Two Questions: AL West

Today, EJSIC takes you to the West division of the American League. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have strangled the division in recent years, but it appears very open in 2010.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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1. Who replaces departed ace John Lackey? The Angels lost Lackey because, according to his words, he wanted to play for a winning team (and that “winning team” was defeated by the Angels in the first round of the playoffs last season, ironically). The Angels signed free agent Joel Pineiro to take up some of the void, but they will also rely on returning starters Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders.

2. Can World Series MVP Hideki Matsui replace Vladimir Guerrero? Matsui is identical to Guerrero in that both players are declining defensively, but still provide a good enough bat to warrant a spot as the designated hitter. Matsui will bring a more disciplined approach to the plate, but who wants that when you can see Guerrero hit a home run that bounces ten feet shy of the plate (Sabermetrics need not answer)?

Oakland Athletics
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1. Is Ben Sheets healthy? For most of the 2000s, Sheets was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Arm injuries kept him out of action last season, but he’s returned this year, claiming to be fully healthy. If he is as healthy as he says, then Sheets can provide a relatively young rotation with valuable experience. Guys like Justin Duchscherer, Trevor Cahill, and Dallas Braden can learn from the veteran.

2. Do they have the offense to compete? The A’s have the pitching, at least they do on paper, to compete in a wide open division. But do they have the offense? They will not be relying on the long ball, instead GM Billy Beane has built a team based around speed and getting on base. Perhaps if the oft-injured Eric Chavez can stay healthy and provide some power in the middle of the lineup, the A’s could find themselves in the race late into the season.

Seattle Mariners
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1. Do they finally challenge the Angels for the division crown? The Mariners seemingly win the off-season every year only to find themselves behind the Angels once again. The Mariners improved tremendously from 2008 to 2009 and now they’ve added All-Star 3B Chone Figgins (former Angel), former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, and a cantankerous, but good player in Milton Bradley.

2. Can the Mariners have the best rotation in the American League? They have two aces on staff in “King” Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. Plus, they are looking forward to the return of Erik Bedard by mid-season. That’s three top of the rotation pitchers if they all stay healthy.

Texas Rangers
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1. Do they have enough pitching? Every season pundits across the nation ask the same question of the Rangers. And each season, they fall short. Now, they’ve traded away or waived their two veteran pitchers from last season in Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla. They did trade for Rich Harden who can be outstanding at times, but has struggled with injuries in the past. They will rely on some relative unknowns in Scott Feldman, Derek Holland, and Tommy Hunter.

2. How will the combo of Vlad Guerrero and Josh Hamilton perform? Both players are quality offensive guys when healthy. However, Guerrero has reached his mid-30s and is basically limited to being a DH. Hamilton is still a five tool talent, but he could not remain healthy for most of 2009 after his breakout season in 2008. If the Rangers want to win the division, both guys will need to deliver solid production throughout.

Live, from the SEC Tournament

Welcome to the EJSIC’s Live Coverage of the SEC Tournament. I’ll give you updates as the night progresses.

7:15 – Florida vs. The world in here tonight. Kentucky fans making their preference heard.

7:38 – By the way, if anyone ever offers complementary parking, decline. Gonna be an effing 30 walk later on……

7:41 – Florida playing like garbage. They’re in easily with even a close loss, but a blowout could leave them sweating it on Selection Sunday.

7:48 – Boynton against the world.

7:51 – Boynton, Parsons, and Walker have 41 of Florida’s 45 points. BTW, no cowbell for MSU tonight. I’m told that’s a football only concept.

8:10 – Tension is rising in the stands. Some drunk guy just spilled the lady behind me’s $5 bottle of water. Meanwhile, Florida has clawed back to within 10.

8:21 – My 2 good buddies that are Florida fans scalped 2 tickets right in the middle of the Miss St section. Sucks for them. That’s a rowdy bunch.

