The AP Men's BB Poll is out...

...and guess who's the unanimous No. 1?

OK, I know I'm a student at Southern Illinois. And I know I am the Asst. Sports Editor at the SIU student newspaper. And everyone knows that I love Saluki athletics.

But I'm a life-long UNC mark and I am glad to see them ranked atop the AP poll to start the season.

But if SIU head football coach Dale Lennon has taught me anything, it's not how you start, but it's how you finish!

Here's hoping the Tar Heels can finish on top for the second time in five years. Of course unless SIU gets in their path. Then it's all maroon, all the time.

Go Salukis! Go Heels!

[AP Poll]

Chicago White Sox Offseason Outlook

With the World Series phinally over (seriously, I'm done with substituting PHs for Fs) it's time to look forward to making our team's better. Since Hartwig, out White Sox expert has been given vacation time so he can finish his collegiate career on a high note, I'll be taking over this post.

I know what you're thinking - what do Cubs fans know about building a contender? And I'll give you that, it's a valid point. But I did build three fantasy championships and countless champions in the MLB 2K series.

So with this post, I'll throw away all biases I have towards the Cubs as I attempt to build a championship-caliber squad for the Chicago White Sox.

C - A.J. Pierzynski $6.25 MM
C - Toby Hall $2.25 MM (club option)
1B - Paul Konerko $12 MM
2B - Chris Getz $400 K
3B -
SS - Alexei Ramirez $1.1 MM
IF - Josh Fields $400 K
LF - Carlos Quentin $400 K
CF - Brian Anderson $400 K
RF - Jermaine Dye $11.5 MM
OF - Dewayne Wise $400 K
OF/1B - Nick Swisher $5.3 MM
DH - Jim Thome $13 MM

SP - Mark Buehrle $14 MM
SP - Javier Vazquez $11.5 MM
SP - John Danks $400 K
SP - Gavin Floyd $400 K
SP - Clayton Richard $400 K

RP - Bobby Jenks $550 K
RP - Octavio Dotel $6 MM
RP - Scott Linebrink $4.5 MM
RP - Matt Thornton $1.325
RP - Boone Logan $405 K
RP - D.J. Carrasco $400 K
RP - Ehren Wasserman $400 K

Buyouts: Ken Griffey Jr. - $2 MM
Other committments: Jose Contreras - $10 MM, Mike MacDougal - $2.65 MM

By my calculations (again, via Cot's Baseball Contracts) the White Sox have about $109 committed to their 2009 squad. I could be wrong however, I'm terrible at math. But that sounds like a safe number.

The SouthSiders' started at $121,189,332 on Opening Day last season, a jump from $108,671,833. Thats a jump of $12,517,499 and that's the kind of jump in payroll I expect Jerry Reinsdorf to give GM Kenny Williams.

That should be good enough to help fill some of the holes on this squad, so let's get started.

Let's just make one thing clear, I don't think it's a possibility that Getz, Fields and Anderson all get starting jobs next season. Three youngsters starting with maximum potential and minimal experience and average numbers sounds like a recipe for disaster that the 2005 Cubs would be jealous of.

I think the Sox's top priority should be trading Javier "Not Big Game" Vazquez. Javy is a great regular season pitcher - even though his record hovers around .500 - and he racks up strikeouts like nobody's business.

But he can't beat the Twins or anyone in a pressure situation. He's got a no-trade clause that doesn't allow him to be traded to the AL West or NL West.

If the Sox can dump his $11.5 MM salary, they'd have about $23 million to spend this offeason. And that's good enough to make a few significant changes.

Expect Alexei Ramirez to move from second base to shortstop, opening up a spot potentially for a new second sacker. Brian Roberts is a potential trade option, while the best free agent out there is Orlando Hudson - a Gold Glover who can hit .300 if he can stay healthy.

Nick Swisher shouldn't be a center fielder, let alone one that plays everyday. Juan Pierre is going to be looking for a trade, and Pierre and manager Ozzie Guillen h ve ties to when both were with the Florida Marlins.

The White Sox's biggest hole might be at third base, where Josh Fields is capable, but might be better off used as trade bait. It's a dry free agent market for the hot corner, so Fields just might have to do if they can't acquire Chone Figgins from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Coming Monday - a "dream" White Sox team and a team that I think would be realistically attainable.

Because "fair and balanced" is how I (try to) roll.

Chicago Cubs Offseason Outlook

Finally, the World Series is over. You can start up the hot stove, now. And by the looks of things, it's time to throw a couple of logs on it.

Ah, hot stove talk. Reminds me of the days of Fireside Chats, TVs with bunny ear antennas and gas prices being around $1.50.

Shoot, gas is $2.19 in Carbondale. It's a shame prices will go up after the election. Because that's how it always happens. And no, you can't blame Barack. But if McCain gets elected, you can definitely blame him!


Let's start it off right by talking about the 2008 NL Central Division champion Chicago Cubs.

C - Geovany Soto $401 K
C - Henry Blanco $3 MM
1B - Derrek Lee $13 MM
2B - Mark DeRosa $5.5
3B - Aramis Ramirez $15.65 MM
SS - Ryan Theriot $428 K
IF - Ronnie Cedeno $407 K
IF - Mike Fontenot $405 K
LF - Alfonso Soriano $16 MM
CF - Kosuke Fukudome $11.5 MM
CF - Reed Johnson $1.3 MM
RF -
OF - Felix Pie $402 K
OF - Micah Hoffpauir $400 K

SP - Carlos Zambrano $17.75 MM
SP - Rich Harden $7 MM
SP - Ted Lilly $12 MM
SP - Sean Marshall $400 K
SP - Jason Marquis $9.875

RP - Carlos Marmol $430 K
RP - Chad Gaudin $1.775
RP - Jeff Samardzija $1.8 MM
RP - Neal Cotts $800 K
RP - Michael Wuertz $860 K
RP - Angel Guzman $401 K
RP - Kevin Hart $329,500 K

By my calculations (via Cot's Baseball Contracts) the Cubs have $121.8135 million tied into its returning players. That's without arbitration raises. I'm not good at that, so I'll keep my nose out of something I truly do not understand.

The Cubs' Opening Day salary was $118.345.833 which was up $18,675,501 from last season. I would expect the payroll to go up by at least that much. There have been some reports that the Cubs payroll could go up to $140 MM or $150 MM.

If the Cubs were able to have $30 MM to spend it would mean the Cubs could sign two impact players.

However, GM Jim Hendry should prioritize re-signing Kerry Wood. He wants a three-year deal and since he's been loyal to this franchise since Day 1, he deserves it. You give him a blank check for a two-year deal with a mutual option for a third year.

Does $10 MM over three years sound right? It does to me. But it's easier said than done.

As for Ryan Dempster, thanks for a great year. The chances of a repeat are slim, so I'd take the two draft picks that would come the Cubs' way to help rebuild the farm system.

Dempster would likely command a $14 MM per year salary and if that is the case then the Cubs should try to acquire Jake Peavy.

That would likely cost the Cubs a majority of their farm system, but a talent like Peavy is worth it. The Cubs could try to throw Derrek Lee in a deal that would also bring the left-handed power-hitting first baseman the Cub lineup really needs - Adrian Gonzalez.

The NorthSide Nine (as of right now) are the NorthSide Eight with the recent news that K-Fuk will be moving to center field as a part of a platoon with Reed Johnson.

That mean s right field is available for the following people: Bobby Abreu, Ken Griffey Jr., Raul Ibanez, Milton Bradley, Adam Dunn or even Manny Ramirez.

Abreu fits perfectly because he will likely only demand a three year deal and not too much money (which is an odd statement to make seeing that these guys are multi-millionaires.) He plays strong defense, has adequate power (career .498 SLG), speed (22 SBs in '08) and is patient (career OBP of .405) so he sounds like a perfect choice as a No. 3 hitter.

The Cubs could also put Mark DeRosa in right field if the Cubs are able to add (dare I say?) Brian Roberts at second base? The Cubs could also move Ryan Theriot and add free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Coming Monday. My "dream" team and my projected team.

Because Cubs fans can dream, but fans like me are realists. Unlike the guy who wrote these grand ideas.

