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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Boys of Summer Are Back!


Despite the fact that their coach was being pursued by Kentucky, their opponent's center was 45 years old and they had been playing all season with a bull's eye on their back, the Florida Gators became only the 7th school in NCAA D1 history to pull off back to back National hoops championships. And they made it look easy. A lot of people doubted the Gators entering the Final Four (me included), but they flipped the switch and totally dominated UCLA and then Ohio St. in the title game. They were simply unstoppable. Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey were lighting it up from outside. Brewer was slashing, penetrating and making jumpers. And Horford, Noah and Richard inside dominated the glass and kept constant pressure on their opponents on both ends of the floor. Flat out, the Gators were the best team in the Final Four, and they deserved to win. An extra ouch though, for Ohio St., who has now lost both the football and basketball titles to the Gators in the same calendar year. Just face it Buckeyes, they own you. You guys own the rest of us, but they own you, and you know that's way worse. Now the major question becomes who from the title game is going to go pro. While some say Greg Oden may be headed back to Columbus for year 2, and a lot of what he says tends to mesh with that, you still gotta think he's headed to the league after his 23 point 12 rebound performance, the best of his career to date. I know he's a lock for #1 whenever he decides to come out, but he should just do it now and be done with it. He'll be tempted to come back for the title with his boy Mike Conley Jr., but the money and prestige will probably be too much to ignore. Then you have the fabulous Gator foursome of Green, Noah, Horford and Brewer. Dare they come back and try to go for their third straight title? The Gators will be losing Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard to graduation, and possibly their head coach (more on that later), but is it totally unreasonable to think they might want to hang around? Noah's stock has already tumbled and is probably cemented in the late lottery somewhere no matter when he comes out. Brewer can probably only help his stock as he looks to be coming into his game. And Horford is another one who is only going to get better. So why not come back? I'm not saying they will, but all signs said they should have left last year and they didn't so you never know. For now, they should just bask in the fact that they just did what no other program had done in the last 15 years, and that's go back-to-back. It's a great accomplishment....but wouldn't 3 be even sweeter? Besides, it would give me yet another chance not to pick them to win it all! And you know that's a streak I'm sure to keep alive...

Red Sox Update
Overall: 0-1

*Now that's an interesting way to start off a season isn't it? Yea, having Schill take a dump on opening day to the Kansas City Royals wasn't exactly what I had in mind either. And the only thing fatter than Curt, was Hideki Okajima's first ever major league pitch. Can you say sionara? (that got me to thinkin'. You think Japanese announcers ever say "good bye" or "that's outta here?" like we say "adios" or "sinoara" in the states? Eh, that was probably a thought I didn't need to share. I digress) But, it's just game one of a very long season. So instead of freaking out, I'm just gonna relax, and take a much needed deep breath. And seeing as I will be dissecting the Sox in this spot twice a week for the next 6+ months, I'm gonna take this opportunity to breakdown the rest of the league and leave my freaking out until Friday. So, without further ado, here are my stone cold, lead pipe, sure to be right, 2007 Major League Baseball predictions. Promised to be better than my 06 NFL Picks and my NCAA Picks of the last 2 years. (note: promise not legally binding, nor are you allowed to mock me should my picks fail. However, do feel free to pat me on the back, give me pounds, or buy me free drinks should any of my picks actually come to fruition)

MLB 2007 Predictions
Hey, I figure all the experts make outlandish predictions before the season starts, so I'm gonna do the same. Do I actually think my predictions will come to fruition? Of course not. But at least I'll be closer than the sketch balls at Sports Illustrated. It was bad enough they picked the Dolphins to win the Super Bowl, and Henrik Stenson to win this year's Masters, but they have the Angels winning this year's World Series! Apparently Vlad taught all his teammates to hit pitches around their ankles in the off season, because that's the only shot the Orange County Angels of California of even sniffing the playoffs if you ask me. So, just because I picked the Panthers to win last year's Super Bowl, doesn't mean I'm gonna hold of on my MLB predictions this year. After all, I always pick Tiger to win the Masters, so I gotta think that gives me a little more credibility than SI. Only time will tell, so check it out...

