his sharp-shooting abilities.

But the CP/AJ combo is the centerpiece of this new roster, with Paul clearly one of the five players in the league capable of anchoring a championship roster and Jefferson comprising the best "Pippen" not named LeBron this side of South Beach. Could this team win a title? Realistically, you'd still need at least a year to gel and allow the $12.5 million in merely functional salaries acquired from the Thunder to expire and be used for another upgrade.

But compared to the half-decade at best in the wilderness that faces the Cavaliers otherwise? Get to it, Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LeBron’s decision: immediate thoughts

By Rick Morris

Just to give my background on the LeBron story before I break it down …

I am a lifelong Cleveland Cavs fan, wearing my old battered Mark Price T-shirt on the day that signifies the end of the team’s most successful era. I remember the old wine and gold from times my parents took me to the now-defunct Richfield Coliseum as a small child. So I’m not one of the bandwagon-jumpers who only got with the Cavs when they were deemed cool by the masses.

To me, LeBron James is the best player in the league, an unprecedented amalgam of skill sets and court vision the likes of which we have never seen before. Depending on the course he sets for himself – more on that below – he has an excellent chance to go down as the greatest player of all time.

Notwithstanding his Akron heritage, I have never looked at him as more than that. He’s the best player in the game, playing for my team, but I never got too invested in him off the court. I didn’t hate on him, I just didn’t idolize him personally. There are a lot of people who foolishly inflated him into more than what he is personally – local boy growing up to save us all – and they are the ones who are the most depressed about this, because it goes against their false worldview. He’s never been my favorite player, Boobie and Z were my favorites.

I never got on LeBron’s case for wearing a Yankees hat or any of the other idiocies people would give him garbage for doing (the one exception is that I did feel that he should set a good example for his fans and marry his baby mama since they were together anyway, but that’s more than a little more important than criticizing him for his team fandom). I thought the hate on him for the Game Five debacle against the Celtics was overblown and said so vociferously on Twitter that night, causing one friend piling on him to resent me to this day. But I saw him as somebody who was more injured than he was letting on and somebody who wasn’t dealing well with the frustration of the game flow and execution not working out, not as a quitter like so many in the “LeBron Messiah” crowd did when they bailed on him.

So I feel that, all in all, while I was never measured in my on-court opinion of him or my insane optimism about what he could deliver for my team, I was more measured than most in what I thought personally. And that is almost definitely helping me to deal with this better than most fellow Cavs fans.

Honestly, I was embarrassed by the banners on the highway overpasses and the “hometown” gaga that was being cited by so many to get him to stay in Northeast Ohio. As I said on our FDH LOUNGE show this past week (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on SportsTalkNetwork.com), I wanted LeBron to re-sign and bring Cleveland championships as badly as anyone, but the community needs to keep its dignity. The fact that LeBron was in position to sign a contract for nine digits is something that I am fairly philosophical about – it is what it is, as far as I’m concerned – but it’s not anything that we as a society should glorify. For people to be lining up to give this guy tongue baths to sign for that much money is something that really rubs me the wrong way.

I don’t feel that LeBron owes Northeast Ohio anything special just because he grew up here – and, notwithstanding his artificial distinctions between “Akron” and “Cleveland,” few in this area consider them completely separate and distinct and even fewer nationally look at it that way. But to cite another team as providing a better chance to win championships is a humungous slap in the face inasmuch as he has been the co-signer for every significant move since he got here in ’03.

[BTW, it’s also 20-20 hindsight to criticize the Cavs for catering to his every whim over these past seven years. He held a gun to their head and they would have had no chance to keep him, maybe not even the time he did re-sign back in 2006, had they not let him have his run of the place. You can hate the reality of modern big-time sports, but it’s displaced aggression to hate on the Cavs for doing what was necessary to even have a chance to keep him.]

If the team doesn’t have as great of a chance to win right now as Chicago or Miami – and I would dispute that premise, given the team’s underachievement in the playoffs and remaining chits that could be used for impactful trades – then LeBron must certainly share in that responsibility. To shrug that off completely is not a sign of great character.

