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Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr., and Russell Branyan held a press conference on Wednesday to announce the founding of a new Major League Baseball franchise, the Seattle Offense, which will start play in early July.

Major League Baseball confirmed the announcement, explaining the circumstances which allowed the three players to bypass most regulations concerning expansion franchises.

Ichiro is All Smiles About Hitting in a Lineup that Doesn't Feature Kenji Johjima

Ichiro is All Smiles About a Lineup that Doesn't Feature Kenji Johjima

“Ichiro pitched the team to me two weeks ago,” Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig told the press, “And it’s fairly clear cut. We are granting Ichiro, Ken, and Russell a new franchise based on a ‘talent grievance’ they filed against their current ballclub.”

According to Selig, the three players have statistically proven that, while they remain under contract with the Seattle Mariners, the offensive production from Mariners teammates has crippled their potential for success.

The talent grievance specifically cited the offensive production of current Mariners Mike Sweeney, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Kenji Johjima. The report also included a retroactive claim against former Mariner Richie Sexson.

Selig showed nothing but confidence in the new franchise.

“The bottom line is this: Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr., and Russell Branyan could give the city of Seattle some form of offensive production,” Selig concluded, “And believe me, that city needs it.”

Seattle Offense officials confirmed on Wednesday that former Mariners bullpen coach Norm Charlton has been named as the team’s first manager.

Griffey told the press that the decision was easy to make, citing the need for a coach who could demonstrate business aspects up front but carefree aspects in back.

“I played with Norm in the mid-1990s.” Griffey recalled. “I’ve seen the mullet in action, and believe me when I say it is fierce.”

Charlton had nothing but high hopes for the upcoming season.

“It’s exciting,” Charlton said at the press conference on Wednesday. “The guys and I have a chance to do something that Seattle fans are dying to see; score a lot of runs!

“Let’s put it this way,” Charlton added, “We might even finish better than dead last in total runs scored.”

Despite his initial excitement about the job opportunity, Charlton is aware that there are necessary roster moves on the horizon.

Major League Baseball officials reported that the Seattle Offense declined to partake in an expansion draft, instead relying on a preliminary roster which features only Branyan, Griffey, and Ichiro.

“Filling out a scorecard is going to be a stretch,” Charlon conceded. “As of now we have Ichiro penciled in at pitcher, Griffey playing left field, center field, and right field, and Russell playing pretty much the entire infield.

“It’s a stretch,” Charlton admitted, “But it will work out.”

Suit Him Up

Suit Him Up

There is no word yet concerning who will start at catcher for the Seattle Offense, but Charlton did not deny the current rumors which claim that Mariner Moose will be suiting up at catcher for the Offense.

Regardless of future additions, the current Seattle Offense players are excited about a new playing environment.

“We are doing this for a few reasons,” Russell Branyan said Wednesday, “But most importantly we want to see what its like to have a lineup full of competent hitters.”

“Imagine that,” Ichiro interrupted through his translator, “A lineup that goes Ichiro-Branyan-Griffey instead of Ichiro followed by three guys who should be in the minor leagues.”

According to Branyan, the idea came about after a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on June 6, 2009.

“Ichiro, Griff, and I were sitting around after the game and got to talking about how [the Mariners] offense was performing,” Branyan explained, “We were looking at the stat sheet and realized that on that night we accounted for over sixty percent of our team’s hits.”

“It was bad,” Griffey said of the June 6 game, “Ichiro and I were actually leaving notes on the bases which made fun of Adrian [Beltre].”

“It’s not as mean as you think,” Griffey said in defense, “It’s not like [Beltre] was ever going to get on base to see them. Regardless of the notes, we knew something had to be done.”

Ichiro declined to talk about how the idea came to be, instead focusing on what the Seattle Offense can accomplish.

“All three of us just want to win,” Ichiro said through his translator, “And in baseball, in order to win, you need players who can hit the ball.”

“Russell, Griffey, and I decided to take the best hitters on our team and move on.” Ichiro added, “Unfortunately we found that there was no one else who qualified to join us.”

The Seattle Offense expect to begin play on Thursday, July 16, following the Major League Baseball All Star Game.

The Seattle Mariners declined to comment on the issue.

Dear Soccer, Welcome to Remember The Sonics!

DC United rallied late against the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night to salvage a 3-3 draw at Qwest Field in Seattle.

Having recently moved to Seattle, this was my first Seattle Sounders experience at Qwest Field, and I was not disappointed in the quality of play or the game day atmosphere.

While the MLS has yet to catch on in mainstream America, it is alive and well in the heart of Seattle. The city of Seattle has a loyal soccer fan base who openly and actively supports the now-MLS Seattle Sounders.

Entering Wednesday night’s matchup, DC United sat atop the Eastern Conference with 22 points. While their overall record was stellar, their road record was a sub-par 1-2-3 with a GF:GA ratio of 0.91.

On the contrary, Seattle found themselves at third place in the Western Conference with 20 points. While the Sounders had only five draws entering the match, all five draws were in a row, leaving Sounders fans disenchanted at the prospect of any more draws.

Wednesday night’s game was ESPN’s MLS Game of the Week, and it certainly lived up to the billing.

Both teams scored early and often, despite the Sounders and United averaging only 1.31 and 1.57 goals per game, respectively.

Here is a recap of each goal.

34′ – DC United – Chris Pontius – This goal was actually so fast I barely saw it. Santino Quaranta sent a beautiful cross to the back post and Pontius simply had to redirect past a helpless Kasey Keller.

The most impressive facet of this goal was Quaranta’s cross, as it breezed past two Seattle defenders en route to an eagerly waiting Chris Pontius. In all, it was a textbook cross and a textbook redirection for the goal. DC United 1, Seattle 0

38′ – Seattle Sounders – Osvaldo Alonso – The most beautiful shot of the game, no doubt about it. Prior to Alonso’s strike, Seattle’s marquee goal scorer Fredy Montero had a point blank shot on goal denied by DC United goalie Josh Wicks.

After the ball bounced around the box, Sounders defender James Riley passed it back to Alonso, who struck the ball squarely into the upper right corner of the goal. Wicks made his best effort at the ball, as his fingers grazed it on the way by, but in actuality there was nothing he could do to stop it; the shot was simply perfect. DC United 1, Seattle 1

45′ – Seattle Sounders – Own Goal (Marc Burch) -
Nate Jacqua was the last Sounder to strike the ball on its way to the goal, but in truth there were no winners on this one. Jacqua had possession of the ball around the 18′, got tied up with a defender, spun around in a circle (literally) and managed to send the ball towards the net.

Goalie Josh Wicks was in position to stop the shot, but it ricocheted off of United defender Marc Burch and rolled into the net uncontested. Ugly but effective, as Seattle carried a 2-1 lead into half. DC United 1, Seattle 2

57′ – Seattle Sounders – Fredy Montero – Montero atoned for a number of significant misses in this game by sticking a beautiful touch shot on the far post for a score. Montero had a defender one-on-one at the 18′, juked right, stepped back to the left, and bent a left-footed strike around a defender to the goal.

The goal was sensational, but many fans (including myself) were still bitter about Montero’s missed opportunity in a one-on-one with the keeper only minutes earlier. DC United 1, Seattle 3

63′ – DC United – Christian Gomez -
Gomez was subbed in at halftime for DC United and made his presence known on the pitch. In the sixty-third minute, Gomez found open space just outside the box and punched a shot on the ground to the far corner.

Gomez was virtually unmanned at the box, leaving an uncontested shot that goalkeeper Kasey Keller had no chance of saving. Seattle’s defense fell asleep on this one and Gomez made them pay. DC United 2, Seattle 3

87′ – DC United – Own Goal (Tyrone Marshall) –
Santino Quaranta was the last DC United player to strike the ball before the goal, but defender Tyrone Marshall’s head undoubtedly sent this one to the back of the net.

