Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Decade's most influential people in the world

By Rick Morris

Since we passed the 3/4 mark of the decade a few months ago (to little fanfare), I hatched an idea for a blog post about the most influential sports figures of the decade, largely because I firmly believe that the individual befitting that award goes unmentioned by all. But it occurred to me that a list of the most influential people in the world as a whole would be interesting as well.

I'm basing these rankings on the amount of influence these individuals have had over the ways we live, the ways that society functions and the ways society will function in the future. These influences can be for good or ill -- influence is influence, after all.

First of all, I want to give honorable mention to Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, the founders of YouTube. When the history is finally written about the technological advances of our day, I'm convinced that they will be on a very short list of the most important innovators. While Internet video certainly existed before YouTube came about in 2005, it wasn't nearly as mainstream. The invention of this website dovetailed nicely with the explosion in various types of broadband availability and served as THE entity most important in developing video-on-demand on the Internet. Quite simply, Hurley, Chen and Karim created something that will affect the way we consume media far into the future.

5. (TIE) Vladimir Putin and Howard Dean. Surely, this is an odd couple if ever there was one! But since my rankings were only five-deep, I could not choose between them for the final spot.

Let's examine Putin first. For several decades leading up to the Nineties, the leader of the USSR would have had to make such a list. For example, could a Top Five of the Eighties have not included both Reagan and Gorbachev? Unlikely. But as the Soviet Union faded into history, it took with it its vast influence over the world. Russian President Boris Yeltsin would certainly not have made such a list in the Nineties, at the low ebb of power for that country in the last hundred years. But Putin's Russia has roared back with a vengeance this decade, taking advantage of openings caused by ramifications of American foreign policy mistakes. While Russia has asserted itself as a key player on the world stage, make no mistake, the means it has chosen will be a major cause of strife and a threat to free societies in the years to come. The old Soviet axis seems to be reconstituting in a way, as Putin gathers up any adversaries of the U.S. that he can find to befriend (Iran, Venezuela and to a certain extent China). Also, his regime is taking on disturbing fascist tendencies at home, as our blog post from August documented. Even after his term as president ends next year, Mad Vlad will continue pulling the strings in the Kremlin and the effects of just the actions he's already set in motion will already be extraordinarily far-reaching.

Now to Howard Dean, who emerged from complete obscurity as governor of the gay-friendly state of Vermont to become one of the most important American political figures of the last 50 years. While he's best-known nationally as a punchline with his infamous speech after the Iowa caucuses in 2004, Dean actually emerged from that election cycle as an enormous transforming figure in the political system. In the months following the end of the first phase of the war in Iraq, when George Bush was appearing in front of "Mission Accomplished" signs and the public was still savoring the heady feeling of having deposed Saddam Hussein, Dean rode his opposition to the war to the front of the pack in the Democratic presidential field. This was made possible in large part by Dean harnessing the nascent blog movement and the organizing power of the Internet to level the financial playing field with an absolute blizzard of small-time contributors. By combining grass-roots political practices with the technological possibilities of the Web, Dean managed to bring the antiwar movement into the mainstream and changed forever the ability of political insiders in both parties to dictate party nominations by fiat. Personally, I regard the former as a great negative and the latter as a great positive, but the far-reaching influence is undeniable and led to his selection as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

4. Osama bin Laden. I imagine that an explanation of bin Laden's influence in the 2000s needs little elaboration. The fact that he's not #1 on the list is certainly a measure of the extremely consequential presidency we've lived under for the last seven years. The phrase "9/11 changed everything" became a cliche long ago, but as I always say, cliches get to be cliches because they are true. OBL belongs on the list if for no other reasons than the fear he instilled by launching the first attack on the American mainland since the War of 1812 and the resulting security measures that followed -- and those factors are just the tip of the iceburg. There's certainly a spot waiting for bin Laden in Hades, but in the meantime, he resides both in the hinterlands of Pakistan and at #4 on our list of the decade's most influential people.

1. (TIE) George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. For one man to trump bin Laden's influence this decade in the aftermath of 9/11 would have seemed unlikely, but three would have seemed preposterous! Yet, the style of governance in America the last seven years has made it so. Bush is, as he says, "The Decider," and must therefore be listed here as the man with the final word. But his chief deputies belong right with him for the directions they've successfully pushed for him to adopt, Cheney in foreign policy and Rove in domestic policy.

First, Cheney. He and his neoconservative fellow-travelers persuaded Bush to enter into war in Iraq. Effects of this conflict will be felt for decades. Most are negative, from the diminishing of our deterrent threat around the world to hostility stirred up in Arab countries to the trillions of dollars we are sending over there to the fact that the American people were able to turn against a war so quickly after 9/11. Cheney was the chief backer of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the successes of 2007 would never have occurred if Rumsfeld had not been forced out and the surge policy inserted in. The positive side of the ledger for Cheney is mostly in his rare forays into domestic policy, such as pushing Bush to pursue positive tax policies (leaving aside the disastrous spending ones).

Rove, while no longer in government, did more to shape Bush's theories on government than any other figure. Like the Clintons, he merged policy with politics in a crude manner. Unlike the Clintons, he was not quite so skilled at it. True, he helped Bush manage to slip across the finish line in 2004, although the jury is out about whether it could have been accomplished against a candidate better than the pathetic John Kerry. Rove's notion of "compassionate conservatism," a feel-good compilation of contradictory blather, became Bush's domestic governing philosophy and ultimately his political undoing along with the Iraq mess. Rove had greedy dreams of stitching together a Republican dynasty like the one in the early 1900s, but he sold the conservative soul to do so. From education (the horrific "No Child Left Behind" boondoggle and reprehensible sellout of poor kids by abandoning vouchers in the face of bullying from Ted Kennedy) to health care (burdening generations to come with the asinine Medicare prescription drug fiasco) to spending (completely condoned as long as Republicans were operating Congress and operating the old pork dispenser) to immigration (let the illegals flow in unchecked so that Big Business contributors can hire them for 10 cents per hour) to the basic issue of competence in government (Katrina, which in fairness was also victimized by state and local lack of government), the Rove/Bush philosophy of trying to build a permanent majority by being all things to all people did nothing but alienate the base. Their tone-deaf White House political apparatus was constantly a day late and a dollar short in answering Democratic attacks after the 2004 reelection campaign and led straight to the debacle of 2006. There would be no Speaker Pelosi or Majority Leader Reid were it not for the bumbling of this Republican trinity. Even as they fade into history, however, their legacy will loom strong for at least a quarter century. And that gives them a collective influence the likes of nobody else this decade.

World Series recap and a look ahead

By Rick Morris

As a sworn enemy of the Red Sox "nation," I take no pleasure whatsoever about my forecast of their World Series victory coming true. The difference in the strength of the two leagues alone made that a foregone conclusion. Not in my lifetime (and I'm in my thirties) has the disparity between the American and National League been as stark as it is right now. FDH Lounge Dignitary Nathan Noy told me that he heard somebody cracking that the Rockies had advanced to the World Series by winning the NIT bracket. Sad but true, and it points out the opportunities present for more than half the teams in the NL to advance to the Series next year with just a few upgrades. Winning once they get there, though, will be problematic to say the least.

To use the gambling parlance for a moment, Boston is certainly the "chalk" for the 2008 world championship as well. Ellsbury, Pedroia and Youkilis still have a long ways to go to reach their ceilings and there's a ton of fine young arms in the rotation and pen, making Curt Schilling expendable. Surely they won't let money get in the way of resigning Mike Lowell if they want him back. ManRam and Big Papi probably have less prime years left than most folks think (Ortiz in particular seems a fine candidate to become the next Mo Vaughn with a steep falloff thanks to matters of conditioning, although my best guess for that is no sooner than three years away), but ownership will continue to augment their excellent core with marquee free agents. Oh, and Josh Beckett is the best postseason pitcher going right now and arguably the best since Bob Gibson. So it's almost inconceivable that any other team could make enough moves to keep Boston from being a consensus pick to repeat next year.

