MLB General

2008 MLB Payrolls

It’s good to be A-Rod

The 2008 Major League Baseball payrolls were released today and the Yankees somehow managed to spend more than ever with a total payroll of $209M. That is a $14M increase over last year’s payroll, which incidentally bought them a first round exit out of the playoffs by the Indians, who cost about a third as much. It’s hardly surprising that the Yankees are #1 when you consider that A-Rod will make more than the entire Florida Marlins roster this year.

The real surprise is that the Red Sox are no longer #2.  Boston actually pared payroll by $10M this season and have been supplanted by the Detroit Tigers, who acquired Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera in the offseason, apparently with designs to win it all this year.  The Tigers spent a league high $43.5M more this year vs 2007.  Other teams who really opened up the checkbook this year are the Mets (+$20M) and the… Rays?  Tampa Bay spent an extra $20M this year but still ranks next to last with a total payroll of $43.8M.  

Besides the Red Sox, the Giants, A’s, and Orioles all stand out for significantly reducing payroll when MLB as a whole spent an additional $203M this year vs 2007.  For the record, the Rockies only spent $54M on payroll last year.

The entire 2008 MLB Payroll numbers after the jump.

College Football

It’s going to be LSU vs. Ohio State in the Rest vs. Rust Bowl

This was the wildest college football season the world has ever seen, and in a year chock-full of upsets, the only way to avoid being defeated was to simply not play. Worked out pretty well for the Buckeyes who haven’t played since Nov. 17.

After being shocked by Illinois at home in Week 11, Ohio State fell from No. 1 in the BCS Standings to No. 7. But after finishing their season with a rivalry win over then-No. 21 Michigan, they jumped up No. 5. Since then No. 1 LSU lost to Arkansas, No. 2 Kansas lost to No. 4 Missouri, No. 1 Missouri lost to No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 2 West Virginia lost to unranked Pittsburgh. And just like that, the Buckeyes are back atop the BCS and in the title game.

Of course, having 50 full days between games can have disadvantages as well. Look at what happened last year when OSU had an identical 50 idle days before getting thrashed by Florida for the giant crystal football. The Gators were riding just 36 days of rest. The Tigers will be coming into this year’s title game with just 36 days off since playing Tennessee in the SEC title game.

And while we could bitch and moan for weeks about why LSU grabbed the No. 2 slot over Virginia Tech, Georgia and Oklahoma (heck, we’ll even throw in undefeated Hawaii to humor all you WAC nuts), it would just be a waste of breath. The BCS is what it is, which an injustice to competitive athletics and the game in general, but it is the system we’re stuck with, so we might as well accept the fact that this is the match-up going down in the record books and move on already.

The `rest vs. rust’ debate will be something to contemplate in the weeks leading up to this national championship showdown. Ohio State played every week for 12 consecutive weeks, there is no way a sudden seven week vacation can improve their timing, chemistry or in-game, real time decision making ability.

LSU is facing a similar, yet less drastic, situation coming in the weeks ahead, but they have the advantage of playing in a winner-take-all, pressure-packed SEC Championship game and they’ve also had the `benefit’ of fighting for their lives – twice – following loses to Kentucky and they again to Arkansas.

Sitting in the shadows might have been the best plan for making it to the top of the rankings in this wacky season, especially for the Buckeyes, but having actually survived the wild finish of this wacky season on the field might prove more beneficial come game time. But don’t worry; we’ve still got 35 days to think about it.


[]: LSU to face Ohio St. for national title
[]: It’s Ohio State vs. LSU for national championship

College Football

Jim Knox’s Kansas State couch ouch

We know that “sideline reporter” sounds like an awesome gig, but attending all the big games and interviewing coaches is only half the job description. The other half includes dumpster diving, eating atomic chili peppers and getting dropped on your skull.

“Wildcat fans are going wild…as they take on Missouri on FS-AAAAAHHHHHH!!!”


