Thursday, December 28, 2006


At some point today, this site had its 25,000th visit. Only half of those were from me.

Also, this is officially the first post I've entered a) while actually travelling, and b) from a Blackberry or other such mobile device. One of the benefits of a new job.

This also means I'll likely not see any of the UCLA - Wazzu game.

More travel

Heading up to Santa Cruz today, then driving back tomorrow, so posting may be lighter than it's been recently, assuming that's possible. And yep, still pissed about the Hillenbrand signing.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Well, thank God it's basketball season

Hey, at least UCLA played one good football game. Pat Cowan proved why he's not a real starting quarterback. And Stanford has to be pretty happy right now that they didn't hire Walker. Nice work on third down, defense. Utterly pathetic performance.

Angels Sign Hillenbrand

Seitz quits caring about Angels.

Seriously, management deserves to lose every game this season. These guys are fucking morons.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I'm posting this from O'Hare, where my flight has been delayed for an hour and twenty minutes. I'll be back in the Southland tonight and hanging around until the 3rd, with a possible run up and back to the Bay Area. The bad news is that I waited too long to buy my ticket, and it's costing me a little under $700. The good news is that part of that includes a first class ticket on the way out, which is nice. Last time I flew first class it was because I missed my flight and had to go stand-by. Ended up a row or two in front of Keith Foulke and Bill Mueller on their way to Phoenix for the all-star break. Anyway, I'd be looking forward to the warm weather with more excitement if it hadn't been fairly warm here lately, though a little wet.

Big one for the Bruins, tomorrow. Michigan comes in with only one loss, though they haven't played a particularly tough schedule. Still, they've got some skill, and a lot of athleticism, especially Petway, who can jump out of the gym. Last year the Bruins constantly double teamed the ball in the post, and it was a very successful strategy, though they still needed a key late steal by Aaron Afflalo to seal the win. On paper, this year's game shouldn't be as tough, but the Bruins haven't exactly been firing on all cylinders for 40 minutes lately, and as poorly coached as Michigan is, it won't be as easy to put together big runs, the likes of which put away Sam Houston State and Oakland. A common explanation for the sluggish play in those games is that they've been looking ahead to Michigan and conference season. Let's see if they play like it tomorrow.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

John Lackey Unfiltered

Baseball Prospectus has a new blog section called Unfiltered. I imagine you have to be a subscriber to get access to it. I'm a subscriber, so I get it. Anyway, the other day, Nate Silver did a bit on "The Most Underrated Pitcher in Baseball":
PECOTA says that he’s the 20th most valuable pitcher in baseball long-term, more valuable than Roy Oswalt, Dontrelle Willis, or Justin Verlander. He’s one of just eleven pitchers to post a VORP of 40 or higher in each of the last two seasons. He pitches in a major media market, is in the prime of his career, and has no red flags in his injury or health performance record. And yet, he’s never received a vote for the Cy Young award, never made an All-Star team, and has barely one-fifth the Google hits of Barry Zito.

Who is he?
Well, assuming you read the title of this post, you know who it is. It's John Lackey. Included in that entry are the ten other pitchers who hit the VORP requirement, and of those ten, Lackey's last two seasons have been at about the bottom of that list, behind all but Brett Myers. Anyone who's been reading this site a fair amount over the last couple of seasons is aware of my frustrations with John Lackey. I love the guy, and I think he's a great pitcher. But he's incredibly frustrating to watch. He's got a horrible habit of getting ahead of guys 0-2 or 1-2, then taking about 10 more pitches to finish guys off. As a result, he'll routinely hit the 100 pitch mark around the sixth inning. Now, Nate and I know each other fairly well. He's a Chicago guy, and we knew each other through Primer before he started writing for Prospectus. I sent him a quick email with my observations, and he did a little digging, resulting in today's post, which I'll excerpt with his permission:
...Lackey has wound up walking the batter 4.7% of the time that the at-bat starts out with an 0-2 count. That struck me as a high percentage...and in fact it is. I took a sample of 25 arbitrarily-selected starting pitchers,....[O]nly two of these pitchers walked the hitter more often than Lackey. [ed. note: the list contained all quality starting pitchers, ranging from Johan Santana at the high end of the ability scale down to probably Eric Milton at the low end]

Score one for our Angels fan [ed. note: Woohoo!]....

But is walking the hitter following an 0-2 count a bad thing?

Lackey’s OPS allowed following 0-2 counts if .405, which is a low number; the average for pitchers in this sample is .465....

It turns out that there is a correlation between walk rate on an 0-2 count and OPS allowed, but it’s quite weak (.26).... Lackey’s hyperaggressive strategy when ahead in the count might be frustrating to his fans and his managers, but there’s no evidence that it’s poor pitching.
That's a great point, and as I responded to Nate, my problem isn't so much that Lackey gets hurt more often than he should when he gets ahead, but rather that he sends his pitch count to a level that leads to Scioscia bringing the hook early than he might want to (and definitely earlier than I want him to). For what it's worth, I have no recollection of complaining about Lackey giving up too many two out hits (though for all I know, I may have complained about this before).

Considering the strength of the Angels bullpen over the last few seasons, early removal of a starter who is otherwise pitching well isn't the problem that it would be on a team with a crappy bullpen, so the net result is probably negligible. That doesn't make it any easier for me to watch him pitch. And ultimately (and this goes for Ervin Santana, too), if he could develop an ability to take advantage of those counts and save himself some pitches, he could add 2/3 of inning to his per game average. That's an extra 20-25 innings per year that he could take back from the pen. FWIW, his innings/start is pretty comparable with Zito, Willis, and Brett Myers, although he trails behind Brandon Webb, and that's before taking into account the fact that Webb plays in a league where he may occasionally be removed for a hitter even when he's going good on the mound.

It's nice to see some respect for Lackey from the new media, and thanks to Nate for digging a little deeper into the numbers. I'll continue to like Lackey, and I'll continue to get frustrated with his inability or unwillingness to put guys away earlier in the count, but if he keeps putting up seasons like he has the last couple of years, the frustrations will be fleeting.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lots of doings last night

The Kings, Lakers, Illini, and Bruins were pretty much all on TV at the same time last night, so it was a workout for both the DVR and the split screen, but I caught a sufficient amount of each game, except maybe the Lakers game, which quite frankly, I didn't really care that much about anyway.


For the seventh straight season, the Illini walked off the court in St. Louis with the Busch Bragging Rights trophy, having down Missouri yet again. It was actually a very entertaining game. Tons of lead changes, lots of runs by both teams, a very quick pace, and a lot of fun to watch.

Coming off a 22 turnover performance against Belmont, this one looked a little scary for the Illini. Mizzou, under new coach Mike Anderson, is running Nolan Richardson's old 40 minutes of hell system. High pressure, turnover inducing basketball. But Chet Frazier rose the challenge, turning the ball over just three times against the press, off-set by his three steals, while dishing out six assists and scoring eight points in nearly 40 minutes of action. But he wasn't a runaway player of the game. Sean Pruitt scored a career high 19 points to go with nine boards. And Brian Randle made big play after big play, adding 10 points, seven boards, and two steals of his own. He made a huge block down the stretch, and kept a possession alive when he tipped a rebound of a missed free throw out to a teammate in the final minute. Still, the Tigers hung tough, and had a chance to tie with under four seconds to go when Stephon Hannah fumbled away an attempt at a three.

Despite some other (better) takes, I actually thought the Illini looked pretty good, and the performances by Pruitt and Randle are something to build on. Warren Carter had a bit of an off night before taking a shot to his hip flexor, but it was good to see that they could win when he doesn't have a big night. Conference play is right around the corner.


Fortunately, the Illinois game kept me from paying a great deal of attention to the first half. It was really an awful performance. The funny thing is, if you look at the numbers, the game doesn't look that bad. They shot a great percentage from the field, from beyond the arc, and from the free throw line. They held Sam Houston State to relatively low numbers from the field, and the led the rebounding battle. But they got behind big early, and with the slow down "Princeton" style that SHS plays, it took them a long time to get back into the game. It was a definite trap game, coming a few days before Saturday's test with Michigan. School's out as well, and the home crowd was less than intimidating (quick aside: Why can't this team draw for shit? I can't think of another storied program, ranked number one, that wouldn't have sold out this game, and it's not like Pauley is a big venue).

Leading the way again, surprise surprise, were Josh Shipp with 18, Aaron Afflalo with 12, and Darren Collison with 11. I thought Russel Westbrook, despite only playing 10 minutes, had probably his best game aesthetically. He dropped in seven point on three for four shooting, and moved the ball well despite not picking up any assists. The kid can score, maybe a little better than Collison could at this point last season. If ha can mature a little more this season, he'll be nice option when the Bruins need an extra offensive punch, and I especially like the lineup this team would be able to put out against a team like Missouri (they aren't scheduled, but I use them as an example) if they wanted to go small and litter the court with ball-handlers and scorers. Michigan awaits on Saturday.


