Unrestricted View

"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Newsflash: Kobe's Pretty Damn Good

So, let me get this right, after coming back from eight down in the fourth quarter, Smush Parker steals the ball from Steve Nash, gets it to Devon George who pushes it to Kobe Bryant. Kobe makes a head fake left, going right and rainbowing a shot up over the Phoenix Suns defender into the hoop, tying the game for the Los Angeles Lakers with 0.7 seconds to go in regulation. Overtime here we come.

Then, in the closing seconds of overtime, Steve Nash gets tied up with two Lakers and a jumpball gets called. On the ensuing jumpball, the 6-8 Luke Walton easily won the tip over the 6-3 Steve Nash, and the ball gets to, you guessed it, Kobe Bryant who proceeds to casually hit a 15 foot jumper from just right of the key. As time runs out. Game Over. 99-98. Lakers up 3-1. Wow.

Yep, Kobe Bryant is pretty damn good. And on both plays, the ball got taken away from the alleged NBA MVP Nash. And into the hands of Mr. Bryant who only tied and won the game for the home team Lakers and send them to Phoenix with only one win needed out of the next three games. Unreal. If the vote occured tonight, and involved the postseason, Kobe would undoubtedly have that MVP trophy packed away. Not to take away from what Nash accomplished in the regular season, but from what we saw on the court tonight, there was simply one player who stood tall about the rest. And he's working on getting that Clippers/Lakers series started sooner than later.

Phil Jackson should recieve an equal amount of praise from the NBA fans, getting Kobe to share the ball once the playoffs started, allowing the entire Laker starting five into double figures (in Game 1, at least). Devon George hit some big threes for the Purple and Gold this afternoon, going 3-5 from the arc, hitting two big ones in a row when the Lakers were down eight. Lamar Odom looks like a new man in the paint, and lead the team in scoring with 25 and grabbed 8 rebounds. Kwame Brown went for 12 points and 10 boards. Smush Parker, well he did miss 10 of his first 11 shots, but he banged that 12th one in, a bigtime three late in overtime, and made the biggest steal of the game at the end of regulation. Did I mention Kobe, Lamar and Smush all had to play with 5 fouls?

What a game. This is what the NBA is all about.

Oh yeah, and the Chicago Bulls tied the series with the Miami Heat 2-2, holding on to win Game 4 93-87. Of course, it helped (just a bit) that Shaq got clipped with his fourth foul in the first half of the game. But seeing Kirk Hinrich (21), Ben Gordon (23) and Andres Nocioni (24) all go over 20 points was sweet. Hinrich also added nine dimes. Nice. But, I'm not holding my breath here, knowing the Heat is the better team, but I'm glad to see the young Bulls hold off the Heat one more night and make this thing a series. Can they win again? The series heads back to Miami for Game Five on Tuesday night. I'm thinking Pat Riley is going to have his boys ready to play. But, if Scott Skiles can somehow get his kids up to the task, I, for one, will be truly amazed.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

O' What a Glorious Day!

The past 24 hours have been great to me and other Packer fans across the nation. As everyone knows by know, Brett Favre has made the decision to give it one more go around. On top of that, Charles Woodson has agreed to terms with the Packers on a 7 year deal.

I know Woodson may not be the Pro Bowl calibur player he once was, but he's an above average corner and a definite upgrade over Ahmad Carroll. If you don't recognize Carroll's name it's probably because I didn't attach the phrase, "holding - #28 of the defense" before it.

I'm cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season. I realize the Pack was 4-12 last year but I felt like they played much better than that. Even with all of the injuries and Favre's 29 interceptions, the team managed to stay competitive in nearly every game. They lost 5 games by 3 points of less and another 3 by a touchdown or less. This was all with a 4th string running back, a decimated recieveing corps, and a makeshift offensive line.

I believe a healthy Packer team in '05 could have won 9-10 games. Now bring in Woodson, Pickett, Manuel, a full year of Gardner, and Hawk/Ferguson/Williams and I think you've got a team that will surprise folks with their talent.