Standings
AL East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Toronto Blue Jays
3. New York Yankees
4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
5. Baltimore Orioles

*I can't help but laugh when I look at this prediction, mostly because I honestly can't imagine it happening. However, as a die hard Red Sox fan, I've decided to but journalistic integrity aside, and basically just pick what I want to happen, as opposed to what I actually think is going to happen. Starting at the bottom. The O's and Rays are probably both a good deal better than they were last season, but seriously, who gives a flyin' duck (<-- not a typo). Then, we have the Yanks, who I've picked to finish in third. Well, like I said, this is more a dream than an actual prediction, but I'll try to justify it a little. Fact is, the Yanks just don't have enough pitching to get it done. If I were a Yankee fan, I'd be very worried that my team is depending on Carl Pavano and Andy Pettite to help anchor a rotation that contains an aging Mike Mussina and an already injured Chien Ming Wang. And you have to think Mariano Rivera is going to start showing his age at some time right? I know the Yanks have enough hitting to win plenty of 10-8 type games, but I just don't see their staff holding up through the long summer. So, with the Yanks out of the picture, that leaves us with the Sox and the Jays. Don't flatter yourself Toronto. I know you're improved, but I honestly only picked you second because I wanted the Yanks to finish where the Sox did last season. Adding Frank Thomas isn't the move to put the Jays over the top, I can tell you that much, but their offense will still be potent with the likes of Troy Glaus, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. Throw in ace Roy Halladay, hope AJ Burnett shows he was worth the loot, and you got yourself a nice little season there. Now on to the Sox. The key to the whole season, needless to say, is pitching. With Dice-K, Beckett and Schilling in the front of the rotation, and Papelbon at the back of the bullpen, the Sox are looking strong. But will they be able to bridge the gap between the stud pitchers and the lights out closer? That's the real concern. If "gas can" Tavarez and friends can't get the job done, we'll see a lot of blown wins in the middle innings. The Sox are like the Yanks in that scoring runs shouldn't be a problem. We all know Manny and Ortiz are good for some production, and as long as Nancy Drew and Julio Lugo stay healthy, the lineup should be in good shape.

AL Central

1. Minnesota Twins
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Kansas City Royals

*Last season, the Central came out of nowhere and proved to be the toughest division in baseball. This year, they won't be sneaking up on anyone. Outside of the God awful KC Royals, every team in this division can legitimately be considered as a World Series title contender. Yup, you heard me right, and no, I didn't stutter. The Twins are coming off a division title (yea we quickly forget their hard charge at the end to catch Detroit), and they have the best young core of players in the league. Led by MVP Justin Morneau and stud catcher Joe Mauer, the Twins lineup plans to be sneaky good again this year. As long as the rotation can find a few arms to be consistent next to All-Galaxy starter Johan Santana, and closer Joe Nathan can keep the form that has him averaging 41 saves a year since arriving in Minneapolis, the Twinkies are gonna be in the mix. The Tigers are coming off a trip to the World Series, and a season in which they surprised everyone. Not so much this year. I still like Detroit to make the playoffs as a Wild Card because of their great pitching and improved offense (see: Gary Sheffield), but you can't honestly think all those young arms are going to continue improving, let alone stay healthy. Veteran Kenny Rogers has already gone done for a few months, and something tells me that's just the tip of the ice berg as far as arm trouble in the D. Then we have the Chicago White Sox. Manager Ozzie Guillen is sayin' that if the team doesn't meet expectations then he should be gone. I don't know how smart that was to say Oz. The division is stacked, and your team didn't get any better this off season. Good luck with that. The Sox are still damn good, but if pitchers like Jon Garland and Mark Buerhle don't bounce back big time in '07, then it will be another year of watching the playoffs, and apparently a new coach in 2008. And finally, that brings me to the Cleveland Indians. Here's another team with dynamic young position players like Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta (not a typo!), Andy Marte and Grady Sizemore. These guys are gonna fill up the box score for sure, but how far they go will be as usual, determined by their pitching. CC Sabathia is as good as he is HUGE, but with Cliff Lee already coming off an injury, and Paul Byrd and Jake Westbrook inconsistent at best, you have no idea what you're going to get from that rotation. And the pen isn't much better. Forget the fact they have a 42 year old Roberto Hernandez back there, but their closer, Joe Borowski, is unproven at best. I know he had 36 saves for Florida last year, but his 1.40 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and 3.97 ERA in the National League certainly don't translate well to the offensive minded AL. With all these good teams, this division is gonna be a knock down, drag out fight all season long, with a lot of entertaining games and series. It's just too bad I'll miss all those games because I'll be watching the Sox. Oh well. The Midwest is beat anyway.

