Friday, September 30, 2011

ALDS and NLDS preview

By Rick Morris

My fellow FDH Lounge Dignitary Nate Noy agrees with me that Philadelphia is certainly the biggest favorite entering a postseason since the Yankees in 1998 – and arguably, since Oakland of 1989-91 (ironic, since Tony LaRussa awaits Philly in the first round this year) when you consider that New York had to potentially get past some battle-tested squads in Cleveland and Atlanta that autumn. It’s hard to find a team in this year’s field who would throw a huge scare into the Phils, especially considering the extent to which they would blow away any AL unit in terms of starting pitching depth. Well, except Tampa Bay, but that lineup might be lucky to get five hits a night off of the Philly hurlers.

As the first round dawns, we are adding a new feature to our previews this year: a rating of each team in five key categories with a numerical rating that correlates as follows:

Great – 5 points

Very Good – 4 points

Decent – 3 points

Poor – 2 points

Horrible – 1 point

For the teams who just missed out with their huge September chokes, here’s how they would have rated:


Lineup Explosiveness: Great

Lineup Depth: Very Good

Starting Pitching, Top-End: Great

Starting Pitching Depth: Poor

Bullpen: Very Good (notwithstanding the last game!)


Lineup Explosiveness: Poor

Lineup Depth: Poor

Starting Pitching, Top-End: Very Good (tempered by the injury questions)

Starting Pitching Depth: Decent

Bullpen: Great (notwithstanding the last game!)

On with the series breakdowns:



Lineup Explosiveness: Decent

Lineup Depth: Decent

Starting Pitching, Top-End: Great

Starting Pitching Depth: Decent

Bullpen: Decent


Lineup Explosiveness: Great

Lineup Depth: Great

Starting Pitching Top-End: Very Good

Starting Pitching Depth: Poor

Bullpen: Great

Justin Verlander might well be able to beat any pitcher on the planet right now and Doug Fister looks like a more legit #2 pitcher than the overhyped Ivan Nova (think he’ll be getting six runs of support per game in October?). But other factors point to the Bombers: a superior lineup, a superior bullpen and, most importantly, home field. In the end, hosting the final game could well make the difference in a series that has the potential to be explosive, with the tide turning back and forth the whole way. Yankees in five.



Lineup Explosiveness: Poor

Lineup Depth: Poor

Starting Pitching, Top-End: Great

Starting Pitching Depth: Very Good

Bullpen: Poor

TEXAS (21)

Lineup Explosiveness: Great

Lineup Depth: Great

Starting Pitching, Top-End: Decent

Starting Pitching Depth: Decent

Bullpen: Great

A year ago, when Texas got past Tampa, it was considered an upset in most quarters. In 2011, the shoe is on the other foot, as the defending AL champions are cruising into the playoffs after a strong year. The Rays are surging, as their rundown of Boston proved, but their lineup is putrid for a playoff team and they’ve got to be wondering what they’re going to get out of David Price right now. It’s a quintessential pitching vs. hitting matchup, and as such, maybe it’s risky to pick the Rangers when the arms are supposed to have the edge in October, but Texas is the best-balanced team in the American League. If Matt Moore can channel “David Price ’08,” then the Rays could have a chance and in fact this series is similar to the other AL one and different from the two NL ones in that it could likely tilt either way. Tampa Bay could make it very interesting with more timely hitting, but, as with the other ALDS pick, you’ve got to go with the more well-rounded squad. Rangers in five.


ST. LOUIS (18)

Lineup Explosiveness: Great

Lineup Depth: Decent

Starting Pitching, Top-End: Poor

Starting Pitching Depth: Decent

Bullpen: Great


Lineup Explosiveness: Very Good

Lineup Depth: Very Good

Starting Pitching, Top End: Great

Starting Pitching Depth: Great

Bullpen: Very Good

Given that the Cards’ lineup isn’t anything to write home about aside from their otherworldly middle and the pitching doesn’t resemble a typical Dave Duncan crew, this series looks even easier for Philly than their squashing of Cincinnati in the first round last year. Even if the Cards fluke out a win, they know they have to steal two more in an incredibly lopsided pitching matchup. If Albert Pujols is on his way out of St. Louis, this series could be an even more anti-climactic ending than a playoff near-miss would have been. Phillies in three.