Slow start again, down 2-0 early thanks to two bad goals allowed by Cloutier, and the Kings never recovered. Despite the heroic efforts of man-child Anze Kopitar (two more goals and an assist), the Kings never got closer than a goal down. Both of Kopitar's second period goals were answered by Flames who pretty much waltzed into the crease to re-extend the lead to two goals each time, and despite dominating the second period, the Kings had nothing to show for it. When Kristian Huselius cherry picked his way into the Flames fifth goal with about 7:30 to play, the deal was done. Dustin Brown added his ninth of the season on the power play to cut into the final margin.

Not sure I would have gone away from Brust in this one if I were Marc Crawford. The kid looked as good in his two games as Cloutier has looked in his two best games this season. Probably should have given Cloutier a couple more days of practice to get back into the action, but hindsight it 20/20.

The bad news is that Kings seem to be taking one step forward, one step back. On the plus side, that's a big improvement over the one step forward, three steps back they were routinely taking a couple of months ago. There's a lot of season left, and these guys aren't going to make the playoffs, but the guys who need to progress are progressing, and the guys who aren't progressing aren't going to be a part of the next good Kings team anyway.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Weekend

Not to be confused with "The Weak Ender". Pretty slow weekend as far as sports that I care about are concerned. Slow starts doomed one team, and almost doomed two more.


This game wasn't on TV in my part of the country, but from the looks of things, the Bruins didn't get things going until late in the first half. The big scorers were the guys you expect to be the big scorers, Afflalo, Shipp, and Collison. For one of the few times this season, the Bruins didn't enjoy a large turnover margin (they only forced 16 while turning it over 14 times). Especially discouraging was the rebounding margin. They were outrebounded by the Golden Grizzlies 35-31. That has to improve. Weird stat of the game: Mike Roll scored 8 points on 4-8 shooting, which means he made four two point baskets, and no three pointers. I would not have expected a stat like that in his entire career.

Positive: They held their opponent to 32% shooting while making 51% of their own shots. On the year, they haven't been a great field goal percentage defense, making up for that with forced turnovers. Negative: 55% from the free throw line. At some point this season, that's going to kill them if it doesn't get better. Altough, I should point our that four of their eight misses were from Josh Shipp (3-7), who is really not a bad free throw shooter. Still, it's been a team issue all season.

Oh well, first game in a week, and they were sluggish, as is to be expected. They still coasted in the second half, and found minutes for Keefe, Wright, and Westbrook. Still, a game against an opponent like this should have featured a lot more garbage time.


Another slow start. Back and forth game for the first half. Belmont (who faced UCLA in the first round of last year's tournament) is a three point shooting team and it seemed in the first half like every time the Illini opened a six or eight point lead, Belmont would hit a couple of threes and get back in the game. The second half was another story, though, as the Illini went on a big run to start the half that essentially put the game away.

Warren Carter, who's been absolutely outstanding this season, led the way with 21 points, despite only going 4-9 from the free throw line and turning the ball over six times. He's not a bad free throw shooter, so hopefully that was an abberation. Sean Pruitt added 13, and Brian Randle had 10 to give the Illini frontcourt a big advantage over their opponents. Both teams hit eight three pointer, but Belmont needed seven more shots to get there, and their second half shooting was awful. Chester Frazier had a surprising 11 rebounds, and six assists against three turnovers. Turnovers were a problem, with the Illini giving it away 22 times. That's not a very Bruce Weber-like statistic, and it will have to get better in Big 10 play for the Illini to have a respectable season. Again, like UCLA, they had a week off, and it's not surprising to see them come out flat in the first half.

Bragging Rights Game against Missouri is Tuesday night. The Illini are riding a Bragging Rights Game winning streak that goes back to my second year in law school, but it actually looks to be in jeopardy this season. Should be a good game.


They didn't do anything this weekend....slackers.


A poor first period was a little too much to overcome on Saturday against Dallas, despite a terrific second period and a solid third. Still, they pulled a point against a team that has completely owned them this season. The last couple weeks, they've looked like they really belong in the NHL, which is a nice change. Ironically, they've been getting their most consistent goaltending ever since they all started getting hurt. Brust has looked pretty darn good in his two starts. They showed a lot of resilience coming back from a two goal deficit, despite blowing a late lead before going to overtime. The shootout kind of sucked, though.

I really shouldn't be surprised at the success they've had the last month or so on the power play. They have a lot of offensive talent, and they've got a ton of skill and experience on the blue line for those situations. But they've been so inexplicably bad with the extra man the last couple of years that I'd pretty much given up hope. Of course, the PK is still pathetic.

The good news is that they've played most of their games scheduled against the Ducks, Sharks, and Stars, so the schedule should get a little easier in the second half.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Brendan Donnelly traded to Boston

For minor league non-prospect Phil Seibel. He's a couple years removed from Tommy John surgery, and like Terry Evans, appeared to make a dramatic one year improvement at a pretty advanced age. Somewhat ironic in that Donnelly was a similar minor league journeyman who made the majors for good at an advanced age. If the similarities continue, maybe we can expect Seibel to nd have a few very successful major league seasons. He was primarily a starter in A and AA last year, before converting to relief at AAA and pitching 15 very good innings.

It's a shot in the dark, to be sure, but the Angels rid themselves of a guy who showed a bad attitude last year when he was demoted to the fourth arm out of the pen, and right now, it looks like he would have been no better than the fifth or sixth arm out of the pen. It also goes to show how crappy the Red Sox bullpen is that Donnelly could be their best reliever next season. So the worst case scenario is that the Angels get something for a guy who would have been mop up at best next season, and still needs to be signed. Good move by Stoneman.

Slow week, but the Kings won

There has been very little news this week that I care about. Both UCLA and Illinois have taken the week off for finals, the Angels signed Darren Oliver, and that's about it. We're even in the slow period for college football. When that happens, you get a bunch of Super Furry Animals videos (and really, you're better off because of it).

But on the plus side, the Kings played one of their best games of the season last night at the worst arena in the NHL (more on that later). Anze motherfucking Kopitar had two fantastic goals, including the first short hander allowed by San Jose this season. Michael Cammalleri and Derek Armstrong added a couple of their own, and emergency starter Barry Brust played brilliantly in net to earn his first NHL win.

In a couple of weeks I'll revisit the good and bad from my season preview and player predictions for the Kings. Mostly bad, I'm guessing, which pretty much matches the Kings so far. But there have been positives, not the least of which is the revelation that has been Anze Kopitar. I've been watching the Kings for probably 25 years, and he's the most physically gifted player at his age I've seen come out of their system in that time. After a slow start, Alexander Frolov has really picked up his game in the last couple months, and if he can sustain it through the rest of the season, it could represent a step forward. The talent has always been there. The consistency hasn't. Dustin Brown has shown offensive flashes, and continues to fearlessly go after the largest trees in the forest. Cammalleri hasn't put up huge numbers, but he's been a solid offensive contributor, and he's just looked better to me this season than last, though the numbers may not bear that out. Let's face it, the Kings aren't very good, but the foundation is there, and so far I have no complaints about Dean Lombardi's rebuilding.

And finally, a couple of words about the shittiest arena I've ever been to, HP Pavilion in San Jose. I've attended hockey games at the Forum, Staples Center, whatever the hell they're calling the arena in Anaheim, the United Center, Joe Louis Arena, some minor league stadium in Toledo, and the arena in San Jose flat out sucks. I went to a game in 1996 or 1997 when the Kings were playing the Sharks. One of my college roommates lived up there, so I flew in and we hung around San Jose before heading to the arena when the doors opened about an hour and a half before the game. We had seats in the first available row of the second deck in the center ice section (which is actually the second row, as it sits right behind the broadcasters). The cool thing was that we got to chat with Mike Allison and Bob Miller before the game. However, at this arena, there is a railing which is in place around the landing at the top of the stairs to keep people from falling into the lower deck. Note the term "railing", as opposed to, say, plexi-glass or something else that you can actually see through. Anyway, despite the modern design tools in the hands of the architects, and despite the primo nature of our seats, we were completely blocked from seeing one entire section of the ice. This is an unacceptable design flaw. There should be no such thing as an obstructed view seat in a modern arena. I'm still bitter about that experience, and it has nothing to do with the fact that Kings got the crap beat out of them that night. So yeah, that place is a piece of crap.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Probably the greatest song you'll ever see performed live, should you be so lucky to catch SFA in concert (and I guarantee they'll play it):

Another great when played live:

Actually better live than on the album, at least when they played the demo version about five years ago:

Let's bring it down a notch:

What the Beach Boys would be doing today if they were contemporary, and if there had, like, been another different Beach Boys 35 years ago:

And the coup de fucking gras:

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sick a week

So I've been sick for pretty much the last week or so, possibly strep throat picked up at a wedding a couple of weeks ago. I've been more or less out of it at work, and I spent the entire weekend sleeping on the couch in front of the TV, not really wanting to move. So that's probably as good an excuse as anything for not posting for a while.