AL West
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Seattle Mariners

*Now on to the "forgotten" division, the AL West. I call it that, because honestly, when do you ever see these teams play? Sure you watch when they are in town, but other than that, they are dueling it out with each other at like 11 pm on a freakin' week night! Who has time for that? The long and short of it is this. I like Billy Beane, I like the Oakland A's, and there is nobody else in this division that even remotely scares me. Anaheim, Los Angeles, or whatever they're calling themselves this week, can't hit their way out a wet taco wrapper, and they're gonna have trouble pitching their way out of one too. I'm sorry, but John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana aren't exactly scaring me right now. And I understand Vlad Guerrero is a perennial MVP candidate, but when you surround him in a lineup with Shea Hillenbrand, Casey Kotchman and Gary MathRoid Jr., teams are going to be able to throw him pitches even he won't be able to reach. The only reason I like the Rangers to have a bounce back year, is that every team Buck Showalter has ever coached has had great success right after he left. Yanks fire him in the 90s, their dynasty began. D-Backs let him go, World Series title the very next season. They still can't pitch worth a damn, but with Michael Young, Hank Blalock, and Mark Texeira holdin' it down it that lineup, they're gonna score enough runs to be competitive in this sucky division. Seattle BLOWS. Moving on. Like I said about Oakland, I like their consistency. Notice, I'm not picking them to win the World Series, but they have proven to be so solid in the regular season that you gotta like their chances in the weak sauce that is the AL West. Look for Eric Chavez to bounce back from a shaky '06, for the outfield of Nick Swisher, Shannon Stewart and Milton Bradley to blossom and produce runs, and for horses Dan Haren and Rich Harden to chuck fire balls and eat innings. It sounds redundant at this point, but the A's need their pitchers to stay healthy to have a shot. Although if they do go down, nobody seems to be able to replenish and replace talented arms quite like Oakland, so you never know.

AL Wild Card: Detroit Tigers

NL East
1. New York Mets
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals

*Before I say this next thing, I just want people to know that I am picking the New York Mets to win the NL East in 2007. That being said. How stupid are the Mets looking right now for thinking Pedro's arm would hold up through his 3 year contract with the team? HAHAHA. OK, now that I got that out of my system, on to some actual analysis, kind of. I still like the Mets this season, even without Pedro, because they have the best position players, and the best closer. Nobody in the division can match a lineup that includes emerging stars David Wright and Jose Reyes, complimented by veteran stars like Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Paul Lo Duca. And nobody in the division even comes close to matching Billy Wagner in the back of the pen. The Braves are good. And believe me, I know that John Smoltz is gonna throw his arm out trying to will this team to the playoffs, but I just don't think they have the talent to get it done. Edgar Renteria proved he wasn't done last year, and of course Andruw Jones is the man, but what else do they have offensively? Yea I'll listen to people talk about Jeff Franceur and Brian McCann, but until these guys prove it over the long haul, I'm not buying in. Tim Hudson is a quality starter, but he's been pretty much a bust since coming to the ATL, going 27-21 (he was 92-39 in Oakland). And it doesn't get any better after him, with the likes of Mark Redman (cut by the Royals), and Chuck James. And while Mike Gonzalez seems liek a good fit at closer, he only had one year of the job, and it was in the no pressure environment of Pittsburgh. Let's see how he handles the job on a team expected to contend for a playoff spot. The Phils are right there with the Braves too. They can hit a ton, but their pitching is even worse. When your ace is best kwown for slapping his wife in a Boston bar and your only real closer, Tom Gordon, is old and already dinged up, you don't stand much of a chance. Young Cole Hamels might turn out to be somebody to watch, but unelss Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer borrow some medicine from Gary MathRoid Jr., their may be more games on the DL than wins from this staff. And as for Florida, you gotta love their young talent still, but they aren't there yet. Joe Girardi was a great coach for that team, and now that he's been canned, you have to like them to decline a little. Everybody is still high on Hanley Ramreiz, Miguel Cabrera, Dan Uggla and the rest of the 20 somethings there, but there's still not enough pitching and consistent play to get it done over a whole season. They'll be exciting to watch, no doubt, but only expect them to look like a playoff team on days when the D-Train is on the mound. They're just another talented team, with a gas can in the bull pen, and a bunch of guys you've never heard of in the starting rotation. Sure, those teams surprise you sometimes, but I wouldn't bet on that surprise here in '07. Finally, theres the Washington Nationals. To be honest, when scouts are taking best in Spring training as to how few games you're gonna win, you know you're in for a long summer. Just make sure to keep your eyes on 2nd year third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. If he were in New York, there would be David Wright comparisons for sure, but too bad for him he's stuck on the worst team in the NL.