This was a back-breaker for the Seattle Sounders, who had controlled nearly every aspect of the game to this point. Chris Pontius found open space on the left wing and sent an uncontested cross into the box towards Quaranta.

The ball appeared to graze Quaranta, but the most important touch was from Marshall, who deflected the ball past Kasey Keller and into the net. A fitting way for Seattle to let this game slip away. DC United 3, Seattle 3

Man of the Match: DC United Goalkeeper Josh Wicks
One thing is certain; had Josh Wicks not made a number of outstanding saves on Wednesday night, the Sounders would have easily left with a victory.

His most impressive feat, however, was on a play when the Sounders scored. Osvaldo Alfonso struck his first-half goal deep into the upper corner of the net and Wicks completely laid out to graze it on its way by. Getting his fingertips on a ball that perfect was simply outstanding effort.

Wicks faced 17 shots from the Sounders, making seven saves and shutting down a number of one-on-one opportunities. Wicks stopped close-range shots from Fredy Montero, Freddie Ljungberg, Sebastien Le Toux, and Steve Zakuani.

Undoubtedly he was the most important man on the field in this game.

Worst Man of the Match: DC United Goalkeeper Josh Wicks
Yes, Wicks was the most important player to his team on the pitch Wednesday night, however his antics in the second half stoppage time were unforgivable.

It’s generally understood that when you are trying to eek out a win (or draw in DC’s case) there are certain stall tactics that can be employed.

Wicks took this to extremes on two goal kicks in the waning minutes of the game.

On a goal kick in the 90th minute, Wicks did the following: walked slowly to get the ball, set it on the near corner of the box, positioned the ball, decided to kick from the other side of the box, slowly nudged the ball to the opposite side, bent to reposition the ball again, adjusted his socks, tightened his shoe laces, lowered his shorts make sure his jersey was correctly tucked in, pointed to three different players on his team and gave them all thumbs up to see if they were ready, paced backwards, squinted downfield, paused in thought, then kicked the ball.

Unbelievable.

It’s no surprise that the second time he did this (in the second minute of stoppage time) a beer bottle was thrown at him from the bleachers behind the goal. Wicks didn’t mind, however, since he used this as a reason to burn another thirty seconds off the clock in mock anger.

Stalling is one thing, but this was simply ridiculous.

America’s Next Minor League Soccer Star: DC United Defender Marc Burch
The irony in this is that Burch’s own goal had nothing to do with him being listed here. It didn’t help matters, but the reason he is listed is because of his sub-par play all night long.

Burch was a virtual practice dummy on the field Wednesday night, being shake-and-baked by anyone wearing a Sounders jersey (a vendor in a Sounders jersey even juked him at half time—believe it).

Here is a list of Burch’s highlights from Wednesday night. These are only a few examples, but trust me when I say that his side of the defense was open for business all game long.

  • In the 45th minute, Burch fell victim to an own goal.
  • Burch, the left defender, seemed hellbent on a DC United loss. Opening the second half, Seattle had three consecutive shots on goal from the left side of the defense. Wicks bailed him out on all three, however.
  • Burch hired a search and rescue team to locate his jock after it was left on field following Fredy Montero’s second half goal. Montero juked Burch to the right then fired a (seemingly uncontested) shot to the far post.
  • What the box score doesn’t show is that Burch was still off to the right trying to locate Fredy Montero via GPS when his shot hit the back of the net.

All in all, this was a very entertaining soccer game. Both sides played aggressively and there were plenty of goals to be had.

Seattle dominated the majority of the game, but let a two-goal lead evaporate late in the second half and settled for a sixth tie in their last eight games.

Cheers to the MLS in Seattle!

sk.

K-Rod Celebrates a Save Conversion

K-Rod Celebrates a Save Conversion

New York Mets’ Closer Francisco Rodriguez, better known as “K-Rod,” blew his first save of the season on Friday night against the New York Yankees.

K-Rod should have earned the save, however, as Luis Castillo dropped a potential game-ending pop-up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. This error allowed two unearned runs to score, which gave the Yankees the win.

On Saturday Yankees relief pitcher Brian Bruney, currently rehabbing in Double-A Trenton, was asked about K-Rod’s blown save and the Yankees improbable victory.

“Unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like that. I have, but in high school,” Bruney said, adding, “It couldn’t happen to a better guy on the mound, either. He’s got a tired act.”

When asked to clarify this criticism, Bruney said, “I just don’t like watching the guy pitch. I think it’s embarrassing.”

K-Rod was quick to dismiss the comments, calling Bruney, “Some guy that I don’t even know who it is.”

Regardless of Bruney’s apparent lack of name recognition, one has to admit that he might be on to something.

Since K-Rod’s rise to prominence, his post-game antics have been heavily scrutinized.

For anyone unfamiliar with K-Rod’s typical postgame celebration, watch from 0:05-0:15 of the following video:

After each converted save, K-Rod points skyward with both hands, pounds his chest, wings his arms, kisses one of his hands, then points skyward again. Don’t forget that he is also doing a mock roar the entire time…

Many baseball players use celebrations such as fist pumps, chest pounds, pointing to the sky, and screaming.

K-Rod, however, seems content to combine all of these into a ten-second variety show that takes place directly in front of the pitcher’s mound.

My only complaint with K-Rod’s post-game celebration is this: he performs this overwhelming celebration for every single save conversion.

Translation: K-Rod, a closer, performs an over-the-top celebration (if you don’t think it is over the top, consider it in comparison with other pitchers) after doing his job.

A top-tier closer is expected to get anywhere from 30-50 saves in a given year, but it all depends on how many save opportunities he receives.

Similarly, a top-tier home run hitter is expected to hit anywhere from 30-50 home runs in a given year.

Ask yourself, what if Ryan Howard crossed the plate, pounded his chest, pointed skyward, kissed his hands, pointed skywards again, and roared every time he hit a home run?

Sure, it doesn’t sound like too long of an ordeal, but consider that this is happening for ten whole seconds. Think of a hitter standing on home plate for ten seconds after each home run…

I don’t disapprove of K-Rod celebrating a save conversion. I wouldn’t care if he did a regular celebration like a fist pump and some high fives.

What I do disapprove of is K-Rod’s over-the-top post-game celebration. It’s prolonged, excessive, and quite frankly it taunts the opponent at a time when they are most upset; following a loss.

I’m sure his intentions are good, as part of it supposedly pays homage to his late grandfather.

Regardless of his intentions, however, the post-game dance party has to be limited in some form or fashion.

Keep in mind, I don’t dislike K-Rod and this isn’t meant to bash him as a player. Instead, it is aimed at his trademark celebration.

Sound off with what you agree and/or disagree on in the comments section. Come on Mets fans, defend your closer!

sk.

I recently published an article which ranked all 32 NFL teams according to their starting quarterbacks.

The job was tedious, but it entertained me, so I decided to give it a try for running backs as well.

In this list, I am ranking teams according to the overall talent of the running backs who will receive the majority of carries in the 2009 season.

Teams on which one runner receives the bulk of the carries (e.g. Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings) will be ranked according to that player.

Teams which split carries (e.g. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart of the Carolina Panthers) will have any significant back listed and taken into account.

Please remember that a list of this nature is quite subjective. There are teams that could easily be moved higher or lower, depending on how that team’s talent is evaluated by the author.

Because of this I look forward to the comments suggesting which teams should be moved around.

Here are the team-by-team rankings of NFL Running Backs.

32. Cincinnati Bengals – Cedric Benson / Kenny Watson
The Cincinnati Bengals finished 29th in the NFL in rushing yards in 2008. No significant additions were made, and the starting job seems to remain in former Chicago Bears bust Cedric Benson’s hands. In 2008, Benson played 12 games, averaging only 3.5 yards per carry and finding the endzone just twice. Don’t expect greater dividends in 2009, as the only thing that may return to prominence is Carson Palmer and the Bengals passing game.

31. Cleveland Browns – Jamal Lewis
Jamal Lewis is a rarity in the modern NFL. He is a goal line back built for red zone carries that somehow landed a first-string gig. Led by the fleet-footed Lewis, the Browns rushing attack averaged only 3.9 yards per carry in 2008. Lewis topped 1,000 yards for the seventh time in his career, but did so running for just 3.6 yards per attempt. Unless backup RB Jerome Harrison is given more touches, the Browns running game won’t be any more productive than 2008.

30. Seattle Seahawks – Julius Jones / T.J. Duckett
Part of me dies inside every time I write about the Seattle Seahawks running game. Despite being a Seahawks fan, I can still admit that the ‘Hawks seriously lack rushing talent. Julius Jones was the team’s leading rusher in 2008, with a paltry 698 yards. The highlight of the Seahawks running game is when T.J. Duckett comes in to fall over the goal line from two yards out. If the Seahawks plan to win in 2009, it will have to come via the air attack.

29. Detroit Lions – Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith grew into a serviceable back throughout his rookie year, finishing with 238 rushes for 976 yards. Anyone would consider being benched for Rudi Johnson a career low, and after recovering the starting gig Smith averaged 97 rushing yards and one touchdown per game over his last three starts. Despite some promise, Smith still plays for the Lions. Detroit has no talent on the offensive line, and will most likely face uncertainty from the quarterback position. Smith will probably rush for 1,000 yards, but it won’t be pretty and will often be in a losing effort.

28. Arizona Cardinals – Tim Hightower / Chris Wells
The Arizona Cardinals’ 2008 rushing campaign was notably unnecessary. Arizona finished dead last in rush attempts and total rushing yards, while finishing as one of only seven teams to average less than 4.0 yards per carry. Don’t expect much more in 2009. Despite the addition of rookie Beanie Wells, the Cardinals will probably air it out just as much as 2008.

27. New England Patriots – Laurence Maroney / Fred Taylor
With the return of Jesus, the New England Patriots will probably not resemble their 2008 team which finished 6th in the league in rushing. Laurence Maroney returns in 2009, after missing most of the 2008 season for a plethora of reasons. His talent, combined with the veteran presence of Fred Taylor, will give the Patriots a consistent rushing attack. Fortunately for the Patriots, they won’t need it to very much, as Tom Brady will be throwing the ball early and often.

26. Denver Broncos – Knowshon Moreno / Correll Buckhalter
With two new running backs in town, history says that the Denver Broncos will do what they always do: produce 1,000 yard rushers. The question is whether or not the 1,000 yard rushers will come from the opening day roster and if their productivity will help the team win. Moreno is a future star and Buckhalter was excellent when called upon as a backup in Philadelphia. These two should fight through the growing pains as each is adjusting to a new role in Denver, but with Mike Shanahan out of the picture in Denver don’t expect their annual rushing parade to march again in 2009.

25. Baltimore Ravens – Willis McGahee / Le’Ron McClain / Ray Rice
The Baltimore Ravens team rushing statistics last season are deceptive. Baltimore finished fourth in the NFL in rushing, but did so while averaging only 4.0 yards per carry on a staggering 37 rushing attempts per game. Total rushing yards: Good. Rushing efficiency: Not So Good. Willis McGahee is falling apart, Le’Ron McClain is more of a fullback than anything else, and Ray Rice is still developing. With all three facing difficulties, the Ravens rushing in 2009 won’t be anything of note.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derrick Ward / Earnest Graham
The wild card here will be former Tampa Bay star Cadillac Williams. If the Caddy is ready to ride he could steal carries from Derrick Ward, which could inhibit either back from finding a groove throughout the season. Earnest Graham’s won’t compete for the job, as he is too valuable as a fullback to ever start at running back, but this efficiency won’t stop him from thieving goal line touches.

23. New Orleans Saints – Reggie Bush / Pierre Thomas
Unfortunately for Reggie Bush, godliness in video games does not equate to real life success. Unlike the 98-speed Reggie Bush who dominates video games, Reggie Bush is often tackled for a loss against real life opponents. Pierre Thomas ran well last year when called upon to start, tallying six rushing touchdowns (and three receiving) in six starts to close out the season. While this rushing attack won’t blow anyone away, it should be enough to let the Drew Brees show pick apart opposing secondaries.

22. Kansas City Chiefs – Larry Johnson / Jamaal Charles / Kolby Smith
In an ideal world, Larry Johnson would receive the vast majority of carries in 2009 and the rest of the Chiefs running backs wouldn’t need to be listed here. In reality, however, L.J. might throw a temper tantrum and get traded, leaving Charles and Smith to divvy up what’s left of the Chiefs rushing attack. If this was L.J. circa 2005 the Chiefs would be top five on this list. As is, the world will be surprised if they can piece together a top twenty attack.

21. Green Bay Packers – Ryan Grant
Ryan Grant was a statistical anomaly in 2008, rushing over 300 times for 1,200 yards but finding pay dirt only four times. He cemented his place as the Packers starting running back with a stellar 2007 postseason, and remains at the top of the depth chart entering 2009. He is a good-but-not-great runner, who can complement Aaron Rodgers and provide a solid Packers rushing attack.

20. Oakland Raiders – Justin Fargas / Darren McFadden
The Oakland Raiders have the most potential of any backfield combination in first round draft picks RB Darren McFadden and QB JaMarcus Russell. Unfortunately, neither of these players can consistently find playing time. RB Justin Fargas, who was a 1,000 yard rusher the year before Darren McFadden was drafted, joins McFadden at running back to provide stability in the ground game. If it weren’t for the Oakland Raiders offensive line, this duo could rush for more, but as it stands the 2009 Raiders rushing attack will be in the middle of the pack.

19. New York Jets – Thomas Jones / Leon Washington
Thomas Jones had an outstanding 2008 campaign, finishing with 290 rush attempts for over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns. Jones has put together four straight 1,000 yard seasons, but he is aging in running back years, as he will be 31 at the start of the 2009 season. Backup RB Leon Washington is an X-Factor in any game, as he returns kicks and punts as well as contributing rushing and receiving yards. The 2009 Jets rushing attack will be productive, but don’t expect a repeat of last year’s production from an aging Thomas Jones and a maturing Leon Washington.

18. Indianapolis Colts – Joseph Addai / Donald Brown
It is unclear how much Donald Brown will factor into the Indianapolis Colts playbook this year, but Joseph Addai has regularly split carries throughout his career and still been productive. Peyton Manning fuels the Colts offense, and because of this their offensive line is geared towards pass blocking. One of the greatest downfalls for the 2008 Colts was the inability to run the ball. Indianapolis finished dead last in the NFL in yards per carry, averaging only 3.4 per touch. If Donald Brown plays effectively in 2009, the Colts rushing attack could improve greatly. Even with improvement, the ceiling for Indianapolis’ rushing game seems to be the middle of the pack.

17. Buffalo Bills – Marshawn Lynch / Fred Jackson
This platoon favors the starter the more than most on this list. Marshawn Lynch receives the clear majority of carries, but Fred Jackson’s contributions are significant, especially in the passing game. Lynch has two straight 1,000 yard seasons to start his career, and if Terrell Owens can provide a spark to the Buffalo Bills passing game then he will have more room to run in 2009. In the AFC East there isn’t any margin for error, so if Lynch improves the Bills could still falter.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers – Willie Parker / Rashard Mendenhall
It’s difficult to place a team who focuses on smashmouth running this low on the list, but health problems have factored heavily into both Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall’s recent seasons. A healthy attack could finish top ten, but if injuries arise, look for the Steelers ground game to finish in the middle of the pack. This won’t bother the Steelers, however, as they have a knack for old school football and low scoring games.

