Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Michigan at Midseason and Post Season Baseball

So I haven't blogged in quite a bit. Things have picked up here in redneck Maryland.  I have been gone many weekends, visiting Ann Arbor, Boston, and Dayton. I've also been doing some preparation for a rotation with a contractor in Seattle and Palo Alto to design with a new piece of fuels lab equipment for 6 months. Mike Thompson can relate ("I understand how tedious blogging is now. It takes me at least 3 hours per entry...").  But enough about me. You want to hear me rant.

I was inspired by Mike Thompson's blog about his European shenanigans (read it here) and his thoughts on our little brother from East Lansing. I have his permission to quote him in this post, because he is spot on.  So let's start with the Michigan-MSU game from this past weekend.

Every Wolverine fan knew this was a huge game for Michigan.  Outside of maybe Notre Dame, UM had not played a quality opponent, or at least one that we would be able to judge ourselves against the nation's top teams. The trends were pretty much all in favor of Michigan, IMO. MSU had a weak O-Line against one of Michigan's strengths (a weak offense overall really), Hoke pumping up the game, and oh yea, Denard.  The first drive was so promising, with the Blue moving down the field and Denard being Denard.  But that's where it ended. Michigan's linebackers couldn't stop anything, which always will lead to losses (aka 2008-2010).  Al Borges clearly freaked out about a few short runs and began trying for long passes in high winds.  These don't work in low winds for Michigan unless Junior Hemingway out-leaps the DB.  What happened to the offense Michigan ran against Minnesota I will never know. Either way, Michigan was clearly outprepared and outplayed and have an embarrassing 4 game losing streak to MSU.

The story everyone is focused on, especially in Ann Arbor, is the, ahem, questionable sportsmanship of the Spartans.  Missed the game?  Check out some of the MSU antics:

Win or no win, every Spartan player, coach, and fan should be horrified at that display.  William Gholston was responsible for not one, but two ejectionable offenses. Marcus Rush (#44) was put right back on the field after throwing Denard to the ground well after he threw the ball.  It's sad to say this, but it seemed like MSU would have been happy with a loss if it mean Denard Robinson left the game injured.  And then ESPN color man Chris Spielman pulled out this gem after one of the personal fouls- "Dantonio represents clean, hard hitting football." Are you serious? He continued to put people in the game who deserved to be thrown out and
has not been afraid to reinstate players who participate in criminal activity. But it doesn't just stop at Dantonio. It is running amok in the Spartan fanbase. I'm going to generalize a bit and of course I realize that there are great MSU fans and bad UM fans.  But it's hard to watch MSU fans.  Here is where Thompson says it best - "They act like children and then complain about being called such, making us feel like they are definitely definitely children."  This is so true.  You've heard the phrase before, play like you've been there before. MSU is not capable of this, like, at all. I get that UM-MSU is the Spartan Super Bowl and that this game makes their whole year, but to not care about an opposing player's well being in the "spirit" of winning? That is so wrong. I'm not from Michigan and didn't grow up in the UM-MSU atmosphere, so this game never meant as much to me. I didn't have to hear kids I went to high school with go on about how dominant the Spartans are.

I'm sure the whole "little brother" thing is pretty annoying for Sparty. But it's not like it wasn't deserved. Michigan has won twice the games MSU has in the series and Sparty does act like someone's little brother. They get overly excited to win against someone with more history, when that older team has way more important things to worry about (tUoOSU), but go and cry to mommy (Tom Izzo) when things don't go their way.  Win or lose, Sparty acts with zero maturity.  MSU can't win against UM forever.  It will be fun to see how MSU fans act once Michigan starts to win again.

MLB Playoffs

The 2011 World Series is set and for the 66th straight year, the Cubs are absent. Oh well, maybe next year (and look for a possible post on the Cubs new GM and offseason plans).  The St. Louis Cardinals will face off against the Texas Rangers in this year's fall classic. If you remember, I picked both of these teams to miss the playoffs (and even the Cardinals to finish 4th in the NL Central).  Neither of my World Series picks, the Giants and the White Sox, even made the postseason.  If you also remember that I am a Cubs fan, you will realize I have no idea how to evaluate a winning baseball team.