Also, we are “Witnessing” changes throughout this process that led Cleveland Plain Dealer Brian Windhorst (who is, as I have said, the best beat writer in the country regardless of sport) to pronounce on Wednesday that “this LeBron” making these moves is not the guy he knew all these years. He has always struck me as fairly savvy, but I think we have seen erosion there in the form of the constant yes-man conduct from his inner circle. He did not have one person around him with the authority to tell him some obvious truths:

^ That kicking Cleveland (the pathetic mangy dog by the side of the road in the national image) in the nards with a steel-toed boot will damage his national reputation – to say nothing of the forum being chosen, an unprecedented hour of national television to rub additional salt in the wounds.

^ That nobody anywhere buys his artificial distinction between his loyalty to Greater Akron and Greater Cleveland (given that they are connected by highway and only separated by some national park areas) and that he’s digging the PR grave deeper by trying to get people to believe something so disingenuous.

^ That leaving Cleveland after he laid such an egg in the Boston series, coupled with going to a team where he will automatically be viewed as a co-Pippen to a megastar who’s already won a ring will damage his legacy – he should go ask Kobe what it was like dealing with criticism for the THREE rings he won when Shaq was the greatest star on his team, in a situation that pales in comparison to the “big game” questions many have already put on LeBron. And for what it is worth, I will now root against the other co-Pippen, Chris Bosh, very strenuously for providing probably the last nail in the coffin via his petulant refusal to even consider playing on America’s North Coast.

^ That because he is no longer graded on the curve of expectations relative to what was around him in Cleveland that he never wins another MVP award in Miami and will be deemed a failure if he doesn’t win at least four or five titles with that bunch – with one in his first year, of course (my personal prediction would be two titles for that nucleus, given the challenges that a lack of depth will bring and that getting good-to-great teammates to come in and take the league minimum would represent an unprecedented development in the league).

^ That this TV special is almost uniformly viewed as obnoxious by the public at large – with his “charitable efforts” serving as an insulting fig leaf for ego – and that it plays into a disturbing image with the “King James” Twitter account that was just opened.

^ That he transformed himself into an object of widespread derision by the number of teams he ostentatiously flirted with before coming to a decision that reeks to so many as taking the easier path in the end.

I realize that as an admitted lifelong Cavs fan that some of the above points may not seem completely objective, but I believe that they are and I stand by them. I am intellectually honest enough to say that my opinion of him, like that of Windhorst, did change as the process mutated. Had he returned, I would have been overjoyed at the implications for my favorite team, which would avoid the now-obvious need for a complete teardown/rebuild, but I would have been even more wary of him regardless.

[But I do not by any means condone the reactions of this area that I know will be coming, from seeking to burn down murals and billboards with his likeness to any threats that will come to him and his family. It’s a sad commentary on society when you consider the lengths people will go to in a futile attempt to exact “revenge” on “Black Modell.” Having said that, again just to recognize the world for what it is, he’s as na├»ve as can be if he thinks he’s going to be able to live during his summer and post-hoops career in suburban Akron.]

Speaking of that teardown/rebuild, I’m going to make it a point to go buy some Cavs merchandise very soon. This organization did EVERYTHING they could to be successful in all areas and did not deserve this outcome. If I’m going to criticize the Dolan regime that has run my favorite baseball team squarely into the ground, I have to be consistent and support good ownership when it has tried to do well for me. I can only hope that enough Cavalier fans agree with me on the need to stand by Dan Gilbert for what he has done. The fact that he owns the new casino coming to town and is thus anchored to the community gives me hope that he’s going to have the stomach for the inevitable rebuild.

When the day comes that the Cavs do acquire a new superstar to lead the team back into serious contention, I can only hope that the landscape of the league has changed by then. For while I have anger and disappointment that stems equally from the content of the decision and the manner in which it is delivered, I realize that these issues go far beyond the character and maturity levels of a filthy rich 25 year-old. They stem from the system that has created and nurtured the mania that led him through this process that was degrading to so many. David Stern is obsessed with marketing over substance and thinks any water-cooler talk is inherently good for the league, even if it overshadows a seven-game Finals series between the league’s two most historic franchises. My hope is that one way or another, by the time my team is restored to success years down the road, that the game is not governed by a commissioner who is so determined to aid and abet the culture of self-aggrandizement that leads to moments like this. I hope – in vain, probably – that this moment causes such a backlash that it rolls back this destructive tide once and for all. Characteristically, if it does, it will be too late to help my hometown.

Also, this just in, Dan Gilbert absolutely destroyed LeBron. Good for him.

For a good cause ...