TBDS Presents: The Best Week Ever ... In Review

Happy Halloween ladies and gentlemen. Have as much fun as you can this weekend. And of course I suggest that you do it responsibly!

This was another good week in TBDS history as the NBA season got under way. I also was able to go to MVC Media Day in St. Louis. We shot a video from there, but it didn't make the cut. I hope to shoot a video from the SIU/North Dakota game on Saturday with the help of my trusty assistants.

I'm sure you want to see more of these costumes. I don't blame you, so here is where I got this one from.

I'll be blogging from the SIU/New Orleans swim meet tonight at the SIU Rec Center pool. I'll also be Tweeting from there, so you should definitely check out the sidebar because yours truly will be poolside.

And of course I'll be Tweeting from the pressbox of the SIU-UND game as well. And like I said, hopefully we'll have a video, too.

Well, I'm out of weekend updates for ya. Stay safe, America and enjoy the week in review!

It's Phinally Over Pt. 3

Papelbon strikes one more time. In yo face!

There's a part of me that wants to congratulate the Philadelphia Phillies on winning a World Series title. Even though I have no idea how hard it is to win one (because my favorite team always seems to find a way to choke it up) I do know how EASY it is to f*ck it up.

And since the Phightin' Phils didn't do that, I've gotta tip my cap to them.

However, it doesn't mean that they're exempt from getting a championship worthy facial!

I can't wait 'til next year when Jim Hendry or Lou Piniella gets a load in the face!

It's Phinally Over, Part Two

25 years of pent up...stuff!

Since the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim clinched baseball's first playoff berth, I've been enamored with these celebration photos. It's almost kinda sick. But can you blame me?

I didn't think so.

Honestly, if I won a championship I'd be spraying my fans all over the face too. You gotta share the love, dude!

Daily Dosage: It's Phinally Over!

"He said yes!"

Isn't that adorable? The Philadelphia Phillies won the city's first major sports championship since 1983. And how did Brad Lidge celebrate? By proposing to catcher Carlos Ruiz! That's cute. Now Mitch Williams can move on with his life - after being the best man in the wedding of course. More to come on this story later. Now, time for the Daily Dosage!

We must protect this house. The SIU football team gets to play three straight in the friendly confines of McAndrew Stadium and it begins with a tilt against the University of North Dakota on Saturday.

Head coach Dale Lennon should know the Fighting Sioux very well. The former UND feature running back, assistant coach and head coach is in his first year as the Saluki head boss and has brought his philosphies from the great north here to SIU.

It should be an intense battle. Don't expect a blow out. Expect a close game as the Fighting Sioux should come out with a chip on their shoulder (cliche, I know, bite me!) as they'll be looking to impress the man that recruited them.

Not only will Lennon be treated by a visit from his former team, his family is coming too. In a nice little sidebar, the Lennon family will be taking the plane ride with the UND team. That's really nice of them.

I hope Coach Lennon, who told me yesterday that he has a little bit of house cleaning to do because he's "living like a bachelor" has the house nice and clean for their arrival. I know how Mom's can get if the house is even a little messy.

Salukis prepared to defend home turf [Daily Egyptian]

Chillin' poolside. Before Saturday's game even comes close to kicking off, I'll be poolside as the SIU swimming and diving team hosts the University of New Orleans at the SIU Rec Center pool. It will be the Salukis' first home meet of the season.

It's Halloween, so I think I'll dress up as a sports writer. Maybe I'll even dress up as a good one!

Salukis back in the pool [Daily Egyptian]

Quality Linkage:
  • First-grader hits puberty at sight of Erin Andrews. Yeah, she's good. Nice screen grab! [The Sports Hernia]
  • MRI for Psycho T? Uh-oh, Spaghetti-oh! [Ballin is a Habit]
  • Brad Lidge beats the Ghost of Albert Pujols. Ball that Pujols hit in '05 still orbiting Earth. [Bugs & Cranks]
  • 24 passes caught. 421 reception yards. Six touchdowns. 1 'L.' Seriously, where's the D? That's what SHE said! [The Big Picture]
  • It's OK to mix sports & politics? Whatever you say. [Deadspin]
Happy Halloween, everybody!

Oh crap, the NBA season started already

So I'm just going to throw out some predictions one game into the season.

I know I'm a day late (and since I don't get paid 'til Friday, I'm also a dollar short) but here go my 10 fearless predictions.

  1. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics will reunite in the NBA Finals. The Lakers have the league's best player (Kobe), supporting cast (Bynum, Gasol, Odom) and one of the best coaches in league history (Phil) so there's no reason for them not to take the West. The C's have an easy run through the East, on paper. I guess that's why they'll play the games on the court, huh.
  2. The Lakers will win the NBA title, Shaq won't be pleased. Did I mention that the Lakers have the best individual player, best supporting cast and best coach. Sounds like the recipe for a title. Meanwhile, Shaq remixes one of the greatest freestyles ever.
  3. The NBA's worst team will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. The former SuperSonics will feel my wrath throughout the season. I hope they finish dead last and then don't get the No. 1 overall pick and get stuck with the worst possible lottery pick - which will be forfeited.
  4. LeBron James will win the league's MVP. Kobe's the best player in the world, but LBJ will put up superior numbers. My guess: 30 points 8 rebounds 8 assists as the Cavs will finish THIRD in th NBA East's Central Division.
  5. Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose will share Rookie of the Year honors. Sounds like a cop-out, but isn't. Beasley will average 20-and-10, but Rose will be a media darling as he leads his hometown Bulls back into the playoffs.
  6. SURPRISE: The New Jersey Nets will make the playoffs behind the efforts of Devin Harris and Vince Carter, they'll knock the Atlanta Hawks out of the eight seed. The Los Angeles Clippers will be in the playoffs, too in the eighth spot. They'll earn the right to get smoked by Kobe & The Lake Show.
  7. The Houston Rockets will miss the playoffs. Ron Artest will get suspended. Tracy McGrady will be injured. And Yao Ming will turn into Kosuke Fukudome.
  8. The San Antonio Spurs won't make it out of the first round. They're old. They'll be crabby. They won't want to miss any more Matlock than they have to.
  9. 1,634. Headlines that will be used that have to do with Derrick Rose and blooming/growing/thorns.
  10. Countless. Number of jokes people will have for head coach Vinny Del Negro because his name loosely translates into Vinny of the Negroes.

Daily Dosage: Opening blows for Rose

Today's eye candy is Kate Hudson, courtesy of the SalukiOrphan.

Not a bad call.

I'm trying to get some things done in the office and in the classroom right now, so today's Dosage will be brief and hopefully painless.

Bulls win, Rose shows flashes. Rookie point guard Derrick Rose scored 11 points and dished 9 dimes (assists for those of you who aren't up with the lingo) in his NBA regular season debut as the Chicago Bulls defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 108-95.

Rose had plenty of help from his friends as five other Bulls scored in double figures including Drew Gooden, Tyrus Thomas, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon.

The biggest surprise might have been moving Hinrich, who was recently named one of the team's captains, to the bench. The move will not only give size to the backcourt (with Thabo Sefolosha starting) it will also it gives the Bulls two starting guards in its second unit with Hinrich and Gordon.

It's only one game, but if the Bulls can keep it up, then the sky will truly be the limit for this ballclub, who gave Vinny Del Negro his first NBA win.

[Bulls 108 Bucks 95]

Who's No. 2? The SIU men's basketball team was tabbed to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference Tuesday at the conference's Media Day in St. Louis.

The Salukis, who picked up two first place votes, will be led by preseason all-conference selection Bryan Mullins and a slew of newcomers.

Despite the offseason departures of Joshua Bone and Brandon Wood, SIU has reloaded with the additions of Justin Bocot, Ryan Hare, Anthony Booker, Torres Roundtree and Kevin Dillard.

Creighton was picked to finish first as it returns seven players that played double-figure minutes for the Bluejays, including Freshman and Newcomer of the Year P'Allen Stinnett.

SIU tabbed second in poll, Mullins grabs MVC honors [Daily Egyptian]

Nowhere to go but up. One year removed from an MVC title, the SIU women's basketball team was pegged to finish ninth in the preseason poll.

