Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MLB Playoff Races

It's hard to believe that September is almost upon us. In just a few days, it will be back to school for the little ones, fall foliage time for the New Englanders, and Amy Winehouse's 28th birthd----.

Ooo. Too soon? Nah.

With the NBA lockout in full swing, we may only have one opportunity this year to enjoy the postseason of a league that is plagued by a horrendously skewed distribution of salaries. So let's bask in the warm glow of the MLB playoff race.

You can go to any sports website that you darn well choose to find predictions of which teams will and won't make the playoffs. But here at Sports Casual, we don't care about that. This article isn't about which teams will make the playoffs, it's about which teams you should root for.

AL East - Red Sox vs. Yankees
- Red Sox fans limped through the years of the curse with a common excuse: of course the Yankees will win all the time if they buy the best team. What Red Sox fans choose to neglect is the fact that for much of that time, Boston was also a top 5 payroll team. They just spent their millions on worse players. Now that the Sox have won a few titles, there's almost as much reason to hate them as there is to loathe the Yankees. Almost. Root for the Red Sox, because they aren't the Yankees.

AL Central - Tigers vs. White Sox vs. Indians
- There's only one three-horse race in the MLB, and it's in the American League Central. How could you possibly root against the Cleveland Indians? Ozzie Guillen is an absolute nutcase, plus Chicago has the Bears and Blackhawks. Detroit at least has the Red Wings, and a possibly contending Lions team. Cleveland's other-sports hopes lie solely in one Colt McCoy. Plus, with the return of Indian-extraordinaire and classy gentleman Jim Thome, the Indians are now that much more likable. Roll Tribe!

AL West - Rangers vs. Angels
- The worst part about the the Anaheim Angels is that they try to pretend they're from Los Angeles. The worst part about the Texas Rangers is that they actually are from Texas. The state of Texas has brought us George W. Bush, massive heat waves, and Texas toast. It's pretty much the same thing as regular toast! Go Angels.

NL East - Phillies vs. Braves
- The Phillies are extremely annoying, somehow managing to land every good pitcher ever. The NL pennant race was a done deal on opening day, and that bums me out quite a bit. It's a lost cause, but go ahead and root for the Braves anyway.

NL Central - Brewers vs. Nobody
- A few weeks ago, we could have emerged with a playoff race if we did some serious enough NL Central spelunking. Not anymore. The Brewers are on an absolute tear, turning what often is a competitive division battle into a done deal. Which is fine. Who doesn't like the Brewers? They never win anything, they're named for beer, and they once had the best logo in sports.

NL West - Diamondbacks vs. Giants
- The playoff race in the west has Arizona and San Francisco separated by 5 games. As much as I dislike Arizona as a place (especially the Phoenix airport, yuck) you should still be rooting for the Diamondbacks to win this division. Why? Because if the Giants win it, we'll be doomed to another postseason of the most horrendously boring baseball ever.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rumble In Beijing

In the blue corner, at an average height of 6' 5"weighing in at an average 208 pounds, GEEOOOOOOOOOOOORGGEEEETOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN.

In the red corner, at an average 6' 8" weighing in at an average 187 pounds, OBBBBBBSCUUUURRRRRREE CHIIIIIINEEEEEEEEEEESEEE TEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMM.

Oh, China.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Finally, A Home Run Milestone Worth Remembering

Jim Thome's milestone of 600 home runs isn't earth shattering. It isn't unique (though the list sure is short), and it certainly doesn't wipe away all the wrongs we've seen in baseball over the last two decades.

No, Thome's home run total does not necessarily give him the right to sip from the baseball fountain of youth, to enjoy the nectar of the diamond gods. But like a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer's day, it sure is refreshing.

We've struggled through a difficult era in baseball, one the that MLB is trying desperately to wash its hands of. The steroid scandals that took place on the diamond in the 1990s and 2000s changed the way we look at the game.

At the time, performance enhancing drugs helped make the game more exciting. But PEDs have robbed us of our baseball memories. The symbol of the era - the asterisk - epitomizes the "Yeah, but" attitude that steroids have created.

Remember when Mark McGwire beat out Sammy Sosa in the 1998 home run race? That was incredible. Yeah, but. Remember when Bonds captured the all-time home run record? That was absolutely unbelievable! Yeah, but. And isn't it amazing how quickly A-Rod got to 600 HRs? He's sure to set a new record during his career.

Yeah, but.

And that makes Jim Thome's 600th home run that much more important. Thome is an outstanding player and has been since his early days with the Indians. And despite beginning his career in 1991 - when the drugs were cheap and the needles were everywhere - Thome has never been linked to PEDs. As he greeted his family at home plate, I hope baseball fans thought This is a great baseball moment. Yeah.

It's as good a day as any to start making some new baseball memories. And this time, let's leave the asterisk behind.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Countdown Friday: The Top 10 Reasons To Join Sports Casual's Fantasy Football League

It's that time of year again. Time to pour hours into your draft board, blindly follow the advice of any "expert" you can find on Google, or sleep through drafts and trust that the computer will pick you a good team. (I'm talking to you, everyone who had Arian Foster last year).