15. San Francisco 49ers – Frank Gore
Despite the San Francisco 49ers unsuccessful search for a new franchise quarterback, Frank Gore has been consistently productive in the Niners’ backfield. Gore is an all-purpose back whose impact cannot be measured by rushing alone, but that does not mean his rushing numbers should be discounted. Shaun Hill and Alex Smith are unlikely to relieve any pressure from Gore in 2009, but he will get his statistics regardless.

14. St. Louis Rams – Steven Jackson
Similar to Frank Gore, Steven Jackson is a young, talented running back who is constantly hampered by inconsistency at the quarterback position. S-Jax, otherwise known as the only guy in St. Louis who plays football, is a beacon of light on a dark Rams depth chart. It is yet to be seen if Jackson can hearken back to his 350 carry, 1,500 yard season in 2006, but the potential is there.

13. Houston Texans – Steve Slaton
Slaton sits immediately ahead of a number of talented backs on this list who he should outproduce in 2009. He had a phenomenal rookie campaign, making Houston fans completely forget the team’s 2006 snub of projected-star-but-now-not-a-star RB Reggie Bush. If he continues to progress, he could easily lead the Texans rushing attack to new heights in 2009.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars – Maurice Jones-Drew
Fantasy managers worldwide celebrated the departure of RB Fred Taylor, making Maurice Jones-Drew the full-time back in Jacksonville. In three seasons in the NFL, MJD has never topped 200 carries, but has produced excellent yards per carry while functioning as a touchdown machine (34TD in three seasons). If his full-time work is half as good as his previous years, he will be a force in 2009.

11. Washington Redskins – Clinton Portis
Clinton Portis is a rarity in the NFL. He is a hard-nosed runner who averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2008 and seemed to get just that every time he touched the ball. He isn’t flashy, and he might not be a home run threat, but it’s not unusual for him to top 100 yards without a single rush longer than 15. Despite a lack of highlight reel rushes, Portis is a workhorse year in and year out. Newly acquired G Derrick Dockery will bolster the Redskins offensive line, and with an improved Redskins defense Portis could be given more carries to grind the clock with a lead.

10. Chicago Bears – Matt Forte
The surprise team in this top ten is Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears. Forte had an outstanding rookie season, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns. The arrival of Jay Cutler will raise the Bears offense to unprecedented heights, as he is the first star-caliber quarterback to suit up in Chicago in years. If Cutler expands the passing game, Forte will have more lanes to run through, which could lead to a rushing explosion in Chicago.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Marion Barber / Felix Jones
Tashard Choice played well when called upon in 2008, but with Felix Jones healthy Choice won’t factor into the 2009 playbook. Marion Barber and Felix Jones are the ideal combination of power and speed, respectively, and have the combined talent to lead a fierce Cowboys rushing attack. Regardless of eventual success, these two combine for more talent than most teams dream of having.

8. Miami Dolphins – Ronnie Brown / Ricky Williams / Pat White
Yes, I’m guilty of jumping the gun on this, but if/when Miami puts Pat White in the Wildcat formation it is going to be a giant boom or a massive bust. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were dangerous as a running tandem in 2008, especially out of the Wildcat. However, defenses soon figured out how to play the Wildcat: stick all eleven defenders on the line of scrimmage with single coverage on any route-runners. If White can execute the Wildcat it will force the defense into more than single coverage deep, which will open up the line of scrimmage, which will do God knows what to the Miami Dolphins rushing attack. The Dolphins have rushing talent even without Pat White, but if he contributes this attack could be lethal.

7. New York Giants – Brandon Jacobs / Ahmad Bradshaw
Earth, Wind, and Eli? It doesn’t have the same ring to it, but with Derrick “Fire” Ward gone to Tampa Bay it will have to do in 2009. Even with Ward gone, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are a legitimate rushing threat. Brandon Jacobs is a MAN (ask LaRon Landry), and Ahmad Bradshaw has shown moments of brilliance during his tenure in New York.

6. San Diego Chargers – LaDainian Tomlinson / Darren Sproles
Remember the days when LaDainian Tomlinson ruled the world? Me neither… Entering 2009, Tomlinson is loaded with question marks, but scat-back Darren Sproles seems primed for a breakout year. These two combined could lead a dangerous rushing attack in 2009. Philip Rivers has evolved into a top-tier quarterback, which should take significant pressure off of the San Diego running game in 2009. Even if the statistics don’t play in San Diego’s favor, the Chargers undoubtedly have one of the most talented backfields in the NFL.

5. Philadelphia Eagles – Brian Westbrook / LeSean McCoy
I debated leaving LeSean McCoy out of the title, but given the health of Brian Westbrook it seems that McCoy could have an impact in his rookie year. Health issues aside, Westbrook might be most dangerous all-around running back in the NFL. It is important to note that he affects more than the Eagles’ rushing attack. If this were a list of leaders in yards from scrimmage he would be on top. As is, he makes the Eagles a top-tier rushing threat in 2009.

4. Atlanta Falcons – Michael Turner
The most important part of the Atlanta Falcons success last season was the production of RB Michael Turner. Matt Ryan was excellent under center, but Turner regularly strapped the team on his back and carried them. How much? He led the NFL in rushing attempts, with a staggering 376 carries, while finishing second behind Adrian Peterson in rushing yards. As Ryan matures in 2009, Turner could be even more productive.

3. Tennessee Titans – Chris Johnson / LenDale White
If it weren’t for LenDale White’s portly nature, it could be said that Tennessee features the best one-two punch in the NFL (see below for which team actually does). Chris Johnson is Al Davis’ wet dream; a slashing runner with 4.3 (or better) speed. LenDale White loves all-you-can-eat-buffets as much as he loves the endzone, and few runners are equally efficient in the red zone. As a tandem, this duo is difficult to beat.

2. Carolina Panthers – DeAngelo Williams / Jonathan Stewart
The Carolina Panthers easily have the most rushing talent of any team in the NFL. DeAngelo Williams’ league-leading 18 rushing touchdowns were a surprise in 2008, a year when most experts predicted he would lose his job to newcomer Jonathan Stewart. Williams and Stewart complemented each other perfectly last season, rushing for over 2,300 yards on 357 carries to lead the Panthers to an NFL-best 30 rushing touchdowns. Look for repeat success in 2009.

1. Minnesota Vikings – Adrian Peterson
The top of this list belongs to, in my opinion, the most talented running back in the NFL. Peterson was a workhorse in 2008, leading the NFL with 1760 rushing yards on 363 rushes. The Vikings quarterback situation is still in turmoil, which isn’t good news for Peterson, who is getting used to seeing eleven defenders in the box. Regardless of how many defenders meet him at the line of scrimmage, Peterson will contend for the rushing title again in 2009.

That does it for my team-by-team running back rankings.

Please comment below with what you think I got right, what you think I got wrong, and what you would write if given this task.

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While a number of talented quarterbacks are present in the NFL, it is important to focus on which quarterbacks are actually going to see the field in order to rank each team’s strength at that position.

This article takes each NFL team’s current quarterback situation and ranks it depending on which quarterbacks from that team are most likely to see playing time in 2009.

If a team has a clear-cut starter (e.g. Peyton Manning from the Colts) then they are ranked according to him alone.

On the contrary, if a team is mired in a quarterback controversy (e.g. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson from the Browns) then both quarterbacks are taken into account when ranking their team.

Please read and react with what you think I got right and wrong.

With no further ado, here are the rankings!