Bill Simmons, sad attention whore

By Rick Morris

In case anyone is still unaware of the deplorable depths to which ESPN Page 2's once-amusing Bill Simmons has plummeted, his hacky trail of "look Ma, I'm going to get some attention by saying something stupid" has wound down to this pile of excrement: Lebron and the Cavs won't even make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference. Really.

If you wish to amuse yourself with his continued idiocy, you can't do better than this wonderful parody, which is a "Sports Guy Mad Lib" of sorts. Have fun!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Check out the most recent FDH Lounge show

By Rick Morris

The archive for the October 27 show is not up yet, but we urge you to catch it when it gets posted this week. As we mentioned when the rundown was posted, it was the final in-studio program with our friends and partners Jason and Samantha Jones prior to their relocation and subsequent establishment of the FDH branch office in Colorado Springs.

Towards the end of Hour Two and into Hour Three, we had a segment that was truly unique: comparing prominent rock and roll figures to presidential candidates, the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time and the greatest NFL quarterbacks of today. If you never thought you'd hear these names in the same sentence, think again: Ozzy Osbourne and Otto Graham, Hillary Clinton and (post-Federline) Britney Spears, Amy Lee and Brett Favre! The warped minds of our friends the Jones newlyweds never cease to amaze and astound!

On a personal note, as the head of our little FDH family, I want to mention that we will greatly miss having Jason and Samm around personally even as we remain grateful for our continued association with them. Professionally, we won't miss a beat, they'll still be there thanks to the wonders of various forms of technology that will keep us tightly bound, but we'll be sad not to get to spend time with them personally. Sports viewing parties at my place just got duller (no offense to my other friends!). Best of luck to them in their new location.

Honesty -- from the "Worldwide Leader???"

By Rick Morris

ESPN ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber might not want to eat on-campus next time she's in Bristol lest she end up with any ground glass in her food. The kind of truths she's telling can't be too popular with the Powers That Be.

Her most recent column continues to illuminate the manner in which ESPN has dumbed down our national sports discourse with their lowest-common-denominator approach to sports "debate and discussion." Interestingly, ESPN executive vice president of production Norby Williamson comes off a titch defensive when called on the devaluation of the ESPN brand. He also claims that the course charted over the past few years has been a profitable one. Insert H.L. Mencken quote about the American people here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

FDH Lounge Show #19: October 27, 2007

By Rick Morris

THE FDH LOUNGE comes your way on a different day, albeit the same time as usual, on Tonight, Saturday, October 27, we air 24 hours earlier than usual from 8-11 PM EDT.

We are being preempted by special programming on Sunday, but rather than skip this turn in our every-other-week rotation, we are airing a special version of the show to recognize a milestone of ours: the final in-studio program for Jason and Samantha Jones. They are relocating to Colorado next week and will be participating long-distance as some of the other FDH Lounge Dignitaries do. But before that happens, we'll have one last version of the show with them on-site.

In Hour One, after the Opening Statements of the Dignitaries, we speak once again with our good friend Rick Calvert from Blog World Expo, the new media convention that harnesses so many world-changing forces for the first time. With the expo less than two weeks away in Las Vegas, what developments are expected to come out of this gathering? We'll find out.

In Hour Two, we catch up with Samantha, our Chief Entertainment Dignitary, for the latest in music and movies. Additionally, our newlyweds will have some travel tips for you fun-seeking vacation types out there.

In Hour Three, the FDH Lounge Pigskin Report reviews a poll-shaking weekend of college football and previews NFL Week 8. Additionally, we'll bring you our comments throughout the show on the game between #1 Ohio State and Penn State and on World Series Game Three (go Rockies!).

Join us tonight on as we close the door on one era of the Lounge and prepare for our 20th broadcast and all that lies ahead!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

2007-2008 NBA Predictions

By Rick Morris

X-Boston 50-32
Y-Toronto 45-37
New York 40-42
New Jersey 39-43
Philadelphia 14-68

X-Cleveland 52-30
Y-Detroit 51-31
Y-Chicago 46-36
Milwaukee 27-55
Indiana 23-59

X-Miami 51-31
Y-Washington 50-32
Y-Orlando 44-38
Charlotte 39-43
Atlanta 37-45

X-Utah 52-30
Y-Denver 43-39
Seattle 36-46
Portland 30-52
Minnesota 20-62

X-Phoenix 55-27
Y-Golden State 45-37
Y-Los Angeles Lakers 42-40
Los Angeles Clippers 37-45
Sacramento 28-54

X-Dallas 58-24
Y-San Antonio 54-28
Y-Houston 53-29
New Orleans 40-42
Memphis 28-54

Cleveland over Orlando in 6
Toronto over Miami in 7
Chicago over Detroit in 6
Boston over Washington in 6
Dallas over Los Angeles Lakers in 4
Phoenix over Denver in 5
San Antonio over Golden State in 6
Utah over Houston in 7

Boston over Cleveland in 6
Toronto over Chicago in 6
Dallas over Utah in 6
Phoenix over San Antonio in 7

Boston over Toronto in 6
Phoenix over Dallas in 7

Phoenix over Boston in 5

NBA MVP: Lebron James
Finals MVP: Amare Stoudemire
Coach of the Year: Rick Adelman

The most fascinating story of the year does not involve the Kobe trade rumors (a perennially overplayed drama), the struggle of the Cavs to take the next step without having upgraded in the offseason and without their two holdouts (a somewhat overblown concern considering that the team will improve from within with Daniel "Boobie" Gibson becoming their Ben Gordon), Dallas' quest for redemption (they'll be a great team just like they've been the past few years) or the Spurs' quest to finally repeat as champions (they won't). The unprecedented attempt by the Boston Celtics to "topload" their roster with three Hall of Famers and most of the rest of the roster being fit for the developmental league will seize center stage. It says here that their efforts will take them through the feeble Eastern Conference, thanks mainly to a draw that will cause them to avoid deep teams like Detroit and Chicago. Like most East teams in recent years, however, they will be exposed in the Finals as the Valley of the Sun hoists its first title in a reverse result of the classic Clash of '76.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Being there matters most: Jena and Iraq

By Rick Morris

Two seemingly separate stories that materialized this week are bound by one common thread: on-the-ground observance trumping a pre-existing media template.

In Louisiana, the “Jena 6” legal situation has resulted in a pall of racist shame being cast on a rural community. One reporter, who has been on the scene throughout the story, can posit with certainty that many characterizations that have been cast about the community are quite unfair. On a personal note, I should mention that I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, namely Parma, Ohio, which is widely and unfairly considered racist and I do know firsthand what it is like to have my racial views prejudged based on where I live. While some injustices in this affair may have occurred, we cannot fairly understand what should happen from here until we separate fact from fiction about what has transpired. This account provides a valuable service in helping to sort out the historical record. We tip our hat to Instapundit, where we first saw this story linked.

One example may sound unbelievable at first glance, but makes more sense upon further consideration. The much-vaunted nooses hanging on the tree on school grounds were apparently not racially motivated, but a misguided joke aimed at one group of white students from another. While this might seem to stretch credulity, it really doesn’t. We hear and see all the time about this historical illiteracy of kids these days. The notion that some of them might be too uneducated to know the context of racism and lynching is actually quite possible, regardless of where they live.