Lineup Explosiveness: Decent

Lineup Depth: Decent

Starting Pitching, Top-End: Very Good

Starting Pitching Depth: Decent

Bullpen: Very Good


Lineup Explosiveness: Great

Lineup Depth: Very Good

Starting Pitching, Top-End: Decent (on paper, could be better than they have been)

Starting Pitching Depth: Very Good

Bullpen: Very Good

Every postseason features at least one scruffy mutt without the pedigree to have been fingered for this honor at the start of the year. Arizona is the only team that comes close that billing in 2011. Like their ’98 expansion brethren Tampa Bay, their lineup is not great, but they’ve put together timely hitting to coincide with the emergence of excellent young pitching (coincidentally, the Brewers moved to the NL in the last wave of realignment/expansion in the late ‘90s). Milwaukee, like Texas, is well-balanced, but they are even better. Their starting pitchers are capable of even more than they showed in the regular season. On paper, they are the team most capable of pulling off the historic upset that any Philly series loss would constitute this October. To get that chance (in an NLCS matchup that I predicted before the season; check Page 21), they’ll have to get past the prototypical dangerous young team that doesn’t know that they don’t belong. They should, but it won’t be easy. Brewers in four.


Rangers over Yankees in six.

Phillies over Brewers in five.


Phillies over Rangers in five.

ALDS/NLDS notes and oddities

By Rick Morris

^ Not since 1999 have the playoffs failed to feature a team from California. Coincidentally, Arizona and Texas won the Western Divisions that year as well.

^ The ALDS marks the first time that all four teams in a league’s playoff bracket have won the pennant in the last half-decade.

^ This year, the American League is replicating the ALDS of 1997. In that year, all four AL skippers (Mike Hargrove, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre) brought World Series managing experience to the postseason. Also, last year in the NLDS, all four managers (Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy, Cox and Manuel) had been on the biggest stage. These are the only two previous instances where one league featured a full slate of managers with World Series experience. For that matter, in this entire postseason field, only Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke and Arizona’s Kirk Gibson have not managed in the World Series – but all true baseball fans are familiar with Gibson’s playing experience in that realm.

^ Here’s the strangest baseball stat of the year: since the divisional round of playoffs was instituted in 1995, only three times has the postseason featured both Charlie Manuel and Bobby Cox – or neither of them. Almost every year is like this one: with just one of them managing there (actually, Cox is fully retired from managing). Cox skippered the Braves to the divisional round from 1995-2005, while Manuel managed the feat for Philly from 2007-10. In addition to 2006 being a year absent either of them and 2010 featuring both of them, the only other year to break this pattern was 2001, when Manuel joined Cox in the postseason as the manager in Cleveland at the end of their run.

^ It’s always exciting to take a look at the emerging stars getting ready to make their October debuts each fall. Because there are so many repeat teams from recent years in this field, there aren’t as many this year as in some autumns past. Some of the most prominent are Alex Avila, Doug Fister, Ivan Nova, Matt Moore, Paul Goldschmidt, Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Josh Collmenter, Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke, Domonic Brown and Hunter Pence.

^ Should Milwaukee and St. Louis meet in the NLCS, it would mark the first meeting of two teams that once met in a World Series (in 1982). For that matter, Milwaukee is trying to become the first team to win the pennant in both leagues.

^ Credit to Wikipedia: along with the Cubs, the Phillies are one of only two old-line NL teams who the Yankees haven’t lost to in a World Series.

^ If the Yankees and Phillies make it to the World Series as they did two years ago, they’ll be creating a rare matchup: only three times before have franchises returned to play each other in the World Series with a year in between their last meeting (As/Giants in 1913/15, Cardinals/Yankees in 1926/28 and Dodgers/Yankees in 1953/55).

