Off the Bench


Is there just one Colt’s story?

Posted in NFL by offthebench on December 8, 2005

No doubt you’ve heard the Indianapolis Colts are undefeated. Their 12-0 record heading into this weekend’s game at Jacksonville will continue to be the only Colt’s topic discussed by the sports media. But I have a question: Is there ANY other reason to watch them?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Colts fan. Peyton Manning is probably one of my top 3 favorite players right now and may have taken the top spot from Tom Brady when he started making those Mastercard commercials (D-CAF! D-CAF!). I’ve like Tony Dungy since he created the second coming of the purple people eaters in Minnesota in the late 80s, early ’90s (The last time the Vikings defense was decent).

But it gets old every week to hear the same thing: The Colts are chasing the ’72 Miami Dolphins and a perfect season. Ask the players, do they care if they finish the regular season 16-0? Does it matter if they make the Super Bowl if they finish off a perfect regular season?

I saw a interview of DE Dwight Freeney on ESPN last week and he echoed everything I’ve ever heard from ANY player on ANY team when asked about something like this: A perfect regular season doesn’t matter. They want to win the Super Bowl. Anything less could be considered failure.

While I don’t think getting to the Super Bowl is a failure, I agree that the Championship in any sport trumps any record achieved along the way. So why does this happen every time a NFL team goes 10-0?

My guess is this: It’s easy.

This will probably generate a large amount of hate mail from sports columnists, but the reason it gets talked about so much is they don’t have to dig to find the story. It’s right there – staring you right in the face. No need to check the stats or go interview the assistant coaches. Their 12-0, Can they go undefeated? Maybe if the media was willing to look a little deeper, we’d know more about the Colts – giving us a reason to root for their perfect season.

Right now, I almost wish they would lose a game so I don’t have to listen to this for another month.

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One down, (hopefully) more to go

Posted in MLB by offthebench on December 2, 2005

The Twins have apparently decided to make some noise this offseason (finally) announcing they have traded pitchers Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler to Florida for Luis Castillo. While I would have preferred moving Michael Cuddyer back to second base and shopped some pitching prospects for Rangers’ Hank Blalock, I’m hoping this trade is a sign of things to come. Castillo is a considerable upgrade at a position that has been an offensive (and I do mean offensive) black hole since their run of division titles in 2001.

Castillo has a career line of .293/.370/.356 in 10 seasons. The most encouraging part of that line is the .370 OBP. The Twins are notorious for their free swinging ways and another hitter who can get on base ahead of Mauer, Morneau and Hunter would be a welcomed sight to all Twins fans. In addition Castillo has shown the ability to hit left-handed pitching. The 2005 all-star has a .343/.403/ .519 line with 11 of his 12 home runs coming against southpaws the last three seasons (in 426 ABs).

Castillo had some nagging leg problems this season that limited him to 122 games and only 17 stolen base attempts – his fewest attempts since 1998. I would imagine if his legs are healthly, he will run more in Minnesota’s small ball offense.

As for the contract, According to the report Castillo is scheduled to make $5 million in 2006. The contract he signed with the Marlins also includes a $5.75 million club option for 2007.

Bowyer and Tyler weren’t going to be counted on help the big club in 2006 and with the amount of pitching depth they have in the minors, its nice to see they actually used some of it to get a player who could help the club while they still had Radke, Santana, Stewart and Hunter under contract.

For a team that hit .259/.323/.391 last season, this shouldn’t be the only move they make.

Leftwich breaks ankle, let the crying begin

Posted in Fantasy Football,NFL by offthebench on November 28, 2005

I just read that Jags QB Byron Leftwich will be sidelined at least a month with a broken bone in his left ankle. Looks like I need to send a “thank you” card to Cards safety Adrian Wilson. Looks like I’ll need to draft a quarterback early next year.

First LB Takeo Spikes, then T Flozell Adams, now this…

Your new look Marlins

Posted in MLB by offthebench on November 28, 2005

In a span of about 48 hours, the Florida Marlins pulled off trades that sent their best pitcher still under contract (Josh Beckett), their top power hitter (Carlos Delgado), and the face of the franchise since 2000 (Mike Lowell) to other zip codes. What they got in return was a number of interesting prospects to go superstar in the making Miguel Cabrera.

