Monday, December 17, 2007

Roid Rage: Are we all that surprised?

Last week, the Mitchell Report came out with a few surprises. In reality, it was more like watching David Copperfield: you know that the magic trick was just slight of hand and not the result of god-like magical powers that made the Statue of Liberty disappear. We were led to believe that 45 year old Roger Clemens, still blowing the doors off, was doing it through a hard-working, clean weight training regimen. Apparently it wasn't as clean as we had hoped. Ol' Roger, among other high profile names, was fingered quite a bit as a 'roid user in the report, and it sucks. Most fans would really like to believe that the "game" is pure and that everyone playing is on the up and up. But, really, has it ever been? For that matter, has any other sport (NFL, anyone?) ever not been?

I really hate these hypocritical baseball purist bastards who praise the achievements of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens for years and years, with the hint of impropriety going on, and then, turn and blast those same players for steroids. The biggest jerks/idiots in this whole thing are the Commissioner Bud "Spineless" Selig and the rest of the owners who turned a blind eye to this after the 1994 strike. Bud and the Billionaire Boys club KNEW what was going on. But like a gambling addict on a winning streak, the winning and large money FELT too good to walk away, or in this case, make a stand and say it was wrong.

After the Strike, Baseball Purity as a religion should have died a long hard death. Let's be honest, folks. After playing a half season and then shutting it down and NOT having the World Series, any sacred cows were sacrificed. Baseball, which was becoming less popular as the 80s closed and the 90s charged in, lost its mojo and was in serious trouble. When the players came back about 3 weeks into the 1995 season, I went to see the California Angels, my childhood team, a few times. A team which once attracted 2.3 Million people a year when Reggie Jackson was in town, were getting exactly 15,000 people a game for the first 2 months of the season. With the ballpark only one fifth full, I got to do something that I had never done growing up, sit behind the screen at home plate in the 1st row before the 7th inning stretch of a tight ballgame. No one cared, because frankly, the general public didn't care. For the Angels, the seats filled up when they ran up a 13 game lead in August, but for most teams, 1995 was a disaster.

Then, came the homers. In 1996, McGwire and Griffey flirted with Maris' single season record of 61. Next came the buzz about baseball again. "Will they do it? Will Big Mac pass the Babe and Maris?" With the buzz, came ticket sales. Whenever the home run trains of McGwire, Albert "Taco" Belle, and other guys who had pumped up the HR numbers rolled into town, ticket sales skyrocketed. Everyone wanted to watch a large guy hit a baseball, long, high, and far into the night sky. It was awesome! The fans loved it, the players loved it (with more money available to make $15 M a year), and the owners loved it because baseball was back.

We all know what happened for the next 10 years. McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Palmeiro, and dozens of others assaulted the baseball and the record books with super-human strength, and we loved it. There was talk of steroids (McGwire was asked this quite often in 1998 as he hit 70 HRs, but he always suggested it was Creatine.) We WANTED to believe him, so we did. He was the HR King. When Barry Bonds, big head and all, crushed Big Mac's record in 2001, the questions started about steroids, but weren't really that loud. Bonds and the rest of baseball trucked on. Then, we got a glimpse behind the curtain. Actually, Jose Canseco whispered to us, "Psst....look how they do it. Look how I did it." The house of cards came tumbling down.

Congress got involved, holding grandstanding public hearings about the assault on the purity of baseball and the use of illegal substances. They brought our heroes in front of their publicity seeking panels to say "C'mon, tell us that we haven't been duped and that everyone is on the up and up. And, say it under oath." We know how that went: not well for baseball. The cat was out of the bag. Next came Balco, grand juries, and other nonsense that could have been stopped when it started. It wasn't.

Bud Selig, the former controlling owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, in the early 90s led a coup d'etat against Commissioner Faye Vincent, and did exactly the opposite of what the mostly corrupt and deplorable Black Sox era owners decided was in the best interests of the game: to keep the executive decisions for player and team conduct separate from the moneyed interests of the individual owners. With his power grab, Bud effectively doomed the sport to where it is today: seven pence much the richer, but completely discredited with all players who hit 40 plus dingers or win 20 games after age 30 under suspicion. Bud should have taken it like a man and said, "It went on and it shouldn't have, but WE DIDN'T ENFORCE IT and we are rolling our way to the bank. So there." End of discussion. Instead, Bud wimped out and placed the blame for the enforcement anywhere but in his office.