I'll have more about the Packers after the draft. I need a chance to see who's coming in and whether or not Javon Walker will be back with the team. If he's traded it should be sometime before Sunday.

Hopefully, I won't have to sit through another season like this.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

NBA Playoffs Get Going

I guess LeBron isn't all that nervous after all, as many analysts said out there (including ESPN and TNT). I mean, 32 points on 12 of 27 with 11 assists and 11 boards. Yep, the ol' triple-double. He also played all 48 minutes (well, he actually sat the final 0.3 seconds of the first quarter). And, much more importantly, his Clevland Cavaliers won Game 1 over the Washington Wizards. Nice.

Also impressive in the NBA Playoffs was the Lakers performance in their loss to the Phoenix Suns. Wait, they lost, how is that impressive? Well, the 7-21 from the field that Mr. Kobe Bryant put up was less than spectacular, but the fact that all five LA starters ended up in double figures was indeed noteworthy. Lamar Odom owned the paint as well. Phil Jackson had a great game plan and they executed it just fine, well, except Kobe. Who would have thought that Kobe would be the one who couldn't put it in the hoop? Of course it didn't help the man out that he got smacked in the head hard enough to put a golf ball sized knot on his head and no foul was called with about a minute to go. Seriously, it was one of the worst missed calls in recent memory. Guess that's home court for ya. 107-102 Suns, with Tim Thomas perhaps being the most impressive with his 22 points and 15 rebounds. That and the Suns shooting 32 of 35 from the line.

Dallas rolled over the Grizz and the Pistons made the Bucks look like a high school team. Well, not as bad as the Spurs made the Kings look, but almost. The Pacers also got lucky and edged out the Nets. Much of it thanks to the poor perimeter shooting by Vince Carter. OK, not just him. The Nets went 1-15 from the 3-pt line. Not good. But, it definitely looks like when VC's not in the paint, he's just average. Inside that rectangle though, and he's the man. Now watch him come out and bang in six threes next game.

I was happy to see the Bulls hang with the Heat as well, but I'm realistic enough to know this is the Heat's Series. Still, it's nice to see the youngsters in Chicago play that well. They could probably beat the Nuggets. Not to take anything away from the Clippers, because it's nice to see Sam Cassell and Co. finally win a game for LA's "second-rate" team. I'm rooting for the Clips all the way. Well, at least to get out of the first round.

I'm sure the Bulls are glad to see Haslem out for Game 2 due to the throwing of his mouthpiece in the direction of an official. Not sure if it was completely warranted, but hey, the Bulls will take anything they can get. Of course, this could just make Shaq Daddy mad and go for 40, but I'll have to see that to believe it.

OK. That's about all the Hoops I can muster for one day. Back to Baseball for me.


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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Over/Underperforming Teams

Back in the 70's Bill James created what he calls the Pythagorean Expectation Theory. It's simply a formula using runs scored and runs allowed to predict how many games a team should have won over the season. The theorum is good for evaluating which teams are currently over performing or underperforming based on their expected win total.

I know it's still early, but I figured I'd go ahead and run the numbers to find out just that. Listed below is the difference between each teams actual wins and expected number of wins. A positive number indicates a team is overperforming while a negative number indicates a team is underperforming. For example, San Francisco has won 2.61 more games than their runs scored/runs allowed suggest they should have won.

SF (2.61)
Bos (1.76)
Hou (1.51)
Cin (1.43)
Balt (1.17)
Oak (1.07)
Phi (0.84)
CWS (0.84)
TB (0.81)
NYM (0.75)
Milw (0.70)
LAA (0.40)
StL (0.27)
ChC (0.16)
Col (0.14)
Minn (-0.04)
Clev (-0.35)
KC (-0.48)
Tor (-0.52)
SD (-0.58)
Atl (-0.63)
Det (-0.75)
Was (-0.81)
Sea (-0.90)
Tex (-1.19)
Ari (-1.50)
Pitt (-1.59)
LAD (-1.62)
Fla (-2.21)
NYY (-2.25)

For more on the Pythagorean Expectation Theorum, check out this site.