32. Oakland Raiders – JaMarcus Russell
I’m not sure if this is commentary on the Oakland Raiders organization, JaMarcus Russell’s development as an NFL quarterback, or a depressing combination of both. Russell has been a disappointment so far in the NFL, mostly because the Raiders coaching staff is yet to let him open up the playbook (partially because, in all honesty, he isn’t quite capable of opening up the playbook). No worries though, because Al Davis drafted another 4.30 speed receiver for Russell to throw to… Yeah, that will help. Russell finished in the lower tier in nearly every passing statistic in 2008, and a repeat performance isn’t too far out of question.

31. Detroit Lions – Daunte Culpepper / Matthew Stafford

Daunte Culpepper is currently listed as the starter for the Detroit Lions. He has had some great seasons in the NFL, and is capable of winning, but his most important role now is teaching Matthew Stafford, or as the Lions’ front office calls Culpepper’s job, “making sure we don’t have another Joey Harrington fiasco.” Like they say, when you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback, and this will be the case in a number of cities in 2009, including Detroit.

30. New York Jets – Kellen Clemens / Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez is listed as the team’s starter on the Yahoo! Sports depth chart. However, the most recent reports out of Jets mini-camp have suggested that Clemens is outperforming Sanchez. The Jets know that Sanchez is the quarterback of the future, so it will be interesting to see how they handle his playing time in 2009. The reason that New York gets the nod over Detroit here is because both teams have a quarterback of the future, but in New York that quarterback will see the field a lot faster than in Detroit.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Byron Leftwich / Josh Freeman
This offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemingly purged themselves of any semblance of their 2008 late season collapse. Jeff Garcia was cut loose in the fray, leaving the Buccos with no clear option at quarterback for 2009. Veteran Byron Leftwich is listed as the team’s starter, but it’s possible that his main role will be mentoring quarterback-of-the-future Josh Freeman. Keep in mind that while Leftwich has been a journeyman, he is only 28 years old. It will be interesting to see how the Buccaneers handle their quarterback situation this season. Regardless of who starts, it’s unlikely that the Bucs bank on their quarterback for victory any time soon.

28. Minnesota Vikings – Tarvaris Jackson / Sage Rosenfels
They say that competition breeds success. This is only possible, however, when there is at least one ideal choice to settle on. In Minnesota, the coaching staff will have to choose between a mediocre Tarvaris Jackson or an unproven Sage Rosenfels to lead the 2009 team. Jackson is known as a rusher with limited passing skills, but threw the ball well towards the end of 2008. Rosenfels, on the other hand, looked strong in the pocket while starting in Matt Schaub’s place in 2008. No matter which way the coaches go with this decision, don’t look for the Vikings to get much production from under center. They should be fine, however, as long as whoever they choose can hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson.

27. San Francisco – Shaun Hill / Alex Smith

Note to whoever is taking snaps in San Francisco: look for Michael Crabtree, he’ll be open. Shaun Hill played well in 2008, throwing for 2,000 yards, 13 touchdowns, and an 87.5 Quarterback Rating in a little more than half of a season. The question in San Francisco is, do you let the less-sexy choice in Shaun Hill keep the job or allow former No.1 overall pick Alex Smith to challenge him for it? Most likely, Hill will be under center for the Niners this year. However, the 49ers organization has made it clear that they have not ruled Alex Smith out of the Niners’ future quite yet. Hill has the talent to be an NFL quarterback (think Jon Kitna), and he might get the chance to prove it for an entire season.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco is a guy who got a lot of credit in 2008 for a lot of things he didn’t do. Flacco is a prototypical game manager quarterback, which fits perfectly on a team like Baltimore or Pittsburgh, but doesn’t say much about his individual skill set. Flacco completed 60% of his passes in 2008, but threw for only 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while failing to top 3,000 passing yards. His 80.3 Quarterback Rating more accurately gauges his 2008 accomplishments, placing him 22nd in the NFL in that statistic. While he will not wow people in 2009, Flacco could grow more as a quarterback and become a potential threat by the end of the year.

25. Buffalo Bills – Trent Edwards
The good news if that the Bills got a talented receiver in Terrell Owens. The bad news is that the Bills also got a complete basketcase and quarterback-destroyer in Terrell Owens. Prior to the T.O. signing, Edwards would have held this same position in the ranks. He is a game manager who is most comfortable throwing the ball around 25 times a game. If he throws it more than that, he will most likely start throwing it to the other team. Edwards now has limitless talent to throw to with WR Lee Evans and the previously mentioned Terrell Owens, but don’t expect the world from him. He will produce good stats, but not great ones.

24. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton
The good news is that Kyle Orton isn’t terrible. The bad news is that Kyle Orton isn’t good. Orton is a serviceable quarterback who can perform a Kerry Collins-esque game manager role in Denver, but the Broncos will soon learn that he is no Jay Cutler. Fortunately for Denver, Brandon Marshall makes playing quarterback easy, and if rookie RB Knowshon Moreno can get his feet under him quickly Orton won’t have to worry about passing very much at all. Chris Simms sits behind Orton on the depth chart. Don’t be too surprised if Simms ends up taking snaps by mid-2009.

23. Tennessee Titans – Kerry Collins / Vince Young
I know, listing Vince Young here might be folly. Most likely, Collins will start nearly every game of the 2009 season and Young will continue going on midnight strolls to alarm family and friends. I listed him here, however, because it’s not often that a team spends a top five pick on a quarterback and abandons him this quickly. If Young does not get at least one start this year, I will be genuinely surprised. Collins is a reliable starter with excellent fundamentals and an outstanding game manager mentality. Unfortunately, his game does not expand much beyond this due to Tennessee’s talented defense and running game. He remains, however, a better option at quarterback than a number of other starters, and definitely a safer choice than Vince Young.

22. Cleveland Browns – Brady Quinn / Derek Anderson
Brady Quinn is currently listed as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback. It doesn’t help that new head coach Eric Mangini has publicly expressed his dislike for Quinn, or that Quinn fell face first when given the reins in 2008. Current back-up Derek Anderson also struggled in 2008, but he remains the only quarterback on the roster who has a productive season under his belt, throwing for over 3,700 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2007. Quinn will most likely start and endure the growing pains of being an NFL quarterback, but as a tandem the Cleveland Browns have an awful lot of talent/potential on the roster at quarterback.

21. St. Louis Rams – Marc Bulger
Yeah, this guy has made the Pro Bowl before. Twice. Bulger was stellar from 2004-06, but his last two seasons have taken a turn for the worse. In 2007 and 2008, Bulger combined for 22 touchdowns and an astonishing 28 interceptions. Hard to swallow from a quarterback coming off of three straight seasons with a 90+ Quarterback Rating. In 2009, Marc Bulger’s success will hinge on the success of first round draft pick OT Jason Smith and the health of marquee RB Steven Jackson. If Smith produces, Jackson can run. If Jackson can run, defenses will be forced to respect the run and open up some passing lanes for Bulger. Will this happen? Probably not, but God, Bulger hopes so.


20. Jacksonville Jaguars – David Garrard
What happened to David Garrard? Jacksonville bought into David Garrard when they sent former starting quarterback (and younger) Byron Leftwich out the door in 2006. Garrard did not disappoint in 2007, producing a triple digit Quarterback Rating (102.2) while throwing for 18 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. 2008 was a different story, however, as Garrard was bitten by the turnover bug (13 interceptions, 3 fumbles lost) and saw his QB Rating drop over 20 points. 2009 is a wild card year for Garrard, as his 2007 or 2008 version could show up to play any given weekend.

19. Carolina Panthers – Jake Delhomme
For how painfully Jake Delhomme’s 2008 season ended, his regular season numbers weren’t that bad. Given, the numbers aren’t sending Delhomme to Hawaii any time soon, but an 84.7 Quarterback Rating, 3,288 Passing Yards, and 15 Passing Touchdowns are serviceable contributions. Consider that Delhomme’s career passer rating is 85.1, and that even in his most productive years (2003-05) he averaged around 3,500 passing yards with a QB Rating in the mid-80s, and you get a good gauge of what to expect in 2009. Delhomme was never built to impress, but he can provide serviceable production and strong leadership.