NL Central
1. Houston Astros
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Chicago Cubs
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

*Is it me, or are there just too many teams in this damn division? For cryin' out loud. Every time I go to think about this damn division I forget like 2 teams that are in it and have to start all over again. Maybe that makes me a huge tard, I don't know, but it always seems to happen. However, after several atempts I managed to remember all 6 teams, and figure out where they were gonna finish. First, take the Cubs, Pirates and Reds, and eliminate them from your playoff thoughts right off the bat. The Cubs, while not actually cursed, still have not pitching. Adding Soriano and Lily were a great moves, and having Derek Lee and Aramis ramirez back are great for this team, but their rotation and pen are still a mess. All their decent arms in the bull pen are left handed like Neal Cotts and Scot Eyre, and Ryan Dempster has been shaky at best as their closer the past 2 seasons. Cincy has the same problems Chicago has, and Pittsburgh flat out sucks. St. Louis might be coming of a World Series title, but you can't really like their chances either. Hell, they only won 83 games in the regular season last year and they lost their second best pitcher in Jeff Suppan, to in division rival Milwaukee. I understand Albert Pujols is the man, it's just the rest of their suspect lineup I'm worried about. And speaking of Milwaukee, there's my sleeper team for the 2007 season. They have tons of young position players like Bill Hall, Richie Weeks, Prince Fielder and JJ Hardy. Not to mention their re-vamped pitching staff, which features ace Ben Sheets (2 hitter on Opening Day didn't suck) to go along with Chris Capuano and Jeff Suppan who are both coming off of good years. And while they totally don't have the Derrick Turnbow/Francisco Cordero thing figured out in the closer spot, that's not a terrible problem to have. And they are gonna need all the pen help they can get if they hope to compete with the Astros. Houston's poised for another big year behind ace Roy Oswalt (15-8, 2.98 ERA in '06) and veteran additions Woody Williams and Jason Jennings. Not to mention offensive additions like my pick for NL MVP, Carlos Lee, into a lineup that already includes Morgan Ensberg, Lance Berkman and Willie Taveras. The Central just better hope and pray that the 'Stros don't add Roger Clemens to the mix come the All-Star break, or they will all be in for a serious beat down.