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More Views On Bonds

Hmmm, Matt, that picture link didn't seem to work. How about this one from 1986:

Oh, and here's one from 1992:

Early, pre-Balco SF Giants Bonds (c. 1995):

And during his record HR season of 2001:

And now, 2006:

Sorry to "steal" from your post, but I figured your point was pictures don't lie, so I thought I'd throw some in as well.

Nice to see the Braves win the Series with the Mets. And Hudson beat Glavine.


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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Evidence of Bonds' Steroid Use

Personally, I don't really care if Barry Bonds or any other players have done or still do steroids. However, I am not ingnorant enough to believe Bonds didn't knowingly use steroids. As further evidence of this, I was recently sifting through my old baseball cards and came across Barry Bonds Topps Rookie Card. You tell me if he was juicing.

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Vasquez No Hitter Broken Up

Javier Vasquez had his bid at a no-hitter broken up in the 7th by Doug Mientkiewicz's pathically wimpy check swing. The ball rolled along the third base line while Crede and Vasquez tried to will it foul, but I guess it wasn't to be. I'm sure it's typically a thrill to break up a pitcher's no-hitter, but I can't help but think Dougie Baseball feels a little bad about this one.

Overall, it's been a great day for pitchers. Tim Hudson threw a complete game that included another no-hit bid going into the 6th. His counterpart, Tom Glavine, threw 8 innings of 4 hit ball. His ERA is now a ridiculous 1.38.

Chris Carpenter allowed only two hits over 8 innings as the Cards shut out Pirates.

We're likely not done with the good pitching outings. Slated to take the mound tonight is Curt Schilling, Kevin Millwood, Joe Blanton, Brandon Webb, and Andy Petitte. I'm guessing the offensive explosions we've seen over the first two weeks are about to come to an end.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Leyland Shows Why He's the Skipper

I love it. Jimmy Leyland is not going to accept losing anymore in Detroit, and he's telling the players just that. Come out to the park to win. If you don't want to win, then don't bother coming out.
"We stunk, period," Leyland said. "Stunk, and it's not good enough. It's been going on here before, and it's not going to happen here [now]. It's not going to go on here."
Shelton did hit his ninth homer of the year, the fastest player to nine in AL history, but it wasn't enough for the Tigers, who lost the game in ugly fashion 10-2 to the Cleveland Indians. Leyland knows what he's doing. He has to get some wins for his ballclub. The attendance is already up from last year (19,126 came out for this one), but there's a long way to go to convince the Motown crowd that the Tigers are worth seeing. Especially when the Pistons make winning look quite a bit easier.

Tonight the Blue Jays go up against the Bronx Bombers in a series to see who's going to compete with the rejuvinated Boston Red Sox. Can the Big Unit get it done? I think he can, and it doesn't hurt that he's matched up against Chacin tonight. They seem to be worried about Randy in NY, but 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 16 K's isn't something to get your panties all bunched up about. We are talking Yankees here, so I'm sure they are expecting 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA out of him, but let's see how he does tonight before we flambe the lefty just yet.

Speaking of the Red Sox, did you see that walk-off by Mark Loretta? If you are saying "who?!" then you know how big that was. It was his first walk-off at any level of competition for the man. He is a career .300 hitter, but his career high for a season was 16 in '04 for the Padres. Not the "go deep" type. We're not talking Big Popi here. That made it all the better when the ball was sent high up over the Green Monster to send the Boston faithful home happy. It came after Guardado made Wily Mo Pena and Dustan Mohr look silly on two K's. Then, on a 1-2 pitch, Kevin Youkilis (again, who?) hit a grounder to second. But, instead of putting his head down in shame and walking to the dugout, he put his head down and ran like mad for first base, barely beating out the throw from the Mariners' Jose Lopez. Then came Loretta's heroics for the Red Sox 7-6 win. What a game. This is what baseball is all about.

Matt, I won't talk about last night's Mets v. Braves... Cool?