By Rick Morris

On our FDH LOUNGE program (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on SportsTalkNetwork.com), we have started every one of our 109 episodes with The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries -- courtesy of Original Dignitary Chris Galloway, who came up with the idea.

We had one last night that certainly deserved to be amplified further. Dignitary Elaine Tanko had an Opening Statement promoting an event in honor of a good friend of hers, who has survived horrible brain cancer against the odds for several years. The "Teeing Up For Others" event in a suburb of Cleveland will be a great cause. Event info -- and more about the association it benefits -- below. We hope you can support it one way or another, either directly or via donation if you are not in the area.


Friday, July 16th
Emerald Woods
Columbia Station, OH

$90 per person, includes 18 holes of golf with cart, lunch and dinner
Have to enter by July 10th

Questions about Tournament-Contact Linda Rivera at 216-856-0263
Questions about American Brain Tumor Association-call (224)220-2790 or email AAllegretti@abta.org

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

FDH Lounge Show #109: July 7, 2010

By Rick Morris

While THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on SportsTalkNetwork.com) is still the show where “nothing is off-topic,” some weeks we will go a bit heavier on sports – and this is one of those weeks.

We open as usual with The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries and our look at This Week in The FDH Lounge before examining a wild first week of free agency in the NBA. Today’s developments with the Bosh’n’Wade combo platter in Miami are (probably!) the last big shoes to drop before LeBron’s historic announcement tomorrow night. How are our free agency odds stacking up so far? We’ll take a look.

At the top of Hour Two, we’ve got a real treat: longtime Major League outfielder and current author Doug Glanville, whose book The Game From Where I Stand: A Ballplayer’s Inside View draws upon both his lengthy professional experience and also his Ivy League pedigree from Penn. He is also a consultant for the developmental organization The Baseball Factory. We’ll talk about all of his experiences as a player and as an author and how the two were related in terms of drawing upon his on-field experience.

Halfway through the hour, we welcome two MMA experts for their take on last Saturday night’s huge fight: previous guest Jon Lane of MMA Junkie and Brian Fritz of AOL Fanhouse. With Brock Lesnar’s crowning achievement (thus far), where does he go from here? Where does the sport, traditionally anchored by the heavyweight division just like boxing? We’ll explore these topics.

From there, we deal in some real outrages! Fans, players and managers combined to screw the pooch with the Major League Baseball All-Star selections and we’ll examine the specifics – starting with our super-detailed column on the subject. Then, THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER goes over the Buy Low, Sell High candidates in fantasy baseball at the moment.

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. Also, you can now catch THE FDH LOUNGE VAULT, a compilation of our best interviews and roundtables, now every weeknight from 6-7 PM, also on SportsTalkNetwork.com.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kobe is (still) no Jordan

By Jason Jones (posted by Rick Morris)

Kobe better have won his last title. No disrespect to the Laker fans, I just don't think I can live in a world where Kobe stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Michael Jordan in the title department.

Right, wrong or indifferent, I hold Jordan in a special place. Kobe is arguably one of the top 15 players of all time (I haven't actually thought much about where I'd rank him all-time). The problem I have is that I've seen both play during my adult life. Kobe is no Jordan, but if Kobe wins six titles... massive droves of people are going to try to make the argument that he is as good as, if not better than, Jordan. And that does not sit well with me.

Kobe also hasn't had a "Kobe-like" game. He is on the way down, he's still got another five years in him, but Kobe's played his best ball already. Pau is good but also getting old. I now don't know if Bynum will ever truly arrive. Fisher is the balls but old. Ultimately, as the rest of the league tries to ascend to where the Lakers are, the Lakers are getting older. If Wade and Bosh end up together…if Dirk, Amare, and Johnson end up together..if any number of permutations occur, the Lakers might actually get some legit competition. The 2010 free agency moves will either do nothing or dramatically reshape the entire landscape of the league. When it’s your team, the constant winning is great. When it’s not, it becomes boring and monotonous. Three years ago, Lakers v Celtics was an interesting storyline. Now it’s just played out. Imagine for a second...

^ Keep the Celtics relatively the same (they'll probably let Ray Allen go sign with another team)

^ The Orlando Magic are stuck with who they have

^ Portland stays exactly the same

^ San Antonio stays old and loses one of the Big Three

^ Phoenix is basically a rec team with Steve Nash

^ Houston is a bunch of pieces that don’t fit well together

And so on and so forth.