Anyway, here's a quick "around the teams" dealie:


On the football side, apparently Pat Cowan is suffering from the effects of a concussion, most likely suffered on the hit by Ray Malacriminal in the fourth quarter of the U$C game, a hit that apparently wasn't helmet to helmet if you're a Pac 10 official. Should be interesting to see what Dorrell does for the Emerald Bowl. I've gotta think that both Cowan and Olson will be getting playing time, and that the job will be open for competition next spring. I still feel that in the long term, Ben Olson will be the quarterback who can take the Bruins further, but Cowan has his strengths (most notably his ability to scramble), and he'll either be a capable back-up, or he'll be a starter for someone else. Though I believe he's taken a red-shirt year, so he would only have one year of eligibility left if he were to transfer. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Next season is a long way away.

The basketball team starts a third consecutive week at #1 after taking down their third ranked opponent of the season. Saturday's game against Texas A&M was physical affair, and neither team looked like they were at the top of their ability, but the Bruins played with more poise down the stretch, made the big shots when they needed to make them, and took care of the basketball. They continue to be awful from the free throw line, and eventually that's going to haunt them if they can't turn it around. Lorenzo Mata's fifth foul with a few minutes remaining was probably a blessing in disguise, as he will probably be a liability on the offensive end late in games. That will be amplified by UCLA's inability to call timeouts after made baskets to switch offense for defense, a result of Ben Howland's philosophy of calling timeouts after made baskets starting about the nine minute mark. I'm not sure why he does that, and I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone ask him about it. But hey, it works, so I'm not going to question it.

Of course, certain anonymous Arizona fans would point out that Arizona is ranked first in Ken Pomeroy's RPI ratings. That's the same Arizona team that has played all of one team who's even receiving votes in either the AP or ESPN polls, and needed some help to beat an Illinois team missing its two best players. Note to Cat fan, there is a reason why they don't set the field for the NCAA tournament in December. The committee might want to see more than wins over New Mexico State, Samford, and Northern Arizona. Props on beating a bad Louisville team well on its way to missing its second straight NCAA tournament.


A lackluster second half against UIC led to a victory that was a little too close for comfort. On the plus side, Brian Randle and Jamar Smith were back in the lineup. They still aren't shooting the three very well, and they're turning the ball over too much. They showed that they may have trouble scoring when Warren Carter is doing everything, but as mentioned above, it was Randle's first game back, and his nine points and nine rebounds were a nice spark. As he continues to heal and gets some athleticism back, it should improve the team on both ends. For Jamar Smith, it was nice to see eight free throw attempts, but 1-6 from the field isn't going to cut it. For the first time this season, I was underwhelmed with the play of Calvin Brock. He was due for a bad one. Belmont lies in wait as a tune up for the bragging rights game against Missouri, which looks like one the Illini might drop for the first time this decade. That's definitely a statement game.


The Angels signed Darren Oliver today, who will replace the last worthless lefthander who held the LOOGY role. Oliver was generally considered to have a fair amount of potential, and was never really any good. He's spent most of his career as a starter, bouncing around Texas, St. Louis, Colorado and a few more stops before landing with the Mets last year in a relief role, during which he had his first above average season since 1999. It's not a long deal, and its not for a ton of money, so I don't really care if it goes bad. What bothers me a bit is that this is the second guy Stoneman has signed coming off a good year preceded by a bunch of awful ones. Anyway, it probably strengthens what on paper should be just about the best bullpen in the AL.

On the offensive front, no real news, which is probably good news at this point. Quite frankly, I don't see the fascination with getting someone like Manny Ramirez. He's a terrific hitter, no doubt about it. In a perfect world, they would acquire Manny and dump GA, opening the DH slot for Manny with the ability to play him in left to rest Vlad and/or Rivera. But that's not going to happen. GA isn't going anywhere, and he's going to be in the lineup, and there's nothing any of us can do about it except hope he finds the fountain of youth that takes him back to 2003. The only real upgrades in this lineup are going to come at first and third base, and those would be expensive, controversial, and possibly unnecessary, depending on how long we wait for Kotchman/McPherson/Morales. Personally, I think the pitching is excellent, and there's enough offense that they can afford to take a wait and see approach at those positions. On top of that, the real options out there on the market have their own question marks, except for maybe A-Rod, who no one expects to leave New York.

Anyway, I'll continue to try to mend, and keep this updated as health/work/time permits.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

87-114 versus 35-49

Interesting. Oh well, I must just be imagining things.

For reference, front-court scoring in that time has been 138 for AZ to 118 for IL. While Illinois has been more perimeter oriented, they haven't been almost 2.5 times as perimeter oriented as Arizona. Then again, no coach for Illinois has ever run across the floor and cried like a little bitch when one of the little girls on his team started a scrap that he couldn't finish.


Do they have a new album coming out or something, because I seem to be getting a lot of hits lately from people looking for pictures of Dominique Durand. Not that it's bad way to waste your time, of course, just seems kind of out of the ordinary.

Monday, December 04, 2006

UC Riverside 38; UCLA 61

Well, they didn't quite shock the world, but hey, we led about three minutes into the game, which was pretty impressive. The Highlanders didn't embarass themselves, and for a team with half the guys either dead, sick, or hurt, they acquitted themselves pretty well. Go Highlanders.

Tough game in which to really judge UCLA. With Saturday's events still fresh in everyone's mind, it had to be hard to concentrate, but the Bruins did what they do. No real impressive performances. Double-Double from LRMAM. Poor shooting from beyond the arc. Kind of a sleepy performance. Next test is this weekend versus Texas A&M.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Move the Fiest Bowl to Columbus

It's 1997 all over again. You remember 1997, when the coaches gave Tom Osborne and his band of criminals at Nebraska a retirement gift by jumping them over Michigan for a share of the national championship, despite the fact that Nebraska needed an overtime game (which had just been instituted that season), and needed to cheat to win that game (dude kicked a ball into the air that was then caught for a touchdown).

Well, the voters are at it again, ignoring the fact that Michigan is more deserving than Florida simply because they'd prefer not to see a rematch. The basic argument says Michigan had their shot at Ohio State, and they lost, so they shouldn't get another shot. Mind you, these are generally intelligent people making this argument. Do you ever think they'd be in favor of cancelling a super bowl if the teams had met in the regular season? How about if two teams were meeting in the NCAA basketball championship after a regular season match-up? Should we just decide who the winner is based on the previous result?

See, there's this thing called home field/court advantage. The theory is that the team playing on its home field, in front of its home fans, using its own locker rooms, etc, has the advantage over the team that had to travel and play in a hostile environment. It's not a very difficult concept to grasp. For example, noted sports rater Jeff Sagarin pins the home field advantage at somewhere around three points. And guess how many points OSU beat Michigan by in Columbus?

There are also a bunch of revisionists out there who would like to believe that the OSU-UM game was never all that close until the end. Don't buy their bullshit. Until a personal foul was called with about 6 minutes to go, Michigan was going to get the ball back down by four points with a chance to take the lead. On a neutral field, I think each team wins about half the time. And if you think OSU is the country's best team, logic dictates that Michigan has to be number two.

Just another reason the BCS is a joke.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

U$C 9; UCLA 13

I've got the crow cooking in the oven and I'm ready for my meal. WHAT. A. GAME!! DeWayne Walker ought to be enshrined in the UCLA hall of fame right now.

Incredible performance by the Bruins defense. The sack numbers aren't indicative, but they pressured Booty all night, they completely shut down the run, and they were remarkably effective on the corners. I was very worried about Rodney Van versus whoever they planned to run out against him, but the defense held firm. The stopped the criminals on numerous third and short and fourth and short attempts. And the play of the game, Eric McNeal, a tip and interception with 1:10 to go, was absolutely amazing. On defense, it was a total team effort. The front four held their ground, and the other seven, especially Dennis Keyes, who made a lot of big tackles, did their part. Shout out to the linebacker corps as well, as they were supposed to be the weak link this season with the graduations of Justin London and Spencer Havner. They were stout. And Trey Brown, I hardly heard his name mentioned, and if you're a cornerback, that's not a bad thing.

On the offensive side, I wasn't completely wrong. I didn't think UCLA would score enough points with Cowan at the helm, but that was before I knew the defense would play out of their minds. But credit to Cowan, who did all the leg work, literally, on the only drive that led to a touchdown. And he popped back up from a major shot to the head by Ray Malalaualsdfhga, which really isn't a fair fight, since Ray has had all of that prison time to work on his cheating skills. And speaking of blatant penalties that weren't called, here's my post from Bruins Nation:
It's been that way all season. They opened the season by becoming the laughing stocks of college football in the Oregon-Oklahoma game. They further embarrassed themselves in the UCLA-Arizona game when Ben Olson was knocked out with a late hit, and Tuitama was knocked out with a helmet to helmet hit (hey, I call 'em like I see 'em)

Fast forward to tonight.

1. I thought the late hit on U$C when Cowan ran for the first down was a bad call. But the helmet to helmet hit by Maladjusted on Cowan was so blatant and so obvious that my six year old niece could have called it. Should have kept that drive alive.
2. In the last minute on the third down play, U$C calls a time-out that they don't have. This wasn't surprising, as most U$C players can neither read nor count. Yet still, the clock stopped for at least ten seconds worth of time that should have come off the clock.
3. With the new rules in college football, the clock is supposed to start after punts when the ball is ready for play. Apparently there's a caveat to that rule that says the ball isn't ready for play until U$C says it is, as the refs stood over the ball for about 20 seconds, and I think Booty was on 2 before they finally ran the clock.