NL West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. San Diego Padres
4. San Fransisco Giants
5. Colorado Rockies

*There's a reason I leave the NL West for last, and that's because it's the wosrt divsion of them all. I know I said the AL West was "forgotten" because all the games were played so late, but the NL's version sucks simply because, well, nobody in the damn thing has been any good for the past 4 years! Every time you look at the standings, one team with a below .500 record is leading another team with a below .500 record by like a 1/2 a game. No, I don't think that's parity, I just think it's because they all stink and can only beat each other! The Rockies and Giants are the worst offenders of the bunch. A least San Fran has that big headed, home run swatting side show named Barry Bonds, otherwise they would disappear off the baseball map. The fact that you can find virtually their entire lineup in RBI 3 for Sega, isn't a good thing, trust me. And once Barry passes Hank, and someone asassinates him, we won't have to talk about the Giants ever again. You do have to love, though, how yet again, the Rockies seem to have magically found guys that can hit. Shocking. You think it's maybe something in the air? Because I'm sure Matt Holliday, Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe will do just as well outside of Denver as Dante Bichette, Vinnie Castilla and Andres Galarraga did. Allow me to skip over the Diamondbacks, and just go straight to the only team that could possibly make a serious run in this division, the Dodgers. I know they have a ton of both old and injury prone guys, which is never a good combination, but if they can stay healthy they can be damn good. I know, even I don't think the dominos can fall into place that keep this entire list of guys both healthy and productive (Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Schmidt, Derek Lowe, Rafael Furcal, Luis Gonzalez, Brad Penny), but even if only 75% of them can play and play well, the Dodgers should still have their way in the West. In a perfect world, Schmidt, Penny and Lowe will eat innings, and Kent, Nomar and LuGo will collect RBI's knockin Furcal and newcomer Juan Pierre around the basepaths. They are the best of what this division has to offer, and if they stay healthy, they are probably the best team in the National League. That's a big IF though. And a lot of times, those IF's can turn 100 win seasons into 70 win seasons faster than Grady Little can say "oops, my bad".

NL Wild Card: Milwaukee Brewers

Playoffs
AL Wild Card
Red Sox over Tigers
Twins over A's

ALCS
Red Sox over Twins

NL Wild Card
Brewers over Mets
Dodgers over Astros

NLCS
Dodgers over Brewers

World Series
Boston Red Sox over Los Angeles Dodgers in 6 games

*As long as I'm chosing with my loyalties over my brain, I gotta go with this World Series matchup. What could be better than the Sox squaring off with former manager, Grady Little, former star Nomar Garciaparra, and former starter and closer, Derek Lowe? Not to mention you have the whole JD Drew backdrop. Sounds like good times if you ask me. So for the record, I'm rooting for the story like any good journalist type person would, and I'm rooting for my team to beat down it's old coach, like any fan would. Done and done.

Awards
American League
MVP
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins: Mauer finished 6th in the MVP race last year, which in hind sight is absurd. Not only was he the first American League catcher to lead the league in hitting in forever (.347), but he was the catcher handling one of the best staffs in the bigs. But that was last year. While I don't expect Mauer to hit .347 again this season, I do expect his power numbers to continue to progress to the point where his numbers actually look like that of an MVP. His 13 homers, 36 2B and 84 RBI were all career bests, and you gotta think all those have plenty of room to grow. Of course, the key to winning the MVP is being the best player on the best team, so hopefully the Twins can hold up their end of the bargain as well.

Cy Young
Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins: I could pick someone else, but that would just make me an idiot now wouldn't it? He's coming off a Cy Young award last year (his 2nd in the last 3 seasons), in which he went 19-6 with 245 strike outs, and he's also a combined 67-22 over the last four seasons. You gotta like him for 18+ wins and 220+ K's as long as he's healthy. And if he is healthy, look the F out!

Rookie of the Year
Elijiah Dukes, Tampa Bay Devil Rays: There aren't many things I don't like about Elijiah Dukes. First off, he's 6'2", yet he's 250 lbs. Not callin' the man fat, but for a "speedy" center fielder, he's a load. Next reason to love this guy is his attitude. This guy has the balls to go get arrested for marijuana posession and get in a fight with his teammates, only to turn around and criticize the D-Ray minor leagues for having the worst facilities in the world. He bitched and moaned about how their showers were coated in fungus and how the Rays sucked so they should bring him up to the big club. Well, instead of disciplining Dukes, the Rays promoted him! That a way Rays! That's why I feel so safe with this pick. Even if Dukes doesn't have a great year, you can guarantee this guy will make headlines knockin' all his teammates and the organization.