Now...picture these teams as follows after the result of potential upcoming moves:

New York Knicks
Tony Parker (2011)
Michael Redd
Caron Butler
Danilo Gallinari
Troy Murphy

New Jersey Nets
Devin Harris
Stephen Jackson
Tyrus Thomas
David Lee
Brook Lopez

Cleveland Cavaliers
Mo Williams
Rip Hamilton
LeBron James
Antawn Jamison
Amare Stoudamire (assuming the Knicks deal can still fall through)

Miami Heat
Mario Chalmers
Dwayne Wade
Rudy Gay (assuming a trade)
Michael Beasley
Chris Bosh

Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose
Joe Johnson (assuming a trade by Atlanta)
Tracy McGrady
Dirk Nowitzki
Joakim Noah

Chances are everyone’s beloved Lakers would moonwalk through the Western Conference with little trouble. Maybe somewhere down the line the Trailblazers get to that level as the Lakers fall of into the sunset, but realistically, the Lakers walk through the playoffs. The team that comes out of the East would have been through hell and back and would probably beat the tar out of an aging Lakers squad. The Lakers are a good team. They will go down in history as one of the greatest dynastic teams in NBA history. But realistically, the journey has to end. There is a relative finish line and I think the rest of the world (specifically the non-Laker fans) would invite and encourage such a change.

Literally, for ten years, the Lakers have been a significant threat to win it each and every year. It’s time for someone else to either be that team or start an era of moderate parity in the NBA. I would love to see a situation where Cleveland, Miami, Orlando, Chicago and Portland won titles in the next ten years, with the possibility that teams like New Orleans, New Jersey, New York, Utah, LA Clippers and Atlanta might position themselves to take the baton in the following decade.

Winning is great, but when one team is the prohibitive favorite to win almost all of the time, the rest of us get bored with it. ESPN and sports talk radio tried their damnedest to convince us that this series was compelling. The playoffs as a whole were compelling. This Finals was one of the most overhyped and unimpressive I've series seen in awhile. Yes, there were moments that we will remember. But where was Kobe's 60-point game? Where was the Pau vs KG game? Where was the game that Lamar Odom was supposed to step up to and realize the potential he's always had? Where was the throwback Celtics game where KG/Pierce/Allen go for 100 points divided (almost) equally three ways? Sure, Rondo proved he can play with the big dogs. Artest had a great moment down the stretch, but none of it and I mean none of it, grabbed me. I enjoyed the last few minutes of Game Seven, but it didn't grab me. Not for one second in this NBA Finals was I truly captivated. I watched at least five of the games on DVR delay or on the 3AM replay. And no matter who plays in the Finals, there should be at least a few of those moments.

It’s time for new blood. And yeah, I want LeBron James to be that next elite player and I want it to be done with Cleveland, but at this point any team not named the Lakers, Spurs, or Celtics would work for me. I want to see teams that I have never seen at that level or never expected to see. Imagine a Clippers vs Hawks NBA Final (not as they are currently built, of course), or even a throwback to the 1990s with the Derrick Rose Bulls facing off against the Brandon Roy's Trailblazers. These scenarios are far superior to what is being foisted on us now.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

MLB All-Star Roster & FDH version

By Rick Morris

Injustices abound every year when the Major League Baseball All-Star Game rosters are unveiled. Part of this sad reality relates to the fact that the unwashed masses often cast wildly uneducated votes (albeit not nearly to the extent of my youth in the 1980s). Part of it relates to the asinine rule that each team must be represented on the All-Star team (if a team has nobody performing up to the level of a “star” but they have a player on the All-Star team, then it isn’t really an All-Star team, is it?). And part of it has to do with managerial politics as the league skippers reserve as many spots as possible for their own teams so as to keep the peace in the clubhouse. No offense to Joe Torre, whom I admire notwithstanding his tenure at the helm of the loathed Yankees, but there were years during the team’s last big run when I half expected him to reach down to the level of Chad Curtis when filling out the AL team.