The Salukis return only four players from last year's team and will bring nine new players to the hardwood of the SIU Arena.

Two of its returnees are starters Erica Smith and Jasmine Gibson. Smith is a defensive force who led the team in rebounding (6.8 average) and steals (54). Gibson, who only played 19 games because of an injury, is the Salukis' best scoring threat. She averaged a little more than 14 points per game, highlighted by a 31-point effort against Chicago State.

With a batch of fresh faces, SIU should be fun to watch if only to see the kind of competitors coach Dana Eikenberg has brought in.

Women picked ninth in MVC poll [Daily Egyptian]

One-liner: Want my take on Media Day? Check out another one of my media presences. [Gus Bode's Blog]

Quality Linkage:
  • "They like him better when he's drugged up." You know, that's what the girls say about me. [Buffalo News]
  • Nets moving to Brooklyn? Pfft. How about Moscow? [Yahoo! Sports]
  • In search of some fantasy studs down the stretch? [The Hazean]
  • Headline: NASCAR legend endorses Obama. I love when sports and politics mix and the result doesn't involve Sammy Sosa forgetting how to speak English. [From The Marbles]
  • Angry North Carolina fans as depicted by a one-liner. [The Big Lead]


I'll be in St. Louis covering the Missouri Valley Conference's basketball media day so I won't be around (much) today.

I might do something via Twitter and if I do you should check the sidebar for details.

I hope you can survive a day without this. Well, at least a morning/afternoon.

I'll be back in the evening.


NBA Predictions: Pacific Power

The greatest day of the year is finally here. The NBA opens tonight, but because of my lack of hustle (almost Eddy Curry lack of hustle), I have two divisions left to predict. The first division is the Pacific Division - home of the Western Conference Champions Los Angeles Lakers. This division contains the fastest paced offenses in the NBA, which makes exciting basketball night in and night out. And even though the presence of the Lakers looms large in the division, fans of the other four teams should keep faith, because all of these teams have a lot of fight and heart.

1. LA Lakers
The Lakers earned their preseason spot at the top of the division after last year's tremendous season. Kobe Bryant was flat out amazing, and I expect him to repeat as MVP of the league this year. Jordan Farmar has had a great preseason and should take on a much greater offensive role to go along with his stellar defense. The duo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will be the best front court in the Pacific and players like Trevor Ariza and Luke Walton add a whole lot of energy, defense and passing. Lamar Odom is a great player, but I would not be shocked to see him traded for a pure shooter to get this team over the top.

Team MVP: Kobe Bryant - No surprise here, he is the best player in the world. Bryant finally received a long overdue MVP last year and I expect him to repeat that performance this year. He shoots, passes, creates and defends at a level that is superhuman.

Rising Star: Jordan Farmar - They have a lot of great, young talent but Farmar stands above the rest. He was already great at stealing the ball and pushing it forward, but he worked a lot on his offensive game and I think he is ready for a starting role over Derek Fisher.

Falling Star: Derek Fisher - He is slowing down a little and like I said earlier, he is holding back Farmar. I think Fisher can still be a very serviceable player but he needs to come off the bench. 

2. Phoenix Suns
They have seen a pretty big transformation over the last two seasons, but the main components of Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire remain. The pick-and-roll becomes a work of art when those two are firing on all cylinders. They still have Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa to fill it up from behind the arc when they get in shootouts. And while they aren't getting any younger, they do have promising players like Robin Lopez, Alando Tucker and Sean Singletary waiting in the wings. I think the real key will be the production the Suns can get out of underrated Matt Barnes and underachieving Boris Diaw. If they are great, the team will go deep.

Team MVP: Amare Stoudemire - Stoudemire should have one goal this season, stay healthy. If he can give the Suns a full season, both Shaq and Nash will be able to breathe easier and have more offensive opportunities. 

Rising Star: Matt Barnes - The former Warrior gets his time to shine. He was awarded the starting role and I believe in the Suns system, he can be very good. He is going to double his career average of 6 points per game.

Falling Star: Shaquille O' Neal - The Big Aristotle is fading fast and is almost completely done. He takes up a lot of space and gets some boards, so he is still a good player to have but he will never be close to dominant again and will get handled by Yao Ming and maybe Greg Oden.

3. Golden State Warriors
They have enough fire power to play their way into third place, but I am still not really high on this team. I love watching them play because of how they throw caution to the wind, but there is very little defense and rebounding. Monta Ellis being out for 30+ games will really hurt and Marcus Williams and CJ Watson will need to pick up the pieces. Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette, Al Harrington and Andris Biedrins will lead the way offensively but get man handled in the post. This team should look to land a Lamar Odom or Carlos Boozer with a big trade mid-season to add some defense and stability. 

Team MVP: Stephen Jackson - Ellis is out for half the season so Jackson needs to be the general. He knows how to score and he can manage a game. When things get out of control like they will on a nightly basis, it will be Jackson to step up and calm it down.

Rising Star: Kelenna Azubuike - I love watching this guy play. Energy, shooting, slashing and even some defense - the guy has it all. He is a valuable sixth man and will always give it everything he has.

4. Sacramento Kings
I am big believer that the hardest working team in the league won't finish last in their division. The Kings, though they don't have a plethora of talent, never stop coming. Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, John Salmons and Beno Udrih are pitbulls. They have some really nice shooting all around, but have a terrible time protecting the basketball. They didn't play much team defense last year, but with the work ethic they show, I expect it to be improved. Poor Brad Miller needs to stay healthy because without him they are virtually invisible down low with only Mikki Moore ready to take minutes. What they lack in talent, they make up in effort.

Team MVP: Kevin Martin - He is a feel-good story in the league. Great shooter, sub-par defender but a fearless leader. His morale never seems to dip no matter what challenge faces him and that is why this team won't get last place.

Rising Star: Beno Udrih - He is quietly becoming one of the most reliable guards in the league. He is not Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but he will give you consistent production and boosts his numbers a little bit every year.

Falling Star - Shelden Williams - At 25 years old, chalk him up as an official bust. He was a lottery pick, but all he managed to do in the NBA was rebound and block shots at a modest rate. With Jason Thompson on the bench, Williams will barely get on the floor.

5. LA Clippers
It's not often a team with Baron Davis and Marcus Camby finishes last, but that is what will happen. The main reason is because Davis is the only explosive, consistent offense and Camby the only defense. The second reason is they will probably miss a handful of games. I like Al Thornton and the way he is progressing, but they have very little beyond that. Jason Hart is an underrated guard and brings some defense while Tim Thomas can also be a spark off the bench. This team got hurt when Elton Brand left and Shaun Livingston was released after injuries. Maybe in a year or two they can compete when Eric Gordon and Al Thornton fully develop. 

Team MVP: Baron Davis - He has never played a game for the Clip, but he is their leader. Davis is just mind-blowing when he is healthy and can create something out of nothing all the time. He will carry this team as far as his surgically repaired knees can take him.

Rising Star: Al Thornton - He is erratic and does not have a great basketball IQ, but he is fun to watch. Thornton is one of the best athletes on the team so if he learns to play within himself, he can be very dangerous. 

Falling Star: Ricky Davis - He made a name for himself in Minnesota, started cooling off on the Heat and now seems to be ready to let his career fade away in LA. He is young enough to turn it around, but he needs to find his passion for the game again.

There you have it people, the Pacific is set. All five of those teams should be fun to watch on most nights and the matchups between the Lakers and Suns should be really exciting. I hope you tune in to TNT for the Blazers/Lakers and come back later to see who will win the ultra competitive Southwest.

What's up with the Blue & Maize?

It's OK to smile, Rich. You're getting paid well for this.

Somewhere, the powers that be at the University of Michigan must be looking for loopholes because the Rich Rodriguez Experiment isn't just not working ... it's failing.


One day after finally signing his six-year, $2.5 million a year contract with UM, the Wolverines dropped a 35-21 decision to Michigan State at the Big House for the first time since 1990.

If UM is losing to the likes of Toledo and Michigan State, imagine the whooping they'll receive when they roll into Columbus, Ohio to face The Sweater-vest and the rest of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The loss moved Michigan to 2-6 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play. The Wolverines have lost four games in a row and are winless in the month of October for the first time since ... who knows, that's a stat I'm too lazy to look up.