The funny thing about the baseball controversy is how a sport that has NO DOUBT had its players beef up with anything they could get their hands on has somehow slipped past the radar. Looking at today's hulking monsters who play every Sunday in the fall, it's almost comical that the NFL has somehow avoided the scrutiny of the media and Congress. I guess in this sense, it's better to not be the National Pastime, but instead be the most popular kid in school and in the sports-viewing public. Let's go back to 1985, when some guy named Fridge Perry was an anomaly on defense: a 300-plus guy who was actually somewhat mobile. But he was 300 lbs! Few guys were THAT big in the NFL in the early to mid-1980s. Now, today's average college offensive line is loaded with 300 lb steers who can run the 40 in less than 5 seconds. Do you think these hulks are clean of any artificial substances that end in roids? You have to be kidding.

I have little physical evidence to substantiate my claims, except for the blistering pace of human evolution over the last 20 years that allows a 300 lb man to move like he was 160 lbs. If baseball has steroid problems, then a physically punishing sport like football is definitely rife with juicers. (I mean, has anyone been fooled?) What's the difference between baseball and football? Football has better leaders and has a better marketing machine. Somehow, they have Obi-waned the powers that be and the public, but minimally enforcing violations and being proactive that "we are doing something to offenders we catch". Baseball hemmed and hahed and is in trouble.

Where to now? Steroids are clearly bad and give the athletes who use them an unfair advantage that people who are clean do not enjoy. Athletes put themselves at risk for severe health problems at the cost of a few years of fame and money. I wish steroids weren't sullying the games we watch. As a young kid, I hoped one day I might play somewhere on the big stage, but knowing that others made themselves better unfairly makes me wonder if I even had a chance to make it without cheating. Steroids have been around since the mid-1950s. Any player who played any sport since is suspect. Like many others out there, I feel duped, but can you blame a guy who watches others gain an unfair advantage in a way too tolerant environment and does it just so he can earn his $10 Million a year? It's a tempting mistress with that kind of money on the line.

Cheating by taking steroids is not right, but baseball has to own up and legitimize the records that happened before the enforcement of these rules. In the United States, governments cannot prosecute people for actions that were not considered crimes at the time of commission, even if laws are now on the books as crimes. Baseball didn't ban these substances outright until it was already infected and players were tainted. When they drew the line in the sand by officially banning the substances over the last couple of years, anything after those points can then be put up for scrutiny, and any player caught should be suspended. Anything before, unfortunately, should not be changed. You don't have to like it, but it's really the only fair thing to do at this point. For this whole mess, you can blame Bud.

Final Four

One game was a blowout. The other was a squeaker. One had the two highest scores this week. One had a couple of the lowest scores. One team from each game moves on.

This week we had the #3 Fatty Mortadella and the upstart #6 Big Giant Bunnies in one match up and the #4 Trojan Busters vs. #5 Team Ya Mo Be There in the other.

#3 Fatty Mortadella vs. #6 Big Giant Bunnies

What's it like to score over 110 points, be the second highest score for the week and get eliminated from the playoffs and the big money payoff? You can ask Fatty Mortadella. Fatty came in as the number 3 seed and had to play the suddenly hot Big Giant Bunnies, who had played its last two games with elimination on the line. If Team Mortadella had scored 11 less points last week, they would have been #4 and would have advanced. As it goes, they faced the Bunnies and lost, big this week. But it wasn't for lack of effort.

In this league, if you score over 110 points, you have a good chance of winning. Chance was not in Fatty's favor. BGB scored 146 points this week while Fatty scored 113. BGB was paced with Jay Cutler (?), who has pretty much sucked from a fantasy standpoint in most of the last 10 weeks with a huge 27 points. Marion Barber had his every 2nd or 3rd big game with 28 while Brandon Marshall had 24. Team Mortadella got 29 from Peyton, 22 from new fantasy All-Star Earnest "Cadillac who?" Graham, and 24 from Jamal Lewis. Unfortunately for Team Mortadella, that's where the high scoring stopped. BGB kept on going with "I'm on a Plaxican Radio" Burress with 19 and the Colts D with 18 on their way to a season high score of 146. Cioffi got 12 from Braylon and 15 from the Jags D, but the Shockey, Positively Shockey zero from J. Shockey was a killer in this game. Cioffi, had they scored 11 less last week, would be looking at a semi-final matchup against Kat. Instead, they are hitting the pinata after all the candies gone, playing for 5th next week.