First, to answer the question that has been on everyone’s lips about whether Stephen Strasburg should be on the All-Star team, consider this a strong vote for “no.” We have taken a back seat to nobody in aiding and abetting the hype about the kid – he is absolutely for real and is a rare one like LeBron James who can hit the big time ready to be a dominator early – but this has been one of the greatest (if not the greatest) years for big-time pitching in the past quarter century and there’s no way to take all of the great producers in the NL as it is. Now, while our good pal Russ Cohen at Sportsology has rightly pointed out that the change in overall pitching production has been overstated – it’s not 1968 all over again, folks – the number of top-level pitchers is indeed mushrooming (as we noted here over a month ago). So could you make a case for him another year? Absolutely. But this ain’t the year.

In addition to telling you how it will be, we’ll also tell you how it should be. First, here are the rosters, released today via MLB.com (and the fans really outdid themselves this year in terms of their idiocy):

AL Starters
C: J. Mauer, MIN – the leading AL vote-getter despite no power numbers, way to go, name-recognition dweebs
1B: J. Morneau, MIN
2B: R. Cano, NYY
SS: D. Jeter, NYY
3B: E. Longoria, TB
OF: J. Hamilton, TEX
OF: I. Suzuki, SEA – the annual selection notwithstanding no power
OF: C. Crawford, TB – first star, but otherwise, see Ichiro
DH: V. Guerrero, TEX

AL Final Vote hopefuls
• P. Konerko, CWS
• N. Swisher, NYY
• D. Young, MIN
• M. Young, TEX
• K. Youkilis, BOS

NL starters
C: Y. Molina, STL – there are not words for how horrible a pick this was
1B: A. Pujols, STL
2B: C. Utley, PHI
SS: H. Ramirez, FLA
3B: D. Wright, NYM
OF: R. Braun, MIL
OF: A. Ethier, LA
OF: J. Heyward, ATL – come on now, the kid is awesome, but this is going overboard

NL Final Vote hopefuls
• H. Bell, SD
• C. Gonzalez, COL
• J. Votto, CIN
• B. Wagner, ATL
• R. Zimmerman, WAS

Also via MLB.com, here’s the breakdown of the rest of the rosters:

“AL Player Ballot pitchers include starting pitchers David Price of the Rays, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester of the Red Sox, Phil Hughes of the Yankees and Cliff Lee of the Mariners, along with relievers Neftali Feliz of the Rangers, Mariano Rivera of the Yankees and Jose Valverde of the Tigers.

AL Player Ballot position players include Miguel Cabrera, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, catcher Victor Martinez and DH David Ortiz of the Red Sox, shortstop Elvis Andrus of the Rangers, and outfielders Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays and Torii Hunter of the Angels.

Pedroia and Martinez receive full honors as elected All-Stars, but because they are both injured and unavailable, they are replaced on the roster by second baseman Ian Kinsler of the Rangers and catcher John Buck of the Blue Jays, respectively. Both of them finished second on the Player Ballot at their respective positions.

[AL manager Joe] Girardi, in conjunction with MLB, filled out the AL roster with the following: second baseman Ty Wigginton of the Orioles and third baseman Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, along with pitchers Matt Thornton of the White Sox, Fausto Carmona of the Indians, Joakim Soria of the Royals, Trevor Cahill of the Athletics and CC Sabathia of the Yankees.

NL Player Ballot position players include catcher Brian McCann of the Braves, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, shortstops Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, third baseman Scott Rolen of the Reds, [Atlanta Braves second baseman Martin] Prado, and outfielders Corey Hart of the Brewers, Matt Holliday of the Cardinals and Marlon Byrd of the Cubs. Because Tulowitzki is on the DL and unavailable, he is replaced by Reyes, who was the next choice on the Player Ballot behind him.

NL Player Ballot pitchers include starting pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies, Roy Halladay of the Phillies, Josh Johnson of the Marlins, Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals, along with relievers Matt Capps of the Nationals, Brian Wilson of the Giants and Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers.

From there, Manuel, in conjunction with MLB, filled out his roster with the following: first baseman Ryan Howard of the Phillies, second baseman Brandon Phillips of the Reds (replacing Utley), infielder/outfielder Omar Infante of the Braves, outfielders Michael Bourn of the Astros and Chris Young of the Padres, and pitchers Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals, Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers, Tim Hudson of the Braves, Evan Meek of the Pirates and Arthur Rhodes of the Reds.”

I don’t even know where to begin with this crapola.

^ Ian Kinsler? Is he at the point where he can make it on reputation already?

^ Elvis Andrus? No pop necessary, apparently.