Looking at the Delgado trade, The Fish got Yusmeiro Petit, Mike Jacobs, and Grant Psomas from division rival New York. Petit will be 21 next season and while he doesn’t throw hard enough to be a staff ace (according to prospect guru John Sickels), he has an excellent track record – 346 IP, 250 H, 75 BB, 429 Ks – 2.76 ERA. He could spend next season in Triple A.

Jacobs is a catcher who will probably spend 2006 splitting time with Josh Willingham if the Marlins can dump Paul LoDuca (which appears to be more a question of when – not if). He’s 25 and while he put up excellent numbers during his cup of coffee at Shea, there is a concern that Jacobs doesn’t have the plate discipline – striking out 23% percent of the time during his 6-year career.

According to Sickels, Grant Psomas could be a real sleeper. The shortstop hit .301/.399/.517 with 20 homers this year between two levels of Class A. It’s probably to early to tell what this guy could do in the majors, but at 23 he has some time.

As for Beckett and Lowell (plus Guillermo Mota), Boston sent over four prospects: Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey Garcia. The prize of this deal is Ramirez, who has about as much athletic talent as anyone. After looking good early in spring training for the Sox, the shortstop was sent back down to Double A where he struggled – putting up a .271/.335/.385 in 465 ABs. He’s just 22 and hasn’t spent any time in Triple A. If I were the Marlins, I’d start him at Double A with a quick jump to Albuquerque when he gets hot.

Anibal Sanchez has just over 200 innings of minor league experience, but is consider one of the best pitching prospects in the Boston system. In 40 starts, Sanchez has allowed just 149 hits while striking out 259. He spent last year in Double A and should start there for the Fish in 2006.

Jesus Delgado was moved to the Greenville (A) bullpen in 2005 and put up decent, but my no means good, numbers. The biggest issue was the walk total – giving up 39 free passes in 72 IP. The 69 strikeouts proved that if he can refine his command, he could be a useful member of a major league bullpen.

Harvey Garcia was another pitcher in the Greenville bullpen. He should better command than Delgado (18 BB in 44+ IP), but proved to be more hittable (49 hits). Garcia did strikeout 54. Sickels has stated he needs to add another put to his plus fastball.

Of course we’ll need to wait a couple of years to see just who “won” these trades, but my first impressions are favorable given what the Marlins are trying to do. They feel they need to reduce payroll plus the guys they traded do have some question marks.

Josh Beckett is eligible for salary arbitration and should make between $4 million and $5 million next season. Beckett threw a career high 178+ innings, but concerns over his pitching arm forced Florida to include Guillermo Mota. Mike Lowell continued his excellent work at the hot corner, but saw his offense drop completely off the map. He is owed $9 million each of the next two seasons. Delgado put up a moster year offensively, but he is 33 and scheduled to make $48 million over the next three years.

The Marlins wont compete to a division title in 2006, but they probably feel (and I would agree) they are in a better position to compete in 2007.

Could the Marlins have done better? Who would you have gone after?

What I’d give thanks for…

Posted in NFL by offthebench on November 24, 2005

I have watched the first half of the Atlanta vs Detroit game and the thought that keeps running through my head is this: I’d give thanks to see the Indianapolis Colts take on the Pittsburgh Steelers much more than this lame matchup. I understand its tradition that the Lions play on Thanksgiving just like its tradition for dry turkey to be served to room full of relatives that can’t stand one another, but come on. When was the last time Detroit played a meanful game? If you know, you either are a Detroit Lions fan or you have nothing better to do on Thanksgiving than Google the Detroit Lions – I’m not sure which one is worse. Detroit has looked like a team the couldn’t beat a division 1-AA team. My prediction: Atlanta wins by 20.

This is the type of thing you’ll see here. One guys take of the sports universe a couple of times a week.

I’ll have more later on the Thome and Delgado trades. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving.