Monthly Archives: January 2018

Cooperstown 2018…

In honor of The Baseball Hall of Fame announcing their latest inductees in a little bit, the Blowhard will lay his “vote” out here.

I’ll rehash real quickly that I am not discriminating against the “steroid guys”, per usual.  The era was the era, everyone was probably doing something, Major League Baseball ignored the issue, blah, blah, blah.

I’ll also reiterate that if I feel the same as I did about a player from last year (or previous years), I will probably just reference (ie: copy) what I wrote in that appropriate previous year.  No need to reinvent the wheel here.  Guessing this may apply to a number of players.

Oh, and somehow Jack Morris and Alan Trammell got in through the veteran’s vote recently.  I can’t even talk about these atrocities.  Ok, it’s not that bad.  But neither belong in the Hall.

In any event, 33 names on the official ballot.  I added one write-in of my own.

Elected:

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens-I’m not sure why we even need to keep talking about these guys.  They may be two of the biggest dirtbags not only in the history of baseball, but also in the history of humankind, but they are also indisputably Hall of Famers.  Their vote totals continue to rise and they will undoubtedly get in someday.  But enough already.  Put them in this year and we can be done with them.  Thank you.

Manny Ramirez-You may have to include Manny with the two bozos above.  Not exactly the best dude or best teammate or any of that.  He is clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed.  But he clearly could at least do one thing and do that one thing unbelievably well.  Hit.  Manny is also indisputably a Hall of Famer.  He will also likely get in someday, but the 23.8% vote from last year is laughable.  Since Manny actually failed a couple of drug tests, this is no question being held against him.  And maybe it should be…but just temporarily I would hope.

Vladimir Guerrero-Changed my mind on this one from last year.  I wrestled hard with this one in both years, since I think he is right on the edge.  Hit for average, power and even stole some bases in his prime.  Cannon for an arm, however inaccurate it could be sometimes.  The end came quick though.  I wouldn’t be bothered either way on Vladdy.  Hopefully he just gets in this year in real life and I won’t have to hem and haw on him again next year.

Chipper Jones-Hit for power and average.  Showed some speed early in his career.  Switch-hitter.  More career walks than strikeouts.  Played on winning teams for the majority of his career.  Postseason numbers are pretty good, and he had a lot of opportunity in the postseason of course.  No Gold Gloves in his trophy case, but he managed to stay at third base the majority of his career.  Former Most Valuable Player.  I’m not sure I need to say more.

Pete Rose-Here’s my write-in again.  King of all dirtbags.  But a Hall of Fame baseball player.  Simple as that.

Fantastic careers, but falling a smidge short:

Jim Thome-The numbers are gaudy, led by the 612 career homers.  I expect that alone will punch his ticket to the Hall, if not today, then maybe next year.  But he never finished higher than 4th in the MVP voting.  Only a 5 time All-Star (although I will allow that he was at a tough 1B/DH position, where good candidates get left out yearly).  Despite the 1,700 plus walks he earned, he did strike out over 2,500 times.  And on those Cleveland Indian teams where he made his bones, I am not sure he was even close to being the most feared hitter in the lineup at any time.  You could throw in the fact he DH’d a ton, but at least he had the numbers for that.  Just doesn’t feel like a Hall of Famer to me.

Johan Santana-Admittedly, this one is a stretch.  I don’t believe he will ever get in, as the career was just too short.  In that short time he was pretty dominant, but also admittedly, not “Sandy Koufax dominant”.  Shoulder and Achilles injuries eventually torpedoed his career, amid several comeback attempts.  These are of course a factor in evaluating his candidacy.  But I just don’t think his career should be overlooked, that’s all.  In the five year stretch between 2004 and 2008, Johan won 2 Cy Young’s, finished third two other years and fifth the other.  Threw a no-hitter.  Won a pitching Triple Crown.  Produced significant results during his career, but again, not enough.  If he remains on the ballot next year, he may drop down a category on my list.  But for now let’s keep him here.

Pretty damn good careers, but we can’t induct everyone:

Trevor Hoffman-5 votes short last year, so I’d be surprised if he didn’t get in today.  What I wrote last year still applies today:  Because of the 600 plus saves, people like to kind of add him in with Mariano Rivera a little bit.  Rivera (career 82-60, 2.21, 1.000 WHIP, dominant postseasons) vs. Hoffman (career 61-75, 2.87, 1.058 WHIP, not much to see in the postseason, however, not dominant).  I don’t see it.  But the 600+ gets him in today anyway.

Curt Schilling-No change from last year’s comment:  Not because of his mouth or politics or tweets or any of that stuff.  But because there were too many career ups and downs for my liking.  Despite any postseason heroics.