The other story we reference is the defining one of this last half-decade: the Iraq war. Over the course of the war, the American public has been told by the mass media about a conflict that degenerated horribly after the initial success of toppling the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. However, the template that fit for three years does not anymore, as the surge of 2007 has reversed the previous horrible bumbling of those in charge of our war effort and helped stabilize very unlikely parts of the country. As has been the case all throughout the war, military bloggers have been way ahead of the curve in the reportage of the story, because they’ve been on the front lines consistently and been able to report on the realities of day-to-day life. Michael Yon’s dispatch illuminates quite clearly the widening gap between the default media coverage of the war and the realities on the ground.

Speaking of milbloggers covering the scene up close, Bill Roggio continues to be near or at the top of this outstanding field. We had him on THE FDH LOUNGE show previously, in what we consider one of our greatest segments ever, and we look forward to doing so again, although we regrettably have not been able to get our booking requests answered (we mention this solely to let those listeners who have requested a repeat appearance know that we want it also and are working towards making it happen). Notwithstanding that, Bill is spending every day making the most difficult-to-understand corners of the world relatable to his readership and his latest writing about the volatile Pakistan nightmare is both enlightening and chilling indeed. If the world finds itself engulfed in a large-scale war with unprecedented use of weapons of mass destruction, elements currently operating in Pakistan could end up more responsible than anyone else.

The GOP’s only hope: real reform

By Rick Morris

A recent post taking the Ohio Republican Party to task for burying Democratic state officeholders under a mountain of public records requests also advocated a better path for the GOP, one that demonstrates the superiority of a conservative public policy path. If any politicians end up being wise enough to heed the advice, there are now two different examples of how it can be done.

These possibilities come from two states very different from each other and very different from Ohio, proving that sound public policies can work anywhere. In Alaska, Sarah Palin kicked the crooked Old Boys Club right in the gonads en route to seizing the mantle of America’s best governor. The rancid mix of pork and crony capitalism that RINOs in the country’s northernmost state have foisted on the public for decades crumbled at the feet of a real reformer from within their own party. While insiders decreed her unwillingness to turn her back on wrongdoing within her own party, she has been rewarded with insanely high poll ratings and has become the first elected official from Alaska to be mentioned as a viable future candidate for national office. If the Republicans end up looking for a way to take down a President Hillary in 2012 by eviscerating her advantage among women voters without having to compromise any principles whatsoever, we could see a Palin presidency that rallies the American people by dumping the deadwood of both political parties right in the Potomac.

Now, in Louisiana, Palin finds her first real competitor for the mantle of America’s finest state executive. Bobby Jindal, an amazingly talented wunderkind with a breathtaking grasp of sound policy and unassailable reform credentials, cruised to victory Saturday after state voters had an understandable case of buyers’ remorse at passing him over for the incompetent Kathleen Blanco four years ago. Like Palin, Jindal doesn’t try to get ahead with cheap political maneuverings that are the Ohio GOP default mode. These young and aggressive leaders are not inclined to leave their libertarian principles at the door – their intent is always to examine with a critical eye government’s role in every situation that it has wormed its way into, then to weed out unnecessary government intervention and to make the state work more efficiently where it must be involved. They also prove solidly and definitively that a libertarian approach to operating state government is not at all inconsistent with upholding the public policy imperatives of social conservatism. Plus, for a pandering political party oversensitive to the notion that it is not diverse enough, the notion of the most qualified people being a woman and an Indian-American on a national ticket would be pure gold. The Republican Party has done much worse, and Reagan aside, always has. In whatever order, these two aces should constitute the ticket in 2012 if the GOP predictably loses next year.

Sadly, the Ohio Republican Party mirrors in many ways the national apparatus, which is similarly outclassed in public relations every time they try to compete on the Democrat turf of cheap politics. If the Machiavellis calling the shots actually had a clue that idealism and good government actually pays a lot more politically than transparent “politics as usual” gaga, Ohio wouldn’t be in the toilet in so many national rankings of quality of life.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

World Series preview

By Rick Morris

Remember the days when the Red Sox were a fuzzy, lovable underdog whom America nuzzled to its soft bosom? Back then, the team was the whipping boy in a very one-sided “rivalry” with America’s Most Hated, aka the New York Yankees, and they hadn’t won a World Series since 1918 and the trade of Babe Ruth.

Those seem like distant memories.

Now, Boston has become “Yankees Junior,” an unlovable, huge-spending behemoth that has left the Yankee organization firmly in the dust, won a World Series title and become the bane of a nation with a spoiled, self-entitled, obnoxious fanbase cheering its every move. They’ve achieved the success they never thought possible, while becoming all that they hated. I’m sure the irony is lost on Chowd Nation.

And now, Boston is on the verge of becoming the “leader in the clubhouse” for the title of Team of the Decade, since no other franchise has won a second championship this decade. Standing in their way: a “magic” team outmatched on paper much like the one they just dispatched in the ALCS: the 21-1 in their last 22 games Colorado Rockies.

The national media will spin this series as the empire against the ragamuffins, but in reality, it’s the most star-studded World Series since 1999 with the Rocks definitely holding up their end of the bargain. Although Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins and Todd Helton toil in relative anonymity, that does not negate what they accomplish between the lines. Holliday is probably The Baddest Man on the Planet right now and is probably the only player who could legitimately reduce Manny Ramirez to being the second best left fielder in the World Series.

So the Rockies are almost as top-heavy as the Sox in terms of superstar power, but as they did in the ALCS and the ALDS, Boston should be able to win with superior depth of starting pitching, relief pitching and the starting lineup. Additionally, the Red Sox’s path to the final stop in October is probably more impressive than Colorado’s insane hotness, given the absolutely huge disparity in talent between the American and National Leagues. Boston has already beaten two teams that probably would have won the NL if they were in it.

I have maintained all along that the winner of the AL would steamroll to win the World Series. There are a couple of caveats I have grown to accept that do make me feel the Fall Classic will be closer than I had previously thought.

^ I picked against Colorado twice and they have defied my expectations. Again, the Phillies and Diamondbacks are supremely inferior to the Red Sox, but credit must be given where it is due for exceeding expectations already and proving pundits like myself wrong repeatedly.

^ David Ortiz or Kevin Youkilis at Coors Field? We won’t see both.

^ Colorado won two of three from Boston at Fenway in interleague play this year, including a game in which they took it to Josh Beckett.

^ Rookie starters Franklin Morales and Ubaldo Jimenez are wildly inexperienced, but also unknown commodities to the Red Sox. Young pitchers can buffalo even great hitters unfamiliar with them.

^ In addition to excellent performances from their core players, Colorado has had timely hitting up and down the order – and they are one of the best defensive teams in baseball, if not the best.

^ While the Rocks will have to deal with the atmosphere at Fenway, the Red Sox must play the middle games of the series at Coors Field. Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball might not be dancing on a cold October night at altitude.

^ There is at least a surface similarity I see, albeit with great irony, between this Series and the 2003 one. Then, an upstart team led by, you guessed it, Josh Beckett, punched the favorite Yankees in the nose and continued their Cinderella run all the way to the top. But the crucial difference I see is that the Sox are not in the decaying-dynasty mode New York was in back in ’03 and that the speed and slightly-more-established power arms of the Marlins were custom-made for pulling off the upset in a way that the Rockies are not.

Notwithstanding these factors, I pick the Red Sox to win in 6. I sincerely hope that I am as wrong about the Rockies as I was in the first two rounds, and moreover, everyone in this country outside of the noxious Red Sox Nation wishes the same.

ALCS post-mortem

By Rick Morris

The knee-jerk reaction by Tribe fans is to label the 3-1 ALCS lead and subsequent collapse as a choke. But relinquishing a lead, no matter the circumstances, can never be a choke when it was simply a matter of the law of averages kicking in and the better team winning.