Alrighty then. I can tell you one thing for sure, Braves ERA be damned. Matt and I are definitely sky-high with Baseball Fever. The Cubs and the Braves are hanging in second place right now, and the Twins are only 1.5 games out, so we're happy. At least when Jorge Sosa isn't pitching. Or Glendon Rusch. Nice thing about April Baseball, everyone's still in it. And my bro is probably happy with the ChiSox 8-5 start, but we may never find out since he hasn't posted since the Cubs last won the Series...

I'm ready for some more baseball already. I just can't get enough.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Recapping Week 2

The most exciting day of Week 2 came on Thursday afternoon when my roommate discovered we were getting MLB Extra Innings free of charge. Much to our dismay, Time Warner took it away the very next day in a dirty, scandulous move that draws unfavorable comparisons to getting "blue-balled." I had the popcorn and 12 pack of Coors Light ready to go for the Twins/Yankees game only to be told "You Are Not Currently a Subscriber To This Channel." Bastards! I wasn't a subscriber yesterday either but that didn't stop you from toying with my heart like the little digital cable tease that you are, did it? Oh well. I'll let bygones be bygones. Now about week 2.

* Chris Shelton continues to make major league pitchers call him Big Papa. He now has 9 homers in only 12 games, which is the second highest total in history for the first 2 weeks of baseball. Yet when you Google his name you get more pictures of Chris Shelton from The Apprentice than you do of the ballplayer.

* Not to be outdone by a no-namer from Detroit, Albert Pujols hit 3 yesterday and another one tonight to tie Shelton for the league lead.

* As of right now, the Mets appear like they may be the team to bet in the NL. Their 3-6 hitters can match up with anybody in the league. Reyes will be a terror on the basepaths. The only regrettable thing about Jose is that he's not on base more often to take advantage of his speed. I'm going to wait before I jump on the Mets' bandwagon though. I still don't like the rotation. Outside of Pedro there's not much there. Glavine's okay but he's certainly not a #2 guy anymore.

* The Twins managed to get back to .500. If they can stay right around even this month they should be in good shape. Their opening schedule of Toronto, Cleveland, Oakland, NYY, LA of A, and the White Sox leaves you wondering what Terry Ryan did to piss off the schedule makers.

* Graham's finding out very quickly why I called him to apologize when the Cubs signed Jacque Jones. He's currently hitting .111/.227/.278 - and he hasn't even had to face a lefty yet. Yikes!

* Orlando Hudson said a typical off day for him invloves washing clothes and watching Lifetime.

* Mark Buerhle was fined for sliding across the wet tarp during a rain delay. I guess that's the price you pay for being awesome

* Update of the Liriano Watch. Saturday he came into to clean up the mess Jesse Crain made against the Yankees. Liriano pitched 1.2 innings giving up no runs, walking one and striking out one. The Twins went on to win in the bottom of the ninth off Justin Morneau's two run single.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

The Second Coming of Santana?

There's not a thing in the world that gets Twins fans more excited than the thought of Francisco Liriano developing into Johan Santana II. Liriano was acquired from the Giants along with Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser in exchange for AJ Pierzynski. At the time, Liriano was basically just a throw in to get the deal done. What is already a lopsided trade could prove to be one of the most one-sided deals in history if Liriano continues to progress.

The brass in the Twins organization has decided to start Liriano in the bullpen this year and they appear to be treating him much the same way they did Santana. I certainly understand the plan to bring the 22 year old Liriano along slowly. Although the Twins do have a history of being to conservative with their young players. (see Jason Bartlett and Mike Cuddyer)

I hope the organization doesn't wait too long before inserting Liriano into the rotation. If that doesn't happen by the All-Star break many Twins fans will begin to grow restless. Rob Neyer commented on this in his most recent chat.

"The Twins, sensibly I think, are letting him get his feet wet before throwing him to the Sheffields (how's that for a mixed metaphor!). But if he's not in the rotation before the All-Star break, I'm rescinding my World Series prediction."