^ Jose Bautista? That’s a swing and a miss, appropriately.

^ Way to suck up to ARod, Girardi, I guess that is part of your job description, though.

^ Matt Thornton????? Is this really the year to revert to the “let’s take care of the token middle reliever” theory?

^ Byrd aside, the National League player ballots were all decent, especially compared to their AL brethren – who we can assume feel so sorry for them that they’re trying to throw the game this year

^ Lincecum is having a decent year (by his elevated standards), but not a good enough season to marginalize hurlers doing even better

^ Brian Wilson always gets overrated because he delivers saves, but little else

^ Country boy Charlie Manuel made sure to screw the pooch with a bunch of horrid selections, including Infante, Bourn (maybe Charlie got an Ultimatum?), C. Young, Meek and Rhodes

Unsurprisingly, ESPN senior baseball writer and onetime Lounge guest Jayson Stark made many excellent points about the various outrages.

Next, here are the FDH versions of the rosters, the way they would be configured if the decisions were left up to us (as they should be!). These are presented in depth-chart form, with starters in all caps and one player for each league designated as the DH, since the game is in Anaheim. Injured players not actually taking up a roster spot are designated with an asterisk. Since these are just the most deserving 34 players in each league, the aforementioned asinine “all teams represented rule” is not in effect – although we will address below how we would meet that requirement if needed. We have a short “Honorable Mention” list for each league which lists those who just missed the cut and the best player from all teams not represented here. These teams are admittedly weighted heavier in starting pitchers than custom dictates, but as it is because of the landscape of baseball in this season, there are very deserving starting pitchers still missing the cut (especially in the NL).

AL Roster
C: NAPOLI (LAA), Buck (TOR)
1B: M CABRERA (DET), MORNEAU – DH (MIN), Konerko (CWS), Youkilis (BOS)
2B: CANO (NYY), Pedroia* (BOS), Wigginton (BAL)
SS: JETER (NYY), A Gonzalez (TOR)
3B: BELTRE (BOS), Longoria (TB)
OF: V GUERRERO (TEX), HAMILTON (TEX), RIOS (CWS), Boesch (DET), Wells (TOR)
SP: C LEE (SEA), Weaver (LAA), Lester (BOS), Price (TB), Niemann (TB), Pettitte (NYY), Buchholz (BOS), Vargas (SEA), F Hernandez (SEA), Pavano (MIN), Sabathia (NYY), Romero (TOR), Cahill (OAK)
RP: Valverde (DET), Rivera (NYY), Soriano (TB), Bailey (OAK)

AL Honorable Mention
3B: M Young (TEX)
OF: Choo (CLE)*
RP: Soria (KC)
SP: Carmona (CLE)

NL Roster
C: OLIVO (COL), McCann (ATL)
1B: VOTTO (CIN), PUJOLS – DH (STL), Howard (PHI), A Gonzalez (SD)
2B: PRADO (ATL), Phillips (CIN), Utley* (PHI)
SS: H RAMIREZ (FLA), Tulowitzki* (COL), Reyes (NYM)
3B: WRIGHT (NYM), Rolen (CIN), Zimmerman (WAS)
OF: C GONZALEZ (COL), HART (MIL), ETHIER (LAD), Braun (MIL), Rasmus (STL)
SP: JIMENEZ (COL), J Johnson (FLA), Wainwright (STL), Latos (SD), Carpenter (STL), Halladay (PHI), J Garcia (STL), Hudson (ATL), Gallardo (MIL), Silva (CHC), Cain (SF), Richard (SD), Pelfrey (NYM)
RP: Broxton (LAD), Franklin (STL), Wagner (ATL)

NL Honorable Mention
1B: Huff (SF)
2B: K Johnson (ARI)
OF: McCutchen (PIT)
SP: Oswalt (HOU), Myers (HOU), Lincecum (SF), J Sanchez (SF)

Now, with the insipid rule in effect about all teams being represented, we would remove Romero and Cahill from the AL team and insert Carmona and Soria. In the NL, we would remove Franklin, Pelfrey and Richard for K Johnson, McCutchen and Oswalt.

