Author Archives: nicklicare

In Case You Didn’t Know…

-The Boston Red Sox begin a three game series with the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa starts the day just one game ahead of the Sox. A crucial series to say the least.

-Donovan Mcnabb and the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) march into Irving, Texas to take on T.O., Tony Romo, Adam”Don’t Call Me Pacman” Jones, and the Dallas Cowboys (1-0). Both teams are coming off of gigantic Week 1 wins. Monday’s matchup should see its fair share of scoring and exciting plays, and Dallas is favored at +3.5.

-Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost has been fired after the Brew Crew were swept 4 games to 0 by the Philadelphia Phillies.  In the interim, third base coach Dale Sveum will take over in efforts to right the ship. Milwaukee has lost 11 of their last 14 games. Yikes.

– Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano threw a no-hitter on Sunday in his first start after suffering rotator cuff tendinitis. It was Z-Pac’s first no-no and his first win since August 21. The Cubs starting rotation of a healthy Zambrano, Rich Harden, and Ryan Dempster is atop the list for best in the National League, and possibly all of baseball.

-The NFL has downgraded referee Ed Hochuli after he admitted to blowing a call during the Chargers-Broncos game. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to officiate playoff games or any games at all. Hochuli is best known for his impressive physical stature, so we’ll see if a possible demotion leads to some negative side effects.

-Yankees catcher Jorge Posada thinks pitcher Joba Chamberlain should return to the bullpen instead of remaining in the starting rotation. Of course, Posada is talking about next year because, well, the Yankees aren’t going to make the playoffs. But I guess it’s the thought that counts… In other news, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada talks bad-mouths former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez in reference to the Sox-Yanks brawl in the 2003 AL Championship series: “I thought he was going to hit me in the head with a bat, after we had the fight and he pushed Don Zimmer. It was ridiculous. I mean, he throws at Karim Garcia because he’s losing the game. I mean, there’s no class.”

The Show Must Go On

On Monday afternoon, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick announced that MVP quarterback Tom Brady would undergo season-ending knee surgery as a result of a low hit delivered by Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard.

While this comes as a devastating blow, given New England’s hopes of riding into the Super Bowl on Brady’s shoulders, little positive light has been shed on the grim situation. Almost instantaneously, thoughts of now-starter Matt Cassel leading the Pats to the big game have been written off.

Though it would be naive to expect Cassel–who hasn’t started a game since high school–to step in and do what the best quarterback of the modern era has done three times, it would be more than naive to expect anyone but Tom Brady to be Tom Brady.

I’m not saying that Matt Cassel and the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl, but I’m not saying they aren’t either. If anything, the New England Patriots, without Tom Brady, are an above-average football team in a weak conference. Whether spoiled fans accustomed to winning choose to believe it or not, the Patriots are still alive.

And while the thought of an inexperienced Cassel leading the team to a Super Bowl victory is far from conceivable to most, it serves function as a harsh lesson to spoiled Patriots fans.

Prior to Sunday, the thought of losing Tom Brady was always seen as something that could happen, but in ‘reality’, wouldn’t.

It’s time to wake up.

The focus of the 2008 season has conjured a whole new meaning. The concepts of completing the task at hand, believing in one another, and discovering the true meaning of the word ‘team’, are at the summit of the proverbial mountain and will truly test the mettle of every player for the next 15 weeks.

The season should not be written off, because even if the Patriots only go on to win a meager 8 games as predicted, essentially, they will have strengthened a bond that appeared to break rather than bend in Week 1.

If you ask me, battling through an 8-win season without the league’s MVP is a far greater accomplishment than coasting into the Super Bowl with him and failing to come out on top.

Russian Roulette

This video made the rounds on SportsCenter a little over a week ago and is just too good to pass up. During the ATP Masters, Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny makes a poor return shot, and ends up punishing himself. He went on to win the match, but only after being cleaned up by a medic.

Priming the Playoffs

With the regular season behind us, the 2008 NHL playoffs get underway on Wednesday and Thursday night. The matchups look to be some of the most exciting in recent memory. Let’s take a look:

Montreal Canadiens (1) vs. Boston Bruins (8)-

The numbers favor the Canadiens in 23 of 30 head-to-head playoffs series’, as well as a perfect 8-0 record during the regular season against the Bruins. However, Boston has been playing with a bee under their bonnet for the entirety of the regular season. Unfortunately, though, they’ll be without key players Chuck Kobasew (tibia) and most likely Patrice Bergeron (concussion). If the Bruins wish to turn their luck around against Montreal, they’ll have to play rough-and-tough hockey in order to slow down one of the game’s fastest and least-physical teams. Boston can battle with the best of them, but injuries and lack of depth could prove fatal against one of the NHL’s most well-rounded clubs.
Pick: Montreal in 5.

