Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson for winning his 5th straight Sprint Cup Championship. Winning five titles in a row in any sports is a very difficult feat and such accomplishments should be heralded regardless of the sport.
Stamkos’ Breakout Year
In what was a wild 8-7 game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers, Lightning center Steven Stamkos scored a hat trick and added an assist in Tampa Bay’s victory. After adding in a game winning goal in Tampa Bay’s win against Boston on Monday, Stamkos now has 20 goals in 21 games. That’s quite a pace, one that probably won’t continue, but I sure hope it does. Stamkos hasn’t gotten too much attention nationally partly because of his team’s location but partly because his name isn’t Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin. Should Tampa Bay reach the playoffs, however, Stamkos can really begin to shine.
After lamenting the struggles of the Blue Jacket’s attendance in a previous article, I made the mention that if Columbus could field a competitive hockey team the fans should start coming in.
Well, Columbus is 7-2 in November, have recorded four shutouts in that span and just finished a 3-0 west coast road trip including giving the Los Angeles Kings their first road defeat. Steve Mason has played well in his attempt to regain his rookie year form, but even still his backup Mathieu Garon has just been dominant of late having recorded three of those four aforementioned shutouts.
Offensively, Columbus has relied on Rick Nash, who has recorded at least one goal his last six games. That includes a hat trick in San Jose where the Blue Jackets won 3-0. Like Stamkos, Nash probably won’t remain that hot for much longer, so Columbus will need to get contributions from other forwards to continue their success. A tough test for them this week, however, as the Blue Jackets have a home-and-home against Detroit. Getting a split or even stealing an OT loss along with a win would be great for these upstart Blue Jackets.
Now, the fans needs to start piling in. For their most recent home game, a 2-0 win over Nashville, slightly more than 10,000 people showed up. It’ll take some time, after all this actually isn’t the first time Columbus has started the season this strong after all.
Following a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass to give the Pittsburgh Steelers a then 21-3 lead, Raiders defenseman Richard Seymour took offense to something Roethlisberger had said. So much so that he gave Big Ben an open handed punch to the face. While Seymour was ejected from the game at that point, the league fined Seymour just $25,000 for the hit. James Harrison, the Steeler linebacker known for his rough play and has been fined $75,000 earlier this year for a helmet-to-helmet hit, hoped the league would get Seymour good, but the fact that Seymour had been ejected – and that a palm to a face probably shouldn’t of knocked a guy like Big Ben down to the grass like that – probably kept the fine down.
Houston Has a Problem
People knew the Houston Texans did not have much of a pass defense. However, I don’t think people realized Houston had that bad of a pass defense.
The Hail Mary Jacksonville threw against them could’ve been seen as an aberration of sorts given how that play transpired, but after taking a late lead against the New York Jets, Houston’s pass defense fell apart. They gave up a 42 yard pass to Braylon Edwards which was shortly followed by a quick six yard pass to Santonio Holmes with 10 seconds left as the Jets completed yet another last second victory.
Thought by many to be a breakthrough season for the Texans, Houston started off strong right away with a convincing victory against the Colts. Since that win, however, the Texans are 3-6 and have fallen to last in the ultra competitive AFC South.
Hopefully the Texans’ secondary will get a bit of a respite as they host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday who will likely be starting Rusty Smith, a rookie out of Florida Atlantic. Then again, if even he is able to light up Houston’s secondary, there will really be a problem.
Okay, lets make sure I have this straight. The Miami Dolphins have lost quarterbacks Chad Henne and Chad Pennington to injury. The Dolphins are known for a successful running game led by Ronnie Brown with Ricky Williams along for the ride. How should the Dolphins approach their Thursday Night game against the Chicago Bears?
If you answered “by having third stringer Tyler Thigpen throw it nearly 30 times and the two running backs combine for just six carries”, I would ask “what you were thinking!?” I would then congratulate you on being correct.
I understand the Chicago Bears have a strong rush defense thanks to their devastating front seven. Still, only six carries between Brown and Williams? Thigpen himself ended up running the ball six times and he more than doubled their yardage (27 to 11). Miami went far away from the offensive gameplan that they had success with and it showed; Miami did not score a single point against the Bears.
Minnesota Chronicles, a footnote
A quick note, the Vikings have fired Brad Childress, something they probably shoud’ve done weeks ago if they weren’t going to wait until season’s end. Moving on…
Wrigley Field Football
I’m sure those that are involved in the upcoming Pinstripe Bowl in the new Yankee Stadium paid a lot of attention to a regular season tilt between Illinois and Northwestern which was being played in Wrigley Field.
The game was unique in a couple of ways. Since the east endzone was basically in the outfield wall, all the offensive plays were toward the west endzone. Only an interception return gave the east endzone any touchdown action.
Also notable was the play of Illinois’ Mikel Leshoure. Leshoure ran all over Wrigley, gaining 330 yards which was a school record. Combined with Northwestern having lost their starting quarterback Dan Persa to injury the week before, the Fighting Illini enjoyed themselves quite well that day.
I wouldn’t be against another football game being played in Wrigley, it was a fun spectacle and even with the odd rule chances for safety, the field can be re-spotted next time to avoid such a problem.