National League
MVP
Carlos Lee, Houston Astros: Most people are going to pencil in Albert Pujols or possibly Ryan Howard in this spot, and I can't say I disagree. But seeing as the obvious selection in this situation is usually the wrong one, I'm going out on a slight limb and picking "El Caballo" as my NL MVP this season. For the first time in his career, Lee is surrounded by protection in the lineup with Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg. Not to mention he's coming off arguably his best season (.300, 37 HR, 116 RBI w/MIL and TEX) and entering his prime as a 31 year old entering his 9th major league season. I look for Lee and Berkman to help power the Astros lineup to the NL Central title.

Cy Young
Dontrelle Willis, Florida Marlins: I don't see anything that's not to love about the D-Train for Cy Young campaign. Sure, he might be coming off a 12-12 season, but his 3.87 ERA was still half a run under the league average and he still managed over 220 innings. Add to that, he's two seasons removed from going 22-10, and the team around him is rapidly maturing. The only problem I see here, is if the shaky Marlin bull pen blows too many of Dontrelle's wins. But let's not jinx ourselves here. Predicted Stats: 20-8, 2.94 ERA, 218 IP, 189 K

Rookie of the Year
Josh Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds: Let me be very clear. I'm not picking this kid just because he had an addiction to Heroin that kept him from playing for a few years. OK, maybe it is the reason. You got me. Fact is, despite being 8 years removed from being selected #1 overall in the amateur draft by the Devil Rays, Hamilton still has scouts drooling over his potential. Hopefully, he's kicked the H that kept him from the pros for so long, and can work his way into being a great outfield compliment to Adam Dunn in Cincy. If not, then hopefully he will at least show up to a few games all strung out, cuz you know that would be fun to watch! Hey Travolta! Make with the adrenaline shot!

And now onto to a few non-baseball tid bits....(oh and if anyone has an idea, I'd like to know what exactly a "tid" is. I'm always hearing about these bits of tid, but I've yet to come across a whole "tid")

News and Notes *Well you can put your Chairman Mao T-shirts of the shelves for at least 2 more years kids. The NFL made the announcement earlier this week that they have postponed the pre season game between the Patriots and Seahawks set to take place in Beijing, China until the 2009 season. Damn! Actually, yes! As much as I think it would be a cool experience for the NFL, I don't want the Patriots doing it. The last thing any fan wants is for their player to get some sort of disease like Communism or intestinal worms and be out for a few games. I'm going to suggest that the NFL send the Cincinnati Bengals over in '09. That way, when they shoot their guns, drive wasted and beat srtippers, they'll be tossed in a cell right next to the Chinese Ugueth Urbina. You gotta think a few nights in a Chinese prison will either set this fools straight, or somehow make them experts at making Nikes. Neither is really a bad thing I don't think.

*Billy Donovan. You've just coached the Florida Gators to back to back titles, what are you going to do next? "I'm goin' to coach Kentucky!". Could this be Billy's fate? I certainly don't think so, but I can't say I would be shocked. Donovan dodged questions all week about whether he would bolt to Kentucky after the season. After all, Kentucky is a storied program, not to mention Billy was an assistant there under his mentor, Rick Pitino. So why wouldn't he want to go? They say they wanna pay him $3 million a year. Shouldn't he just take it? Nah. I mean what can he do at Kentucky that he already hasn't done in Florida? Nothing. Sure, he could be a God in one of the best college basketball programs of all time, but at what cost? The pressure at Kentucky is unlike that of any other college job. There's no other major sports teams around, and despite being a big SEC school, football is basically an afterthough there. So the pressure to win there is not even worth the money and the hassle for a guy like Billy. Besides, you know the Gators are gonna step up and give him whatever it takes, and at the very least the same $3 mil a year that football coach Urban Meyer gets. The only way Donovan should leave, is to take over as head coach of the NBA's Miami Heat. People always say that great college coaches never work in the NBA, but I say it's mostly due to the fact they get the worst jobs. And it's true. The hot college coach almost always takes over a struggling team bound for the lottery and looking ahead to several years of rebuilding. In Miami, Donovan would have a good team now, ready to contend. And though Shaw is getting on in years, you would have Dwayne Wade to build around for the next decade. All that without leaving the state of Florida, and for more than double the money that either Kentucky or Florida can pay him. That's the only move that makes sense for Billy if you ask me. But it's gonna be fun watching this thing unfold, and to watch Kentucky scramble for an acceptable coach should Billy the Kid turn them down.