New Jersey Devils (4) vs. New York Rangers (5)-

Another great battle in store when two of the game’s best goalies go head-to-head. Matchups between the 4 and 5 seeds are always great, and this should be no exception. The Devils come in with a better record and a much more established postseason goalie in Brodeur — though Lundqvist is no slouch — but the Rangers will look to capitalize, using the experience of their big-game players. Count on Brendan Shanahan, Scott Gomez, Jaromir Jagr, Sean Avery, and the always-clutch Chris Drury to get things done. In 9 games against New Jersey this year, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist sports a record of 7-0-1, with a 1.12 GAA. Talk about having someone’s number!
Pick: New York in 7.

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs. Ottawa Senators (7)-

It’s always fun when two of the leagues most highly-touted offenses get together. The Penguins have been on a roll since goalie Marc-Andre Fleury returned from the DL, and captain Sidney Crosby finally looks to be in good health.The Senators, however, are a bit of a different story. After starting the season 13-0 and being heavy favorites for the finals, Ottawa’s injuries and goalie controversy has hurled them into a downward spiral. In the last 30 games of the season, the Senators were a miserable 11-15-4. With captain Daniel Alfredsson out for the playoffs, the boys from Ottawa could be in over their heads. Look for the Penguins to thrive off of Ottawa head coach Bryan Murray’s comments, which suggested the Penguins intentionally lost their last game of the season in order to play his stumbling club.
Pick: Pittsburgh in 6.

Washington Capitals (3) vs.Philadelphia Flyers (8)-

Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin lead the NHL in nearly every scoring category, finishing with 65 goals and 112 points. In the remaining games of the regular season, Ovechkin’s Capitals leapfrogged their way to the number 3 seed and don’t intend on looking back. They certainly have a tough matchup against the revamped Flyers, who have received exceptional play from Mike Richards, Daniel Briere, Martin Biron, and Vaclav Prospal as of late, but the ice and momentum favors the Capitals and their star. If it seems like Philly’s key to success rests in their ability to keep Ovechkin at bay, think again. Even if they manage to somehow contain the NHL’s best player, they’ll have the brick wall that is Cristobal Huet, playmaker Nicklas Backstrom, and budding superstar Mike Green to deal with.
Pick: Capitals in 5.

Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Nashville Predators (8)-

With 54 wins, the Detroit Red Wings have established themselves as the best regular season hockey team. But do they have what it takes to go deep into the playoffs? Well, maybe not deep, but they should make it out of the first round with no trouble. If they don’t, chances are, you can find coach Mike Babcock’s resume on Monster.com. It is true, though, that you never know what you’ll get in net with the Red Wings. But Nashville also has some goalie issues. Chris Mason has been the starter for most of the season — an inconsistent one at that — but backup Dan Ellis has been keeping Nashville’s net warm with 2 shutouts and 4 wins in the last 6 games. It will be interesting to see how this dilemma pans out. Based on sheer talent alone, this matchup has to go to the men from Motor City. Even if the Wings have some trouble between the pipes, Nashville’s going to need a string of great games to pull of a huge upset.
Pick: Detroit in 5.

Anaheim Ducks (4) vs. Dallas Stars (5)-

When Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer and Teem Selanne decided to come out of retirement nearly half-way through the season, their goal was clear: Win Lord Stanley’s Cup for the second year in a row. As the Ducks look to repeat, the Stars hope that their record of 5-3 against Anaheim can motivate them to get past the first round, something they’ve failed to do for the past 5 seasons. With Chris Pronger back from his suspension, expect this to be a very physical, Western Conference-style series. If the Ducks intend on moving on, they’ll have to play with a mix of focus and force. The series, however, could shift in an instant if Dallas’ Steve Ott gets under Anaheim’s skin, forcing them to take stupid penalties. Look for both Chris Pronger and George “Who wants a mustache ride?” Parros to keep the Stars in check.
Pick: Anaheim in 6.

San Jose Sharks (2) vs. Calgary Flames (7)-

Most likely, this will be the most physical and hard-hitting series of them all. The Sharks are recently coming off of a game against Dallas which saw 160 penalty minutes and plenty of good battles. Momentum combined with Flames head coach Mike Keenan’s comments about the physical approach his club will take, should be more than enough to get this series going. After acquiring defenseman Brian Campbell at the trade deadline, San Jose went on a 18-0-2 run to finish off the season — but don’t count the Flames out just yet. After all, they have quite a team of their own with Jarome Iginla, Kristian Huselius, Dion Phaneuf, and Mikka Kiprusoff. When it comes down to it, though, the Sharks are a team that does nearly everything well. Ultimately, their multifacetedness will prove victorious.
Pick: San Jose in 7.

Minnesota Wild (3) vs. Colorado Avalanche (6)-

In terms of talent, the Minnesota Wild have more than what it takes to advance beyond the first round. What they also have, though, is trouble scoring with that talent. Even with snipers Brian Rolston and Marian Gaborik, it takes quite a bit to get this club going, which could lead to their demise. Colorado, on the other hand, will look to generate offense from Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, and Paul Stastny, all of whom are recently healthy and should be fresh for this series. Right now, it looks like Forsberg’s decision to come back to the NHL with only a few weeks left could loom large. The Avalanche’s rock-solid offense and goalie Jose Theodore should be able to take the Wild out of the playoff equation if they stick to their guns.
Pick: Colorado in 6.

Eastern Conference champions: Pittsburgh Penguins
Western Conference champions: San Jose Sharks
Stanley Cup champions: San Jose Sharks

 

Paper Tigers

On paper, the Detroit Tigers are the best team in all of baseball.

Six games into the 2008 season, though, the Tigers carry a Scarlet Letter-like record of 0-6, and are the only team without a win.

Prior to the season, many chose Detroit to win the World Series, thanks in large to their offseason acquisitions of Miguel Cabrera, Jacque Jones, and Edgar Renteria.

Although it’s too early to say exactly what this team will end up looking like, there’s no doubt that Jim Leyland’s club has some work to do.

In six losses — three to the Royals and three to the White Sox — the Tigers have been outscored by a total of 38-15. Even with the most potent lineup in baseball, it couldn’t be more obvious that Detroit is mired in a run-scoring slump.

If the Tigers wish to get on track, they’ll need the following:

Avoid going 0-10 or 1-9

Since the expansion in 1995, no team in baseball has made the playoffs after starting the season off with either record.

Curtis Granderson back in the lineup

As the Tigers’ natural leadoff hitter and an established 20-20-20-20 threat, Granderson is a foundation for scoring runs, and lead the team in 2007 with 122. According to GM Dave Dambrowski, Granderson’s broken hand has healed enough to allow him to resume baseball activities, and is expected to rejoin the lineup in the next 10-14 days.

Edgar Renteria hitting down in the order

With Renteria down, the rest of the team benefits from his ability to drive in clutch RBI’s. For now, though, he’s the logical choice as the team’s leadoff hitter, due to Granderson’s injury. After that, we should see him slide to the 7 spot.

Placido Polanco regaining his confidence

In 2007, the second baseman had 200 hits and hit at the .342 clip, the highest average on the team. In 23 at bats this year, Polanco has 2 hits and a .087 batting average, a number that looks better as an ERA rather than a batting average. For the final game against the White Sox, manager Jim Leyland sent a message to Polanco by starting Ramon Santiago in his place.

Miguel Cabrera adjusting to American League Pitching

In six games, the offseason’s biggest acquisition has only 2 hits in 18 at bats. He did have a home run in his first game, but it’s been all downhill from there. Most likely, this is just an adjustment period for the young stud, and sooner than later, he’ll feel comfortable hitting against pitchers in a new league. And when he does, there’s really no telling what the limit is for him in terms of production.

A bullpen

With flame-thrower Joel Zumaya hurt once again — no, not another Guitar Hero injury — and out until midseason, the Tigers have little to rely on. It was thought that their hopes for getting to closer Todd Jones in the 9th inning would rest on the shoulders of Fernando Rodney, but that’s not really an option given the fact that he, too, is out with a shoulder problem.

The offensive shortcomings, coupled with unreliable pitching is devastating to say the least. Before the season began, it looked as if the above-average lineup and the decent pitching staff were a match destined for instant stardom.

Six losses in as many games, and the signs seem to be pointing elsewhere.

Ocho Cinco, Not so Sano

For those of you who haven’t heard, Cincinatti Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson had a bad day.

Upon hearing head coach Marvin Lewis’s comments that the team is “ready to move on” without him, let’s just say things got weird.

And I mean real weird.

Here, in full detail is Johnson’s  interview with Brian Kinney.

Anal-yze This

Houston Astros second baseman Kaz Matsui continues to battle with a bothersome butthole.

(Say that three times fast.)

After dealing with an ongoing hemmorhoid problem, things only got worse for Matsui when he was diagnosed with a case of anal fissures.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the condition — which is probably a good thing — anal fissures are cracks or tears on the anus skin. They are a result of a strained anus and generally lead to bleeding and post-defecation pain.

(If you thought Roger Clemens’ bloody butt saga was bad, think again.)

On Monday, Matsui underwent surgery to repair his condition.

And although Dr.Eric Haas at The Methodist Hospital rests assured that the surgery was a great success, I’d bet the house that a bulldozer full of rice and the quest to perfecting the head-first slide are the real key to Kaz’s recovery.