Edgar Martinez-No change from last year’s comment:  Edgar gets a ton of support.  But as a DH only for the bulk of his career, the numbers have to be extravagant for me to put him in.  Like say…David Ortiz-like.  And they aren’t quite that.

Mike Mussina-No change from last year’s comment:  Good pitcher for a long time.  He won 20 games in his final year.  Funny thing is, if he stuck around for maybe 3 more years and won 30 more games, the 300 wins and 3,000 K’s (ended 187 shy) would have put him in automatically.

Fred McGriff-No change from last year’s comment:  The Crime Dog was a solid player pretty much from beginning to end.  But that does not make you a Hall of Famer.

Jeff Kent-No change from last year’s comment:  His position of 2B helps him here.  But he can probably thank the SF years of batting cleanup behind Bonds for keeping him on the ballot every year.

Larry Walker-No change from last year’s comment:  Colorado effect.  I don’t know why he keeps getting the support.  Why no love for Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette or Andres Galarraga?

Gary Sheffield-No change from last year’s comment:  I really didn’t think too hard on this one.  There’s usually a reason a great talent bounces around and plays on 8 teams.  Didn’t we all see it coming when he came up with Milwaukee as a youngster, they asked him to play third base, he didn’t like it, and as a result fired balls into the stands on purpose?

Billy Wagner-No change from last year’s comment:  I like Wagner better than Hoffman actually.  But Hoffs pitched in almost 200 more games.  If Wags stuck around for a couple more years, would he have gotten Hoffman-type support?

Sammy Sosa-No change from last year’s comment:  I said I wasn’t going to discriminate against steroid users…or alleged steroid users.  And I’m not.  609 homers is nice.  But almost half of them (292) came in a 5 year stretch…of an 18 year career.  His .878 career OPS doesn’t even compare to Thome or Vladdy.  Nor do many of his other career totals.

Scott Rolen-Numbers were worse than I remembered and didn’t do a whole ton after age-31.  Rookie of the Year award, 7 All-Star Games and 8 Gold Gloves I suppose gets one some love.  The .158 average in 16 games (over 5 series) in the NLDS can’t possibly help though.  The rest of the postseason numbers don’t stick out either.  Nice player, no Hall though.

Andruw Jones-If Andruw retired after his age-29 season in 2006, he may have had a decent shot at the Hall.  Based on both his offensive and defensive prowess.  He didn’t, however, and sunk his chances with a pretty disastrous final 6 seasons.  “Disastrous” may actually be being kind.  Jones hit 92 homers in those 6 years, but did little else, but apparently stop doing ‘roids and get fat.  And I think stop caring, but I don’t know if I can prove that.  Anyway, no.

Johnny Damon-If Johnny stayed in New York after his age-35 season in 2009 and played 5 more years or so, we may be talking about him getting his 3,000 hit and thus pretty much automatically sending him to Cooperstown (see:  Biggio, Craig).  Instead, he quibbled about dough, played two mediocre seasons in Detroit and Tampa, then finished with a terrible half-season in Cleveland and fell short by 231 hits.  Solid player for a long time, loved him as part of the “Idiots” that helped win the Sox the World Series in 2004.  This really should be his only year on the ballot.

Omar Vizquel-Omar is going to get some serious love because “well, Ozzie Smith is in and Luis Aparicio is in and Vizquel’s numbers are comparable/better…”  And sure, he deserves consideration.  Absolutely a defensive whiz at shortstop, who got better offensively as his career progressed.  He may even get in someday, perhaps by the same group who let in Morris and Trammell this year.  But I’m not buying in.  Here is another one though, that if he got to 3,000 hits, he may be in automatically.  He fell 123 short.  That he got even that close is due in part to the fact that he played until he was 75 years old.  Ok, slight exaggeration there, but Omar is just another decent player that is not a Hall of Famer.

Are these guys seriously on a Hall of Fame ballot?:

Carlos Zambrano, Jamie Moyer, Chris Carpenter, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, Kevin Millwood, Kerry Wood, Carlos Lee, Aubrey Huff, Hideki Matsui, Jason Isringhausen, Brad Lidge-Zambrano may have been on track early in his career, but then fell apart mentally and physically and was done at 31 years old.  Moyer only sniffed the neighborhood of 300 wins because he pitched for 60 years.  Carpenter blossomed later in his career with the Cardinals, but couldn’t stay healthy.  Lee’s numbers were better than I remembered, but for the era he played in, they fall woefully short still.

The rest?  Livan had a 4.44 career ERA.  Wood showed promise early and had a couple of great years over the course of his career, but Hall of Fame?  We aren’t counting Matsui’s Japanese stats.  Hudson, Millwood, Huff, Izzy and Lidge were largely mediocre players with occasional highs.