We need not revisit the fact that all available measures to load up this team for the postseason were not taken. But clearly, the Red Sox had the edge in starting pitching (especially big-game starting pitching in the form of Beckett and Schilling) and lineup depth (Pedroia and Youkilis, anybody?). The Indians featured not-ready-for-primetime performances from their dual aces and sub-par lineup production from most players not named Victor Martinez. Additionally, when your second baseman and right fielder are so new to starting in the big leagues that they start to become exposed at the plate at the worst time of the year, you are reaping what you’ve sown in terms of roster assemblage.

As for the crash of “The Raffys” in the Cleveland bullpen – any regular listener to our FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER program on (9-11 PM, Thursdays) has heard us speak repeatedly of the concept of “progression to the mean” and “regression to the mean.” What does this mean? In simple English, it means that everything bounces back, positively or negatively, to within the range of reasonable expectations ahead of time. Frankly, these two were so hot for so long, at a level far beyond what they’d done previously, that they were bound to go the other way eventually. In that sense, they served as an unfortunate microcosm of the team as a whole.

Again, the Indians did not choke -- because they used smoke and mirrors to amass their 3-1 series lead in the first place. When Tom Mastny is retiring the middle of the order effortlessly to help you win an extra-innings game at Fenway Park, the magic is going your way. You live by the magic, you die by the magic when you’ve used your last portion of it.

The Tribe has a very talented core of players, but it needs to be augmented with legitimate help from the outside if the team is to have more than a puncher’s chance at winning a World Series title. Like many other fans of the team, I got caught up in recent weeks in thinking this team had a chance to go all the way, but I never deluded myself about how it would happen. If it was going to go down, it would have been because it was one of those magic seasons, not because the team built to be the best was going to take what it deserved. That team is the Boston Red Sox and they now face another “magic” team in the Colorado Rockies in the World Series. And for the second round in a row, the only team that can possibly choke is the one from Beantown.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This guy should choke on his chowdah!

By Rick Morris

An idiot on a Boston radio show, deciding to play "Wacky Morning DJ Hack," has gravy-trained for himself some publicity regarding the bug infestation that descended on Jacobs Field during Game Two of the American League Division Series. Said ignoramus shall not be named or linked to here because that just encourages fellow no-talents to exploit circumstances in a willfully disingenuous manner. For the record, what happened during that game did not constitute any form of cheating or unfair advantage and Fausto Carmona had the guts to pitch through it unaffected unlike young Joba.

But I will give credit to my good friends Don Peterson and Tony Mazur from The Don and Tony Show, the flagship daytime program on, for schooling this chump thoroughly. His hometown newspaper, the Boston Herald, even found their beatdown notable enough to cover. For the record, the Herald was wrong on one count -- Don and Tony dispatched of this pretender without resorting to any vulgarity. But otherwise, the article sums up their fine work quite well.

The World Series and superstars

By Rick Morris

Since the post-lockout/wildcard playoff format/serious 'roiding era of baseball began in 1995 (this started the culmination of these factors, even though steroids had been around before that), what kind of correlation has there been between the World Series teams with the greater number of top-end players and ultimate victory? I decided to determine this. Keep in mind that by definition the labeling of a player as a "superstar" is inherently a bit arbitrary, so I make no pretense whatsoever about the scientific nature of this piece. In terms of how I arrived at whether a player was a superstar at the time, I went by track record (in other words, I eliminated players who appeared at the time to be a one-year wonder) and, because I'm a big roto/stats guy, dominating statistical production. Here's how my fun little study proceeded in terms of whether it was predictable or not by this admittedly random criteria:

2006: St. Louis (3 superstars: Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen) over Detroit (2 superstars: Ivan Rodriguez, Justin Verlander). While Verlander didn't have an extensive track record through 2006, he was a very high-ceiling prospect and I factored in his pedigree in determining that he already was a legitimate superstar. I did not include everyone's favorite intangibles player/underdog David Eckstein to keep the good folks at Fire Joe Morgan from having their heads explode!

2005: Chicago White Sox (3 superstars: Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Mark Buehrle) over Houston (5 superstars: Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Brad Lidge). Remember, Lidge was tarnished only by the Pujols homer in the NLCS at this point and had yet to lose his invincible image. UNPREDICTABLE.

2004: Boston (5 superstars: Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Keith Foulke) over St. Louis (5 superstars: Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Jason Isringhausen). PUSH.

2003: Florida (1 superstar: Ivan Rodriguez) over New York Yankees (6 superstars: Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera). While the Marlins had many youngsters on the verge of stardom, by the fall of '03 few if any could be said to have proven themselves at that level yet. UNPREDICTABLE.

2002: Anaheim (2 superstars: Garret Anderson, Troy Percival) over San Francisco (3 superstars: Jeff Kent, Barry Bonds, Robb Nen). UNPREDICTABLE.

2001: Arizona (3 superstars: Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling) over New York Yankees (6 superstars: Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens). UNPREDICTABLE.

2000: New York Yankees (5 superstars: Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera) over New York Mets (3 superstars: Mike Piazza, Mike Hampton, Al Leiter). PREDICTABLE.

1999: New York Yankees (4 superstars: Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, David Cone, Mariano Rivera) over Atlanta (6 superstars: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones, Kevin Millwood, John Smoltz, Andruw Jones). UNPREDICTABLE.

1998: New York Yankees (5 superstars: Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Paul O'Neill) over San Diego (4 superstars: Tony Gwynn, Kevin Brown, Andy Ashby, Greg Vaughn). PREDICTABLE.

1997: Florida (5 superstars: Gary Sheffield, Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Kevin Brown, Robb Nen) over Cleveland (4 superstars: Matt Williams, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Dave Justice). PREDICTABLE.

1996: New York Yankees (4 superstars: Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, David Cone, John Wetteland) over Atlanta (9 superstars: Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff, Chipper Jones, Marquis Grissom, Ryan Klesko, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Mark Wohlers). UNPREDICTABLE.

1995: Atlanta (5 superstars: Fred McGriff, Ryan Klesko, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux) over Cleveland (7 superstars: Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray, Dennis Martinez). UNPREDICTABLE.

So the team with more elite players lost in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005. 2004 was a push with an equal number of superstars on each team and the team with more superstars won in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2006. Now, the '06 determination could come as a surprise to some, because the Cards only won 83 games in a vastly inferior National League, but St. Louis certainly had fewer players just below the superstar level than Detroit.

Other notes:

^ A more talented Braves team on paper lost the Series in '96 after winning in '95. Their young talent was a year more advanced, but couldn't get past a cohesive Yankees squad, who would go on to beat them notwithstanding a similar talent situation again in '99.

^ The World Series with the most combined superstars? 1996 (minor surprise that it had more than the year before, but it did because of the previously mentioned maturation of the Braves lineup) with 13, 1995 with 12 (no surprise at all), 1999 with 10 (with many of the same players as 1996) , 2004 with 10, 1997 with 9 (the Tribe in its prime and the Marlins with their mercenaries) and 2001 with 9 (the beginning of the end of the Yankees dynasty).

^ The World Series with the least combined superstars? 2002 and 2006, each with 5.

I'm at a loss in terms of spotting definitive trends out of that data. The team with more elite players has failed to win the World Series 7 times since 1995, but in many instances they had more players on the next tier down. If anything, we could speculate that the "superstar effect" can be overrated in October, but I wouldn't stake my life on that claim.

How do this year's potential teams rate?

Colorado (5 superstars: Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton). I'd still consider Helton at that level by the skin of his teeth given his power decline and I rate Tulow up there based on the "Verlander Precedent" of 2006 in that his superb pedigree means that we can give him the benefit of the doubt sooner than most.