With Santana, Radke, Silva, Baker,(who looked great against the Yankees today) and Liriano, the only thing Terry Ryan would need to be afraid of is having the best rotation in the majors - including Oakland. This also gives the Twins the added benefit of being able to trade Kyle Lohse midseason. If Bronson Arroyo can bring Wily Mo Pena, surely Lohse could fetch a decent bat to help the team down the stretch run. The key is making sure the Twins are in a position to make an honest run at the playoffs. With the AL being so tough, I fear that the longer the keep Liriano on a leash, the less likely it will be for them to stay in the hunt.

This situation is something I will be keeping a close eye on all year. Thus far Liriano has lived up to the expectations plus some.

IP- 6.2
R - 0
H - 5
BB- 0
SO- 12

I'm going to try to get a running Liriano watch on the sidebar so everybody can keep track of his progress. If that doesn't happen, I'll just have to post updates whenever necessary.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ranking the Shortstops

Honus Wagner - Bill James' Top SS of All Time

I've been thinking about starting a series in which I rank the top 5 players at each position. Quite often I have an idea like this, get a couple of posts in and get bored with it. I can't promise that won't be the case here, but we'll see. I'll start with the shortstops. I'm going to do the MLB as a whole rather than break the players up into leagues. Besides, I don't know that I can find 5 NL shortstops who are truly worth mentioning. A few years back, the Big Three (A-Rod, Jeter, Nomah) dominated this category. Now with A-Rod on the hot corner on Nomah on the DL (who had Opening Day in their office pool?) only one of the Big Three remain. Let's take a look at the new top 5.

#1 - Miguel Tejada: His power numbers dropped a bit last year from the previous two. Whether that was an abberation or the beginning of his age 30 decline remains to be seen. Regardless, Tejada still puts up great numbers in a pitcher's park and is an above average defender. He may make a few mental errors in the field, but his range allows him to get to balls the other power hitting shortstops can't reach.

#2 - Michael Young: He's a converted 2nd baseman and it shows. Young is the worst defender on this list, but he more than makes up for it with his bat. The numbers he put up last year were incredible, (.330/.394/.528)even better than Tejada's. The difference is the park they play in. While Tejada is in a light pitcher's park, Young plays in the most extreme hitter's park outside of Coors Field. For that reason plus his lack of defense, he sits at number two in this list. (Yankees fans are still waiting to see Jeter's name)

#3 - Jhonny Peralta: This is the guy that gets me excited. At age 24, he's got a chance to be special and I believe by the end of this year he will have climbed to the top of the list. But for now he sits at three. He still needs some work on his defense, but he can hit with the best of them. Now he just has to prove he can put up those numbers consistently. (Where the hell is Jeter!?)

#4 - Derek Jeter: Here you go Yankee fans. I mean no disrespect to Jeter by putting him at number 4. I just think real highly of the other 3 guys. Jeter is the oldest member of this list and appears to be in a gradual decline. Despite the Gold Glove last year, he remains a below average defender. He should still hit for high average and get on base with the best of them, but I expect his power numbers to diminish each year. Still a great player though.

#5 - Rafael Furcal: Furcal is the most traditional shortstop in the top 5, and if he continues as he did last year, he's the best defender by far. His range factor is a full half a point higher than the next closest person. Furcal's speed also gives him an advantage over the rest of the competition. He's a top 5-10 basestealer in the league. The only thing holding him at number 5 is his bat - compared to the other 4. His AVG, OBP, and SLUG rank lower than all the other shortstops on the list. And it's not even close. He still remains a cut above the number 6-10 guys, though.

Honorable Mention: Edgar Renteria
Julio Lugo
Orlando Cabrera
JJ Hardy
Carlos Guillen (when healthy)

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Recapping Week 1

The first week of baseball season has come and gone. It's impossible to take any meaningful observations from such a small sample size, but there are a few things that are noteworthy.

* Jimmy Rollins hit streak ended so Joltin' Joe can rest easy. This was something I was rooting for for a number of different reasons. Most notably is the fact that I didn't want such a revered record beloning to one of the all-time greats being broken by a slightly above average hitter like Rollins. I also didn't relish listening to the countless number of debates in bars and ballparks over whether or not it's more difficult to put together a streak in one season or over the span of two seperate seasons. Now that this streak is ended, I don't believe the topic will come up again for quite sometime. Of the notable MLB records, I think only Cal Ripken's 2,362 consecutive games played will be more difficult to break.