^ In terms of potential renewals of rivalries between cities in the World Series, New York and Philadelphia top the list because of the many playoff meetings and divisional battles they have seen across all four major sports. Philly vs. Texas would be intriguing because it would match the markets engaged in one of the NFL’s great enduring rivalries.

^ The World Series has never failed to feature an “old-line” franchise (those who were around prior to the post-1961 expansions in the game). So that’s one more strong note in favor of Philadelphia winning the National League pennant, which they are heavily favored to do. But 2009’s “all-old line” World Series between Philly and the Yankees is pretty rare in the recent history of the game. The last few were St. Louis vs. Detroit in 2006, St. Louis vs. Boston in 2004, the Yankees vs. Atlanta (keeping in mind that the Braves go way back, in Milwaukee and in Boston before that) in 1999 and 1996 and Cleveland vs. Atlanta in 1995. So in terms of the likelihood of seeing the Yankees vs. Philly again or the Yankees against the Cardinals, you have to go back to the first two years of the LDS format in 1995-96 to find a World Series comprised solely of these franchises in back-to-back years.

^ Here are potential rematches from past World Series in this year’s field: Cardinals-Yankees (previously 1926, 1928, 1942, 1943 and 1964), Cardinals-Tigers (previously 1934, 1968 and 2006), Phillies-Yankees (previously 1950 and 2009), Phillies-Rays (previously 2008) and Diamondbacks-Yankees (previously 2001).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #13 – Vernon Turner

By Rick Morris

As we referenced previously with Mini-Episodes #1 and #2, our pals at Sportsology are hooking us up for live segments that we’re doing with guests these days. We’re happy to report that we’ve been able to stream many segments on our own, but we’re thrilled for the help on some of these with guests and the thanks all go to our great friend Russ Cohen.

Mini-Episode #13 features a discussion with former NFL running back and new author Vernon Turner, a very inspirational figure who bared his soul in his book THE NEXT LEVEL in the hopes that the struggles he stared down will inspire others.

And here’s Vernon’s history-making punt return for the Tampa Bay Bucs back in the day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Steelers-Colts Surround

By Rick Morris

The FDH Lounge, DOU Productions and The 21st Century Media Alliance are bringing you live, as-it-happens, coverage of this Sunday Night showdown.

Pro Gridiron Surround Week 3

By Rick Morris

Pro football is back and The FDH Lounge, in combination with our pals in The 21st Century Media Alliance, is bringing you action from each and every corner of the landscape! Check this minute-by-minute ticker all day for scores, stats, analysis, pictures, links to videos and so much more. It’s the augmentation you need to help you get a complete handle on all of the day’s events. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oklahoma State-Texas A&M Surround

By Rick Morris

The FDH Lounge, DOU Productions and The 21st Century Media Alliance are bringing you live, as-it-happens, coverage of this Big 12 showdown.

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #12 – Fantasy Football Week 3

By Rick Morris

Here is the 12th mini-episode of THE FDH LOUNGE: the start of the eighth season of THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER. We bring you your lineup recommendations for Week 3 of fantasy football.

NFL Week 3 picks

By Rick Morris

Overall picks last week: 9-5-2

Overall picks for the season: 16-13-3

Three Big Picks of the Week last week: 1-1-1

Three Big Picks of the Week for the season: 3-2-1

1,000-Star Gold Plated Lock of the Millennium for last week: 0-1

1,000-Star Gold Plated Lock of the Millennium for the season: 1-1

1,000-Star Gold Plated Lock of the Millennium for this week: Detroit -3 ½ over Minnesota

Other two picks for Three Big Picks of the Week: San Francisco +3 over Cincinnati and New Orleans -4 over Houston

Other picks:

Buffalo +8 ½ over New England

New York Giants +9 over Philadelphia

Cleveland -2 ½ over Miami

Tennessee -6 ½ over Denver

Carolina -3 ½ over Jacksonville

San Diego -14 ½ over Kansas City

New York Jets -3 over Oakland

Baltimore -4 over St. Louis

Tampa Bay -1 ½ over Atlanta

Arizona -3 ½ over Seattle

Green Bay -3 ½ over Chicago

Pittsburgh -10 ½ over Indianapolis

Washington +3 ½ over Dallas

NCAA football Week 4 picks

By Rick Morris

3-2 last week, 7-7-1 overall

Colorado +16 ½ over Ohio State

Ohio +4 over Rutgers

Alabama -11 over Arkansas

LSU -6 over West Virginia

Florida State +2 over Clemson

Oklahoma State +4 over Texas A&M

Arizona State -2 ½ over USC

Notre Dame -7 over Pittsburgh

Michigan -10 ½ over San Diego State

Mississippi +10 over Georgia

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NFL Week 3 power rankings

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Preseason rankings in parentheses.


1 Green Bay (1)

2 New England (2)


3 Philadelphia (3)

4 Atlanta (5)

5 New Orleans (9)

6 New York Jets (7)

7 Baltimore (6)

8 San Diego (8)

9 Pittsburgh (4)


10 Detroit (12)

11 Houston (16)

12 Washington (26)

13 Buffalo (28)

14 New York Giants (11)

15 Dallas (14)

16 Tampa Bay (13)

17 Arizona (17)

18 San Francisco (23)

19 Chicago (22)

20 Cleveland (18)

21 Oakland (27)

22 St. Louis (15)

23 Tennessee (29)

24 Carolina (32)

25 Denver (21)

26 Miami (19)

27 Minnesota (24)

28 Cincinnati (31)

29 Jacksonville (30)


30 Indianapolis (10)

31 Seattle (25)

32 Kansas City (20)

BIGGEST RISERS: Buffalo (15 spots), Washington (14 spots), Carolina (8 spots), Oakland and Tennessee (6 spots), Houston and San Francisco (5 spots), New Orleans (4 spots), Chicago and Cincinnati (3 spots)

BIGGEST FALLERS: Indianapolis (20 spots), Kansas City (12 spots), Miami and St. Louis (7 spots), Seattle (6 spots), Pittsburgh (5 spots), Denver (4 spots), Minnesota, New York Giants and Tampa Bay (3 spots)


1 NFC East 44

2 AFC East 47

3 NFC South 49

4 NFC North 57

5 AFC North 64

6T AFC West 86

6T NFC West 86

8 AFC South 93


1 NFC 236

2 AFC 290

Sunday, September 18, 2011


By Rick Morris

In conjunction with our friends in The 21st Century Media Alliance, we now have out FANTASY HOCKEY DRAFTOLOGY 2011. It’s the only fantasy – and non-fantasy guide you need for this season. Enjoy!

Pro Gridiron Surround Week 2

By Rick Morris

Pro football is back and The FDH Lounge, in combination with our pals in The 21st Century Media Alliance, is bringing you action from each and every corner of the landscape! Check this minute-by-minute ticker all day for scores, stats, analysis, pictures, links to videos and so much more. It’s the augmentation you need to help you get a complete handle on all of the day’s events. Enjoy!

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #11 – Jake Digman MMA/’rasslin/politics

By Rick Morris

Mini-Episode #11 of THE FDH LOUNGE is a fun and diverse one, as we bring in our longtime FDH Lounge Dignitary and Chief MMA Correspondent Jake Digman to get his thoughts on current developments in MMA, pro wrestling and politics.

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #10 – Jake Digman Warrior report

By Rick Morris

Mini-Episode #10 of THE FDH LOUNGE is a special one, as we bring in our longtime FDH Lounge Dignitary and Chief MMA Correspondent Jake Digman to talk about his role as a ring announcer (essentially portraying himself, as he is a real-life MMA ring announcer) in the great new movie and Oscar contender WARRIOR.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Oklahoma-Florida State Surround

By Rick Morris

It’s the biggest game in one of America’s great football stadiums, Doak Campbell, in many years. Such a game demands extra coverage. Along with The 21st Century Media Alliance, we’ve got you covered with all of the action right here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Movie Review: Warrior

By Rick Morris

Assuming that you haven’t already been spoiled by the promos that were released for this movie, you may or may not want to watch the trailer below. The chances are excellent that you will enjoy Warrior regardless. The chances are even better that you will enjoy it more if you go in with less knowledge.