Great win. Awesome performance by the defense. Pathetic display by the women of troy. And flat out embarrassing work by Pac 10 officials.

And I stand by that. the officiating was awful.

But hat's off to Karl Dorrell. Hat's off to all of the Bruins. Hats off to TJ Simers, who has called this victory for the Bruins all week.

As we speak, Arkansas and Florida both seem to be figuring out new ways to lose, so who knows for sure whether Michigan might be in the national championship game, or WILL be in the national championship game. Speaking of Arkansas, their punt returner just fucked up a play inside his own five yard line that led to a Florida touchdown. What is it about Arkansas? 8 years ago, Clint Stoerner basically handed the ball to Tennessee in game that the hogs should have won, and Tennessee ended up winning the national championship. Stupid Arkansas.

Tremendous win for the Bruins. Tremendous win for the program. They stood up to bullies and punched them in the face. Anyway, that's all I can of for now. Just an awesome win. It's been a long time.

Congratulations, Arizona

You beat an unranked team, playing without their two best players, essentially at home, and you still needed the refs to give Carter and Pruitt their fourth fouls with about 18 minutes to play. As a UCLA fan, let me just say that I'm glad this piece of shit team is in the Pac 10, because Arizona is incredibly overrated. Oh, and Cat fan, in case you forgot:

Suck on it.

What a messed up day

UCLA-U$C, Kings-Ducks, and Illinois-Arizona all on at the same time. Brutal. Worse yet, all three teams I'll be rooting for figure to lose. Ugh.

Friday, December 01, 2006

So, Tomorrow's the Big Game

Well, not THAT Big Game, but a big game nonetheless. UCLA will be getting a great deal of support from somewhat unusual locations like Ann Arbor and Gainesville, while U$C will be getting its typical support from the legions of front-runners that scoop up all that gear when the women of troy are good in football. What does that all mean? Nothing.

But anyway, as predictions go, there's no logical case that can be made for UCLA pulling off the upset in this one. The only way they win is if the score stays low, which isn't altogether impossible, just highly improbable. The big problems, as I see them:
  1. UCLA has one good cornerback, while U$C has two really good receivers, along with a good running game. One and a half if you count Al Verner. But when Rodney Van is in the game, he's going to get torched. He hasn't stopped a good receiver all season, and these are the best receivers he's going to face. They can't match Trey Brown up on one without getting burned by the other, and
  2. If the Bruins get behind early, the don't have the offense to come back. They'll certainly hold up their end of the bargain on the low scoring, but I just can't see them scoring enough points to win.
I think the game will play out one of two ways. Either U$C gets up big and keeps building, or the Bruin defense holds it tight and U$C pulls away in the last ten minutes. Of course, the wild card is always turnovers. And interception returned for a score here, a couple of fumbles there, and UCLA could end up taking the game if they get a lot of breaks. That's tough to predict, though, and I'm not going to do it here.

In the end, I'll say the final will be U$C 27; UCLA 13. It's going to be 17-13 with about ten minutes to go, at which point U$C will kick a field goal, get a stop, and score a touchdown to cap the scoring. Right now I'd take U$C and give the points. I hope to hell that doesn't happen, but that's what I feel in my gut.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Updates on the stuff I care about


The basketball team will be #1 in both polls next week following Ohio State's loss to North Carolina last night in what was actually a pretty exciting game. Both teams look pretty damn good, and I wouldn't be shocked if they met in Atlanta in April, unless of course the final four isn't in Atlanta, but I'm not going to look it up, so you can figure out what I mean. Anyway, as noted before, this just means it will be that much more shocking when the UCR Highlanders shock the world on Sunday.

On the gridiron, the coaching staff announced today that Pat Cowan would remain the starter going into the game with the women of troy this weekend. I'm not happy about this. Nothing against Pat Cowan, but I see the team with two identities. They're either a) the pretty mediocre team with Cowan at the helm, or b) the mediocre team with Ben Olson behind center who may actually be really good at times. In other words, Cowan is more of a known quantity, and while Olson coming off an injury may be worse than Cowan, he may be better, and the known quantity that is Cowan will not be enough to beat $C. It's a gamble, but one worth taking. Though quite frankly, the play calling figures to be so conservative with either one that I can't see the Bruins scoring more than 21 points at best. That's probably not going to be enough.


The rumored supposedly done deal that shall remain nameless looks less and less like a done deal. The HH crew have been commenting on reports that a) Kenny Williams says he hasn't approached anyone about Crede, and b) Scioscia told Figgins he's the third baseman next year. Well, as a wise man once said, well, let's not start sucking each other's dicks quite yet. First, Williams never said that no one else approached him. Yeah, I'm parsing, but that's the way these guys work. Second, who cares what Scioscia told Figgins? Nothing is settled until those guys take the field next year. Of course, either Stoneman or Williams could make some sort of unequivocal statement that no deal will be done involving those players, but they won't because they're GMs, and GMs hedge. It's part of the job.

A reader pointed me to another take over here earlier today. I agree with this part:
If the Figgins-Santana for Crede-Garcia trade goes through, and Matthews, Crede, and Garcia all play up to their ability, Stoneman just might make a few friends in the OC.
I disagree with pretty much everything else. Sure, if Garcia, Crede, and Matthews all play at their best, like say, Crede and Matthews repeating last year while Garcia repeats his 2001 season (that was five years ago, folks), it would look like a great deal next year, and I'm sure a lot of people behind the Orange Curtain would be very happy. It would still look awful three years down the line when Santana is a top 10 starter, Crede is hurt, and Garcia is either back to sucking, or pitching for another team for HUGE dollars. Look, there is risk in every deal, and even deals apparently lopsided against you can work out in your favor if everything breaks right, but show me a GM who expects everything to break in his favor every time, and I'll say "I didn't know you were buddies with Allard Baird and David Littlefield".

There is really no one the White Sox would consider trading who could a) help the Angels this year, and b) equal the value of Ervin Santana. It's just not possible. Pitchers who have completed two seasons by age 23 with his stuff and numbers don't come around very often, and trading him now in exchange for mediocrity is such a dumb idea that I can't even believe I'm addressing it. But, that's pretty much my take. Stoneman has already burdened the team with one albatross this off-season (at least the fourth in a continuing series - see also: Erstad, Anderson, and Finley), and if he does any more damage, it may take the franchise a few years to recover. Fortunately for me, were he to make that deal, I'd be rooting for another team, and the Angels lack of success wouldn't bother me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Night Before


Ugh. What a tough game to watch. Stagnant offense, poor shooting, out of control play at times. Rich McBride just looked completely lost, not a good sign for a senior. Jamar Smith is clearly still recovering from his ankle sprain. He was a step slow all night. And this was some of the worst defense I've seen from a Bruce Weber team in a while. Lots of open looks for the Terrapins, and outside of some excellent offensive rebounding, the Illini were not a good team last night. Good effort from the Illinois big men, though. Warren Carter pulled down a ton of boards in the first half, and made the only three pointer before the break. Sean Pruitt finished with nice numbers, but I'd like to see him take it to the basket a little stronger. Brian Carlwell provided a nice spark. He's got a lot of work to do, but he's going to be a good one. But boy, this team really needs Brian Randle back. I thought Calvin Brock played a good game as well. 11 points and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes. Not sure why he didn't get more time. He's their most athletic player with Randle on the bench.


Not on TV, but it was nice to see the real leaders getting it done on the offensive end. They combined for 44 points, with the point guards adding another 21. LRMAM hit the boards in the second half, but it looks like he was the only one. The Bruins were killed on the glass by 41-22 margin. That's unacceptable, but having not seen the game, it's tough to see what contributed to that. On the plus side, the Bruins created 23 turn overs, while only guilty of 10 themselves. And 13 of 22 from beyond the arc is going to get it done most of the time. Nice night from Russel Westbrook, including 11 points on 3-3 from three point land. The 0 assists and 2 turnovers aren't much to write home about, though. Of course, this means the Bruins will still be undefeated when UC Riverside shocks the world on Sunday!

On the football front, the Bruins have agreed to meet Florida State in the Emerald Bowl on December 27th. Look, I can't get excited about these games either, and about eight or nine years ago, this would have been a great matchup, but the fact is that going to a bowl game means another full month of practice, and that's too valuable to turn down at the college level.

They still have yet to name a starter for Saturday's game with the women of troy, but after the way the offense operated last game under Cowan, they'd be crazy not to go with Ben Olson. On paper, this is going to be another in a long line of beatdowns. But it's a rivalry game, and stranger things have happened. With their defense, I actually think they have a better chance going into this year's game than they did last year. But I'm not getting my hopes up.


Still no announcement of the potentially worst trade in franchise history, though people in the comments both here and at Halos Heaven are reporting it's a done deal. Don't know what they could be waiting for. For now I'll still hold out hope that this is not going to go down.