So having compared our rational, reasonable rosters to the piles of bile compiled by the fans, players and managers, the question arises: which players got screwed the worst? In the AL, Napoli, Beltre and Rios should be starting and they’re not even on the team. Boesch, Weaver, Niemann, Petitte, Vargas, King Felix, Pavano and Romero all got done as well. All told, that’s 11 players, or 1/3 of the roster! Additionally, Konerko and Youkilis will be competing with three other less deserving players for a roster spot in the remaining voting. The choice here is Konerko by an eyelash. In the NL, Olivo should be starting but did not make the team. Also, Rasmus, Latos, J Garcia, Silva, Cain, Richard and Pelfrey were treated unfairly. C Gonzalez, Votto and Zimmerman will also be jockeying with two less deserving players for the remaining spot. The pick here is Votto over Gonzalez by a tiny margin.

Wow, “only” about 20 deserving players potentially excluded from this year’s All-Star Game. Way to be, MLB!

MLB power rankings for start of July

By Rick Morris

Start of June power rankings in parentheses.

TOP TIER
1 New York Yankees (2)
2 Boston (9)
3 Texas (15)
4 Atlanta (11)
5 San Diego (4)
6 Tampa Bay (1)
7 Cincinnati (5)
8 Los Angeles Angels (20)
9 New York Mets (17)
10 Minnesota (3)
11 St. Louis (8)
12 Los Angeles Dodgers (10)
13 Detroit (14)
14 Philadelphia (6)
15 Colorado (19)
16 San Francisco (12)
17 Chicago White Sox (22)
18 Toronto (7)
19 Oakland (16)
SECOND TIER
20 Florida (18)
21 Milwaukee (23)
22 Washington (19)
23 Chicago Cubs (21)
24 Kansas City (27)
THIRD TIER
25 Seattle (26)
26 Arizona (25)
27 Houston (29)
28 Cleveland (28)
29 Pittsburgh (24)
30 Baltimore (30)

BIGGEST RISERS: Los Angeles Angels and Texas (12 spots), New York Mets (8 spots), Atlanta and Boston (7 spots), Chicago White Sox (5 spots), Colorado (4 spots), Kansas City (3 spots)

BIGGEST FALLERS: Toronto (11 spots), Philadelphia (8 spots), Minnesota (7 spots), Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay (5 spots), San Francisco (4 spots), Oakland, St. Louis and Washington (3 spots)

Happy Independence Day

By Rick Morris

We at FDH wish you a very Happy Independence Day. Not a “Happy Fourth” or even a “Happy Fourth of July.” These are greetings that simply water down what gets called at Christmas “the reason for the season.” Today is not a national holiday and celebration because it’s the fourth day of the seventh month of the year. It’s a point of celebration because it marked the beginning of the formation of the greatest country on God’s Green Earth and we would all do well to remember that.

As is often the case on the site, we mark the occasion with some relevant videos. Have a great day with friends and family.









Thursday, July 1, 2010

2010 NBA free agency odds

By Rick Morris

Now that the greatest summer ever for a bunch of overprivileged jocks has truly begun, we have your odds as to where the top players will land. We have players listed in the order that they appeared on our FDH Top Player Rankings from our NBA Draft guide HOOPS DRAFTOLOGY 2010.

LeBron James
Cavs 5-1
Bulls 6-1
Heat 8-1
Knicks 10-1
Nets 20-1
Field 50-1

Dwyane Wade
Heat 2-1
Bulls 8-1
Knicks 12-1
Field 30-1

Dirk Nowitzki
Mavs 9-5
Heat 12-1
Bulls 15-1
Field 35-1

Chris Bosh
Heat 4-1
Bulls 5-1
Knicks 8-1
Nets 15-1
Raptors 25-1
Field 50-1

Carmelo Anthony
Nuggets 4-1
Knicks 8-1
Heat 12-1
Bulls 15-1
Field 35-1

Amare Stoudemire
Knicks 5-1
Bulls 6-1
Heat 8-1
Suns 12-1
Field 35-1

Joe Johnson
Knicks 5-1
Bulls 6-1
Heat 8-1
Clippers 12-1
Nets 15-1
Hawks 30-1
Field 40-1

Carlos Boozer
Heat 3-1
Knicks 8-1
Nets 10-1
Chicago 18-1
Utah 25-1
Field 40-1

Paul Pierce
Celtics 2-1
Hawks 10-1
Clippers 20-1
Field 50-1

David Lee
Nets 5-1
Thunder 7-1
Knicks 15-1
Hawks 20-1
Field 35-1