Well, I suppose it is an honor to be at least included on a Hall of Fame ballot…

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Conference Championships…

Not a banner week for the Blowhard in the Divisional Round.  Let’s see what we can come up with for the Conference Championship games:

Jacksonville at New England (-7.5)

This one opened up with a spread of 9 or 9.5, depending on who you may pay attention to.  Now it’s 7.5.  Maybe it goes lower by kickoff.  Why?  Tom Brady’s hand of course!  No one knows how bad the thing is.  He missed a couple of practices.  He goes around with gloves on.  He says “we’ll see” when asked if he will suit up on Sunday.  No one on New England is going to give us any insight of course.  But you know what I say?

Hand, schmand!!

Please.  Brady ain’t missing this game, regardless of the condition of his hand.  Well, if it was cut off, he may be forced to miss the game.  But short of that, he’s playing.  Make no mistake about that.

Furthermore, make no mistake that the Pats are still going to win this game handily, even with some sort of injured Brady under center.  I’m going to stop short at this time of saying they would still win with backup Brian Hoyer at the helm.  But I would still feel pretty confident.  And don’t get me going on how the Pats should still have Jimmy Garoppolo…

In any event, I cannot believe how many people think that Jacksonville is some sort of elite team.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Has anyone looked at their schedule?  6 games against powerhouses Tennessee, Indianapolis and Houston.  Additional tilts against the Jets, Cardinals, Bengals and Browns.  An early season trouncing of the Ravens…when Baltimore was atrocious.  I am simply not impressed.

The defense?  Sure, they are pretty good.  They have some names.  They had 4 or 5 Pro Bowlers and/or All-Pros.  But they apparently also had half their season’s sacks in 4 games against the Texans and Colts.  They also gave up 44 to a certainly rejuvenated San Francisco team with two weeks left in the regular season, but also a Niner team that does not have a ton of weapons.  Not to mention the Jags had something to play for still at 10-4 and in the mix for even the top seed at that point.  Then they gave up 42 to a certainly talented (offensively) Pittsburgh team last week.  But 42 nonetheless.

The Jag offense?  45 points last week.  But against a Steeler defense that was horrendous this year, especially down the stretch.  Plus, oh yeah, the Steelers didn’t actually prepare for the Jags I don’t think.  They did think they were automatically coming to Foxborough this week, after all.  Let’s not forget that the Jags scored a mere 10 points, at home, against the vaunted Buffalo Bill defense the week before in the wild card round.  I think the Jags offense is closer to the one from the Bills game than the one from the Steelers game.

Going back to the Jags D…the one concern I would have is their defensive line against the Patriots’ offensive line.  But the stud corners (A.J. Bouye & Jalen Ramsey)?  Not concerned.  Why?  No Patriot wide receiver, other than perhaps Danny Amendola, will make an impact in this game.  It will all be the running backs and tight ends.  Gronk, Dion Lewis, James White and I’m guessing Rex Burkhead will be the main focus in this game.  Those corners can take away Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan all they want.  Who cares?

Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia and the Pats will shut down Leonard Fournette and make Blake Bortles beat them.  Which has absolutely zero chance of happening.  Brady’s bum hand or not.

New England 31, Jacksonville 13.

Minnesota (-3.5) at Philadelphia 

This one is a little tougher to predict.  I know, Captain Obvious.

When Carson Wentz went down, it appears that most people wrote the Eagles off for the year.  Especially after replacement Nick Foles threw in a couple of clunkers down the stretch.  Hell, the Blowhard had them losing to Atlanta last week.  We absolutely wrote them off.

You know what though?  I’m reconsidering my stance.

Especially since Case Keenum is on the other side.

Sure, Keenum has had a pretty good year.  Maybe made himself some good money in the upcoming offseason.  But the fact remains that the Vikings should be home playing golf this weekend.  That prayer at the end of the New Orleans game has kept them in the tournament.  But, speaking of prayers, Keenum threw up a couple of ill-advised (to be kind) passes in that game that could have taken the Vikes out of it even earlier.  He didn’t exactly look like a “playoff QB” in that tilt.  Not to mention that Coach Mike Zimmer seemingly has been looking for a reason to put Sam Bradford back in the mix for quite some time.  But he’s been forced to ride Keenum’s hot run out.  I don’t blame Zimmer for that.  He’s kind of had to.  But it seems like he doesn’t have a whole lot of confidence in Case himself.

Yup, Foles is no gimme either.  But I think he plays things a little closer to the vest.  I think he does anyway.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Either way, being a little conservative should be a benefit in this game.

The defenses should both be stout.  The QB’s should both be average.  The running games should both be busy and decent.  Philly being at home should have some sort of advantage.

This game is probably going to be low scoring and could very well be decided by a simple mistake.  Who’s more likely to make that mistake, Keenum or Foles?  I think you already know my answer.  But don’t hold it against me if somehow Bradford finds his way into the game and changes the Vikings fortunes.  I have to assume he won’t be going in.