Cleveland (5 superstars: Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona). Ryan Garko comes close to making the cut but misses just barely on experience (and thus not being given the benefit of the doubt given that his minor league projections were high, but just a shade below Tulow and Verlander). But since I included Troy T., so too will I include Fausto, who was projected as a #1 starter in the minor leagues and has survived more adversity than most major leaguers already with his infamous disaster at closer in '06. Rafael Betancourt was not listed because I did not include Mariano Rivera in 1996 -- it's hard for me to regard a setup man, no matter how dominant, on the level of other elite players.

Boston (6 superstars: Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Jonathan Papelbon).

The quick note that comes to mind when looking at a Cleveland-Colorado matchup is that the lazy national media template would be to regard both teams as a collection of ragamuffins because they haven't been here before or recently, as the case may be. Regardless of who comes out of the American League Championship Series, this will mark only the second time since 1999 that we have seen a World Series with a double-digit number of superstars being involved, albeit many of them lesser-known to the casual fan. So reject that superficial storyline for the pabulum that it is if you encounter it.

Real Republican or Phony Plastic Panderer?

By Rick Morris

Mitt Romney's laughable assertion that he represents the "Republican wing of the Republican party" in the 2008 presidential race represents a rare misstep in his preprogrammed plastic pandering path to the GOP nomination. His creepy Max Headroom affectations aside, Romney has tried to get ahead by essentially repudiating the status quo moderation which had previously represented his career -- and now, by taking his "I'm one of you" gaga a step too far, he's invited the kind of rhetorical beatdown that John McCain has since dropped on him. Frankly, it doesn't take someone with even a fraction of my "Mad Google-Fu Skillz" to expose Mitt the Mendacious for the Fantastic Fraud that he is:

* He famously said that he was an independent in the '80s and didn't want a return to the days of Reagan-Bush.

* He said during his 1994 Massachusetts Senate campaign that abortion should be safe and legal and praised Roe v Wade as the law of the land.

* He disregarded the Second Amendment when it suited his needs in the People's Republic of Massachusetts.

* He was a great pal of "the love that dare not speak its name" back in the aforementioned Bay State.

* He trumps up similarities to standard Christianity to attempt to suck up to the Republican base while belonging to a religion that has, among its many "interesting" points, the notion of no unified Trinity, the Book of Mormon being a co-equal document to the Bible, and the notion that God has a physical manifestation.

His convenient reversal on the first four points just happened to coincide with his move from electoral pursuits in the Chomskyite state of Massachusetts to the national stage and a conservative base unforgiving of his heresies. While Romney has his useful idiots who are willing to sell out all principles for whatever jaded reason to be a part of his demeaning sideshow, legitimate conservatives are distinguishing themselves by choosing not to be part of the poser campaign of Romney or New York liberal Rudy Giuliani.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

FDH Lounge Show #18: October 14, 2007

By Rick Morris

The 18th edition of THE FDH LOUNGE on (8-11 PM EDT) will feature its trademark eclectic blend of content.

In Hour One, we get caught up on the presidential race, now entering the homestretch of pre-primary and pre-caucus campaigning. On the Democratic side, is Hillary a lock? If so, who might her running mate be? With Lounge Dignitary Burrell Jackson having proclaimed himself a Barack Obama supporter, we'll ask him what the senator's tack should be in terms of taking down the former First Lady. In the Republican bracket, Lounge darling Fred Thompson has entered the race and participated in his first debate. How has the race changed? And what's up with the Rudy-and-Mitt attempts to wean this down to a mano-a-mano contest? With Romney's Mormonism coming closer to taking center stage, is religion a legitimate reason to vote against a candidate?

In Hour Two, once we make it through the presidential politics, we'll check out Israel's bombing of the Syrian nuclear facilities and what it bodes for stopping the spread of nuclear arms worldwide. And in the aftermath of the Flava Flav roast at summer's end, we'll address a question sure to divide the Dignitaries -- Flav: minstrel clown or great entertainer?

In Hour Three, we review the baseball playoffs to date and look ahead to the bombshells that are reported to emerge from the Mitchell Report regarding substance abusers. We wrap up with The FDH Lounge Pigskin report reviewing an interesting weekend of NFL and college action including the massive choke-job of #1 LSU at Kentucky. Join us for all the fun Sunday night for The Great American Radio Show on Internet TV!

It's official -- Israel took out Syrian nukes

By Rick Morris

Shades of Osirak in 1981, the Israelis have destroyed a grave threat to their security in the form of a Syrian nuclear weapons facility. It's very sobering to think that our intelligence agencies missed this while committing at least some form of assessment failure about Iraqi capabilities pre-war. We can all be grateful that the superior intelligence agency Mossad found out what we could not, that the Israelis got the job done, and that their necessary attack did not further inflame the Middle East.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

C-Town, grow up about Lebron!

By Rick Morris

As a lifelong resident of the Cleveland area, you might think I'd be most sick and tired of the perennially horrible and depressing economy -- or perhaps the harsh summers and winters -- or perhaps the single worst market in the country for terrestrial radio (albeit made much more bearable by my sweet, sweet iPod in the car) -- or perhaps the knuckle-dragging, no-vision mediocre politicians sucking at the public teat -- or perhaps the legacy of no major professional sports championship (I said major championship, indoor soccer!) since 1964.

Actually, the element I'm most sick and tired of is none of the above, although it's somewhat related to the legacy of losing sports teams.

You see, the Cleveland area is singular in the barely repressed overcompensating self-loathing that manifests itself in the world's biggest inferiority complex. If somebody at ESPN so much as mentions something unflattering about Cleveland off air and sotto voce to boot, 10 morons would immediately clog the phone lines of a local talk show to whine about it. It's almost impossible for anyone outside of Cleveland to properly appreciate this, but ANYTHING said by ANYONE in the national media can be taken at any time as a reprehensible slam on America's North Coast by its paranoid residents. A mere "Here comes the Yankees" from Chip Carey during the ALDS telecasts was enough for the majority of the Tribe fanbase to complain that its female private parts hurt.

So Lebron James, as a fellow lifelong Northeast Ohioan, should have known the grief he was buying by wearing a Yankees hat to ALDS Game One at Jacobs Field.

Personally, as a lifelong fan of all C-Town sports teams and certified Yankee hater, I didn't appreciate his gesture. But I'm just about unique in this town right now for the fact that I have no great urge to burn him in effigy.

Cleveland fans are actually pretty amusing in their ignorance and lack of any type of perspective on Old Number 23. To date, Lebron has lived up to the NBA pedigree by serving as (unmarried) baby daddy to two young tykes. With urban America plagued by countless ills that could be traced back to births out of wedlock and single parenthood, Lebron has chosen not to set a positive example for so many of his fans. But the "sports is my life" yokels who worshiped him considered him perfect before and now call him the devil incarnate for donning a Yankee lid.

Let me be clear. I have worn, and will continue to wear, Lebron gear including a #23 Cavs jersey. I have never been an immense fan of the man personally, dating back to his Hummer-driving days in high school (just try defending the indefensible on that deal!). I don't harbor dislike for him -- his "King James" persona is a bit much for me, but I think he's fairly well-adjusted when you grade on the curve and factor in that the world has been kissing his tuckus since his mid-teens. But I've always been cold and mercenary in my support of him. He's the single greatest athlete Cleveland has had in my lifetime, inasmuch as Jim Brown was before my time. He represents the greatest hope for a championship for my hometown teams, so I want him to succeed to bring my team a title. But I'm certainly not invested in him personally at all.

So when he does something jerky like taunt Tribe fans with a Yankees cap, I've got it in perspective, unlike the "Lebron hates us just like our evil overlords in the national media" nutcases who populate my hometown. Fortunately for them, The FDH Lounge exists and can demonstrate to those types that sports are important and fun, but there's actually a world that exists beyond it.

400 innings for Aaron Harang next year!