The point is this whole Rich Rod thing isn't working out and it doesn't look like it's going to any time soon. Michigan's AD is preaching patience. Why? He's part of the group that helped push Lloyd Carr out the door. Patience, really? I don't wanna hear it.

But do you know what I don't want to hear: that it's going to take time because RR doesn't have the kind of players to fit his system.

Really? Tell that to Southern Illinois head football coach Dale Lennon.

Lennon came to Carbondale with the task of replacing Jerry Kill, the man who single-handedly saved Saluki football from not only the depths of college football hell, but from extinction as well.

Kill's team's can be described in one compound word: smashmouth.

SIU became Tailback U as it ran the pill down its opponents throats on a yearly basis, and its best case study has been the emergence of New York Giants main-man Brandon Jacobs.

But I digress, so I can make my point.

The point is that Lennon has turned SIU's smashmouth offense on its ear by implementing a variation of the spread offense. Each week, the Salukis unveil new wrinkles as first-year starting sophomore quarterback Chris Dieker continues to learn the system.

Dieker won't be confused for West Virginia's Pat White or Florida's Tim Tebow, but he has proven to be mobile enough to elude the pass rush and whatever he lacks in agility, he makes up in arm strength.

Not only has he continued to keep the SIU offense potent as ever, Lennon & Co. have revamped the Salukis' entire defensive system by placing Kill's players in Lennon's linebacker friendly 3-4 defense.

Now, guys like Ryan Patton, James Cloud, Brandin Jordan and Chauncey Mixon are reaping the benefits as the SIU linebacking corps are four of the top five tacklers on the team.

And before you say "oh, this argument isn't valid because SIU doesn't play anybody," allow me to kick it to you with some real talk.

The Missouri Valley Football Conference isn't a joke. In fact, it's equivalent to the FBS' Southeastern Conference.

The Valley has four schools ranked in the Coaches Top-25 poll (Northern Iowa, SIU, Western Illinois and North Dakota State) with South Dakota State receiving votes in the Coaches and Press polls. The newly-rebranded MVFC has also sent multiple teams to the playoffs (that's right, PLAYOFFS) since I've been a student at SIUC.

Did I mention that Brandon Jacobs went was a Saluki? So was Bart Scott. Rodney Harrison went to WIU. Kurt Warner went to UNI.

The point is that talent is everywhere and all a coach has to do is utilize it.

It's apparent to me that Rich Rodriguez isn't making the most of the talent at Michigan.

On the other side of the coin sits Dale Lennon, who sits atop the MVFC with a 5-2 record overall, a 4-1 record in conference play and all while making $2,300,000 less than Rich Rod.

Aramis Ramirez reels in postseason award

Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez didn't let a 2-for-22 postseason slide stop him from making a presence during Game 4 of the World Series Sunday night.

Technically, it was before.

Ramirez received The Hank Aaron Award, which is given to "the most outstanding performers" in each league.

I guess this means Albert Pujols can't win every award, right?

As good as Rami was in 2008, he wasn't even the best offensive third baseman in the league.

That distinction should go to New York Mets third sacker David Wright who hit .302 with 33 homers and 124 runs batted in.

But how do you not give the award to Pujols? It's almost inconceivable.

It would be easy to blame the fans that voted for Youk and Rami, but it'd be better to blame Cardinal Nation - baseball's self-proclaimed best fans - for not stuffing the ballot box for Phat Albert.

In the end, it doesn't matter because Ramirez isn't winning anything important tonight or in the near future.

As for Pujols he already has what Ramirez wants in his back pocket (an NL MVP ) and on his hand (a World Series ring).

And after batting .357 with a .425 OBP, .624 SLG% with 37 home runs and 116 RBIs, Pujols will likely take home his second NL MVP award at the conclusion of this baseball season.

As long as MLB doesn't allow fans to vote for that now, too.

Philles one win from championship, freeing Mitch Williams' soul

The Philadelphia Phillies are one win away from the World Series championship that the Chicago Cubs were supposed to win.

What? Did you not expect me to go there.

I have mixed emotions about this series ... and by mixed emotions I mean I don't care as much as an extreme baseball enthusiast should be, but I care enough to watch highlights on SportsCenter multiple times.

See, the Phillies have that whole tortured team/fan aspect that I can relate to. None of Philadelphia's four teams have won a professional sports title in 25 years.

That makes it an even 100 seasons since a championship banner has been waived in the City of Brotherly Love.

As for the Tampa Bay Rays, they've done two things no Cubs team has done since 1945.

Go to the World Series and win a game in the World Series.

And the Cubs spotted the Rays a head start of more than 100 years.

Ouch, that smarts.

From afar, I must admit to having a slight admiration for the Rays because they built their champion the old fashioned way: through the farm system.

Well, kind of.

The Rays get a lot of credit (and deservedly so) for building a productive farm system that has brought Evan Longoria, David Price and B.J. Upton to stardom.

However, to get those players, the former Devil Rays had to compile some of the worst records in baseball to do so.

Eventually, you're going to land some quality players when you've got more top-10 picks than you know what to do with.

Right, Elgin Baylor?

In the end, there is only one city that will be celebrating a championship by week's end. And since that city isn't Chicago (or Carbondale, or Chapel Hill...) I really don't care.

Daily Dosage: Isn't She Lovely?

I've already shouted out my editor and the newest member of the siuDE sports desk in earlier editions of the Daily Dosage, but today I'm doing something for myself.

It's not Carrie Underwood's most glamorous shot, but oh. my. goodness. she is still hot.

Maybe it's just my twisted sense of attraction, but there's just something I love about a girl who loves baseball.

I can't honestly tell you if she loves baseball or not, but she's got a mitt in her hand and that's good enough for me.

Seriously though, I'm a sucker for a girl that can carry a conversation about any sport.

You like Derrick Rose and the Bulls, let's talk. You think Kyle Orton is the Bears' best QB since Jim McMahon, let's grab coffee. You think Alfonso Soriano should be dropped in the order to fully capitalize on his monstrous power numbers, let's hit up a Wrigleyville bar.

You get the point, right?

Now, if Carrie and I can have a conversation in which we both come to the conclusion that OPS should replace batting average as the preferred stat to judge a hitter then I'm getting a ring and lockin' her up.

Enough of my rants, on with the Dosage!

What do you mean the Bears were on a by week? I guess after scoring 48 points, offensive coordinator Ron Turner is looking for a way to minimize the Bears' scoring options.

Since there's no Bears coverage this week, I'll take a page out of my Asst. Sports Editor playbook and run with something we like to call 'Saluki Tracker.'

Brandon Jacobs

Eli Manning and Kevin Boss will get the all the credit for hooking up on the game-winning touchdown in the New York Giants' 21-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but running back Brandon Jacobs deserves an award for best supporting role.

Jacobs delivered the key block that allowed Manning an extra moment to find an open Boss in the end zone.

And where did he learn how to deliver monster blocks like that?

At THE Southern Illinois University, of course.

BJ27 didn't have his greatest game on the ground, rushing for only 47 yards on 18 carries, but I'll forgive him. He's still a beast.

Bart Scott

Another disappointing effort for another SIU grad. But don't tell him I said that, he might put a hit on me like he did for Hines Ward.

Scott only made two tackles in the Baltimore Ravens' 29-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

Eh, I'm not sure what else to write here except Scott is one of the angriest linebackers in the world and if I ever got into a fight, I would hope he was on my side.

Quality Linkage:
  • "The Wolf Pack, which is beginning to make a habit of losing close games, had two 100-yard rushers, piled up nearly 500 yards of offense, limited the Hawaii Warriors to 28 rushing yards, intercepted two passes and had six quarterback sacks." Who gets the blame for this loss? []
  • Is Erin Andrews headed to Hollywood? [SportsByBrooks]
  • Headline Pt. 1 - Police: Woman Beat Man Who Refused To Kiss Her. [WPFB]
  • Bill Plaschke's one-sentence graphs continue to frustrate Ken Temendous. [Fire Joe Morgan]
  • When Facebook statuses go too far: Man Murders Wife With Meat Cleaver Over Facebook Status. [AppScout]
A bonus for all of you Joe Six Pack's out there playing a drinking game ... Maverick!