18. Houston Texans – Matt Schaub
When Texans fans weren’t enjoying the Sage Rosenfels high-flying show against the Colts, they were entertained by emerging quarterback Matt Schaub. Schaub’s numbers in 2008 didn’t blow anyone away, but that’s because he only played in 11 games. If Schaub’s numbers were projected for 16 games, he would have finished with just over 4,400 yards and 22 touchdowns. Instead, he played in only 11 games and still cleared 3,000 yards through the air. Don’t forget that Schaub finished with a 92.7 Quarterback Rating in 2008, good for seventh best in the NFL and better than Romo, Cassel, McNabb, and more. Sure, I could throw a touchdown to Andre Johnson (just lob it up there), but in 2009 Schaub could throw a lot of them.

17. Washington Redskins – Jason Campbell
The Washington Native Americans (see, I’m not racist) are in a precarious situation. They have a highly efficient former first round draft pick who boasts a career Quarterback Rating better than Eli Manning starting at quarterback… And Daniel Snyder isn’t satisfied. Jason Campbell has plenty of room to improve as a quarterback, but he seems to have settled into a game manager role with the Redskins. In time, he could develop into a star quarterback, but as it stands he seems content with minimal passing attempts and a high level of efficiency.

16. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan had a dream season in 2008, leading a Falcons team who was destined to finish last into the playoffs in his rookie year. Despite this success, Ryan’s statistical output was nothing spectacular. En route to becoming America’s Sweetheart, Ryan failed to land in the top ten in Quarterback Rating, Passing Yards, or Passing Touchdowns. Obviously his rookie season was productive, but Ryan still has much more room to grow as a quarterback before being considered one of the league’s best.

15. Miami Dolphins – Chad Pennington
Chad Pennington had an outstanding 2008 season, leading a once left for dead Dolphins team to the NFL Playoffs. Pennington finished first in the league in pass completion percentage (67.4%), and more importantly he rarely turned the ball over. Pennington was one of three quarterbacks in 2008 to play all 16 games and finish with a single digit interception total, throwing only 7 all season. Pennington is never going to blow the opposing team away, but he is efficient and consistent, which is enough to lead the Dolphins to victory.

14. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel
 Matt Cassel was certainly the surprise story of the 2008 regular season. His emergence as an impact quarterback in New England led to a high-profile acquisition by the Kansas City Chiefs. While Cassel was never projected as an NFL starter, his 2008 season was productive to say the least. Most impressive was Cassel’s final five games of the year, in which he threw 14 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, while registering a triple-digit Quarterback Rating four times. It is yet to be seen if Cassel can produce outside of the New England Patriots system. Since the 2009 season will show whether he can thrive in another system, a productive year could shoot him significantly up the quarterback ranks, while a disappointing year could drop him just as much.

13. New York Giants – Eli Manning
Many fans who think of Eli Manning as a top-tier NFL quarterback get lost in Eli Manning lore rather than Eli Manning statistics. While his playoff performance against the undefeated Patriots was heroic, his career performance has been barely over par. Consider this: Manning has never broken 4,000 yards, never thrown for more than 24 touchdowns, and never had a single-season Quarterback Rating above 90. In fact, before last season, Manning had never had a single-season Quarterback Rating above 80! His career QB Rating of 76.1 is more of an indicator of his skill set. While he may throw for a decent number of touchdowns (23 TD/yr over last four seasons) he will also throw a lot of interceptions (16.25 INT/yr over last four seasons).

12. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck
Hailing from the far-away Pacific Northwest, many experts have been quick to write off Hasselbeck after an injury-plagued 2008 season. Those same experts forget that in his last two full seasons Hasselbeck earned a Quarterback Rating over 90 while averaging over 3,700 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, and only 10.5 interceptions. At only 33 years of age (critics will have you believing that he is 40), Hasselbeck is reportedly healthy and joined in 2009 by emerging TE John Carlson and newly acquired WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. A return to Pro Bowl form is not as far fetched as most would believe.

11. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
No, he doesn’t wear No.4, but Aaron Rodgers quietly enjoyed a stellar 2008 season. While most Green Bay fans criticized Rodgers for the Packers’ 6-10 record, many overlook Rodgers’ significant statistical production. Rodgers passed for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, good for fourth best in the NFL. Even if Packers fans were upset about Rodgers first season, they should remember this much: Rodgers finished ranked better than Brett Favre in Quarterback Rating, Passing Yards, Passing Touchdowns, and Interceptions Thrown. Rodgers has all the tools to be a top-five quarterback in the future.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger
I’m probably going to get barbecued for putting Big Ben this low, but consider that this isn’t a list of “best game managers.” Roethlisberger throws a fantastic short ball, and is excellent at eluding pressure in the pocket. However, in terms of passing efficiency, many quarterbacks have produced better numbers in recent years. Had it not been for a memorable postseason, Big Ben’s 2008 season was forgettable. He threw for just over 200 yards per game, with only 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Most forgettable, however, was his 80.1 Quarterback Rating, which was good for 24th in the NFL.  Roethlisberger has the physical tools to succeed, but with Pittsburgh’s run-first mentality and his inexperience at taking over football games, it’s difficult to place him higher on this list. He is the best game manager in the NFL, but he is a game manager first and a quarterback second.

9. Cincinnati Bengals – Carson Palmer
Prior to an injury-plagued 2008 season, Carson Palmer was one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL. From 2005-07, Palmer played in all 48 games, producing no less than 3,816 yards and no less than 26 passing touchdowns in that three year stretch. As Palmer returns from injury in 2009, it is fair to assume that he can return to form.

8. Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler
Josh McDaniels’ nemesis turned into one of the few 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterbacks to ever land on the trading block. The Chicago Bears won the Jay Cutler Sweepstakes, and became the instant favorite in an ever-so-mediocre NFC North. Cutler had a phenomenal 2008 campaign, finishing with over 4,500 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. Cutler did experience some problems, however, throwing for a near league-high 18 interceptions while missing the postseason due to one of the most notable late-season collapses in recent memory. With the Chicago Bears defense in tow, Cutler could have a very successful 2009 season.

7. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo
If the NFL regular season ended in November, Tony Romo would be a god. As it stands, he is forced to annually punt, pass, and kick the Dallas Cowboys offense into the ground to close out the season. Despite a growing reputation as a choke artist, no one can dismiss Romo’s regular season success. Statistically, Romo is one of the most productive NFL quarterbacks in recent years, but his inability to perform in big games has dropped him a few pegs on this list. Unfortunately for Romo, Jessica Simpson’s hotness could not factor into this equation either…

6. Philadelphia Eagles – Donovan McNabb
Despite Philadelphia Eagles fans’ complete dissatisfaction with the status quo, Donovan McNabb remains one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. After the Kevin-Kolb-might-be-good-but-wow-he-blew-in-the-one-game-he-played debacle, McNabb put together a string of five stellar performances. In the final five games of 2008, McNabb led the Eagles to a 4-1 record, throwing for nine touchdowns, one interception, and a 98.7 Quarterback Rating, culminating a 44-6 romp over the Dallas Cowboys in a win-or-go-home season finale. McNabb is one of the most efficient and accurate passers in NFL history, and clearly ranks in the upper tier of NFL quarterbacks.

5. San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers
If personal bias had anything to do with this list, Philip Rivers would be dead last. As much as I hate his personality, he seems to get better every year. While he was initially fostered by all-world back LaDainian Tomlinson, Rivers was forced to produce his own offense in 2008, a task which he executed quite efficiently. In 2008, threw for over 4,000 yards while leading the NFL in Quarterback Rating (105.5) and touchdowns (34). Rivers had led the Chargers to three consecutive postseasons and may not have reached his full potential yet.