Oregon, Auburn and TCU all enjoyed weeks off. Boise State beat the tar out of Fresno State at home. Tough tasks for many this week as the college football season has its biggest weekend of the year.
BCS #1 Oregon hosts also-ranked Arizona Friday Night. The Wildcats have actually lost two in a row and are coming off a bye week so they’ll be very ready for the Oregon Ducks.
BCS #2 Auburn plays at Alabama in the Iron Bowl mid-day on Friday. Having secured a berth in the SEC Championship Game, Auburn will play its toughest game of the year amidst the ongoing Cam Newton allegations as slowly as they are moving along.
BCS #3 TCU goes on the road to play 1-10 New Mexico to finish their season. With Boise State gaining on them in the polls thanks to Boise finally having decent competition, TCU doesn’t end their season on a particularly hard note but they’ll likely annihilate New Mexico all the same.
Speaking of which, BCS #4 Boise State plays its toughest game in two months as they head south to play a ranked Nevada. The Wolfpack, who are 10-1 with their only defeat occurring at Hawaii, are Boise’s last chance at getting national respect and recognition. Many believe a win here would push Boise State ahead of TCU, giving them a shot at the title game should Oregon or Auburn lose.
Another game of note on Friday is the final game of the Akron Zips’ season. The Zips, currently 0-11, host 2-9 Buffalo on Friday. Buffalo is coming off a home loss to Eastern Michigan while Akron has come close to victory in their last two tries. Well, this is their final try so good luck to them.
Why does the MLB wait a good couple of weeks after the World Series to announce their regular season awards? Even the NHL awards are timelier than this. However, they are all in, and the winners are as follows:
AL Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz, RP Texas
For a second straight season the award goes to an AL West closer. Feliz recorded 40 saves and helped stabilized Texas’ bullpen as the Rangers reached the World Series.
NL Rookie of the Year: Buster Posey, C San Francisco
Posey was excellent once called up to the majors on May 30th. Providing solid offense at the catching position, Posey helped the Giants win the World Series.
AL Manager of the Year: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota
For continuously running away with the AL Central, this is the first time Gardenhire has actually won the award.
NL Manager of the Year: Bud Black, San Diego
A bit of a surprise considering the Padres fell apart in September and allowed the Giants to reach their postseason of destiny, but for the first five months the Padres were one of the best teams in baseball.
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle
Some people are surprised that Hernandez, a 13-win pitcher, won the award. Those people acknowledge that Felix led pretty much every other notable stat but criticized that had Felix pitched in the AL East, or hell, even in a situation of importance than his numbers would not be so great. I just don’t see that viewpoint. If Seattle didn’t have one of the worst offenses of all time, there would be absolutely no argument against Felix winning this award, it’s that simple.
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
With a perfect game, several complete game shutouts alongside it and 21 wins, Halladay seemed like an obvious pick. Especially after Ubaldo Jimenez fell off the map after the All-Star break and Josh Johnson got hurt.
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton, OF Texas
Another easy pick here, Hamilton led in multiple offensive categories and, more importantly, helped bring the Rangers the AL West title and a playoff berth.
NL MVP: Joey Votto, 1B Cincinnati
Votto won the award in a near landslide which was a bit surprising given his competition but Votto certainly deserved the award as he hit 37 home runs, drove in 113 and, unlike his competition, help take his Reds to the playoffs.
Free Agency Begins
A couple of signings today begin what may be a very interesting MLB offseason. First, the Giants have resigned Aubrey Huff for two years and $22 million. Even if he was the Giant’s best power hitter, it seems like a bit much.
Also, catcher Victor Martinez has signed a four year, $50 million deal with the Detroit Tigers after playing the last season and a half in Boston. Martinez will give the Tigers offense a needed pop in the middle of the order though it doesn’t do their already shaky defense any favors.
I’ll be mentioning other noteworthy free agent signings here in the Weekly, so stay tuned even though you’ll likely be aware of them far before these things are published, but whatever.
It’s hard to call Greg Oden a bust unless one is referring to his knees as busts. It’s not like he’s being called that because of poor play or a questionable attitude or legal troubles. The man just can not stay healthy. Oden, who hasn’t played in nearly a year, will once again require season-ending surgery. Oden, who may not even return to Portland next season, has never been able to show off the potential Portland saw in him when they drafted him 1st overall in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Along with Brandon Roy’s knee problems, Portland is becoming known as the “Frailblazers”, which is a shame as had Roy and Oden stayed healthy, they could’ve been a force in the Western Conference.
Call of Kobe
Are people really making a big deal about Kobe Bryant appearing in a Call of Duty: Black Ops ad holding and shooting a fake rifle? Are that many kids really going to go “I’m gonna shoot this gun because Kobe Bryant did”? Even if they did, must Kobe Bryant be the source of blame as opposed to, you know… gasp, the parents?
There are a lot of factors that go into the problems of gun violence in America, and video games are among the lesser of them. Rapper 50 Cent has released not just one, but two video games featuring him shooting people all over the place. Yet there is no controversy with that. However, Kobe Bryant, who isn’t even featured in the game, has a three second bit part in a commercial and people go nuts? Please, please find something more constructive to spew your criticism on. It just seems like bickering for the sake of bickering.