Looking at his BBRef page, Santana's closest comps through age 23 are Ben Sheets and Mark Mulder. How did those two fare in their next two seasons? Sheets had an average age 23 season, going 11-13 with a 4.45 ERA, but exploded the year after that, posting a 2.70 ERA while striking out 264. He's struggled with injuries since. Mulder went 34-16 over his next two seasons, posting era+s of 134 and 136. Of course, he had already established himself as an ace at 23, so he's not as good a comp as Sheets. Regardless, there's no reason to think that Santana won't progress, and trading him before he establishes himself for such dreck as Freddie Garcia is mind-bogglingly insane. Not to mention, Santana has destroyed the A's in his first two seasons, going 6-1 with a 1.55 ERA while allowing fewer than a baserunner per inning. Might want to keep a guy around who simply owns your arch-rival.

Like I said, officially, this deal hasn't gone down yet, so I'm still an Angels fan. For now.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I have never been a Bill Stoneman basher. 2002 goes a long way in my opinion of most of the people in current Angels management, but if the rumors are true, someone needs to steal the keys from this madman as soon as humanly possible. The L.A. Times is reporting that the Angels are discussing a trade of Figgins for Crede. That's the good news. The bad news is that the trade would also include Ervin Santana for Freddie Garcia. That's lunacy.

The difference between the relative values of Crede and Figgins is much lower than the difference between Garcia and Santana when salaries are added in. It's the type of difference that could easily be filled by a Steven Shell, or some other such minor league arm that isn't among the cream of the Angels pitching crop. Why Stoneman would even consider a deal in which he would add a pitcher who has declined each of the last two seasons, and is owed in the neighborhood of $10MM is beyond me. Santana, on the other hand, was at least Garcia's equal last year, will only be 24 years old, and is club controlled for the next four seasons.

I've been an advocate of a Figgins for Crede deal, but not at this price. This is just fucking nuts.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just checking in with a question

Is there anyone other than Gary Matthews Jr., his agent, Bill Stoneman, and fans of other AL West teams who think this deal is good for the Angels? I mean, has any Angels fan anywhere come close to saying that this deal isn't awful?

I think Bill Stoneman may be retarded. Seriously.

Absolutely Indefensible

The Gary Matthews signing will haunt the Angels into the next decade. Easily one of the three or four dumbest moves in franchise history.

This has basically ruined my entire Thanksgiving weekend.

Morning Roundup - Updated with Angels news


Pretty ugly game last night. Horrendous shooting from anywhere beyond about 8 feet from the basket, and that included the free throw line. The defense was not terrific in the second half outside of a few select possessions, but they were solid when they had to be, and although they gave up what was once a 17 point lead, they never let Kentucky get the lead beyond one posession, and almost every time Kentucky took a lead, the Bruins would run it back out to about a four or five point advantage. Also, give the Bruins credit for taking care of the ball. They only turned it over 8 times, three of those belonging to Darren Collison, who made up for them with seven assists.

They're going to need to shoot the ball a hell of a lot better, though. 2 for 19 from the three point line isn't going to cut it, and 54% from the free throw line isn't much better. A rare below average rebounding night from LRMAM was offset by his 18 points, and Lorenzo Mata, coming off a knee surgery, looked excellent with 11 boards and 12 points. Georgia Tech is on the bill tonight after taking out Memphis. Another good test for the Bruins.


Didn't see this one, as it wasn't on TV (and I had a hockey game, but that's another story). Four players scored in double figures, including Rich McBride, who played 27 minutes in his first game of the year. He was 4-10 from beyond the arc, which is OK, but without seeing the game, it's tough to evaluate. Chet Frazier had a great game with 17 points and 10 assists against 2 turnovers in 27 minutes. Nice to see him get some time on the bench with McBride back in the lineup. The numbers were down for Trent Meacham and Calvin Brock, but Sean Pruitt added a double-double. The Illini dominated the glass with a 46-19 rebounding advantage. In fact, more Illini misses were rebounded by the Illini than by Savannah State, which has to be a fairly rare occurrence. The 70% free throw shooting was pretty solid as well. Kind of curious why Brian Carlwell didn't register a shot (though he was obviously fouled three time in the act of shooting). Not much the Illini can do other than beat the teams that are put in front of them. We're a week away from the first real test for the Illini when they face Maryland at the Hall in the Big 10/ACC Challenge.


The folly continues, as the Angels ramp up their pursuit of one year wonder Gary Matthews Jr., who says the Angels are probably the top team on his list. Rumors have the contract at five years, which is too many for a guy who will be 32 in the first year of the deal, which is already pushing it for a center fielder. He's been above average (barely) exactly three times in his career, and in two of those seasons, it was in limited time. Even in last year's career year (as it's his eighth in the majors, I refuse to call it a break out year). His isolated on base percentage (OBP less batting average), was worse than Chone Figgins', and his numbers were inflated due to his high batting average, which was 14% higher than his career high (not his average, but his HIGH!) coming into this season. He hit all of 20 home runs in a hitters' park, and didn't even slug .500. He has the potential to be a pretty good player over the next couple of years, but he's doubtful to be worth what the Angels will pay him, and he's virtually guaranteed to incredibly overpaid over the last couple years of the deal.

Angels fans, cross your fingers and hope the gold mine that the Cubs are apparently sitting on is still producing. Their downright crazy off-season may be the Angels only hope at this point. This would not be a good signing for the Angels. I might rather take Reggie Willits straight up over GMJ.

UPDATE - Fox is reporting it's a done deal at 5 years, $50MM. He'll be 36 in the last year. This move is indefensible. Dumbest move since the Easley for Greg Gohr trade. Just pathetic. Fuck this fucking team.


Leaving today for Toledo (four hours) to visit my sister for Thanksgiving. Then on Friday I'll be driving from Toledo to Evansville, IN (eight hours) for a wedding, then back to Chicago (six hours) on Sunday. It's going to be a long weekend. As a result, posting could be on the light side. Of course, I'll probably be bringing my computer, and with the rehearsal dinner and reception, there's an increased possibility for drunk posting, so you never know.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


UCLA at Kentucky tonight. Nice to see Aaron Afflalo get his jumper back last night. At times the game was pretty sloppy, and it seemed to be called EXTREMELY tight against UCLA. Part of me thinks that Ben Howland requested that. There were a lot of carries called that you never see called during the regular season. A lot of very ticky tack fouls called against the Bruins that you don't even see during a Pac 10 game. And that's fine with me. Get them used to that. Better to have that happen in a game in which they were going to win easily. Russel Westbrook looked very solid in my opinion. He only had three points and two assists, but he showed quickness and good decision making. If he can contribute this season as much as Collison did last season, the Bruins will be in good shape. Tonight is a measurement game.

The Illini continue the soft part of their schedule with Savannah State. Savannah hasn't played anyone of note yet, but they're 5-0, and at least they'll bring a winning attitude to the Assembly Hall. The Illini backcourt has been terrific to start the season, and no one has surprised more than Calvin Brock. Rich McBride returns to the lineup, but with Brock, Chet Frazier, and Trent Meacham playing so well, it may be tough for him to get minutes. The competition for playing can do nothing but help the team. And if these guys continue to exceed expectations, look for coach Weber's reputation as an excellent developer of guard talent to continue to improve. One of the issues with this team, as noted by the Big Ten Wonk, has been defensive rebounding. We'll see if coach Weber makes that a point of emphasis tonight.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Angels Ink Justin Speier

Four years, $18MM. My gut instinct is to criticize multi-year, multi-million dollar deals for relief pitchers, especially relief pitchers that aren't closers. The Angels have made a habit of getting pretty good performances from scrap-heap guys over the last six or seven years, then letting them loose on other teams just before they ran out of good pitches (Mark Petkovsek is the poster boy for this, but they got good seasons out of Ben Weber, Al Levine, and Lou Pote before they fell off the map as well). But the Angels bucked this trend last year with the signing of Hector Carrasco (tempered somewhat by the original plan to start him before signing Jeff Weaver, and before the emergence of Jered Weaver). So for the second year in a row, the Angels move to shore up their bullpen via free agency, signing the best free agent middle reliever on the market.

Speier is the son of former major leaguer Chris Speier, which pretty much means absolutely nothing, but I had his baseball card as a kid, so I thought I'd throw that out there. Basically this move drops JC Romero completely out of the picture (mercifully), as Speier has killed lefties the last couple of years, and drops Carrasco and Donnelly back a spot in the bullpen, assuming Donnelly returns (Stoneman has said he likely will). That won't make Donnelly very happy, but it does give the Angels the top bullpen in the AL heading into the season. As we all know, bullpens aren't built on paper, so that guarantees the Angels absolutely nothing but peace of mind for the first couple weeks of April.

It also increases the possibility that the Angels could include Scot Shields in a deal for a big bat this off-season. He's been in the mind of every team that has tried to deal with Stoneman the last few seasons, and now that the Angels have another guy capable of pitching the 8th, Shields could be used to sweeten the pot for a potential slugger, especially in light of the fact that they just removed the other best alternative from the market. Shields hits free agency next season (I think), and if this deal is an indication of his value, he'll probably command a deal of similar length at something closer to $6MM per. That may be more than Stoneman is willing to shell out.