4. Arizona Cardinals – Kurt Warner
In 2008, the ageless wonder had an outstanding season. He finished top three in Passing Attempts (2nd), Passing Completions (3rd), Completion Percentage (2nd), Passing Yards (2nd), Passing Touchdowns (3rd), and Quarterback Rating (3rd). Warner has a roller-coaster resume, featuring time spent as a grocery clerk, Arena League all-star, Super Bowl Champion, one-touch fumble machine, Eli Manning Backup, and now resides as an Arizona Icon. He is the essence of a pure passer, and seems to thrive in only one kind of offense: the kind that says “We’re throwing! Try and stop us!”

3. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
Drew Brees flirted with history in 2008, falling just short of Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a single season. His season numbers were phenomenal nonetheless, as he threw for over 5,000 yards and a league-leading 34 touchdowns. Brees’ career numbers are just as impressive. He sports a 63.9 career completion percentage and 1.69:1 career touchdown to interception ratio.

2. New England Patriots – Tom Brady
If I were ranking quarterbacks based solely on prior accomplishments, Brady would occupy the top spot on the list. If I were ranking quarterbacks based solely on what I expect from them in the 2009 season, Brady would be somewhere in the middle of the pack (ask Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb how their first season back from the same injury went). This list, however, is gauging the overall best quarterbacks in the NFL right now. Tom Brady is a proven winner who throws the most accurate short ball in the entire NFL. His skill set, coupled with his mastery of the New England playbook, easily makes him one of the top two quarterbacks in the NFL.

1. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning
The top spot on this list came down to the upper echelon of current NFL quarterbacks; Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. While Brady’s accomplishments cannot be understated, Peyton Manning has done more-with-less than any quarterback in recent history (for an excellent summary see this article).

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed the read.

Please comment on this article as you see fit!

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A few months ago, I wrote an article naming ten players I believe could be in the remaining 103 names affiliated with the A-Rod steroids controversy.

Much to the chagrin of Red Sox fans, one of the names listed was Red Sox DH David Ortiz.

The article was written February 10, and since then Ortiz has done nothing but confirm any suspicions that his better years are in the past.

In 44 games so far this year, Ortiz has compiled a .189AVG with 1HR and 18RBI.

Two weeks ago, I was prepping for an article titled “If it was anyone but David Ortiz they would have been benched already.”

Then he was benched.

One week after that I prepared an article titled, “If it was anyone but David Ortiz they would have been dropped in the lineup by now.”

Then he was dropped in the lineup.

While the Boston Red Sox nation tries to determine what is wrong with David Ortiz, no one considers the most pessimistic explanation: this might not be a slump— it might be the end.

Normally, I don’t target specific players in articles (however I did get butchered for a piece about Dwyane Wade last month). However, in the aftermath of Major League Baseball’s steroid era, I’m growing frustrated with the inability of any major media outlet to use the ‘s word’ when a player takes a turn for the worse.

Ortiz After One of His 45K So Far This Year

Ortiz After One of His 45K So Far This Year

There seem to be basic guidelines when a player is caught with a needle in their hand (these are borrowed from a previous article I wrote about the steroid debacle).

1 – Deny, Deny, Deny — No matter what the media, player, family, trainers, dealers, celebrities, and world leaders say— you didn’t do it. Until they come out with Phelps-esque damning evidence, fight it to the end.

2 – When you admit to steroid use, do so in the most minimal time frame possible — If you tested positive in April 2003, tell the media that you tried steroids only once in your life… it just happened to be in April 2003 (and of course you never tried it again).

Just one time I would like to see a player come out and say, “Yes, I did it. I took performance enhancing drugs because I wanted to be better than everyone else, and they worked. I didn’t only try it once and get unlucky, and I didn’t take something my trainer gave me without knowing what it was. I read the label, ingredients, and directions, then popped the needle in and played a whole lot better than I had before. If I hadn’t been caught I would have never come clean, but now that I have I may as well tell the truth.”

Is that too much to ask?

This article isn’t saying that only Ortiz should do this. In truth, I wish every player who used PEDs in their prime would admit it, but that’s just a pipe dream from an increasingly pessimistic baseball fan.

Instead, this article is to point out one of the many non-productive ex-steroid users who is still siphoning an A-List contract from his team.

Anyone can tell that the writing is on the wall. Consider the following:

  1. The stats. David Ortiz seems to have magically lost any hint of power he ever possessed. Compare his batting average, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, etc. and you will find a severe drop-off in the past few years. Yes, the same years that Major League Baseball began a strict crackdown on steroid use…
  2. Lou Merloni, who played with the Red Sox from 1998-2002, recently told the press how the Red Sox team doctor gave detailed explanations of how to use steroids at official team meetings. If you don’t believe me, read the story.
  3. David Ortiz’s former Bash Brother (no steroid reference intended) recently tested positive for a drug commonly used while cycling off of steroids. Translation: the only reason on God’s green earth he would be using this drug would be to cycle off of steroids.

Once again, this article isn’t meant to condemn only David Ortiz.

However, in a half-joking-half-serious manner, Ortiz has to know that the show is over.

It’s just time to come clean…

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My thanks to Matt Howell for this article’s premise and some of its writing.

Nearly two months into the fantasy baseball season, most managers can accurately evaluate their teams strengths, weaknesses, and potential for the remainder of the season. This is also the point where managers can evaluate both entertainment and annoyance received from any particular fantasy baseball league.

It seems that every year a good fantasy baseball league is infiltrated by one of many stereotypical managers who drag the league down.

Since my most competitive fantasy baseball league is currently dealing with a number of these characters, I found it fitting to outline a number fantasy baseball managers that you never want to join a league with.

The Guy that Loves the Draft Just a Little Too Much

We have all been in a draft with this guy before. This is the guy who shows up with ESPN rankings, Yahoo rankings, positional rankings, expanded team depth charts, yearly projections, and even candid photographs taken personally from outside an athlete’s home.

Position eligibility and general statistics are child’s play to this guy. Instead, he focuses on stadium-by-stadium statistics, home/road splits, possible drug addictions, and which baseball player is currently dating Alyssa Milano (yeah she’s hot, but ask Barry Zito, Brad Penny, and Carl Pavano what happened to their careers after the breakup).

Career-Wrecker (Worth It)

Career-Wrecker (Worth It)

Sure, his dedication to pre-draft greatness may seem inspiring, but remember that this guy is also a bit underhanded. He is constantly scheming to find out what pick you have, which player you are targeting, and what he can do to completely destroy your current draft strategy. Why, you ask? Because this guy subscribes to the Highlander school of draft philosophy: there can be only one great manager at any given draft.

As you draft the next best player on the board, this guy will be calling his cousin down in Houston who gave Lance Berkman’s neighbor a haircut three weeks ago and found out that there was a loud crash one night at Berkman’s house which could have been him dropping something heavy. You know, these kind of things can affect Berkman’s 2009 campaign. Yes, he is that prepared.

Luckily, this guy can only annoy you for about three hours each year. As the draft winds to an end, he will start scouting for next year and you can grab a beer in peace. Unfortunately, someone who devotes that much time to fantasy sports has a tendency to leave his draft obsessions behind and morph into one of the other stereotypes that plague fantasy sports leagues.

Stay tuned for his potential habits for the remainder of the season.

The Guy that Drafts All Prospects

Speaking of drafts, there happens to be one more guy at every draft that unintentionally-but-oh-so-efficiently drives everyone crazy.

Cheat sheets be damned, this guy arrives at the draft armed with the newest copy of Baseball Prospectus and nothing else.

Instead of drafting “over the hill” players like Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols, this guy targets the hottest prospects in baseball. After all, they have nowhere to go but up, right?