*Just when you though that Jim Nantz was out of your hair, it's the tradition unlike any other! (cue sappy music! cue Amen corner! cue Tiger Woods stomping a bunch of hapless country club losers, a Fijian and one real fat lefty!) That's right kids, the Masters gears up this Thursday, and that means three things. 1) Tiger gets green jacket #5 2) Jim Nantz continues to force himself on the American public for another weekend and 3) That fat loser named Fill me with tacos Mickelson chokes.....yea that's right....again. I can't wait. I just have a gut feeling that Tiger is gonna absoultey rock it this year too. I'm not sure what it is, but I see him just rippin' off like a 6+ stroke victory. Hell, make it like 10+ strokes. Face it, the guy loves the Masters, and he loves to win. This course is tailor made for him, and he's pissed he didn't win last year. Apparently Sports Illustrated wasn't convinced, but again, what the hell do they know. If anything, their prediction just sealed the deal for Elderick to romp. You gotta love the Masters, man. It means the weather is getting warmer, the real golf is starting up, and it's the first major of the season for Phil to choke and Tiger to win. Time to serve up those collard greens, right Fuzzy?

*Bill Simmons, you're credibility is almost gone my friend. After years of writing in his ESPN.com Page 2 "Sports Guy" column that he longed for a platform that allowed him to say whatever he wanted about whoever he wanted, he goes and re-ups with the world wide leader until 2010. I'm not sayin' I blame the guy. Hell, the money is probably great, and I doubt there's anywhere else he can get as much exposure. I just want him now to officially stop bitching about being censored by his employer. He's always saying he has to follow the rules of a respeted journalist because of who he works for, and that if he could truly speak his mind he would have a lot of different opinions to express. Well Billy boy, it obviously doesn't mean that much to ya, or you wouldn't have re-upped. I respect what the guy does, but just stop saying you wish could say more. Say it man! If you truly love what you do more than how much you make, then you'd do it. It wouldn't be career suicide, you'd just be booted from ESPN. I guess at this point, that's too much for your ego to take.

*And finally. As usual, there was one story that stood head and shoulders above the rest, and just demanded it be heard by the masses. Oddly enough, you probably have yet to here about it. So here it is, courtesy of your favorite Amasser of Stupid Sports Stories (you can just call me ASSS....wait a minute). Earlier today in Thailand, Samson Son Siriporn won the woman's light flyweight title when she defeated Japan's Ayaka Miyano in a ten round unanimous decision. No, the story isn't that two Asian broads hit each other and moaned for 10 rounds, it's that the fight took place in the court yard of the Klomgprem Central Prison, in Bangkok! Why was the fight held in the prison you ask? Well duh. Obviously because Siriporn was a convicted drug dealer currently serving a term in the freakin place! No joke. And honest to God, upon her victory, she was granted a waiver allowing her to travel outside of prison to defend her title. That's what I'm talkin' about. You just know the people at Fox are, as we speak, trying to set up some kind of prison boxing relaity series. Money in the bank if you ask me. Everyone's always talkin' about all guys do in prison is lift and scap with each other, so you know these guys are game. And from the documentaries I've seen, I personally can't wait for all the different gang members clash in the ring. Imagine racin' home from work on Friday, not to drink, but to watch the leader of Attica's Arian Brotherhood go 10 rounds with the a member of the Crypts currently serving life for stabbin his dad over a $10 game of C-Lo. Now that's what I call must see TV. And make sure to tune in next week for the "Jailhouse Wallet Main Event". If you can conceal it in your body, you can use it in the ring. Let's Get It On!

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