#4 Trojan Busters vs. #5 Team Ya Mo Be There

Both of these squads came in as the hottest teams over the last month. Trojan Busters reeled off 4 straight in its playoff march, while Ya Mo Be There put together 5 in row. If both teams came in hot, they left wondering what the hell happened last weekend. Only Team Ya Mo Be There was a little better in a game that was pretty horrible all around. Before a point adjustment on Sunday night, these two had wrestled weakly to a tie at 63. (63? Good time to have a couple of really bad performances!) Ya Mo had a game high 13 from Tony Gonzo. McNabb did enough with a blistering 12, while Action Jackson got 11. For the Trojan Busters, Westbrook had another great game with 18 points. Thomas Jones and Fred Jackson each had 11. Beyond that, complete futility. Trojan Busters had 5 players with exactly 3 points, including Carson Palmer who hasn't scored less than 10 all season. Only Jeff Reed scored more than 3 points with 8. Ya Mo had 3 players with 2, including normally reliable TO. Chris Chambers had enough to help Ya Mo with the win. They take it by 2 and face Team Kat in the semis. Good luck to all teams!

Best of the Rest-Consolation Style

Soul Crushing Dynasty, pissed off to be eliminated from the playoffs, took out its aggression on the game Under Achievers, 116-98. SCD had 26 from all of a sudden superstar Fantasy QB Matt Hasselbeck and 25 from Joseph Addai. 20 from the Seachickens D helps too. In a valiant losing effort, Underacheivers got 25 and 21 respectively from NO tandem Brees and Colston. Parker and Berrian had nice games, but the normally reliable Steelers D folded like cheap plastic with a -4. That was the difference as SCD wins.

Spoiler of Troy had a big game after a mostly disappointing regular season, kicking the crap out of Team Buckman, 109-41.

Team Keith beat Team Duggan 66-29. Neither team seemed to be in this one in a battle for bragging rights.

So, the playoffs commence with Team Jeter taking on a suddenly hot and dangerous Big Giant Bunnies. Team Kat plays the suddenly susceptible Team Ya Mo Be There, who is sure to turn it around from last week. These should be AWESOME GAMES.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Playoff Preview

It's the playoffs! We have some good first round matchups on tap, and for guys who didn't make the playoffs, we have games scheduled for the next 3 weeks. Playing for pride is a good thing!

This week we have the #3 Fatty Mortadella and the upstart #6 Big Giant Bunnies in one match up and the #4 Trojan Busters vs. #5 Team Ya Mo Be There.

[b]#3 Fatty Mortadella vs. #6 Big Giant Bunnies[/b]

Big Giant Bunnies has had its playoff mettle tested early, just to get in. The last two weeks were elimination games for BGB. After barely defeating Team Keith in Week 11, they had enough left to beat Soul Crushing Dynasty to avenge a week one loss and make the playoffs with a 6-7 record. Like many teams, BGB had some tough losses that could have gone their way. And, unfortunately for them, they had the 2nd highest amount of points scored on. They are led by Reggie Wayne who's had a breakout season in Marvin Harrison's absence and Marion Barber, who is good for 15 points from some red zone carries. Rudi Johnson, a fantasy disappointment most of this season, has come back from injury and will help BGB's cause against Fatty Mortadella.

Fatty had some early season woes, only to roll off 6 straight midseason, and slowed down slightly the last few weeks. Fatty's attack begins with Peyton Manning, a brave first round choice that is usually reserved for the running backs. The pick was a good one as Peyton is #3 among QBs through week 13. Mortadella lost Ronnie Brown midseason, but has picked up serious slack with Earnest Graham and Jamal Lewis running like it's 2004. Braylon Edwards of the Browns has been huge this year and Derrick Mason rounds out the attack. Having the number 2 kicker in Kris Brown isn't too bad either. H&V have this one favoring Fatty with the amazing scores of 132 to 117. I would have to give the nod to Fatty, but this one's going to be close.

[b]#4 Trojan Busters vs. #5 Team Ya Mo Be There[/b]

Both of these squads come in as the hottest teams over the last month. Trojan Busters reeled off 4 straight in its playoff march, while Ya Mo Be There has put together 5 in row. One of these teams streaks is about to come to an end. Ya Mo Be There has found fantasy gold in Justin Fargas in recent weeks. It's no coincidence that Fargas' rise has matched Team Ya Mo's. He has been the heart and soul of this ball club, while McNabb has been struggling. Former McNabb battery mate, TO, has had another great season with Tony Romo in Dallas and is giving Ya Mo some big point action. Steven "Was No Action but is now back in Action" Jackson has had a good last 3 weeks and is giving Ya Mo a formidable running attack.