Whatever your fantasy football drafting strategies are, you won't want to miss out on the 2nd annual installment of the Sports Casual Fantasy Football League. The league will be drafting on Saturday, September 3rd at 11 am EST.

To sign up, just do the following:
1) Head to this link
2) Enter the league ID #: 480558
3) Enter the password: beastmode

Here are 10 reasons why you should be a part of this great tradition:

10) Mean Joe Green will toss you his jersey as soon as you sign up.

9) All the cool kids will be doing it.

8) After a grueling process, the Sports Casual Fantasy Football League collective bargaining agreement has finally been ratified by the fictional players' association, ending the longest lockout in fantasy football history.

7) It's what Mosi Tatupu would have wanted.

6) It's what O.J. Simpson wouldn't have wanted.

5) It will give you a reason to watch weeks 14 and on, even after your favorite real team is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

4) Fantasy leagues are a great place to lay low for a while when you're trying to beat the rap for dogfighting, assault, DUIs, or even killing a guy.

3) You'll get to read weekly posts full of game results and other league updates.

2) I wasn't aware people needed good reasons for signing up for as many fantasy football leagues as possible.

1) The winner will, as always, get to publish an original Sports Casual article that is sure to be read by thousands, and he or she will receive a free tour of the entire Sports Casual operation and two free* tickets to sporting event of his or her choice.

*Sports Casual reserves the right to choose a regular season University of Pennsylvania football game as said free sporting event. Any game or event that charges admission for tickets is not eligible. See 1920s wrappers of Charleston Chews for more details.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

NFL Offseason: The Big Moves, Complete With Reactions

Ah, summer. Time to put your feet up, kick back, get some sun...that is, of course if you manage to find the time outside a 40-hour work week.

This particular summer has brought some 400-hour work weeks for NFL executives. With the absolute feast of offseason moves that have taken place in the last week, it's a great time to be a sports glutton. Here are the biggest moves of the offseason and the Sports Casual spin on all things NFL.

The Cincinnati Bengals trade Chad Ochocinco to the New England Patriots for a fifth- and sixth-round pick
-New England fans have to be extremely excited about this move. The parallels between this trade and the Randy Moss trade of 2007. I love this deal. Not just because Ochocino (which is still a ridiculous name) brings some additional talent for Tom Brady, but because the New England Patriots will have entertaining press conferences for the first time since the 1990s.

Reggie Bush signs a 2-year, $10 million contract with the Miami Dolphins
-Moving to Miami will resurrect Reggie Bush's career. I'm not saying he's going to vault to superstar status because of the move. He'll never be an elite back in the NFL. But he'll certainly put up better numbers than he did in New Orleans. The truth is, Reggie Bush never made sense in the pass-happy New Orleans offense. He'll get the ball a lot more in Miami, mainly because the Dolphins will be doing anything they can to take the football out of Chad Henne's hands. Expect Reggie Bush to finally achieve mediocrity.

The Philadelphia Eagles trade Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals
-Why does the media care so much about Kevin Kolb? He's a 2nd round pick who has proved one thing and one thing only: he is extremely average. And yet, he just landed an outrageous new contract worth over $60 million. Congratulations, Arizona, you still aren't very good.

The Washington Redskins trade Donovan McNabb to the Minnesota Vikings
-This deal is merely a fallback in case the Vikings find out that Christian Ponder isn't very talented. Good thing, too, because Christian Ponder isn't very talented.

Vince Young signs a 1-year, $5.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles
-I can think of a lot better things to spend $5.5 million on. You could, for example, get 5.5 million items from the dollar menu.

The Chicago Bears trade Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers
-Olsen didn't fit into Mike Martz' offensive scheme in Chicago, but it's a shame he had to go. Carolina got a very talented player and only had to give up a 3rd-round pick. The move is especially smart because a first-year quarterback needs a great tight end to adjust to the NFL.

Daniel Manning signs a 4-year, $20 million contract with the Houston Texans
-If Houston can fix up a god-awful secondary, they'll have all the necessary utensils for making the postseason. I think they've done enough with this move (and a few others). Texans in the playoffs.

The Washington Redskins trade Albert Haynesworth to the New England Patriots for a fifth-round pick
-And so ends the saga of fat Albert in Washington. New England got the big man for a great price, but Patriots fans should meet this deal with trepidation. It's not as if Washington has a hack of a coach in Mike Shanahan. Will Belichick be able to whip Haynesworth into shape? Or will he keep complaining and stomping on heads?

Nnamdi Asomugha signs a 5-year, $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles
-The prize of 2011's free agent class lands in Philadelphia. The deal is exactly what we'd expect: a lot of money for a very talented player. The location was a surprise. Philadelphia has made some great moves this offseason, and fans will be expecting a lot from them this season. When the Eagles don't win the Super Bowl, there will be lots of unrest in Philly.