By Rick Morris

Dusty Baker to manage the Reds -- outstanding! In the interest of heaping maximum abuse on the Cincy arms, may I suggest Frank Robinson and Bob "Pitch Counts? We didn't have pitch counts in my day! After pitching six days in a row, I'd go into the manager's office and say 'Skip' -- we called him 'Skip' back in the day -- 'Skip, I'm available for long relief if you need me today because I'm a real man, dagnabbit" Feller to serve as pitching coaches?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Most NFL upsets these days -- aren't

By Rick Morris

At this time last week, the experts were still agog about the almost unprecedented scope of upsets and general silliness yielded by NFL Week 4. As the dust has started to settle, one crystal-clear conclusion has shown itself to be undeniably true: none of these games were gigantic upsets, and we’re likely to see few legitimate ones the rest of the year.

Why? When you examine the league as you would a fantasy sports draft board, with tiers included to delineate where teams should truly be slotted, it becomes clear that for all of the talk about the league being parity-ridden in recent years if not decades, that it has never been truer than right now. There has rarely if ever been a time in the history of professional football that a good 20 teams are separated by so little.

Standard power rankings are insufficient to display the full gist of the way the league is configured through six weeks of the season. Here’s an assessment, with the aforementioned tiers included to give an accurate sense of where teams are at as of today:

TIER I: Mutant Super-Teams

1. New England

2. Indianapolis

3. Dallas (subject to falling to the top of the next tier if they get exposed by the Pats this week)

TIER II: Above-Average Teams That Should Make the Playoffs and Lose to the Top-Tier Teams

4. Pittsburgh

5. Green Bay (how lethal would they be with any kind of a solid running game?)

6. Tennessee (in the all-time overachieving and overcoaching example this side of Bob Melvin – at a time when much more talented squads like San Diego, Carolina and Philadelphia have proven to be gutless disgraces, the Titans are to be hailed)

7. Seattle

TIER III: One Large Amorphous Mess That Will Ultimately Yield Some Complete Cannon-Fodder Playoff Teams, Possibly with Records as Bad as 7-9

8. Jacksonville

9. San Diego

10. Baltimore

11. New York Giants

12. Tampa Bay

13. Washington

14. Houston

15. Carolina

16. Arizona

17. Chicago

18. Philadelphia

19. Cincinnati

20. Oakland

21. Detroit

22. Denver

23. Cleveland

24. San Francisco

25. New York Jets

26. Kansas City

27. New Orleans

28. Minnesota

29. Buffalo (and they wouldn’t even be on this tier without the breath of fresh air known as Trent Edwards)

TIER IV: Bottom-Feeding Slugs

30. St. Louis

31. Atlanta

32. Miami

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

2007 ALCS/NLCS preview

By Rick Morris

I correctly predicted the participants in the American League Championship Series, but missed wildly on the NLCS. In that matchup, we will see one of the greatest underdog vs. underdog matchups in the recent history of sports.

The Diamondbacks are a fascinating story. This team, so filled with young and raw talent, but so underdeveloped, seemed to morph into their 2009 selves right before our very eyes against the Cubs in the Division Series. Assuming that everyone stays healthy, the Arizona lineup will in another year or two be very comparable to the Big Red Machine, the ’95 Indians or the Yankees of the past year or two, whichever comparison you prefer. But they’re just not there yet – regular season numbers don’t lie. I love to find cross-sports analogies, and I’m trying in vain to come up with an example of a team collectively playing a year or two ahead of its time like what we’ve seen from the BabyBacks. The closest comparison I can find right now is the ’92 Cowboys, who were thought to be a year or two away once they reached the playoffs, but their regular season performance was far more advanced than that of the ’07 Diamondbacks. The ’74 Steelers were also young, but again, probably more developed than this team.

Fans of the Backs and Rockies won’t appreciate my conclusion on this matter, but the success of these teams speaks largely to the utter mediocrity of the National League. These teams play in a tough division, but it is flawed. The Padres have yet to get serious about augmenting their great pitching with even an adequate offense and the Dodgers continue to be mired in an identity crisis about whether they’re a big-spending veteran team or one totally committed to their superlative young talent. The less said about Frisco, the better. And the league as a whole has perhaps never been further behind the AL. Clearly, the Cubs “won” their division by being the least flawed of a bad bunch in the Central and the Phillies, like the Rockies, were just treading water before playing super-hot baseball starting in mid-September. When one great streak at the right time can put you in October, it’s more a testament to the mediocrity around you that allows you to blow by them. Whoever wins the NLCS will deservedly be a steep underdog to the team coming out of the “winner’s bracket.”

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES: Can the “future version” of the Diamondbacks stick around for one more series against the Rockies? At the risk of underestimating the Rockies for the second consecutive round, they shouldn’t have to. Their legitimate ace is one more than Colorado has and their bullpen is as sweet as any in the game, so they rate the edge in any close game going into the late innings. Plus, the one advantage that the Rocks have, their insane momentum, should diminish from the lag time between series. They do have an incredible core of young hitters just entering their primes, led by the underrated-no-more megastar Matt Holliday, so they should not be underestimated, especially in games when the DBacks trot out an overmatched pitcher (I’m looking at you, Doug Davis). Colorado’s only chance seems to be to steal one from Brandon Webb in Game One and keep the offensive momentum steamrolling over Arizona’s thin remaining starting pitching. If they can do this, they could win in a relatively short series. But I don’t see that happening. Diamondbacks in 6.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES: These are clearly the two best-balanced teams in Major League Baseball at the moment, as the first round demonstrated. With Curt Schilling reverting to October form as I predicted for the first round, he has earned his way into the #2 slot in the rotation, which promises a pair of incredibly tight pitching battles in the first two games of the series as Beckett-Sabathia and Schilling-Carmona will keep us all on the edge of our seats. Dice-K probably still rates an edge over whoever the Tribe designates as a #3, however. The lineups seem fairly even at the moment, owing largely to the roll that Indians like Asdrubal Cabrera and Kenny Lofton have been on lately. The bullpens also seem well-matched, with the notable exception of Papelbon vs. Joe Blow at closer. That disparity, combined with the Boston edge in starting pitching depth, is likely to tell the tale in the end. Red Sox in 6.

World Series Prediction: Red Sox in 5.

A better Wrestlemania than you'll see

By Rick Morris

Since the WWE needs to begin planning for WrestleMania (well, they should have begun months ago, but it’s not really their style and in fairness, injuries have cropped up), what matches would you like to see? I went through the possibilities, taking into consideration the politics of the WWE because that really dictates what is and is not possible and here’s what I came out with:

WWE Championship Match: Randy Orton defends against Chris Jericho: Since Jericho was not brought in as a hot-shot opponent for Orton at No Mercy, the WWE has the opportunity for a slow build to WrestleMania. The show was probably going to end with John Cena in another successful title defense and the format seems to call for a babyface winning the top Raw title at the end, as it is now frozen in stone for all time that a Raw match must be the main event. Jericho going over here would cement him as a big money star for the next few years.

World Championship Match: Undertaker defends against Edge: There’s already a built-in feud here stretching back to last May, and it can plausibly be billed as “Streak vs. Streak” since Edge’s only loss at Mania was not in 1-on-1 competition, but rather the “Money In the Bank” match (and as a heel, he should claim that loophole for being undefeated anyway so as to rile up the crowds). Assuming Edge is the guy that the Undertaker is willing to put over at Mania, this makes sense because it puts Edge into the pantheon of elite heels in the history of the company.

ECW Championship Match: CM Punk defends against Mark Henry: Not a great match, admittedly, but I don’t see many possibilities for Punk. He should make it through the ECW roster before Mania and exhaust those feuds, so they’re going to have to bring somebody in from the outside. Having said that, the emphasis should be on having Punk get an impressive victory and Henry is probably a big enough name to furnish that boost. Make it a relatively short match with a gutty Punk comeback to keep building on his list of accomplishments.