I stayed clear of almost all information about the movie before I went to see it. I knew that our fellow FDH Lounge Dignitary Jake Digman was in it, appearing as Jake Digman, bringing some of his characteristic MMA ring announcing. [Side note: Boy, is that surreal – but really cool – to see your associate and friend up on the big screen doing his schtick.] But I didn’t know much else about the film.

That was the correct approach, in my estimation.

First of all, if you go in expecting the “MMA Rocky,” your modest expectations will be surpassed a hundredfold. Yes, this is an MMA movie with lots of great fight scenes and underdog-style striving. But this is where the movie diverges greatly from the old tired sports movie formula.

There are actually two underdog stories here, in the form of two estranged brothers from a broken family. One fights under his mother’s maiden name, so the world at large doesn’t even know that they are brothers as they enter the big tournament. They travel parallel paths, from the common need of money for loved ones to the failure to meet past amateur wrestling potential due to the family situation to their decisions to retain familiar-but-skeptical trainers.

It’s important to note that it’s plausible as you watch the movie to imagine either man winning the tournament. Moreover, the reason you may want to enter the theater as a blank slate the way that I did is that the trailers reveal whether or not the brothers ended up fighting in the finals. Not knowing that part, I would have found it believable to envision either the brothers having to square off in the end or the differences being buried suddenly with one of them being gravely injured and the other fighting to avenge him. Hindsight is 20-20, but maybe the initial box office numbers might have been closer to projections had the filmmakers allowed more people to go in with less information as I did.

The story is amazingly well-crafted, as younger brother Tommy (Tom Hardy) and his sibling Brendan (Joel Edgerton) battle not just ring foes, but the demons visited on the family by the past violent alcoholism of their father Paddy (Nick Nolte, in a performance highly likely to garner him an Oscar nomination). Again, if you’re expecting something closer to the level of a typical sports movie, you’ll be blown away by the dramatic writing and the stunning-but-logical twists and turns. There’s one scene, later in the movie, where Tommy gets revenge on his father (who is sober now and training him in an attempt to redeem himself) in shocking fashion – a moment even he didn’t fully realize could manifest itself – and the wave of regret that washes over everyone in the scene left me choked up, frankly.

Hardy and Edgerton, while not the “name” actors usually asked to help carry a film of this sort, really distinguished themselves and as their careers take flight in the years to come, the roles they played here will surely be seen as steppingstones. The other casting was superb up and down the line as well (again, not just talking about my boy Jake!). Veteran character actor Kevin Dunn shines in his support role as he always does (I’m looking forward to seeing him in the lead when The Eric Mangini Story subsequently hits the big screen) and Frank Grillo nailed it as Brendan’s friend and trainer Frank Campana. [Side note: I was hugely distracted trying to figure out where I recognized Grillo from until I realized that he played Hart Jessup on Guiding Light back in the ‘90s. Don’t judge me!]

Other parts of it were amusing as well, such as seeing Kurt Angle portraying a Russian super-fighter and contemplating what state athletic commission on God’s Green Earth would allow the finalists to go through four brutal fights over the course of only two nights. But these weren’t distractions to me. I did wonder whether the Marines shown cheering Tommy in the crowd (real Marines, I learned from Jake) knew the full truth of his circumstances before his last fight when some gnarly things came out about him. I’d like to have that answered in a director’s cut on the DVD.

In short, I can’t recommend the movie enough. If you’re delicate enough that realistic cage-fighting is going to ruin the experience for you, then I can tell you not to waste your time. But for everyone else, this would be judged to be an absolute great film and something you may even want to see again.