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Instant Classic?

With the first pitch of the inaugural World Baseball Classic only two days away, the time is now to familiarize ourselves with the home team's roster and pool, as well as the format of this tournament.

First off, the U.S.A. roster looks pretty solid on paper. Per, the American's lineup and rotation projects to be as follows:
Projected lineup: Johnny Damon LF, Derek Jeter SS, Ken Griffey Jr. CF, Alex
Rodriguez 3B, Chipper Jones DH, Derrek Lee 1B, Jason Varitek C, Vernon Wells RF,
Michael Young 2B

Starting rotation: Jake Peavy, Dontrelle Willis and Roger Clemens
I would like to see the Phillies' Chase Utley get the nod at 2B, if only because Chris Kochansky has identified him as a future Hall-of-Famer, but you can't really argue with this lineup.

As far as the competition goes, it appears as though we've received a pretty nice draw in Pool B. Mexico's got some familiar Major League names, but not nearly the same lineup strength that the U.S. has. The Canadians have pesky Brave Pete Orr among some familiar names, but again the overall firepower isn't there. South Africa appears to be the weakest team in the pool.

The U.S.A.'s pool-play schedule is as follows:
  • Tues. March 7th, 4pm EST vs. Mexico
  • Wed. March 8th, 4pm EST vs. Canada
  • Fri. March 10th, 3pm EST vs. South Africa
Following pool-play, the top 2 teams from each of the 4 pools will advance to create 2 new pools in Round 2 of the Classic. Potential second round opponents include China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea.

I'm hoping this World Baseball Classic generates some interest and fills the void many sports fans felt was left from the Winter Olympics. Team U.S.A. has an exciting roster, but there are equally as impressive rosters (Dominican Republic) to be faced in the later rounds of play. To me, the wild-card in all of this is how our hitters adjust to some of the pitchers that they have never faced in Major League action. Although teams like Japan, Korea and Cuba have few, if any pitchers with MLB experience, I have a feeling they will have some quality arms that could give our lineup some problems. We'll see, starting Thursday.

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Follow Up Dunk

Travis: What is your opinion on this year's slam dunk competition. I heard a bunch of negative comments. Missed it because I was watching Pitt shoot 74% in the second half and lose.

Me: I enjoyed it... it definitely peaked too early though. Andre Igoudala's second first-round dunk was an all-time top 5, and Nate Robinson followed that up by jumping over Spud Webb. Later in the finals, Nate killed the buzz by attempting a stupid dunk 15 times until making it, shamefully scoring higher than Iggy's more familiar, yet higher-degree of difficulty dunk.

I've got 3 criteria for dunk contests and all were met:
  1. The guys who go out early can't be stiffs.
    I'm not sure what Josh Smith was doing with that piece of tape on the floor 18 or so feet from the hoop, but he and Hakim Warrick (from? Syracuse) were quality 1st round competitors.
  2. The winner doesn't win by default.
    There have been contests in the past where a guy would go up and do a simple 2 hand jam on his last dunk just to get the 25 points needed to win. In this case, Igoudala's final dunk came up one point short of Robinson's winning score.
  3. I hope to see a dunk never before attempted, and Igoudala's was just that.



Photo of the Week

The photo of Andre Igoudala in the right column is the first Photo of the Week. I would like to post a new photo each week and create an archive. I'm not sure how a mid-air backboard limbo can be topped, but we'll see.


AI5: Crystal Ball

Now that American Idol has whittled their contestant pool down to 24, it's time to break out the crystal ball. I'm pushing the limits of my AI prognostication powers by making these picks early, but I'm feeling connected to this group. I think I've got a handle on season 5.

But before the picks, I've got to highlight a few developing situations:

1) One of my favorites has been Taylor Hicks. Seems like an acquired taste so I don't expect him to go too far. Hopefully, I'm surprised.

2) Another crooner has been drug into this thing. I couldn't stand John Stevens 2 seasons ago. How could they do this to us again with David Radford? What if someone like this wins? How can they make a CD? Last time I checked no one has a Dean Martin CD.

3) It was good to see the Brittnam twins removed. But did they really have to show the local news story on their arrests, complete with mug shots and all, on the most watched TV show in the world?

Now the picks:
  • Chris Daughtry will win
  • Ace Young and Paris Bennett will be in the top 5
  • Lisa Tucker, Gedeon McKinney and Kellie Pickler will be in the top 9

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Ruined Words

Ruined Words, as defined by Blah, Blah, Blog:
They're usually obscure words that surface during certain news stories. Then
they become attached to these stories and are sometimes more fascinating than
the stories themselves.
When the Vice President shoots somebody in the face, we all lose. A heavily reported occurence like this leads to more ruined words. Word-fans of covey and shot (the thing, not the action) might be nearly as furious with the Veep as poor Harry Whittington himself. Who even knew shot was a thing? As defined by Merriam Webster Online:
2 a plural shot : something propelled by shooting; especially : small lead or steel pellets especially forming a charge for a shotgun
Maybe words like this could be retired after they're ruined by events/tragedies/misfirings. Covey and shot (the thing) should be retired from print or speech, just as hanging chad should have been retired following the Florida election and levee retired post-Katrina.

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The NOK on Jamison

The 75 or so fans who attended Hornets games in New Orleans better get used to the team playing in Oklahoma City. I watched for the first time a Hornets home game played in Oklahoma City and was very impressed with the crowd's enthusiasm during their tilt with the Wizards last night. The building was alive with fan noise throughout the game, including both when the Chris Paul-less Hornets were losing by 20+ and when the David West-led Hornets sank a buzzer-beater with no time left on the clock to pull out a one-point victory. OK City is an NBA hoops-haven, who knew?