As the Rev pointed out, this could be a case of Stoneman taking into account where the budget is going for the next couple of years and spending accordingly. At the beginning of the 2005 season, the Angels had expensive players at every infield position except for third base while employing a fairly cheap bullpen. Catcher, First, and Second just got a lot cheaper in the last year, and Stoneman probably feels like he has money to spend on a part of the roster that a) needs help, and b) saved them money over the last few years. That's fairly astute analysis, and I wish I'd thought of it.

Against my prior judgment, I like this deal. It gives the Angels options heading into the season, and should they choose not to exercise them, they're going to have an excellent bullpen yet again. This has been Bud Black's forte, so it make Mike Butcher's job a little easier as well. And if they make a move including Shields, they just paid a couple million to enhance his value.

The first big test

It's likely to come tomorrow night for the UCLA Bruins, who are slated to take on Kentucky if they can get by potential giant killers Chaminade, who took down top ranked Virginia in this tournament a little over twenty years ago. This should be a pretty good indicator of where the Bruins are at this point in the season. The field is loaded outside of the hosts. Joining the Bruins and Wildcats in Maui are Depaul, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Purdue, and Oklahoma. That's a very solid field. The Bruins could also meet Memphis in the final, the next highest ranked team behind the Bruins in the top 25.

Tournaments like these are excellent early season tests, and I commend Ben Howland for taking the Bruins to this event. I've been critical of his scheduling history in the past, and there are still a few issues I have with some of the comments he's made in the past (most notably advocating a 16 game conference schedule). A young team with a major target in it's back needs early mathups like this to help them get used to the type of intensity they're going to face from opponents every night this season.

Speaking of major upsets in holiday tournaments in Hawaii, we're coming up on the 17th anniversary of perhaps the most underrated upset in the history of college basketball. On Christmas night in Honolulu, the UC Riverside Highlanders took down then-undefeated and fourth ranked Iowa. They didn't do this on a luck three pointer at the last second. The Highlanders canned 21 threes during the game en route to a 110-92 victory. It remains probably the biggest win in UCR hoops history (it should have been overshadowed by a D-2 National Championship in 1995, but I'd rather not get into that). I only call it underrated because, for example, a google search for "Chaminade Virginia" turns up a ton of hits on that game, while I had to search for about fifteen minutes to find ONE mention of the game (OK, I found two, but one was from me talking about it on another message board). Anyway, here's a link to a brief mention of the game. You'll need to search through a bit, but it's there.

UCLA plays UC Riverside later this season. In 2001, I walked a mile and a half in a Western Chicago suburb, at night, in December, to watch the Highlanders take on the Bruins. UCR actually led by one early in the second half before being blown out, but hey, it was a Lavin team, which meant there was always a chance for an upset. This is the the only match-up in which I'll ever root against UCLA.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I'm not sure if that's the right word, but so be it. Anyway, Wedding Crashers has been on HBO about a million times in the last couple of months, and after watching bits and pieces of it over and over and over again, I have a couple of questions:
  1. The day of the Cleary wedding, the schedule apparently includes: The wedding, the reception (including pictures), a boat trip to their home on the coast, a football game, so hangin' around time, then dinner. My question is, what time was this wedding, 8:30 in the morning? Weddings rarely start before noon, and the reception was off-site, which means it probably didn't start until 1:00 or so (at the very earliest). You gotta figure that went at least four hours, so now, if everything is breaking their way, it's 5:00. I gotta figure that rounding everyone up and sending them home, then getting on the boat and cruising to their pad after everyone has left is at least another hour. So now it's 6:00, they've probably been up since 6:00 am for an early wedding, and they're still going to play football before cleaning up for dinner? Without even questioning whether they'd even eat dinner on a night like that (I mean, if you have an afternoon reception, chances are you aren't having a big sit-down dinner that night). I find that all highly improbable. Also, no one was drunk, which makes it probably the lamest wedding reception I've ever seen.
  2. After the falling out, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan don't talk to each other for weeks/months. Umm, aren't these guys business partners? How can you just not talk to your business partner for that long and still have a business?
  3. After Vince Vaughan marries Isla Fisher, the four main characters drive away, impliedly to crash another wedding. Wouldn't you think they'd have, ya know, a reception of their own to attend? (and they were definitely leaving the wedding, because it was only like 2:00 pm).
  4. Why wasn't the chick who played their secretary at the beginning in the movie more? She was the hottest one! Bastards.
Otherwise, pretty funny movie.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Tomorrow is one of football's traditional "rivalry weeks" in which many of the top rivalries will play out in college football stadiums across the country. Michigan v. Ohio State is obviously getting the lion's share of hype, but we shouldn't forget tomorrow's other traditional rivalries, like the Iron Bowl (Auburn v. Alabama), the Land Grant Trophy (MSU v. PSU), and other traditional rivalries like Purdue v. Indiana, Illinois v. Northwestern, Montana v. Montana State (I'm serious - you might not think it's a big deal, but that game is HUGE in Montana, and I have a lot of family there, mostly Montana grads).

But the thing I like most about this week is that every year it reminds why I love the Pac 10. There is no other conference in America with such natural rivalries, all within the same conference. Every Pac 10 team has a natural rival that trumps all other rivals, and all of those are conference games, making the game that much more important (don't kid yourself into thinking U$C v. ND is bigger than U$C v. UCLA). Here's my own "pulled from ass" rivalry criteria:
  1. Teams should both be in-state, or at the very least, from bordering states. Even better if they're in the same metropolitan area.
  2. Teams should be in the same conference. For years, the Rose Bowl almost always came down to the UCLA v. U$C game, and it always elevated the rivalry.
  3. Teams should both be competitive, as in, they should both make appearances in the top 25 at least every other year or so (for example, this sort of eliminates Indiana v. Purdue and Illinois v. Northwestern).
  4. Most importantly, the two teams' biggest rivals should be one another. For example, Michigan v. Michigan State is a good rivalry, but Michigan has a bigger rivalry with Ohio State, which means it's not a great rivalry. Hell, people at Illinois thought of Michigan as one of our big rivals. Geez, it's not a rivalry if your "rival" doesn't really care about you.

So let's break down the Pac 10 rivalries:
  1. U$C v. UCLA - The only negative might be that people on the back East may think that the ND v. U$C rivalry is more important than U$C v. UCLA. People back East are stupid.
  2. Arizona v. Arizona State - No question on 1, 2, and 4. Arizona has been down recently, but they had a good run in the '90s. ASU has played for the national championship within the last ten years, and they seem to make people think they're good before just about every season. Their recent tank jobs have diminished this one a bit. Still, it's better than most Big 10 rivalries.
  3. The Civil War - Oregon v. Oregon State - Both schools have been in BCS bowls in this decade, and while Oregon is usually better, they've both been not-awful for a while now. 20 years ago, no one would have cared, but nowadays, it's a big game. And it's got a cool name.
  4. The Big Game - Cal v. Stanford - Not quite as good as U$C v. UCLA, but Cal has been very good lately, and Stanford has been to a relatively recent Rose Bowl. It's got some damn fine history as well.
  5. The Apple Cup - Washington v. Wazzu - Washington has been down recently, but the rivalry has been buoyed by a surprisingly competitive Washington State team.
The Pac 10 is the only conference which brings all my "pulled from my ass" criteria together for every single team. No other conference can claim that. That's why I love the Pac 10, and that's why, when people mention a possible expansion to 12 teams, I would only like to see them add Colorado and Colorado State (or maybe the New Mexico schools).

Illinois Basketball

To this point, I've more or less neglected the 2006-2007 Fighting Illini, for no reason other than I've been busy with a bunch of other stuff lately. Also, for the first time in a few years, I expect the Illini to simply be good rather than very good, or flat out fantastic. While I would have been thrilled with this lineup coming off the '98-'99 season, it's not exactly marquee material just two seasons removed from '04-'05. That's not their fault, or course.

For the first time in a few years, I don't really think the Illini have anyone that's truly reliable heading into the season. For example, last year we all knew that at the very least, Dee and Augustine could win the Illini a fair number of games even without much help. There is no one like that on this team, and as such, predicting their finish is pretty much a crap-shoot. They're young, with only two seniors expected to get significant playing time, and neither among their most important players (Warren Carter and Marcus Arnold). This team has a lot of question marks.