* Before the season started I had pegged Chris Shelton as a possible breakout player for 2006 based on his .299/.360/.510 line from his 388 ABs a year ago. But not even I would have predicted Shelton to go yard 5 times in his first 4 games. In all fairness he was facing the Rangers pitching staff in a hitters park, but the numbers are still impressive. According to Baseball Tinght, only 2 players have ever matched taht feat in the history of baseball, Lou Brock and Barry Bonds. They finshed the year with 21 and 42 homers, respectively. So I thinks it's safe to say that Shelton has a real shot at the 30 homerun mark - give or take a few.

* The Braves run of dominating pitching staffs looks like it could be ending this year - and the division title might follow. Like I said, it's still ridiculous to draw any real conclusions from a week of baseball, but the staff didn't look good on paper going into the year. Smoltz is an injury risk, as is Hudson. Sosa, despite his 2.55 ERA last year is nothing more than an average pitcher who'd probably be better served in the bullpen. Horacio Ramirez has been given as many chances to prove he can pitch as Daryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden have been given to prove they can stay off drugs. Both scenarios will end in the same result.

* Bonds is hitting .167 with no homeruns, yet he's been walked 7 times already. It seems to me that teams should pitch to him for the first couple weeks to find out if he knee is healthy enough for him to be the offensive force he's been in the past. If he kills you, so be it. But don't give this guy a free pass based on his last 5 years. You've got to find out if he can hit this year.

* The Brewers should be a fun team to watch with the young infield of Fielder, Hardy, and Weeks. Fielder gets teh publicity because of his namesake but I think the other 2 are going to better players - this year and in the future.

* The Yankees can hit. The Twins can't.

* Thome can still crush it when he's healthy.

* So can Scott Rolen

* In 3 years, the Marlins trades this offseason will look great.

* I'm already sick of the Red Sox and Yankees.

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NL Predictions: The Dartboard Approach


I hear Matt wants some NL predictions, eh? Well, I'm not much for predictions, (since I'm most often wrong), but since I'm being prodded for answers, I'll use the "whatever comes to the demented mind of Graham Funk" approach and see what happens. This could get ugly. The picture above may just match my prediction ability. Who am I kidding. I know it does. I picked the frickin' picture out...

Anyway, I'll just get this out of the way first: NL Central Champs = Chicago Cubs. Yeah yeah, the Cardinals are better and the Brewers are young and eager and the Astros have Oswalt and maybe Clemens and are defending NL Champs and the Reds maybe aren't that bad and the Pirates, well, screw the Pirates. So... Cubs Win!! Blah Blah Blah, I can't hear you!!! Wrigley Field!! (New Busch Stadium)...

Alright. NL East. Hmmm. Who knows, but how can't you pick the Braves? How many in a row before I can't pick em? The Mets look alright, but I just really hate the Mets. So there. Marlins? Can they still field a team? Phillies? Hah! Nationals? Now you're really making me laugh. (make sure to come back here and ridicule me when the Phillies or Nats win the division).

NL West. The man known as BB is dead to me, so the Giants are too. Dodgers? Not without Gagne. Diamondbacks? I just don't like them, so I refuse to admit they might. So the Padres it is.

Scientific, aint' I?

I could get all fancy and tell you why, but that'd take all the fun out of it.

Phil wins second Green Jacket. Well, now they can't call him a one-hit wonder. Good for him. Did you see how when Tiger gave him the jacket they refused to make eye-contact? Good TV.

Bulls and the Playoffs. So they're only fighting for the honor of getting their asses kicked by the Pistons. So be it! I love it. Just make sure AI has to watch from home and it's all worth it to me.

No more undefeated MLB teams. Yeah, whoopie. When's the last time a team when 162-0 anyway? It was fun watching the Tigers roll though. For some reason I like Jimmy Leyland. Maybe it's the smoking in the dugout thing.

Alright. It's past my curfew. And the medication is starting to wear off.


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