As a Wizards fan, the greater issue is my mounting, albeit uncomfortable, distaste for PF Antawn Jamison. Uncomfortable because by all accounts Jamison is an outstanding NBA player: a team player; highly skilled offensively; young and energetic. When he's on, his offensive game is a treat to watch. Jamison can hit the three, can score in close from the post or off the offensive glass, and will release shots from unorthodox angles that make his defenders look foolish.

Unfortunately, Antawn Jamison's defense is terrible. I don't think its because he is lazy or apathetic towards putting in the effort on the defensive end. I just think he's bad at it. He doesn't have a feel for it. And I think this glitch is the main reason the Wizards are destined to be a 5th to 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, without much hope for improvement in the foreseeable future.

Do they trade Jamison straight up for a more defensively capable power forward? Do they try playing Jamison at the small forward position and bring in a legit power forward via free agency or the draft? Or do they remain satisfied, so enamored with his offensive repertoire that they continue spinning their wheels as a good but not great team?

Last night's game epitomized what Jamison brings to this Wizards team. With Washington down by one point and less than 4 seconds remaining on the game-clock, Jamison picked up a loose ball in the corner, calmly raised and sank a jumper to give his team the lead with 0.5 seconds left. As the Hornets lined up for the ensuing inbounds play, the defensive liability Jamison watched from the sidelines. The Hornets starting power forward, David West, came open at the top of the key thanks to a P.J. Brown screen, and became the unlikely hero by sinking a 20 footer at the buzzer.

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MJ and I have permanently (I think) settled on the name Mallory for our daughter. We like it. And what's better, it's nowhere to be found on this Top 100 Baby Names of 2005 list.

Of course, we settled on the boy's name Griffin months ago and, contrary to some opinions, that's not on the list either. We are consistent in our non-trendiness.

So of the little faces framed on our refrigerator door, which family is leading the way in trendiness? Well, using the list, here are the Trendiness Quotient rankings:

  1. Miller's: Olivia (7) and Logan (19) = 13
  2. Kirby's: Mackenzie (23) and Jackson (22) = 22.5
  3. Jacoby's: Kayla (38) and Nathan (21) = 29.5
  4. Bender's: Avery (46) = 46
  5. Dell's: Cole (55) = 55

Note: Charlie is ranked at #81... on the boy's list.

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Super Bowl X(tra) L(ame)

Y'uns Stillers won. While attempting to find the good in this game, one could point to the age old football adage that big plays win big games. Pittsburgh made 3 big plays that essentially scored their 3 touchdowns. First, the 3rd and 28 completion to Hines Ward inside the Steelers 5 that set up their first TD. Then the Fast Willie Parker touchdown scoot that knocked Marcus Allen out of the record books. And finally, the gadget play that allowed Antwaan Randle-El (my vote for MVP should the NFL ever adopt the American Idol voting system) to show off his passing skills. 3 huge plays totaling 21 points.

BUT, here's how I really feel about the game...



Q & A With A Seahawk Fan

Unfortunately, we all know tons of Steelers fans. But does anyone really know a Seahawks fan? Despite being nearly as nonexistent as the bird itself, here's a chance to get to know one...

1) Name & Age:
Josh, 31

2) How does a kid from south-central PA become a Seahawks fan?
Started out as a Cowboys fan (too young to know any better). Became a Seahawks fan when they had the best receiver of all time (at the time), Steve Largent.

3) Did you ever own a Seahawks replica jersey and which player's was it?
I have never owned a Seahawks replica jersey, but I will gladly accept donations toward the purchase of one, and it would have to be #37.

4) I'm sure you're ga-ga over Shaun Alexander right now, so which Seahawks player before him was your all-time favorite?
Steve Largent. He was told that he was too small and too slow to play at the professional level. All he did was set every significant receiving record en route to a Hall of Fame career.

5) If you could bring back one defensive player from Seattle's past to insert into their current lineup, who would it be and why?
Cortez Kennedy. The Tezmanian Devil was the best past rusher in franchise history.

6) Which play during the NFC Championship victory drew the most emotion in your living room?
Going to have to call it a tie between the High and the Low:
High: Seattle's first touchdown, Hasselbeck's 17 yard touchdown pass over the middle to Jerramy Stevens.
Low: The idiot refs for picking up the flag on the obvious block in the back that sprung Steve Smith for a punt return for a touchdown.

7) Who do you feel is the most underrated Seahawk player heading into the big game?
The entire team! Can you think of a team that was this successful and has received this little credit, including being the #1 Team in the NFC playing the #6 Team in the AFC, yet tagged as the underdog? I'll take it, all the way to the bank!

8) If Seattle beats Pittsburgh in this game, will you finally be able to forgive Franco Harris for going into the Hall as a Steeler?
Already done.

9) Which Hawk is most likely to go all Freddie Mitchell on us these next two weeks?
Koren Robinson, oh wait the 'Hawks released his sorry butt at the end of last year. I'll go with Matt "We'll take the ball and we're going to score" Hasselbeck.

10) Is there a better Super Bowl to make your first appearance in than "XL"? Prediction?
Nope, eXtra Large it is!!!! Seattle 31 Steelers 20 (and it won't be that close!)


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