Trojan Busters has had Brian Westbrook anchoring its attack all season. Westbrook has been the top scoring running back in the league despite 2 weeks of inactivity mid-season and has proven to be a good 2nd most valuable player this year (Brady wins in a landslide). Hines Ward has had some big games of late and could be a key in the game this week. Carson Palmer has been solid mostly, but has struggled at times this year. He goes up against a kind of weak Rams D and could help Trojan Busters. Marshawn Lynch came up big most of the season, but has been out for the last 3 weeks. He may or may not come back this week putting TB's in a quandary. H&V has the score 118 to 102 Trojan Busters, but anything can and will happen. This one should come down to the end.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Week 13: That's Left...

Playoff Seedings:

1. Team Kat (11-2)

2. Team Jeter (10-3)

3. Fatty Mortadella (8-5, +10 over Trojan Busters)

4. Trojan Busters (8-5)

5. Team Ya Mo Better (8-5)

6. Team Allison (6-7): Picks up the last slot with a 12 point win over Soul Crushing.

The rest of the league will play in the consolation rounds for the next 3 weeks. The top two seeds have byes next week.

In a barn burner, the NE Pats hold on to the dreams of a perfect season. The playoff seedings came down to the last plays as well. (Not really, but we like to think so.) Brady to Welker would have given Jeter at least a tie with Trojan Busters. In the end, they fall 7 points to the TB's and remain the 2nd seed.

Team Kat got some revenge on one of its two losses this year, playing the trying to be aptly named "Beat Kat (again)" who defeated them in week 2. Beat Kat (Again) was game with big games from Vince Young, Gore, Norwood and Crosby, but when LT, Rowdy Roddy White, and Torry Holt have Rock star performances, it becomes very difficult to repeat the feat. Team Kat solidifies the top seed with a 138-85 win.

Big Giant Bunnies played itself into a chance to make the playoffs with a hard fought win over Team Keith. Soul Crushing Dynasty was in fine position to snake the last spot last week, but a tough loss put them in a must win situation this week. BGB had Jay "Sucks" Cutler at the helm and Jay DID disappoint with 2 points. Luckily, Reggie "John" Wayne showed who's the boss and put up 23 (or 1/3 of BGB's total this week). Nick Folk did well too. SCD had consistent performances from "Don't forget your bloody Matt Hasselbeck", Jones-Drew, and Joey Galloway, but little help from the rest of the lineup and came up 10 points short from the playoffs. BGB is in with the win.

Another team that had an outside shot at the playoffs was the Under Achievers (previously named, which got its wish today). Like the team that inspired the name (UCLA Bruins football who also had an outside chance for the Rose Bowl, but we all know how that went), Underachievers didn't do so well and fell to Spoilers of Troy, hard 86-50. Underachievers got some output from the Cardinals on the team (Warner and James), but nothing else. Spoilers of Troy, who had a rough, rough start to the season, caught fire recently winning 3 of its last 4 games. A couple of games that went their way and they could have been in playoff contention. 5 players scored in double figures led by Ryan Grant and Big Ben Rothlisberger. SoTroy ends the season at 4-9. Underachievers underachieved and end up 5-8.

Fatty Mortadella needed to outscore Trojan Busters by 10. In a playoff tuneup, Fatty scored 111, exactly the same amount as Trojan Busters to secure the three seed. Mortadella had 5 players in double figures, including 27 from Peyton's place and 22 from emerging All-Pro candidate Braylon Edwards. Buckman had 4 guys with 10+ including D. Anderson and Dallas Clark. Three zeros didn't help the cause, but with the season already really over, it didn't matter too much. FM wins 111-75.

Trojan Busters needed to win and outscore Fatty Mortadella by 10. They beat the 2 seed Jeter barely 111-104, but couldn't overtake the Fatty's at the end. TB's overcame a lackluster performance from Carson Palmer and had 5 guys score in double figures including Panthers D, Brian Westbrook, and Hines Ward, who helped me win here, but screwed me in my other league. Thanks and no thanks Hines! For Jeter, who got the 2 seed throughout the playoffs, Brady had a good game, but not his best with 17. Adrian Peterson back from injury got 24 points, and McGahee got 21. Jeter has been tough all year and with his powerpacked lineup is definitely going to be difficult to beat.

Ya Mo will take on Trojan Busters next week after dismantling a dejected Team Keith 118-56. Ya Mo had 4 players over 20 points including Fargas, Jackson, TO, and the now injured Derrick Ward. TK got 26 from Romo and not much else as the team struggled with not much to play for.

With that, the playoffs are set. Trojan Busters will take on Ya Mo in a 4-5 matchup. The winner playing Team Kat. Mortadella and Big Giant Bunnies square off in a 3-6 matchup, the winner playing Team Jeter.

Welcome to the Playoffs!