Without a doubt this guy drafted David Price, Matt Wieters, Matt LaPorta, and Tommy Hanson in 2009… Not too shocking, but keep in mind that he did it by the end of the eighth round.

Productive young players are a prize to have in fantasy sports. While most managers delicately balance a cost-benefit analysis when determining which rookies to draft for an upcoming season, this guy seemingly drafts based on one attribute: potential.

It’s as if this guy attended the Al Davis School of Closed Minded Draft Strategies, but instead of falling in love with speed, this guy developed an affinity for first-round draft picks.

In mid-June, this guy will be inexplicably puzzled at how all of his top-tier talent remains in the Minor Leagues. While Weiters, Hanson, and crew are destroying AAA opposition, this guy’s starting roster will feature a slew of fantasy baseball B-Listers and the occasional free agent acquisition.

No worries, champ, there’s always next year (and next year’s top prospects!).

The Guy that Over-Values People from his Favorite Team

This is the guy who misguidedly lets his love for a certain team determine his fantasy baseball decisions.

This guy is generally guilty of three annoying-yet-consistently-present characteristics concerning the treatment of players on his favorite team:

  1. This guy will make every effort to draft every star player from his favorite team
  2. This guy will subsequently make every effort to trade for whatever stars from his favorite team that he was unable to draft
  3. Once acquired, this guy will hold his favorite team’s players at such a high value that they are virtually untouchable
This Guy Plays Fantasy Baseball

This Guy Plays Fantasy Baseball

This is the guy whose team name is “Go Red Sox!” and whose draft results look like this:

Round 1 – 2B Dustin Pedroia
Round 2 – OF Jason Bay
Round 3 – UTIL David Ortiz
Round 4 – 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis
Round 5 – RP Jonathan Papelbon

You get the idea…

If his draft strategy fails, however, look for this guy to start offering trades. Giving up Hanley Ramirez straight across for Dustin Pedroia? Sounds good to this guy. Trading Mark Teixeira in exchange for Big Papi? This guy would consider it a steal!

If you decide to deal with this guy, remember that all sales are final. Why? Because once this guy acquires his favorite players, they’re not going anywhere. Offer him Albert Pujols straight across for Josh Beckett and he will reject it. Offer him Ryan Howard for Kevin Youkilis and he convince himself he is getting robbed.

The core problem in all of his dealings is this: he is completely unable to subjectively view his favorite players, and this affects nearly all of his actions in a fantasy league.

Next time you prop a trade to a team named “Bronx Bombers,” keep in mind that the team manager probably ranks his players as follows: A-Rod first, Teixeira second, and Jesus in a distant third.

Good luck getting anywhere near those top two…

The Guy that Sends Terrible Trade Proposals

It’s 3:12a.m. and you have just completed a tedious fantasy baseball draft. As your mouse hovers over the “sign off” button, you hear a beep notifying you of a new e-mail. Here is what awaits you:

Dear Owner, the following trade has been proposed to you: Pat Burrell, Derrek Lee, and Josh Beckett for Albert Pujols and Johan Santana.

You reread the e-mail fifteen to twenty times just to make sure it isn’t a joke and quickly reject the trade. How pathetic, you think to yourself, and lean back from the computer.

Suddenly, another e-mail notification rings out.

Dear Owner, the following trade has been proposed to you: Pat Burrell, Derrek Lee, Josh Beckett, and Gil Meche for Albert Pujols and Johan Santana. The following message has been attached: “Hey Bro, I thought the first one was fair but I added Meche to even it out even more. Hit me back!”

Now you’re in a quandary. Do you reject this trade quickly and make a dash for bed before another is sent or just leave it pending so this owner will leave you alone? Either way, this is going to be a long season.

Believe it or not, this guy exists in the fantasy baseball world. Regardless of how much disinterest he receives, his trade volume is staggering and his persistence is unprecedented.

This guy doesn’t care about rejection. For him, a 99.5% rejection rate is fine, as long as one of his trades gets accepted at least once. On any given day, he might send out six or seven bad trades in hopes of one acceptance.

In order for this guy to succeed, all he needs is one misguided, misinformed, or questionably sober fellow manager to accept a trade offer.

Sure, his team may start at a disadvantage, but once the token Royals fan in the league accepts a trade which sends Evan Longoria straight across for Zack Grienke (see the previous bullet for more information on this phenomenon) this guy’s team is set.

A GM committee led by Bill Bavasi, Isiah Thomas, and Al Davis would call this guy insane, but that won’t stop him from proposing eight more trades before the end of the night.

Love it or hate it, any manager in a league with this guy will have to develop some sort of strategy to deal with him by the end of the year.

The Guy that Picks Up Ten People a Week

This is the guy that typically rosters the least overall talent, but somehow wins every other week because he picks up whatever player is on a hot streak at that given time. He may not be fielding a team with big names, but he can win if he rides certain free agents hitting hot streaks.

At One Point Emilio Bonifacio Was the No.1 Player In Fantasy Baseball

At One Point Emilio Bonifacio Was the No.1 Ranked Player In Fantasy Baseball

His starting lineup features one-time greats Emilio Bonifacio, Nick Swisher, and Nyjer Morgan, but that doesn’t deter him from making more pickups.

This guy picked up Tony Clark on opening day, Jason Kubel on April 17, Craig Monroe on April 18, and Dexter Fowler on April 27, and discarded each man shortly after their acquisition.

And that’s just for hitters…

Don’t forget that this guy also adds approximately ten starting pitchers per week for spot starts, keeping one spot on his roster flexible for whenever a quick add/drop is required. Why? Because a 7.95 ERA will most likely lose each week, but amassing 250 strikeouts in the process will undoubtedly win that category.

While this guy’s waiver wire fanaticism might get old, keep in mind that justice is eventually served.

Here’s an example of what I mean: How many people picked up Dexter Fowler after his five-steal game on April 27? Consequently, how many people have dropped Dexter Fowler for totaling a zero stolen bases since then? While Fowler’s April 27 performance was outstanding, he spent the next three weeks producing marginal statistics on this guy’s team (probably leading his manager to multiple losses).

While playing the hot hand can be successful, it is not a strategy that breeds long-term efficiency. This guy’s team can get hot for a few weeks, but it will typically tail off and finish in the lesser half of the league.

The Guy that Never Checks his Team

Last but not least, who could forget the guy that forgot the league?

Every league features a team or two whose draft is auto-picked. If these leagues are lucky enough, they might also feature a team whose season is virtually auto-piloted.

This guy manages his team as if his kid sister broke onto his account and registered the team without his knowledge. Every three months or so he will drunkenly stumble onto the site, make some sort of ill-advised change to his team, and vanish once again.

In mid-June his last log-in date will probably be from April, and it’s likely that at least three of his starting players have been placed on the disabled list.

This is the guy whose roster currently looks like this:

C – Ryan Doumit
1B – Carlos Delgado
2B – Rickie Weeks
3B – Aramis Ramirez
SS – Jose Reyes
OF – Manny Ramirez
OF – Ryan Ludwick
OF – Lastings Milledge
UTIL – Barry Bonds

Yeah, you read the last one right. He hasn’t checked his team in that long.

Trade proposals will come and go, but this guy’s absence will remain constant. While other managers enjoy the benefits of free agent acquisitions and trades, this manager remains in a state of isolation, allowing his team to play without his interference (that’s the positive way to see he never checks the damn thing).

At least this guy’s presence can assure you of this much: you won’t finish in last place, he has that spot reserved already.

So what does this list mean to you? Hopefully nothing.

Hopefully every single one of these managers meant nothing to you, because you have never ran across a manager with these character traits.

This is unlikely, however, as these managers seem to weasel their way into thousands of leagues across the country.

Hopefully this list was good for a laugh, and if you’re like me a name popped into your head while reading each one.

Comment with what you like or dislike, and if you think I left any managers off of this list.

sk.

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