The biggest questions, in my mind, are:
  1. How much has Sean Pruitt improved, and with Augustine gone, can he become a reliable low post scorer and rebounder? I think he has to average about 14 and 8 for the Illini to be successful.
  2. Can Chester Frazier become a legitimate threat to score? He doesn't need to replace Dee's scoring, but he at least needs to be able to draw a defender to free up someone inside or Jamar Smith.
  3. Can Jamar Smith (when he returns from injury) be a more consistent scorer. Last year Jamar was a dead eye shooter who could put together a big game under the right circumstances. He needs to be able to put up big games under the wrong circumstances if the Illini are going to be successful.
  4. Can Brian Randle get healthy, and if he can, will he be able to shoot? For much of the off-season, the non-recruiting discussion centered around how Randle had improved his jumper. We know he can defend. We know he can fly. What he needs to do is consistently hit 17-18 footers to pull his defenders out the perimeter before he puts the ball on the floor.
Those are my big questions for the Illini this season. Prediction? 19 wins, second round of the NCAA tournament, and that's probably it. Add a win or two if Smith and Randle get healthy sooner rather than later.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

BYU 69; UCLA 82

I don't know about you, but that seemed like kind of a strange game to me. UCLA dominated early, then BYU just went freaking nuts, hitting seven of their eight three point attempts in the first half, and it's not like they were all open looks, on their way to opening up a nine point lead. I'd like to say UCLA made a methodical comeback, but it didn't really feel like that watching the game. But when you look at the game flow chart, their scoring line is almost dead straight. No real big runs, or real big lulls offensively. They scored at a very consistent pace, while BYU made a couple of big runs, but didn't really do much once they got to about 60 points. Technically, the Bruins went on an 11-0 run which started with about seven minutes to go in the game, but they did it with defense, and that run took five minutes to complete, at which the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.

I thought they looked a little nervous at first. Both Afflalo and Shipp jacked up some pretty questionable shots, and Mike Roll followed suit when he entered the game. BYU took advantage of those poor posessions to build their lead. But UCLA settled down, started to run their offense, and got a fair amount easy baskets.

The stars of the game for the Bruins were clearly Darren Collison and LRMAM. Collison went for 16 and ten assists, including a couple of second half three pointers, and a terrific drive at the end of the first half on a screen and roll. The defender turned his back, and Collison was a blur on the way to the basket.

LRMAM notched the first of what will likely be many double doubles this season (mmmm....double doubles) with 24 and 10 rebounds. He mixed in solid defense as well. Highlights included a flying dunk to finish a break, and a great second half baseline move that ended with him reaching from behind the backboard to lay it in, pushing the lead to nine with just over three minutes to play.

BYU is no pushover, and the Bruins overcame some early adversity to really put them away in the second half. And let's not forget, the early scoop was that they would have trouble with BYU center Trent Plaisted with his size and skill inside compared to the lack of same for the Bruins. He went 3-7 from the field, scored only seven points, and was in foul trouble much of the night. I think that's a good sign that they'll be able to guard the interior. Not a bad start against a team that many are picking in their field of 65. Make no mistake, I think this Bruins team can play MUCH MUCH better than they did last night. But still, it's a nice way to kick off the season.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thank God it's basketball season

It's finally here. With the Kings having a less than successful year, and UCLA football being UCLA football, the wait for basketball season has been particularly excruciating.

My gut feeling is that this team is going to be just as good as last year's team. I think they'll be more consistent. Last year's team at their best would probably beat this year's team at their best, but I think this year's team will play at a higher level more often than they did last year. A lot of that inconsistency was due to the fact that so many minutes went to freshmen, and a fair amount was to due to Ryan Hollins, the poster child for inconsistency (who took that title from Michael Fey, finally found a way to be consistently bad). But athletic seven footers don't grow on trees, and when Hollins was on his game, he really made a big impact. They'll miss that this year.

I'm especially curious to see how how much Ryan Wright, LRMAM, and Alfred Aboya have improved over the summer. One benefit to playing college basketball in Los Angeles is that if you hang around during the summer, there are a lot of opportunities to play pick-up games and test yourself against NBA level competition. I thought last season that these three especially, with a lot of raw ability, would really benefit from those opportunities (as it appeared Mata had last year before his injuries). If they all have made some big strides, the UCLA front line could be fantastic. I don't need to say anything about LRMAM, but Aboya showed flashes last year where he could blow by the occasional defender from the perimeter. Physically, Ryan Wright has the type of body that should allow him to be a force in the paint. If those two step up, and if Mata can return from his knee surgery, the Bruins are going to be very solid inside.

The return of Josh Shipp is also another key. Word is that before last year, he was outplaying Farmar and Afflalo, but obviously the injury to his hip took him out for most of the season. He's healthy, and his scoring ability is something that the Bruins really lacked last year. I'm really looking forward to seeing him on the floor.

Looking forward to seeing Keefe and Westbrook as well, but frankly, I don't expect major impacts from the freshmen this year, save for a game or two when they really step up, as seems to happen to every freshman at some point. The top 8 are pretty solid, and should dominate the minutes. Anything they get from the freshmen should be gravy.

UCLA basketball is finally back where it belongs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Angels going after Soriano

Not surprising. Rotoworld is reporting that the Angels have offered $80MM over six years, consistent with their strategy of making a big offer early in an attempt to avoid a bidding war. As the Times pointed out the other day, sometimes this nets you a Cy Young winner, and sometimes it nets you Mo Vaughn (allow me to digress for a moment, but I had nothing personal against Vaughn until the Percival comments. The one season where he was remotely healthy, he was a great hitter for the Angels. I can't blame a guy for getting hurt, so I don't think that was an awful move for the Angels, but it certainly ended unfortunately).

I'm not exactly a big Soriano booster, so if they were to sign him, I'd learn to live with it, and probably come to like it, but it's not going to kill me if he turns them down. I've been over this again and again, but the reason the Angels lost the AL West last year was not because of a lack of offense. They lost the AL West because they could not consistently catch and throw the baseball. That isn't to say that they had a good offense. They didn't. But the defense is what did them in. Why do I bring that up? Because according to the Times, the Angels may be considering playing him at second base and moving Kendrick to first. If the Angels sign Soriano, they have two legitimate options*:
  1. Kotchman or Morales at first, Kendrick at second, Soriano in center, Rivera in left, GA at DH; or
  2. Kendrick at first; Soriano at second; Rivera in center; Anderson in left; and Kotchman or Morales at DH (or another bat, should they sign one).
Under option two, the Angels are worse defensively at every position compared to option one (although I think that if Kendrick played a full season, spring training included, at first base, he'd be a very good first baseman, so there me no real drop off there). It would also make them worse at second base and left field than they were last year, when they were probably the worst defensive team in the AL. That's not a recipe for success.

Ya know, I've been pretty hard on John Lackey and Ervin Santana for nibbling around the strike zone and trying to strike everyone out instead of getting early count outs. If the Angels put out the defense laid out in option one, I'd understand why they may not want to let opposing hitters put the ball in play. And to be fair, if Soriano goes somewhere else, none of this matters. If the Angels make a move for a center fielder in addition to Soriano, the analysis changes. If someone gets hurt in spring training, the analysis changes. What concerns me is that the Angels might even consider option one. It simply makes no sense.

*Note, options subject to change based on subsequent free agent signings.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Back to the Midwest tomorrow

Back to the cold. Back to work (new job). Kinda sucks really.

So how did I spend my last few weeks?

Countless visits to the hospital (my dad's a lot better, thanks)
4 rounds of golf
3 trips to court (don't ask)
2 visits to Indian casinos
2 trips to In-N-Out (I know, only two)
2 dinners at a really good Mexican food restaurant
1 wedding (not mine), including reception and rehearsal dinner
1 trip to Palm Springs (for the wedding)
1 trip to San Diego (saw Borat with an old college roommate)
1 Kings home game
1 high school football game
1 meet up with Welch, Halofan, the Chronicler, Cupie, and Steve Smith.
1 trip to the UCR bookstore

A fairly eventful couple of weeks, I guess. Midday flight tomorrow means missing most of the days' college football, which sucks, but it is what it is.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bud Black to the Padres

Well, this stings a little bit, but it wasn't unexpected. Bud Black has accepted an offer from the Padres to be their next manager. It's the job he's been waiting for, and probably just about the only one he would have taken in the next few years. Good luck to Bud and the Padres.

What's this mean for the Angels? Under Black, the Angels have developed Jarrod Washburn (who actually started under the previous regime), John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Joe Saunders. He was able to get better performances than he should have gotten out of Ramon Ortiz and Kevin Appier in his tenure. Interestingly, following the World Championship in 2002, the Angels only had one (that's right, 1) above average year from a starter in the next two seasons. Of course, they turned that trend around in 2005 and 2006, winning a Cy Young, and producing eight above average seasons in ten rotation spots (if you consider Colon/Weaver/Saunders as one rotation slot - all three were below average last season).

But Black's legacy with the Angels will the success of the bullpen under his tenure, always above average and frequently at the top of the league. He got productive seasons out of such luminaries as Lou Pote, Al Levine, Ben Weber, Brendan Donnelly, Mark Petkovsek, and others. That's not exactly a hall of fame waiting list. Add those to terrific seasons out of Scot Shields, Frankie Rodriguez, and Troy Percival, and well, his successor will have his work cut out for him. Bullpens are notoriously unreliable from one year to the next. Black and Scioscia hit on a formula that appeared to effectively minimize that volatility. Hopefully Scioscia can find a replacement who can fill that role with the same effectiveness.

In addition, Scioscia and his coaches have always seemed to be on the same page. His relationship with Black has, from the outside, appeared to be fairly close. Can he find a replacement who fits into the Angel family just as well as Black? We'll see. Who will it be? Hell if I know. Check this Halos Heaven thread for speculation.