Sarah Palin. Strippers. Las Vegas. That should take care of Google searchers. [Fox News 5]

David The Douche

Everything's gonna be OK, Seattle. -Stern

The NBA season begins Tuesday night, but it will be missing something in the great NorthWest.

The Seattle SuperSonics.

That's right. The proud franchise that launched the careers of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp is no more. Instead, there is a franchise in Oklahoma City thanks to the relationship between Clay Bennett and NBA commish David Stern.

That's right, Oklahoma City. The home of zero professional franchises in any of the four major professional sports.

But it's OK, according to The Commish. There's plenty of basketball to go around.
"We understand the fans and their anger, frustration, depression."
But wait, there's more via
"You know, we have something over 900 games available on NBA League Pass, either on cable or satellite, and potentially broadband and NBA TV where we have four games a week," he said. "So there's a lot out there in terms of content and a lot of an ability to follow our league. If they are so inclined, then we certainly invite them and welcome them."
That's right Sonics fans. The man who helped orchestrate the theft of your favorite franchise still wants your business. Go buy NBA League Pass. Why limit yourself to one team when you can catch every team with NBA League Pass. Heck, while you're at it go to and buy some old-school Sonics gear.

Cash, checks, credit, debit and money orders are happily excepted!

Rep that Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf, Ray Allen or even Kevin Durant throwback with pride.

Deadspin's headline said it best: 'David Stern Invites Seattle to Watch Their Ex-Girlfriend With New Boyfriend.'

Yep. Sums it up quite well, actually.

HALFTIME UPDATE: SIU leads Missouri State 3-0

The SIU football team leads Missouri State 3-0 as the teams head into the locker rooms for halftime.

It's been a sluggish start for both squads, who have both been able to move the ball but have been unable to convert yards into touchdowns.

Saluki kicker Kyle Dougherty's 19-yard field goal with 42.3 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

SIU has four turnovers this half thanks to fumbles by Larry Warner, Richard White and Chris Dieker. Dieker has also thrown an interception on a tipped pass.

MSU is a second-half team, outscoring its opponents 62-38 after the half.

SIU isn't a second-half team, being outscored....I don't have those numbers in front of me but trust me. I've listened to each game and have been to all but one. Trust me, it's not pretty.

But, as I said earlier...that's why they don't play the games on paper.

Follow Me On Twitter!

Today I'll be tweeting for the SIU/Missouri State football game at the Plaster Sports Complex in Springfield, Mo.

P.S. There's a lot of maroon here as both teams rep the Maroon & White as school colors.

Check out the sidebar on the right side of the page for updates.

It's a beautiful day for football. It's a bright and sunny day high atop the Plaster Field press box and there isn't a cloud in the sky.

The Salukis (4-2, 3-1) will look to remain in first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with a win against the Bears (3-3, 2-1) this afternoon.

SIU is currently tied with Northern Iowa and Western Illinois atop the MVC standings with 3-1 marks, while MSU and South Dakota State sit in second with 2-1 records.

I expect a shootout this afternoon as this matchup features two of the highest scoring teams in the Valley. But that's why they play the games on the field.

Speaking of which, I'll hopefully be able to post a new video blog this afternoon if time and opportunity present itself.

Take care, folks. And don't forget to follow the sidebar for constant twitter updates.

NBA Predictions: Northwest Test

The Eastern Conference is set and now it is time to start with the West. Season after season the West is projected to be far superior to the East, but time after time the East shows it can play with the best as evidenced by the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics walking away world champions in recent years.

I am going to break down my personal favorite division in the Western Conference, the Northwest. In this division, you will find the best team in basketball and a handful of young, up-and-coming teams. If you like speed and athleticism, this is the division for you.

1. Utah Jazz
I thought this was the best team in basketball last year and I was wrong. I think they are the best team in basketball again. They lack the star power of Boston, but they have the best point guard in the game Deron Williams running the floor and Carlos Boozer in the paint. The wings are filled out nicely with Ronnie Brewer who continues to improve and Kyle Korver who can shoot lights out. Their defense is tenacious with Andrei Kirilenko leading the way and locking down the West's best players every night. They have a very underrated bench with Morris Almond, Matt Harpring, C.J. Miles and Paul Millsap. Expect a deep run and maybe a championship.

Team MVP: Deron Williams - When I say he is the best point guard, that is what I mean. I love Chris Paul, but Williams passes, shoots, penetrates and defends at such a high level, while other point guards excel in one or two of those areas. I expect his name in the MVP race.

Rising Star: Ronnie Brewer - People know he is one of the best dunkers in the league, but he has quietly become a better shooter and passer. I think Brewer is ready to turn some heads with his play this year. He should get more minutes and will have more production. I would say 15 ppg and 3 apg

Falling Star: Mehmet Okur - He is famous for his outside touch and he still has it. He doesn't have any killer instinct though. He doesn't defend, he struggles in the post at times and he disappears in the big moment. It shouldn't be too much of a concern with Millsap backing him up.

2. Denver Nuggets
Guess what everyone. The Nuggets can play defense. A team that is known for an exciting offense with Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson constantly gets overlooked on the defensive side where Kenyon Martin leads the way. The loss of Marcus Camby will hurt, but watch Renaldo Balkman and Nene Hilario pick up the slack. Even Anthony and Iverson are better on defense than most people give them credit for. The bench looks decent this year with Linas Kleiza, Anthony Carter and Chris "Birdman" Andersen. The offense of course will take care of itself.

Team MVP: Carmelo Anthony - He is a very consistent player and is one of the most difficult forwards to match up with. He has a great shot and great body control when finishing at the rim. With Camby gone, look for even more scoring and offensive boards from Melo.

Rising Star: J.R. Smith - No one has ever doubted his athletic prowess, but his game never seemed to live up to expectations. Last year he changed that by taking smart shots and being a force on offense. I think he is ready to do the same on defense this year and become a complete player.

Falling Star: Juwan Howard - Sure, we all love Juwan, but he is at the end of the line. This is his 14th year in the league and his knees are shot. It looks painful to watch him run, I can't imagine how it actually feels. I expect almost nothing out of him this season.

3. Portland Trail Blazers
Here is everyones' sexy pick. Some people even think they will win the division, but I am confident they will finish third. I love Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez but they are too young and too injury prone. I doubt all four of those guys will stay healthy and they all need time on the court to gel with each other. There is nothing to not like about this team. They do everything as a team, whether its playing unselfish offense or very efficient help defense. But when we talk about seasoned and skilled teams like Utah and Denver, this team just doesn't matchup yet.

Team MVP: Brandon Roy - On a team full of youth, 24-year-old Brandon Roy must be the leader. This is his team and he has to make sure all the new players fit in to enhance what the team started last year. For as good Roy is with the rock, he is just as good leading a team.

Rising Star: Greg Oden - I would like to say everyone, but Oden is highly anticipated for good reason. Never mind he can be Dwight Howard-esque dominant on offense, but his shot blocking ability is going to lead to a lot of fast break opportunities. He is going to be a game changer.

Falling Star: Raef LaFrentz - He is famous for blowing the best pass of all time when he failed to finish a Jason Williams gem with authority. Now he is the last of the dead weight on an exciting team. This bench is very solid, there is no need to pay this guy the $12 million he is making.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves
Don't get me wrong, this team wasn't good last year, but they showed a spark. Al Jefferson emerged as a very promising center and Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye and Rashad McCants continue to grow every single game. This team doesn't play a lick of defense and has a strange problem with ball handling, but those four are going to score. The addition of Mike Miller was huge, as he is going to make everything run a little smoother and is able to step in for any possible injuries to Gomes, Foye or McCants. Kevin Love should also open things up for Jefferson. I have no doubt they will take a step forward.

Team MVP: Al Jefferson - I was unsure if he could live up to the hype going into last season, but he delivered. He became a 20-10 guy and showed the desire to make the T'Wolves his team. He will be closer to All-Star status, but he needs to work on his defense and passing.

Rising Star: Corey Brewer - Will he be the rising star? I don't know, but I know he needs to be. He is a great athlete, but he cannot handle the ball for the life of him and his shot is erratic. I think he can make significant improvements on those areas this year, and he will need to do that if this team wants to make progress.