HHH over Batista: Somebody’s going to have to be fed to HHH, and I don’t have as big a problem with this as some of my fellow smart marks. Realistically, he’s going to be somebody the company is building around for at least the next 2-3 years since he’s back from his hiatus and being pushed big-time. The WWE seems to be hinting at this match based on the last 2 PPVs. The setup could come easily, by having Batista interfere at No Way Out to have HHH drop the title back to Orton (again, realistically, HHH will probably hold the belt at some time in the next few months) – perhaps a Batista heel turn based on building jealousy of HHH. This solves a few purposes: puts a cross-brand match on Mania, gives HHH a win against somebody who is a big name but “disposable” enough looking down the road and gives HHH one win after he gave Batista three in a row back in ’05.

Shawn Michaels over Kane: These two have never had a really big-time feud over the years, and like HHH/Batista, it’s an opportunity to go cross-brand. Kane seems to work better as a heel, and with the host of psychological issues his character has had, finding a rationale to have him go after the popular and accomplished Michaels should be easy. Plus, since Kane seems fairly bulletproof in defeat, this, like the HHH victory, is a fairly harmless way for Michaels to go over somebody. Remember, he’ll probably go over whoever he wrestles, and he is probably going to be one of the core players at least in the near term, so the politics dictate that he gets thrown a bone – and this could be a great match.

US Title Match: MVP defends against Rey Mysterio: MVP deserves a successful singles match at Wrestlemania to help build him for bigger things possibly even in the next year (hindsight is 20/20, but don’t you think the WWE wishes he had gone over at last Mania?). Rey Rey could probably withstand a loss without any damage, especially if MVP uses the ropes for leverage or the victory is not completely clean.

Lashley over Mr. Kennedy: This is assuming that Lashley recovers in time for WrestleMania. If he does, the revenge angle is money and this could be the kickoff of a hot summer feud.

Money in the Bank: Jeff Hardy and Santino Marella from Raw, Matt Hardy and Chavo Guerrero from Smackdown, Elijah Burke and Finlay from ECW (with Finlay being moved to ECW in the next few months to fill the veteran leader role that he has performed on Smackdown and that was being reserved for Chris Benoit in ECW). This is a good opportunity for Marella to go over and take his character to the next level

Women’s Title Match: Beth Phoenix defends against Ashley: The identity of the competitors is significantly less important than the format. The “lumberjill” style used last year should be a part of every WrestleMania going forward, as it gets the Divas involved, but puts them into one match rather than taking up space during the rest of the show. Ashley could be built up nicely for this coming off of her Survivor run and Phoenix is great in the role of harsh, dominating female champ. Phoenix should go over just to keep the balance of faces and heels winning to be somewhat even.

Brand Wars Battle Royal: Instead of the “DVD only” battle royal of the last few years, put the battle royal as the opening match of the PPVwith team rules. 10 wrestlers each from Raw, Smackdown and ECW, each wearing the official T-shirt of their brands, would compete to have wrestlers from their brand as the last one(s) remaining. The respective general managers could make bets among themselves and offer incentives to the wrestlers. It would provide an all-inclusive storyline opportunity for the wrestlers left off of the big part of the card. Politics being what they are, Raw would end up going over and I would use Snitsky and Umaga as the co-winners. They could eye each other warily at the end and you could have some interesting storyline possibilities as friend or foe going forward.

Note also that I did not account for bringing back any stars of the past or any currently on the outs (Ric Flair, King Booker, etc.). It's time to start looking to the future in a viable manner and to prove that the WWE can fill a football stadium with the talent currently on their roster.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

2007 ALDS/NLDS preview

By Rick Morris

The first round of the MLB playoffs has resembled “March Madness” almost since the inception of the three-round playoff format instituted in 1994 (but not utilized until 1995 – thanks again, players’ union!). This year could well be the wildest yet, with four fairly evenly-matched teams in the superior American League and a number of hot teams in the National League – with only the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks not needing an insanely hot second half just to make the postseason in another down year for the NL. Before anyone overestimates momentum going into October, however, remember that the Cardinals and Tigers were ice-cold going into the playoffs last year only to turn it on when it counted and that the Cleveland Indians were absolutely dominant heading into the 1996 playoffs only to have their fortunes turn on a dime against Baltimore. Here’s how each of the series looks going in:

RED SOX/ANGELS: More than any other series, this one has many mirror-image elements. Both teams go three-deep with scary starting pitchers and are the only teams in the postseason to be able to make that claim. Both aces are legitimate big-game pitchers with both John Lackey (2002) and Josh Beckett (2003) having been on the hill for their teams in a World Series clincher – and both did it under impressive circumstances with Lackey having achieved it in Game Seven as a rookie and Beckett pitching on short rest. Lackey has been awful at Fenway Park and the Red Sox have home-field advantage, so advantage Boston in terms of the top of the rotation. Both teams have great bullpens, but saw big lapses down the stretch. Both pens are anchored by flamethrowing young dominators. The Red Sox have more power than the Angels, but not as much as you would have thought coming into the season – frankly, the top power hitters for both teams were a bit disappointing this year. The Angels, conversely, have better speed, much as you would expect. With so little appearing to separate the teams, ultimately the advantage seems to go to Boston based on Lackey’s Fenway issues and the marvelous strikeout-to-walk ratio of Curt Schilling seeming to foreshadow another great October. Red Sox in 5.

INDIANS/YANKEES: Too much has been made of the Yankees’ domination of the Tribe in the regular season, when, due to a fluke of the schedule, they did not have to face C.C. Sabathia once. The Indians have the widest edge in starting pitching of any of the eight Division Series teams, as the dual aces of Sabathia and Fausto Carmona blow away anyone the Yanks have at this stage of their careers. Unfortunately for the Indians, they lost the American League #1 seed to Boston on a tiebreaker and, as such, lost the right to choose a more spread-out playoff schedule – and therefore cannot pitch Sabathia and Carmona twice on normal rest as they would have otherwise. That format would have rendered Cleveland a dramatic favorite instead of a narrow one. Still, Jake Westbrook’s matchup against Roger Clemens in Game Three is the only one where the Yanks have a clear-cut advantage on paper. The Yankee bullpen is somewhat shaky outside of super-rookie Joba Chamberlain and the still-somewhat-fearsome Mariano Rivera. For the Tribe, the two Rafaels (Betancourt and Perez) have provided almost all of the great moments, along with up-and-down closer Joe Borowski. The Bronx Bomber lineup is superior to Cleveland’s, although the likelihood of defensive specialist Doug Mientkiewicz appearing regularly at first base diminishes the advantage. analyst Bob Glassman correctly stated that one of the key matchups during the series will come in likely MVP Alex Rodriguez’s first two or three at-bats against C.C. Sabathia, against whom he has done well. If Sabathia, perhaps the Cy Young frontrunner, can shut down ARod, the usual chatter about October failures and the 2008 contract situation could spiral out of control in the New York media. Additionally, the designated hitters could tell the tale as well: Travis Hafner is finally doing well at the end of a disappointing season, while Hideki Matsui is being forced into the DH role right now because he is not 100% physically. Ultimately, timely hitting, which has been the forte of the 2007 Indians, should carry over at least into this series as Cleveland moves on to the ALCS. Indians in 5.