8:25 – I believe there is something stuck in Dan Werner’s throat…..”chokin on a splinta”

8:35 – Well, that turned out to be a good ending. Florida saved face with a close finish. Put both these teams in the Dance.

Flask is empty. This sucks……

EJSIC @ the SEC tournament

That’s right. Yours truly has been dispatched to provide up-to-the-minute updates live from the site of the 2010 SEC tournament at the “whatever-they’re-calling-it-now-that-the -Sommet-Group-failed-to-make-payment Center” in Nashville, TN. EJSIC will be your first stop for the sights, sounds, and even smells (if I can find a way to capture them on my phone) of the 2010 installment of the UK Invitational.

To get things started, here are the 3 biggest story lines heading into the tournament, and the 3 things I’m looking forward to the most:

Tournament Story Lines:

1. Will the runaway-train that has been the 2009-10 version of the Kentucky Wildcats continue their resurgence with a tournament title? The obvious favorites going in to the event, it will be interesting to see if the C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS will be able to continue to build on their 29-2 (14-2) record by capturing the tournament championship. THE most talented team in the country (IMO), the Cats have been dominant at home, but have proven to be shaky away from Rupp Arena, including losses at Tennessee and against the fightin’ Devon Downey’s, as well as close games against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Auburn. It will be interesting to see how this freshman dominated team will perform in what will be the first college tournament situation for most.

Can anyone derail DeCuz and the UK crazy train?

All that said, make no mistake about it; Nashville will become Lexington south this weekend, just as it is whenever UK comes to town.

2. Bubbles bursting. It is my opinion that none of Florida, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State will make the Big Dance without a win in this tournament, and it is shaping up to be elimination Friday, with potential Tennessee/Ole Miss and Florida/Miss St matchups.

3. Who is SEC POY? The case for Devon Downey over either of John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins was a strong one after ‘lil Carolina’s upset of then #1 UK, but it has become increasingly difficult to ignore the team’s late season slide. However, Downey may have thrust himself back into consideration, after a 26 point performance last week at the dump that is Memorial Gym. With a deep tourney run, and perhaps another upset of Kentucky should they beat ‘Bama on Thursday, things could get interesting.

Things I’m Looking Forward To:

Bruce Pearl is a show unto himself.

1. Vandy fans. I was at the SEC/Sun Belt Classic in mid-December, which showcased MTSU vs. Tennessee and Vandy vs. Western Kentucky at the same venue as the SEC tournament. Vandy fans showed why they were the joke of the SEC by managing to attract **maybe** 200 fans to a game in their hometown. Meanwhile, WKU had 6-8 thousand, and were a raucous bunch. No one would have guessed they were the team 4-3 heading in and Vandy was the team nationally ranked. Well Vandy fans (or as I like to call them, “Alabama football fans“), here’s your chance to redeem yourselves. I don’t expect any more than 400 of you, so don’t disappoint me.

2. A live view of “Dermal Soul Glo I’ve heard stories, but I want to see for myself if Bruce really does glow.

3. Demarcus Cousins. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this ticking-time-bomb’s explosion all year. If this kid played in the ACC, he already would have been involved in brawls with Chas McFarland and Ryan Reid, and having the opposing fans get a hold of your phone number would be a weekly ordeal. But even in a league as physically flaccid as the SEC, Cousins has been driven to temper tantrums and dirty plays numerous times. If he’s gonna flip out, and he will eventually, I just want to be there to see it.

I’m also looking forward to some “pity” beers to be bought for me by those feeling sorry for me, in my North Carolina t-shirt, although I don’t expect Kentucky fans to be overly willing to support my cause…………..dafunk…………….out.

Got a question, an angle you’d like me to cover at the tourney, or some hate-filled garbage to spew???? Shoot me an email at dafunk.EJSIC@yahoo.com, and I’ll get back to ya ASAP.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s a new year and, unless you’ve already managed to ruin it in less than 14 hours, that means a clean slate. Rather than post my own resolutions (P90X be merciful), I thought it might be fun to post resolutions for some of my favorite sports personalities of 2009. Let’s hope 2010 is kinder to them all.