Falling Star: Sebastian Telfair - Please someone get this guy out of the league. He is no better than his backup Kevin Ollie, but he is the cousin of Stephon Marbury and had a documentary about him. I just think he will cause more problems and offer little production.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder
The new team sort of looks like the New York Knicks and will definitely play just as bad. They can't really shoot, they wont defend, they might get some boards and they will turn the ball over. At least OKC has a team now and will get to watch Kevin Durant make great plays and make bad decisions and play no defense. I'm looking for something good to say, but they really have nothing but whatever heart they play with on any given night. This team needs to come together, bust it on both ends of the floor and pray to the basketball gods they can manage 20 wins because it will be an uphill battle.

Team MVP: Jeff Green - He didn't have a great season last year, but he has all the tools to be very good, better than Durant. He needs to get to 15 points per game and 6 rpg. I don't know if he can, he has it in him, and he might be the only bright spot.

Rising Star: Russell Westbrook - Yes, he is a rookie but he is already the best defender on the team without even playing a game. I am very high on Westbrook and if he can develop his offense, this will quickly become his team. Especially if Green doesn't make progress.

Falling Star: Chris Wilcox - Chalk him up as another player who never reached his potential. He has had his chances to show his worth, but he always falls short of being the player he could be. I don't see Wilcox ever improving past a 10 ppg type of player.

I am looking forward to watching the triangle of Utah, Denver and Portland play it out. Those three will play in exciting, fast-paced and even epic games. Minnesota will have a nice year and I think they will satisfy their fans with the improvement they should make. OKC will offer some good laughs and a tight race for the worst team in the league. But like I said if you see Utah, Denver or Portland on TV, stay tuned in. Next up will be the Pacific Division.

Real Talk by Mark Grace

McCain who? Mark Grace is the true conductor of the "Straight Talk Express."

Want proof? Read Chris DeLuca in today's Chicago Sun-Times.

Summing up the Cubs' brief appearance in the postseason, Grace said they ''rolled over'' and should be humiliated.

''They [bleeped] it up, honestly,'' said Grace, who's covering the World Series as an analyst for Fox. ''That's twice now that this same group of players has gone out and played tight. ... I mean, come on, dude, are you kidding me?

Grace would likely be the top candidate to replace Bob Brenly as the TV color analyst if BB takes the Milwaukee Brewers managerial gig.

And before you ask, no, he doesn't believe in curses. I like that.

''No, because it was the same [stuff] all year long,'' he said. ''It wasn't the first time they heard about it. I have to say no on that. Honestly, that team for some reason, when [James] Loney hit that grand slam, you're only down two runs with five innings to play and that team just laid down. The place turned into a tomb. Damn, you're just down two, and you had come back all year. The team laid down.

I was at that game and that's how it felt from the crowd. The air was let out of the balloon and a majority of the folks that were there (you know, the corporate bandwagon type) hopped on their Blackberries and probably started making connections for later that night.

Lucky for them, they were able to drink their sorrows away in Wrigleyville. Some of us had a 5+ hour drive back to Carbondale to deal with this mess.

I digress.

More from DeLuca, there is no news on the Brenly/Brewers front. However, Grace puts a scare in me if BB does get the job in Milwaukee.

''I guess I would call him an anti-Ned Yost. He's a little more loose. The fun meter will go a little higher for whoever he manages. He's a world champion.''

As much as I love Lou Piniella and wanted Piniella to manage the Cubs to a World Series, I always throught Brenly would have been the PERFECT fit for this group. I said it when Dusty Baker was fired. I said it in 2006 when he should have been fired. My pleas to the Cubs seem to always go on deaf ears.

Pop quiz: who has managed more World Champions?

Answer: Both have managed 1. But Brenly's came in 2001. Piniella's came in 1990. Think BB knows how to get it done in this day-in-age? I do. I'd hate for him to go and do it 90 miles north of Wrigley.

Grace dis: Cubs rolled over [Chicago Sun-Times]

Now open for comments

Technically, we've always been open for comments but now comments are now open to everyone and anyone without going through that squiggly line stuff.

Judging by the number of hits we've received since adding the hits counter, I've given in to staff requests to open up the comments section.

So please, comment! They're welcome (as long as they're not spam, of course).

Don't make this post go in vain.

It's Friday. Get drunk and take someone home tonight!

TBDS Presents: The Week In Review

Two good reasons why Scarlett Johansson is going to take you into the weekend: she's beautiful and she's classy. Oh and she's natural. That makes three reasons.

Well I had a good week after recovering from being on my death bed.
Anyway, I promised a good week here at The Big Dead Sidebar and I delivered, didn't I?

It was a good week for us at TBDS and it will be capped by a trip to Springfield, Mo., for the SIU football team's matchup against Missouri State.

The Bears are the Salukis' second straight road opponent and after beating Youngstown State 33-0 in Jerry Angelo's back yard, SIU fans are expecting another road-trip winner.

I'd go deeper into this, but you'll get more once I do the next version of the TBDS video blog.

'Til then, here's this week's best of.

NBA Predictions: Atlantic Panic

Sorry to all those NBA fanatics who read this blog. I got a little tied up at work and with midterms, but I am back to finish my bold predictions.

So far we have Detroit and Orlando as the cream of the crop, but we save the best for last as we head to the Atlantic. In a league of parity, this division leaves little doubt that there is one great team, two really good teams, an up-and-coming team and probably the worst team in basketball. I usually get really excited about division match-ups, but in this division I would rather watch these teams play outside of it, except for some great Boston/Philly games I can't wait to see. Time to check out how it will play out.

1. Boston Celtics
If you know me, you know I was never sold on Boston last year. I was wrong and I know a legitimate champion when I see one, and this team is legit. The best trio in the Eastern Conference will have another stellar year, despite Ray Allen getting up there in age. The bench which features a surprisingly good Glenn Davis, sharpshooter Eddie House and the versatile Leon Powe. If those guys can play well enough to keep some minutes off the Big Threes' legs, than Boston could go deep in to the post-season again.

Team MVP: Kevin Garnett - I know it was Paul Pierce who had the playoff heroics, but Pierce could not win without Garnett. It is no coincidence the Celtics captured gold when Garnett entered town. He is a 20-10 guy every night and stretches the floor with his shot.

Rising Star: Rajon Rondo - I know he already broke out last year, but expect even more this year. He has his ring and his swagger so I expect his defensive tenacity to translate on the offensive side very nicely. He could already pass, now watch him score a lot more.

Falling Star: Sam Cassell - I thought he would bow out after winning a ring, but he thinks he has another season left in him. I don't seem him being very effective, in fact, expect a lot of turnovers and missed shots. On good nights, he will give the team a solid 15 minutes.

2. Philadelphia 76ers
Talk about a team licking their lips just waiting for the Celtics to slip. If one of the Big Three on Boston go down for an extended period of time, this team is going to push hard. Just thinking about a full season of Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Louis Williams, Sam Dalembert and Elton Brand running the floor has to put some fear in Eastern Conference teams. This team knows how to defend off the ball (not so much on the ball) and they know how to run. If Jason Smith and more importantly Thaddeus Young continue to improve, this team is going to win a lot of games.

Team MVP: Andre Iguodala - If this was the end of the year I think I would be saying Elton Brand, but it's not. Iguodala knows this team inside and out, and at least for the first half of they year, it will be his team to lead. If Brand is healthy, I expect Iguodala to willing give up that role.

Rising Star: Louis Williams - The NBA keeps getting better and better "sixth-men" and this guy was one of them. This team struggles to shoot, but this guy does not. Do yourself a favor and watch this guy play if you haven't seen him yet. Could win "sixth-man" if he stays on the bench.

Falling Star: Donyell Marshall - Donyell used to be the Marshall of the 3-point line, but he is 35 and it's starting to show. I think he will be OK to stretch a defense coming off the bench, but his speed and defense have dramatically declined.