Kings 6; Lanche 5

Man, what an exciting game. I mean really entertaining. Just enough bad goaltending to lead to a lot of goals, and just enough good goaltending to remind everyone that goaltending is really hard. Nice effort by Avery, and underrated play by Koptitar to steal the puck and set up the Thornton goal.

And oh yeah, it's election night. I don't do a lot of political stuff, because there are a lot of people who do it a lot better, and I don't want to alienate anyone. But just take a look at the sidebar. Yeah, I've had worse nights.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lost Weekend

Got back from the desert last night after spending the weekend without TV and internet. Fortunately, I was there for a wedding and the accompanying festivities, so the monotony didn't completely wear me down.

Also fortunate was the fact that the lack of a connection to the wired world meant that I didn't have to witness the Kings losing, the Bruins losing, and Derrick Rose choosing Memphis over Illinois. Of course, I have some experience witnessing all three, so I was able to just imagine all of the losing and still feel like I was there. Oh, I also lost at the casinos, or rather, the casino (Agua Caliente). I won at Fantasy Springs. I also took $10 from the groom's dad at Terra Lago the day before the wedding (That's right, Dan, I was playing golf).

Speaking of golf, I've squeezed in rounds at Oak Valley, Rustic Canyon, and Oak Quarry, the latter two for the first time. Must be something about the grasses used out here, or the time of the season, but courses in the Midwest are generally in better shape. Never noticed it until this trip. Oh well, 90 degrees here today, so I'll soak up a few more days of sun before heading back to Chicago.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Probably nothing until Sunday

Heading to Palm Springs for a wedding, probably won't post until Sunday. May even miss the Bruins game, but since I don't think they're going to win, it won't kill me. Keep your fingers crossed on Rose, but don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Day Late for Halloween

But here's your scary music post:

And another non-scary one just for fun.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Derrick Rose back in the picture

Hotshot point guard out the Chicago Public League is back in the picture for the Illini after narrowing his list to five Adidas schools about a month ago, trimming the Nike aligned Illini in the process. All of the sudden, the door is back open, with Rose's list consisting of Illinois alongside previous destinations Indiana and Memphis. He was at a pre-season scrimmage and practice over the weekend. What's it mean? Who knows. I'm not getting my hopes up. Four pieces of speculation come to mind:
  1. He's not happy with what Adidas is offering, and he's yanking their chain a little bit in the hopes of landing a better package.
  2. He's yanking Illinois' chain just to be evil.
  3. He doesn't want to play in Jackass Gordon's shadow at Indiana.
  4. He's genuinely interested in attending Illinois.
Of course, three doesn't make much sense, since he could solve that by going to Memphis. 1, 2, and 4 seem about equally plausible to me. Like I said, I'm not getting my hopes up. Decision expected to come on Saturday.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Just get it over with

There are so many things wrong with the way the Bruins played yesterday that it's impossible to catalog them all right now, but suffice to say, the second half was pathetic. The Bruins were completely outcoached on both sides of the ball. I'll give a little slack to the defense because it's not easy when the offense can't keep the other team off the field, and you're continuously heading out there after another three and out.

Two plays that stick out for me are a couple of third down plays where the Bruins needed about seven yards to pick up the first. Both times the play that was run was designed to go underneath. Got that? Not a play where Cowan went through his progressions and dumped it off. They were designed to put the ball in the receiver's hand short of the first down marker. That's just idiocy.

I stayed off the Fire Dorrell bandwagon for a long time before starting to come around this year. I'm not usually the type of guy that wants to see a coach fired. Hell, I hung with Andy Murray and the Kings for a LONG time. But Dorrell needs to be let go. It's over. I'd say fire him now and appoint an interim coach for the rest of the season, but I'm afraid they'd beat U$C and there'd be a push to keep the interim guy without doing a real search. I don't know what to think anymore. I just know I want to see a new guy at the helm next year.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's official

Well, yes, it's official that Dan Cloutier sucks, but that's not what this post is about. After four plus years, I have officially ended my employment with the Big 4 accounting firm that absorbed Andersen's tax practice in Chicago. Gave notice Monday, and they kicked me out today. But they're paying me for the next week and a half, plus about five weeks of vacation that I'd accrued, so that should be a nice little chunk of change. In about 10 hours, I'll be on a plane to LA, where I'll spend the next two weeks out of the increasingly cold temperatures of the Midwest. The new job doesn't start until November 13th, so that's a nice little break. Of course, that doesn't mean I can take a break from you, my loyal reader(s). I'll return to my frustratingly inconsistent posting even while on vacation.

Monday, October 23, 2006

An Unfortunate Possibility

From Jon Heyman at

Edmonds back to Angels?

Some folks believe former Angel Jim Edmonds, a Fullerton, Calif., native and free agent, would like to return to Anaheim. When he left, some teammates saw him as something of a hot dog. But he's still a pretty good center fielder.

I hearby unequivocally state that if Jim Edmonds returns to the Angels, I will suspend myself from Angels fandom until such time as he is no longer a member of the team. I will not root for the Angels as long as Jim Edmonds wears an Angels uniform, should that come to pass.

I am not joking.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

UCLA 17; Notre Dame 20

I'm not really sure what there is to say that hasn't already been said. There's an old addage (and if there's not, then I'm going to make one up) that says when you play not to lose, you usually end up losing. Well guess what? After a fourth down stop with just over two minutes to go, the Bruins decided the best course of action was to put money on the Irish not having enough time to drive the length of the field. Bad decision.

As with any typical UCLA loss, mistakes played a major role, and this game was no different. Lost in the hoopla of the impending victory and sudden defeat was the fact that the winning margin was a field goal made, then missed by Justin Medlock in the first quarter, the successful attempt called back on a false start. But otherwise, the game was suprisingly mistake, well, not quite free, but let's just say there weren't too many mistakes. Only two turnovers on offense, and very few penalties in a tough building in which to play. The defense generally picked up the slack after turnovers.

But in the last few minutes, Karl Dorrell and DeWayne Walker (who really looked like a genius all day), decided to tense up, play conservative, and hope ND wouldn't wake up. Dorrell's three straight "just don't fumble" running plays, and Walker's prevent defense awoke the sleeping giant, and the rest, as they say, is history.

A couple other stats really stand out. Neither team ran the ball all that well, but UCLA completely shut down Darius Walker, and sacked Quinn five times. Their defensive line was very impressive. But the stat that I have yet to hear anyone mention is 4-5. That was Notre Dame on FOURTH down conversions. When you stop an offensive as strong as ND's on three plays, you HAVE to get the ball back, and UCLA continually allowed ND to extend drives that they should have ended.

In the end, two coaches called plays like they were concerned about what they'd read in the paper the next day. Go conservative. Play not to lose. It's what any coach would do, right?

There's no points for trying hard.

Something for the Weekend

Some early music from the finest band currently in existence. I'm serious. The Super Furry Animals are about a million times better than anything you're currently listening to. And if you don't agree, you suck.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Really weird feeling

I've just quit my job. Only, no one here knows that I've quit my job. I've accpted an offer from another consulting firm. Just sent the email a couple hours ago. More money, overtime pay, identical to slightly better benefits. A little more uncertainty than you experience at a huge firm, but a good opportunity to grow with a new practice.

But it is really weird walking around here, looking at everyone, and not being able to tell them that I'm leaving this job. Starting up a new project? Sure, I'd be happy to help! That staff meeting in December? Hit accept on the old Outlook and add it to my schedule!

It's really quite surreal.

Everyone will be clued in on Monday. The ruse will be over. But for now, it just feels really strange.

The Blueprint

The Kings aren't going to play Phoenix every night, and they definitely aren't going to play Phoenix with a backup goalie every night. Let's face it, they did a lot of things right tonight that no reasonable person can expect them to do night in and night out. But that, quite frankly, is the blueprint for a successful Kings game.
  • Success on both the power play and the penalty kill;
  • The discipline to avoid taking too many stupid penalties (which doesn't mean they didn't take any stupid penalties);
  • Better than average goaltending; and
  • Production from Brown, Frolov, Kopitar, and Cammalleri.
It's that simple. The only thing they were missing was a goal from a defenseman, which is something I identified early in the season as a key to maintaining last year's pace.

Seriously, how good is Anze Kopitar? His first period power play goal displayed a poise that simply can't be taught. He avoided swinging at the puck with a high stick, choked up, waited for the puck to drop below the cross bar, and literally bunted it in. It's hockey IQ, and it can be learned, but it can't be taught. Some players just have the ability to pick it up.

Kudos also go out to Sean Avery tonight, who aside from the stupid dive, kept his emotions in check until Shane Doan basically took both of them off the ice. He was instrumental in creating the Dustin Brown goal. Brent Sopel gets a major thumbs up for his absolute destruction of Dave Scatchard. It was a monster hit, and a joy to watch. Obviously Garon deserved to be singled out for the Kings first shutout of the season. And Cammalleri, wow! What a rocket shot. Thing of beauty.

Nice effort tonight in the second of back to back games. It would have been easy to take a step backward after last night's excellent performance but poor result. That's all we ask for. Effort, and some promis of what's to come.