No, Tiger. The trunk doesn't count.

Tiger Woods - 2009 was a rough year for the big cat. He saw his super-model wife and his sponsors hit the road, as skank after skank came forward to confess of their flings and collect their paychecks. My resolution for Tiger? Try NOT to have sex with more whores than you can fit in a Buick LaCrosse in 2010. All things in moderation, Eldrick.

Try to resist, Steve.

Steve Phillips - 2009 was likely a year to forget for our pal Steve. The Silver Fox lost his marriage and his job at ESPN, when a pudgy, mannish PA began harassing his wife over their alleged affair. My resolution for Steve? No matter how charming he may seem, DO NOT have sex with Danny DeVito in 2010. It’s not worth it.

Just because it wasn't a real orange doesn't mean Mark didn't eat it.

Mark Mangino – Despite also bringing the Jayhawks an Orange Bowl Trophy in 2009, the Man-Sized Mangina was relieved of his duties as head football coach at Kansas after stories of player mistreatment surfaced in Lawrence. I’m guessing he tried to eat them, but I’m not sure. My resolution for Mark? Try NOT to die of heart failure in 2010. I would also suggest the occasional “salad for 10 racks of ribs” substitution in your meal plan. It may help with your overall resolution.

I'm guessing they let him keep the chair.

Mike Leach – The living sound byte that is Mike Leach had an up and down year in 2009. He led the Red Raiders to an 11-2 record, a top 10 ranking and a loss to Ole Miss in the Cotton bowl to start the year. This won him a new contract and status as a hot commodity in the coaching world. 2009, however, ended a lot differently than it started, as Leach was fired this week after allegations of locking one of his players (Craig James’ offspring no less) in an equipment closet. My resolution for Mike? Get the Hell out of Texas. Nothing good happens there.

Stay away, John. It's for your own good.

John Calipari – You can’t really say that 2009 was a bad year for Cal. Despite having his second Final Four vacated, he managed to become the highest paid coach in college basketball at Kentucky, while also signing and shepherding a Top 3 team into the new year. The media and message boards will tell you a different story, however, as Calipari is now under more intense scrutiny than ever. My resolution for Cal? Avoid vacating a Final Four and the Internet in 2010. Just a suggestion…

So, there you have it. Good luck and may 2010 be benevolent to you all.

Did I miss anybody? Let us know your Sports Figure Resolutions for 2010 in the comments section.

College Basketball Season Is Around the Corner

With October comes the first month of college basketball season. Sure, Midnight Madness won’t occur across the country until midnight on October 16th, but we can look ahead. And what do we have to look forward to?

2009 National Champions North Carolina Tar Heels

2009 National Champions North Carolina Tar Heels

Honestly, not much. 2010 is going to be the worst year of college basketball since the NCAA started holding championships. Think about it. Which teams are being tossed around as top 5 teams? There are some obvious ones: Kansas, Michigan State, Villanova. But after that, who gets mentioned? Texas? Oklahoma? UNC? Duke? Kentucky? Purdue?

Those are teams being considered for the 4th best team in America in the 2010 season. Things really couldn’t be any worse for college basketball fans. Consider this, a team coached by Rick Barnes has a legitimate chance to win the National Championship. Kentucky, a team that went to the NIT last year, lost their leading scorer and added a great recruiting class and is widely considered a top 5 team. UNC won the title, then lost their top 4 players to the NBA and are still considered a top 10 team. Duke lost their best player and now has only 3 scholarship guards on their team and yet, you guessed it, top 10. Oklahoma loses the National Player of the Year. Still top 10. Purdue? What a joke.

So, brace yourself college basketball fans. It’ll be competitive, but it’ll be difficult to watch. Almost like watching old people have sex.