3. Toronto Raptors
Everyone is talking about the duo of Chris Bosh and Jermaine O' Neal and with good reason, but lets not forget about the duo of Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker. Calderon can do a little bit of everything and Parker continues to be grossly underrated as he plays very solid on-the-ball defense and can create shots for others very well. O'Neal is going to bolster a defense that already boasts Bosh and Jamario Moon's shot blocking abilities. Bargnani and the rest of the bench need to prove they can ball, or this team will always be floating in the middle of the Atlantic Division.

Team MVP: Jose Calderon - I know what you're thinking, what about Bosh. If Bosh goes down they have O'Neal and Moon. If Calderon goes down, they have no one. He is a great point guard and if he falls, so will the team.

Rising Star: Jamario Moon - He is like a young Kenyon Martin. He runs, dunks and defends. This year he needs to learn what I call Martin's Law. You can't just block shots, you need to defend on the ball. That lesson made Kenyon Martin an All-NBA defender multiple times. Most high-flyers are content with swatting shots, Martin is a rare breed, and Moon could be too.

Falling Star: None - The reason this team does not have a falling star is because they don't have stars. There are some older players who have been below average their whole career and they have young unproven players. Scary looking bench.

4. New Jersey Nets
I don't care I am picking them to finish fourth, this is going to be a fun team to watch. I absolutely love Devin Harris. He is the quickest player in the league as far as breaking down one-on-one defense. Vince Carter still is fun to watch, though he is declining and after that they have a lot of good, young talent. The problem is it is all good, and nothing great beyond Harris and Carter. The defense should be better with the addition of Keyon Dooling and Jarvis Hayes and Josh Boone and Sean Williams cleaning up down low. Yi Jianlian could break out after showing promise last year, but they just don't have the experience with each other yet.

Team MVP: Devin Harris - This is a guard that will defend, create shots for others and break ankles all day taking it to the rim. He is quietly one of the best point guards in the league, and I would say the best in the Atlantic Division.

Rising Star: Chris-Douglas Roberts - As I have said before, I don't like throwing this out to rookies, but this guy has a glass ceiling. He can be as good as he wants on both ends of the floor as soon as he wants. If he is focused and working hard, he will be starting really soon.

Falling Star: Bobby Simmons - It is hard for me to say this since he is a former Buck, but at 28, he seems lost. Sometimes he is in shape, sometimes he isn't. Most nights he shoots more than he should and is uninterested on defense. He is throwing it all away.

5. New York Knicks
Well, they don't have Isaiah Thomas so that is exciting. They have Mike D' Antoni on the sidelines so they will TRY to be exciting on offense. Their two "beasts" down low Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph are terrible at defense. Fans can take faith that guys like David Lee, Nate Robinson and Wilson Chandler are going to bust it on a nightly basis. It's hard to even write about a team that just doesn't care all that much. Getting rid of Randolph, Curry and Stephon Marbury would be a huge breath of fresh air for this team, but that won't happen. All I can say is enjoy any win they might get, because they will be few and far between.

Team MVP: Nate Robinson - Thats right people. He defends as best he can with his size and he gives the fans a show every night, on a team this bad, that means you're the MVP. I would say Jamal Crawford, but he looks less interested with every passing preseason game. I hope he turns it around.

Rising Star: David Lee - When Lee is on the floor, Randolph becomes much better. Lee stretches the floor, hits the glass and brings some speed to the front court. Too bad he can't answer the defensive woes.

Falling Star: Stephon Marbury - He is $20.8 million of headaches and lack of hustle. Even when he is at his best, he is a two guard, not a point guard. The offense can't get in a rhythm because he looks for his own shot before his teammates. Fat contract and skinny production equals long year.

So the Atlantic Division is going to be awesome when Boston and Philly play each other, but other than that, not a whole lot is there. I think the Nets will put on fun games, but this division just is not as interesting as the Midwest or Southeast. But thats OK, because we are getting ready to head West. Stay tuned for the Northwest.

Bye-bye Brenly?

I guess this is what I get for enjoying the managerial foibles of the Milwaukee Brewers.

One of their top candidates to replace Dale Sveum is none other than the best color analyst in baseball, the Chicago Cubs' own Bob Brenly.

Personally, if I was BB, I wouldn't touch that job with a 10-foot pole even though it provides a classic good news/bad news scenario.

Bad news first: No CC. No Sheets. No closer. No Prince? Rickie Weeks, yes. Bill Hall, yes. Eric Gagne, yes.

Good news: No chance for a classic Brew Crew collapse.

Losing BB would be a sad day for those of us who enjoy the snarky/analytical remarks of Brenly, who like his predecessor Steve Stone (who wasn't as much of a pompous douche as he is now) was willing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the state of the Cubs.

Ask Alfonso Soriano. Remember this?

"You can throw a dart at the visitors dugout and find a better defensive outfielder than Alfonso Soriano."

I do.

But the more pressing issue here isn't finding a better defensive outfielder than Fonzie or finding a better gig for BB. It's finding a replacement once BB leaves. You know he's been itching for a managerial gig. I know he's been itching for a managerial gig. Let the man move on and then we can move on with our lives.

At least we'll have Len.

So let's run down the candidates?

1. Mark Grace
  • Pros: He's got ties to the franchise and he's been great in Arizona and on FOX.
  • Cons: He'd take the quality tail away from me in Wrigleyville.
2. Rick Sutcliffe
  • Pros: He's got an awesome beard and can provide a great point of view from a pitchers standpoint.
  • Cons: He scares away the love of my life, Erin Andrews.
3. Eric Karros
  • Pros: He was likable when he was on the '03 Cubs and does a kick-ass job on FOX.
  • Cons: He's a true Dodger and that would just remind me of the suck job the Cubs did against Los Angeles' original team.
4. Gary Matthews, Sr.
  • Pros: He was a fan favorite and currently works with one of baseball's best minds, Philadelphia's Harry Kalas.
  • Cons: He worked under Dusty Baker, so that means he knows nothing about baseball.
5. Luis C. Medina
  • Pros: He's a baseball purist. He's young, full of insight and would be willing to work for cheap.
  • Cons: Is still in college, currently working as the Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Egyptian and is the Godchild of Sports Blogging. He won't be available until May, 2009.
6. Brian Feldt
  • Pros: He's forgotten more baseball than Dusty Baker knows.
  • Cons: He's a Cardinals fan and has yet to blog for TBDS.
7. Stile Smith
  • Pros: Would fit under the minority hiring act for hiring someone who has a learning disability.
  • Cons: Also is a Cardinals fan, which was a result of his learning disability.

The Big Dead Half Minute

This is what happens when I have fun in class.

Here is a story done by Brian Feldt about Missouri State's quarterback.

Breaking up a 97-win team, Pt. 2

Lou Piniella's kicking out whoever sucks. That's how he rolls.

Earlier I detailed the ideas of a certain blogger who wrote an epic tale about re-working the Chicago Cubs. However, he retooled the Cubs with a similar payroll and somehow ended up with worse players than with what the team started with.

Not cool.

So I've decided that I can do a better job of retooling the Cubs and make them not suck as much as this projected team. And I'll do it in less than 500 words. I guarantee it.

And away we go.

Catcher: Geovany Soto. Why? Because he's the rookie of the year and hit .285 with 23 home runs and 86 runs batted in. Back him up with Henry Blanco and you've got a solid catching tandem. Even if Blanco doesn't hit .292 off the bench, he's still better than Koyie Hill.

Word Count: 50 words.

First Base: Derrek Lee. If you can trade Lee for Matt Cain, I'd take it. But the Giants aren't that stupid and if they were then the Cubs could take the millions they'd save and throw some cash at a better option than Aubrey Huff. Mark Teixeira, anyone?

Word Count: 46 words.

Second base: Mark DeRosa. DeRo had a career-year and hit the only post-season homer for the Cubs. It's nice to show up for playoff games when you're the favorite to win the whole damn thing. Unless Chase Utley becomes available, the only other option would be trading for Brian Roberts and moving DeRo to right or to first if the Cubs trade D. Lee.

Word Count: 62 words

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal. This is one of the few spots where the Cubs can make a true upgrade. As good as Ryan Theriot was last season, the Cubs would be better off using him sparingly in a Super-Utility role. Furcal is the true lead-off man the team has been missing forever. Throw some cash at him and get him in Cubbie-blue pinstripes already.

Word Count: 62 words.

Third base: Aramis Ramirez.