PHILLIES/ROCKIES: These are the poster children for hot teams going into the postseason, with Colorado’s win for the ages on Monday night solidifying the team’s emotional high. Unfortunately, the draining extra-innings extra game may have left them ill-suited to travel cross-country to battle another spirited young team in the Philadelphia with only a day’s rest. As such, the Phillies benefit right off the bat by not only having home field, but the luxury of having everything set up their way. Neither team has great starting or relief pitching, but a minor edge in both areas would go to Philly. Both lineups are fairly deep with explosive young talent, epitomized by MVP candidates Matt Holliday for Colorado and Jimmy Rollins for Philadelphia. They are further exemplified by Rockies Brad Hawpe, Rookie of the Year candidate Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins and crafty veteran Todd Helton for the Rockies and 2006 MVP Ryan Howard, sparkplug Aaron Rowand, slugger Pat Burrell and the best second baseman in the game, Chase Utley, for the Phils. Factor in the element that both teams play in hitters’ parks and the scoring should be quite lively. In the end, several key facts play in Philly’s favor: being battle-tested in one of America’s toughest media markets after having started the season in disgraceful fashion, the slight edge in veteran leadership, a more rested bullpen and their ownership of the best pitcher in this series, Cole Hamels. Phillies in 4.

DIAMONDBACKS/CUBS: As has been widely chronicled, Bob Melvin should win Manager of the Century for the job that he has done in shepherding the BabyBacks to the playoffs. Bursting with awesome young talent, Arizona could legitimately become the best team in the National League in a year or two, but they have without question overachieved en route to the National League #1 seed for the demonstrable reason that their young core is simply not productive enough yet. With one legitimate superstar in the lineup (Eric Byrnes), the defending Cy Young award winner (Brandon Webb) and an admittedly great bullpen, the D-Backs have thrived by flying under the radar – but the harsh glare of October doesn’t allow for this method of success to continue. The Cubs survived a tough start with good-not-great starting and relief pitching and timely hitting that disguised a disappointing power output. For Arizona to have any chance whatsoever, they must win both of Webb’s starts and give their stellar bullpen an opportunity to steal one more game. This seems quite unlikely. Chicago, like Philadelphia, was given up for dead after a brutal start to the season. Now, they are the frontrunners to meet in the National League Championship Series. Cubs in 4.

Projections for the next rounds of playoffs: American League Championship Series (Red Sox over Indians in 6), National League Championship Series (Phillies over Cubs in 6), World Series (Red Sox over Phillies in 5).

Who will become the Team of the Decade?

By Rick Morris

When the Major League Baseball playoffs begin tomorrow, the stakes will be even higher than many analysts have indicated. At stake is more than the 2007 World Series Championship – the designation of “Team of the Decade” may be in the balance as well.

Consider the following: no team has accrued more than one World Series title this decade. Of the teams who have been to the mountaintop, the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels and Diamondbacks are in position to gain a second grand prize (forgetting for a moment that there is no continuity whatsoever between the 2001 D-Backs and this squad – we’re speaking of franchises as a whole). The Yankees, with two additional pennants and one excruciating near-miss of a pennant in 2004, would, for all of their disappointments in recent years, actually be the leaders in the “Team of the Decade” chase so far. This is similar to the situation that St. Louis found itself in back in 1987, with one World Series title and two Game Seven World Series losses. The 1980s were a very similar decade to the present one in terms of the scarcity of repeat World Series winners and the Cards seemed to be in position to stake a fragile claim to the decade crown – until the Dodgers pulled an upset for the ages over the mighty Bash Brothers As in 1988 and became the only team in the 1980s to win two world championships.

With only two more seasons remaining this decade, a team winning its second World Series of the Oughts could stake a strong claim to going down as the best franchise of the era – especially if it is the Yankees and can pair the aforementioned two pennants with two world titles as part of their case. Not every decade has produced a dynasty like the Fifties Yankees, Seventies As or Nineties Yankees. Sometimes the leading team asserts itself in a more subtle manner, such as the Eighties Dodgers, and that’s probably the main reason that this intriguing subplot to the postseason has flown completely beneath the national radar. But if you are a fan of any of the four teams with a chance for your second title in the last few years, you should be aware of just how much is at stake in the eyes of history.

James Dolan gots to pay!

By Rick Morris

Isiah is guilty! Surprise!!!

Fittingly, though, he escapes personal accountability yet again as has been the case ever since he retired from the Pistons -- MSG is left holding the bag for 11.6 mil and they're not going to take it out of his hide. That money could sure buy you a pretty thorough personnel screening service, but since when has the Garden been interested in that?

Oh, and nice move by the NBA to keep this news both off of the front page and "news" page of their website. What a gutless move by the Association to try the "hear no evil, see no evil" routine as if we all lived in Cold War-era Eastern Europe and they could keep the news from us if they don't mention it. But the Knickerbockers have been league favorites dating back to the frozen envelope and before, so this is predictable but still sad.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

2007-2008 NHL Predictions

By Rick Morris

X-Pittsburgh 106 points
Y-New York Rangers 102 points
Y-Philadelphia 98 points
Y-New Jersey 94 points
New York Islanders 80 points

X-Ottawa 100
Y-Buffalo 92 points
Toronto 90 points
Montreal 84 points
Boston 80 points

X-Carolina 96 points
Y-Tampa Bay 94 points
Florida 92 points
Atlanta 90 points
Washington 80 points

X-Detroit 108 points
Nashville 87 points
St. Louis 87 points
Columbus 76 points
Chicago 72 points

X-Vancouver 102 points
Y-Minnesota 100 points
Y-Colorado 100 points
Y-Calgary 94 points
Edmonton 82 points

X-Anaheim 106 points
Y-San Jose 98 points
Y-Dallas 98 points
Los Angeles 82 points
Phoenix 71 points

Pittsburgh over Buffalo in 6
Ottawa over New Jersey in 5
Carolina over Tampa Bay in 6
New York Rangers over Philadelphia in 7
Detroit over Calgary in 6
Anaheim over Dallas in 5
Vancouver over San Jose in 6
Colorado over Minnesota in 6

Pittsburgh over New York Rangers in 7
Carolina over Ottawa in 6
Detroit over Colorado in 6
Anaheim over Vancouver in 6

Carolina over Pittsburgh in 6
Anaheim over Detroit in 6

Anaheim over Carolina in 6

Lady Byng: Joe Sakic
Art Ross: Sidney Crosby
Masterton: Joe Sakic
Calder: Nicklas Backstrom
Conn Smythe: J-S Giguere
Selke: Daniel Alfredsson
Hart: Sidney Crosby
Jack Adams: Peter Laviolette
Norris: Nicklas Lidstrom
King Clancy: Mats Sundin
Pearson: Sidney Crosby
Richard: Alexander Ovechkin
Vezina: J-S Giguere
Jennings: Dominik Hasek

The greatest baseball game I've ever seen

By Rick Morris

Previously, I had regarded Game Seven of the 1991 World Series as the most exciting baseball game I had ever witnessed. But the twists and turns in tonight's National League wild card play-in game surpassed even the drama in the Metrodome on that wild October evening.

And no, San Diego, Matt Holliday did not touch home plate. I'd be lying if I said I was that worked up about it, though, since he's a truly great player and didn't deserve to be remembered as a goat for his miscue in the outfield and since the Rockies would surely have advanced in the winning run anyway that inning.

The luckiest guys in baseball tonight? Clint Hurdle, whose overmanaging with the asinine premature defensive substitutions could have cost his team dearly -- and Charlie Manuel, whose Phillies get to face a thrilled but drained Rockies team Wednesday afternoon.

Retooled links page

By Rick Morris

We at FDH have changed and improved the format of our Ultimate Links Page. Sections of links are now organized by overall categories and the look and functionality is much improved. Check it out here.

Many but not all of the links on the page are from the world of sports. A great many of them are useful whether or not you are a sports fan. The page is certainly the most useful on the Internet and an ideal home page -- that is how I personally utilize it.

The newest of our 335 links on the page is for the greatest dog-training unit in the world, Canine Case Squad. You can avail yourselves of their services here.