I think that this World Series shows why the MLB playoffs needs a little tweaking.  I am not saying that neither of these teams deserve to be here.  I am just questioning how a wildcard team can play with basically zero disadvantage and then gets home field for the World Series.   I'm sure I've shared my feelings on the All-Star Game deciding home field advantage (if not, I THINK IT IS STUPID BUD SELIG YOU STUPIDPANTS).  The wildcard shouldn't have a major disadvantage or anything, but there should be some bonus to winning the division. I also think that the LDS is too short.  I like that there are only 8 teams in the MLB postseason, as opposed to half the league in the NHL and NBA, especially when it comes to pitching.  However, I don't see the reason why all the series can't be 7 games. I think this helps the better team out slightly by getting rid of fluky performances and requires a much more careful handling of the pitching staffs.  In short, my fix for the postseason is all 7 game series and a better record means home field.

This is sure to be seen again in the 2011 postseason (sorry,
Tigers' fans)
As far as the series goes, look for both teams' bullpens to be heavily used. Both of these bullpens are a huge reason that the teams are where they are.  Each team has starters that have the potential to do great things, but have zero consistency outside of Chris Carpenter.  It will all come to whether or not the Cardinals can survive the Rangers offensive onslaught.  Texas' lineup is very solid from top to bottom and all of them have the ability to come up in clutch situations. These games could all turn very sloppy, very quickly.  I don't think the Cardinals have the pitching to keep the Rangers offense at bay and they don't have the offense to be able to catch up in multiple games.  The lack of pitching in this series for me means a short one and another year of a weak WS since 2002.  I'm calling the Rangers in 5.

NHL Opening Week

The 2011-2012 hockey season is underway and my Blackhawks are 2-2. I expect a middling record while coach Joel Quenneville figures out the lines and how all the new pieces will fit together.  Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa look like they will absolutely dominate this year as long as the latter stays on the ice. They should be able carry the team until my boy Jonathan Toews ends his yearly October funk and does what he is capable of. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook should soon find themselves on the blueline together again, heading up a deep defensive corps and a goalie looking to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.  The Hawks also added a lot more grit to the team this year, which will hopefully help them be strong down the stretch.

Many experts are picking Chicago to take the Central this year, but I don't think so. The Red Wings look very dangerous and have gotten out to a quick 4-0 start.  The forwards are of course stellar (any team with Pavel Datsyuk will be).  The key this year will be the D-men. The back line is where I think the Wings fell short last year, despite the Herculean effort of the ageless Nick Lidstrom.  The only thing standing in the way of the Wings are injuries, which have led to earlier than expected (in Wings terms) exits from the playoffs. If they can keep their guys on the ice, I fully expect the Wings to take the Central (which is the strongest division in the NHL).

My pick last year for the Stanley Cup Finals (Washington in 6 over LA) was very wrong.  LA suffered from injuries and a lack of depth, while Washington just can't win in big games.  The Kings fixed some of that by acquiring Mike Richards and Simon Gagne in exchange for some excellent young talent. Washington just has to show they can win when it counts, and until then, they should not be trusted.  Last year's Finals teams, the Bruins and Canucks, both took steps backward. The Canucks are still weak on the back line and Luongo has to think about his Finals' performance all season. Boston is still a great team, but they seem to be falling prey to the hangover that plagued the Hawks last year.

Onto my picks for this year.  I know what I said about not picking teams you can't trust. However, I feel real good about the Sharks this year. They got a proven defenseman in Brent Burns and swapped Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat, who has shown he can perform in the playoffs.  They have gotten to the doorstep so many times that I feel like they can push through, much like the Canucks in 2011. From the Eastern Conference, I love the Tampa Bay Lightning. They surprised everyone by going to the Conference Finals with a young squad and a couple of key veterans. Sound familiar? The Blackhawks stormed into the 2009 Conference Finals before losing to a more deserving and talented Detroit team, much like the 2011 Bruins.  The Hawks came back the next year and took the Stanley Cup.  Steven Stamkos is the real deal and the team has the Red Wings touch in Stevie Y (like the Blackhawks and Scotty Bowman...see what I mean!?) That's why my 2012 Stanley Cup Final prediction is the Tampa Lightning over the San Jose Sharks in 7.  By that time, we should all be able to watch the coolest goal horn ever lighting up on national TV:

That will do it for now.  I will hopefully be posting soon on the Cubs activity since their season ended and my offseason plan for the team, along with a few thought on the NCAA, NFL, and NHL (and lolz not the NBA).


  1. If Major League Baseball takes 162 games to insure that the best teams make the playoffs, then why do they short change the LDS? It drives me nuts! Make them all 7 game series and schedule the games so that each team has to go five starters deep. This is how you determine who has the best team. Not by having a five game series and only using your top 3 pitchers.

  2. That IS the coolest goal horn ever. For a second I almost wished my team was called the Lightning so we could have that. Then I remembered my team is called the Red Wings and we don't need silly gimmicks to kick ass. :)