Word Count: 2 words.

Left field: Alfonso Soriano. Sure, I'd like to move Sori, but who would be dumb enough to take that contract? Is that the Dodgers I hear calling? Manny Ramirez is as good as gone and the Cubs should do everything in their power to get him on the North Side. That will only happen if Sori gets shipped out. It's your move, Jim.

Word Count: 61 words.

Center field: Milton Bradley. Here's a haiku: Left-handed batter/ he's crazy but really cool/ pick him up for cheap.

Word Count: 17 words.

Right field: Adam Dunn. I was this close to going with Ken Griffey Jr., but the Cubs need Dunn (especially if they can't land Manny). He's going to strike out a lot, I know that. But he's also going to hit 40 home runs, drive in 100 runs and be on-base almost 40% of the time.

Word Count: 54 words.

Starting Pitchers: Carlos Zambrano. Rich Harden. Ted Lilly. Jake Peavy. Jason Marquis. The First three are set in stone and so is No. 5 because no one wants him. The Cubs need to land Peavy like I need to land a date (seriously, I spend too much time blogging). Trade whatever prospects necessary including: Sean Marshall, Tyler Colvin, Kevin Hart, Micah Hoffpauir, Felix Pie, Ronny get the point.

Word Count: 65 words.

Relief Pitchers: Kerry Wood. Carlos Marmol. Jeff Samardzija. Neal Cotts. Angel Guzman. Chad Gaudin. Brian Shouse. Re-sign Wood. Don't question it, just do it. Hand him a blank check and let Woody do his thing. Bring in LOOGY Brian Shouse, mostly because he throws that weird sidearm kind of way. No need to tweak something that wasn't terrible unless K-Rod throws himself at you.

Word Count: 60 words.

Bench: Reed Johnson. Ryan Theriot. Mike Fontenot. Scott Podsednik. Blanco. This is self explanatory: Pods has OF speed. Johnson can play all three OF spots. Theriot and Fontenot got the infield locked down and Blanco can catch and play first. I could write some filler text because I know that I am going to be in under 3,500 words. Blah! Blah! Blah! Bleh! Bleh! Bleh! You should really read my stuff at That shameless cross-promotion was brought to you by your local Chevrolet dealer. Trust the car that Lou trusts. Trust a Chevrolet.

Word Count: 93 words.

Time to add it all up and let's see what we got: 93 + 60 + 65 + 54 + 17 + 61 + 2 + 62 + 62 + 46 + 50. That equals a grand total of 572 words.

Oh man, I went 72 words over. Maybe I shouldn't have gotten so cocky with that bench section.

The point is that if not for the filler text, I could have made it under the 500 word mark.

Oh yeah in total this post is 813 words long.

Breaking up a 97-win team, Pt. 1

I'm sorry Derrek, your Gold Glove defense and steady bat are no longer welcome here.

This is what happens when failure occurs.

People jump off the deep end in search of a quick fix. Why? Because no one is happy with themselves anymore.

It makes no sense. Sure, the Cubs choked. They did it badly and on a national stage with Dick Stockton presiding over the death of a nation (and good ratings in future playoff rounds).

But it doesn't mean you have to blow it up and start all over. This blog comes close. What it takes him 3,500 words to write, I will attempt to do in 500 or less.

But that will come later, for now, enjoy this teaser.

"We'd take that, of course, but the lesson is: when the Yankees were winning titles, they did it through putting a fine team on the field that had, in large part, been developed in their own system, complemented with good role players (Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill), instead of simply trying to put an All-Star team on the field. It is worth noting that as soon as Alex Rodriguez left the Mariners, they had several of the best seasons in their history -- and as soon as he signed with the Rangers, they had three of the worst in theirs. Following his signing with the Yankees, they ended a run of appearing in six World Series in eight years -- they haven't been there since. Now, I'm not blaming A-Rod for the Yankees' failures; the point is that simply salivating after someone because he's on a free agent list and puts up gaudy statistics doesn't make a team a winner."

Great point! Who needs a career OPS of .967? How about 553 career home runs, most of which came while he was as a shortstop. Not this team. Not any team. I don't know why the Yankees have him around anymore, maybe they should just trade him to the White Sox for the Grinderball 101 Instruction Manual.

"I think it's time for the Cubs to say goodbye to Derrek Lee. D-Lee is a class act and has given us five (mostly) good years. He will be 34 next September, has two years left on his deal, and a year from now I suspect will be almost untradeable. With that, unload him to the Giants. D-Lee is a native of northern California (Sacramento); the Giants seem to like getting hold of older players who still have something left in the tank; and they can afford him. In return, I'd like Matt Cain and lefty reliever Alex Hinshaw. Don't slot Cain into the rotation yet, though; I'll explain why later."

Another great idea! Let's trade our All-Star, Gold Glove first baseman and one of the two hitters that showed up for this postseason for a guy who would fit in as the Cubs' No. 3 starter - who by the way you wouldn't start. Genius! Let's see how this plays out.

"To replace Lee, it will require a trade and a free agent signing; I'm going to suggest a platoon, and there's a reason for that. First, acquire Aubrey Huff from the Orioles."

Let's assume that the Cain-for-Lee deal went down and the Cubs wouldn't have a first baseman. The first thing I'm doing isn't trading for Aubrey Huff. If I'm trading with the Baltimore Orioles it's for their SECOND BASEMAN Brian Roberts, not their defensively-retarded designated hitter.

I won't even go into the idea of acquiring Luke Scott to play right field and signing Kevin Millar. How many games did the Orioles win this season? Not enough to make the playoffs, that's for sure!

But wait, there's more...

"Jason Marquis, who was the best fifth starter in the game last year, will, under my scenario, bid a fond farewell to the Cubs and re-emerge in his hometown, New York, for either the Mets or Yankees, both of whom could use an inning-eater like Marquis. In return for one of the Big Apple teams taking over the $9.875 million left on Marquis' contract, all the Cubs require is to get a face-saving prospect or two."

Nobody wants Jason Marquis! Not the Mets. Not the Yankees. Not his parents. Not Dusty Baker's little league team. No one. And if by the grace of God that somebody wants to give you something for the Grand Marquis, what about that fifth starter spot that is empty because you're not going to start Cain and you already traded Sean Marshall for Luke Scott and Aubrey Huff.

"And that leaves the fifth spot open. But you're saying, having read my epic saga so far, "Wait! Didn't you trade for Matt Cain 17 paragraphs and a blockquote ago?"

Yes, I did, but Cain isn't going to pitch a single inning in a Cub uniform. Instead, he's headed to the Marlins, along with Felix Pie (told ya I'd get to that!) in exchange for Ricky Nolasco.

Finally, getting Nolasco back, just at the time he's probably headed to his peak years (he's 26 in December) would right the massive wrong Jim Hendry did when he sent him away for Juan Pierre three winters ago."

Yes, the same Ricky Nolasco that the Cubs traded for Juan Pierre. And why does this make sense? Because Nolasco isn't the best guy, instead, he's the "right" guy.

This is baseball, not "Make Up To Break Up." Ugh!

"I'm not going to get into specific dollar amounts, but just looking over what I've done here, I have removed $13 million of Derrek Lee's deal (and Bob Howry's $3 million and the $1.2 million Daryle Ward earned is gone too); that's $17.2 million gone, probably eaten up with the additional money paid to Johnson, Edmonds, Dempster and Wood (above and beyond what those men made in 2008, a total of $15.5 million -- it'll take about twice that to retain those four). In addition, subtracting the $11.5 million that was due to Kosuke Fukudome in 2009 and Jason Marquis' $9.875 million should cover Aubrey Huff's $8 million and whatever is paid to Luke Scott and Ricky Nolasco. That might make this roster cost virtually the same as the 2008 team, something that ought to be manageable given the uncertain state of the sale of the team and the overall economy.

And that, I believe, is how you build a team. Not "blowing it up", not throwing multiple millions of dollars at a free-agent dartboard, but carefully, taking advantage of the assets you already have to keep a team performing at a high level, and take it to the next one."

Long story short: Same payroll. Worst product. GENIUS!

I'm done. I've got a story to write about college football. And I promise it will be less than 3,500 words.