And for whatever it’s worth…I still don’t think the Vikes will be the first team to play in their home stadium in a Super Bowl.  Just a gut feeling there.

Philadelphia 20, Minnesota 17.

Week (against the spread):  1-3

Week (straight up):  2-2

Season (against the spread):  141-123

Season (straight up):  178-86

Divisional Round…

Picks, nothing but picks to see here…

Atlanta (-2.5) at Philadelphia  

Boy, it sure looks like the Eagles’ season sure went down the crapper quickly, eh?  A comeback win in Week 15 against the lowly New York Giants, followed by uninspiring efforts in two home games against the Oakland Raiders (win) and Dallas Cowboys (loss) to wrap up the regular season surely can’t inspire confidence in the Philly faithful.  To be fair, the Eagles rested several key players against the ‘Boys.  Also, to be more than fair, this kind of thing can happen when your franchise QB, who is playing at an MVP level, goes down for the year.  Of course, we are talking about Carson Wentz.

That all being said, one would think Nick Foles would be capable enough to take over the controls and still lead the team to victories.  Especially if the rest of the team remained intact.  He SHOULD, right?  I mean, he has had flashes of brilliance in the past, even though he has mostly performed as well as…well, a backup QB.  But still…

The Falcons are no juggernaut, but they did (as the Blowhard correctly predicted) knock off a good Los Angeles Ram team last week.  At this point, it really wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta ended right back up in the Super Bowl this year.  One thing is for sure I would say…their defense has stepped it up in recent weeks.

Atlanta is now 6-3 on the road this season.  I don’t know if the bye week helped Philadelphia, but it would seem the team is a little deflated.  I am probably wrong to count them out, but…

Atlanta 23, Philadelphia 17.

Tennessee at New England (-13.5) 

Nice win for the Titans last week, but the reality is the Kansas City Chiefs did more to lose the game than the Titans did to win.  I mean, Travis Kelce is one of the top tight ends in the game.  But once he was concussed and done for the day, the team fell apart?  What happened to Kareem Hunt?  What happened to, well…everyone?  Blown 21-3 lead.  Andy Reid once again folks!

So I will say once again this week that Tennessee isn’t really very good.  The weather will be to the Patriots’ liking Saturday night.  New England had their entire roster at practice this week.  Now, that doesn’t mean they are all 100% healthy.  But there will be options.  Theoretically, plenty of them.  I cannot in any way see how the Titans stay in this game from the jump.  There is really no sense in even talking about it anymore.

New England 37, Tennessee 14.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-7.5)

I said this last week also…Jacksonville isn’t as good as people think they are.  And then they went out and proved it last week by barely beating the atrocious Buffalo Bills 10-3.  10-3??!  Blake Bortles RAN for more yards than he THREW for.  And what he threw for…again, against the Buffalo Bills…was not even measured in three digits, but instead two.  How is that possible?

Pittsburgh has won a lot of close games against bad teams all year long.  And yup, the Jags buried the Steelers in Pittsburgh back in Week Five to the tune of 30 to 9.  It won’t happen again.

The world wants a New England/Pittsburgh AFC Championship Game and that’s what the world will get.

Pittsburgh 27, Jacksonville 13.

New Orleans at Minnesota (-4.5) 

The NFC games seem to be more intriguing than the AFC ones, no?  This one should be a good one to cap off the weekend.  These clubs met in Week One, resulting in a 29-19 Viking win.  But that was eons ago.  Sam Bradford was the Viking QB and the Vikes also had Dalvin Cook at RB.  The Saints were attempting to shoehorn Adrian Peterson into their backfield, Colby Fleener led the team in receiving that day and New Orleans had no idea what they were doing on defense back then.  None of the above will be a factor in this game, well, other than the improved Saint defense.

The Minny D?  For real for sure.  And Case Keenum has taken the reins after Bradford got hurt (again) and performed much better than the Case Keenum we have always seen in the past.  The Saints have relied on the running game more this year than as far back as I can remember…but I have to imagine the Vikings will shut that down a bit.  So the Saints will have to go back to relying on Drew Brees primarily…not necessarily a bad thing.

Maybe if I keep writing I won’t have to make a pick?  I’m torn on this one.  I kind of want to take New Orleans here.  Keenum against Brees is no contest…despite Keenum’s solid year.  Minny’s D is better, but Drew could find a way to beat them.  I also feel like the Vikings will NOT be the first team to play at their home stadium in the Super Bowl.  But I’m going to take a stab and say that we all will have at least one more week to see if that happens.

Minnesota 23, New Orleans 20.

Week (against the spread):  2-2

Week (straight up):  3-1

Season (against the spread):  140-120

Season (straight up):  176-84

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