[]: Finding World Peace Through Injured Sideline Reporters…

College Football

College football’s second-oldest rivalry finally got interesting

If you told someone that Kansas would be sitting in the No. 2 spot of the BCS standings in the wanning weeks of the season prior to the initial kickoff, then you’d probably be locked inside Shady Acres right now. Well, it’s a fact, Jack, and with Missouri sitting just behind them at numero cuatro, that makes their contest at Arrowhead Stadium this weekend one of the biggest games in an insane college football season.

We know, we know. It’s hard to come to grips with, but considering that two of the Big 12’s most notorious doormats are atop the North Division’s standings, the winner of this game secures a place in the conference championship game. The Sooners or possibly the Longhorns will emerge from the South as their opponent.

While it will be a tough challenge, if the Jayhawks win the Big 12 crown, they’ll advance to play in the BCS Championship game against LSU, should the Tigers win out. And just imagine, if they can do the impossible on the big stage then we’ll be talking about this season for generations to come. It’s easy to say it could never happen, but, c’mon, who thought they could make it this far. We’re not even sure if Mark Mangino believed his squad could pull this off. You gotta admit, it would be a befitting end to this wacky year of collegiate pigskin.

And even if “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” goes down this Saturday, the improbable is still probable because Missouri would then advance to Big 12 title game where they could win and possibly jump West Virginia into the Crystal Football Bowl.

There’s still a heckuva lotta football to be played before we get this whole mess sorted out, but it is certain that the BCS future rests in Kansas’ hands this weekend. We don’t know about you, but we’re pulling for incredibly unnatural BCS babies in this situation.


[Fox Sports]: Kansas moves up to No. 2 in standings

College Football

If you thought that Bobby Knight was a sore loser…

There were a ton of upsets in the world of college football this weekend, but we’re guessing by this clip that nobody had a worse Saturday (or Friday in the case of Mountaineers fans) than the Florida die-hard. Wait, let me rephrase that: nobody had a worse Saturday than this Florida die-hard.

One word of advice before you hit the play button: Earmuffs.


[Our Book of Scrap]: So Gators Fans, How Do You REALLY Feel?

MLB General

The Full Count: Phillies complete greatest comeback in regular season history

Comeback Kings: The Philadelphia Phillies just completed one of the greatest divisional comebacks in baseball history, and they couldn’t be more deserving playoff participants. They made up 7 games on the Mets in a mere 17 games, the largest such comeback of all time. They won the NL East for one reason: they were great at coming back. 48 of their 89 victories this season were come-from-behind. The Mets, meanwhile, were a complete failure down the stretch this season. They lost 12 of their last 17 games, including 6 losses in their last 7 games, all at home. The Marlins pounded them 8-1 in their final game of the season, as Tom Glavine was knocked out after recording only one out. There was never any doubt in the Phillies’ game, a 6-1 victory over the Nationals. Two of their players added personal achievements in the victory, adding to the team achievement of its first playoff appearance since 1993. Jimmy Rollins hit his 20th triple, giving him at least 20 doubles, triples, homers, and steals on the year. He is the fourth player ever to do this, and the second this season along with Curtis Granderson of the Tigers. Also, Ryan Howard added three RBIs, giving him the NL lead for the second straight season. He finished with 136 ribbies along with 47 homers, including seven homers the last ten games of the season as the Phillies made their big run. These achievements do go along with the dubious mark of the all-time strikeout record (199). The Phillies will face the winner of the wild card in the first round of the playoffs.

Playoff before the Playoffs: The 2007 regular season isn’t over yet. There is one game left to be played that will decide the NL Wild Card champion. The Rockies and Padres ended the season exactly tied, forcing the first tiebreaker game in seven years. The Padres should not be in this position, as they led the Rockies by a mile the majority of the season. But Colorado, who was in fourth place two weeks ago, has had an incredible late-season rally with 13 wins in their last 14 games. Their pitching staff, which almost traditionally has been a joke, has been tearing it up during the streak to compliment their powerfully consistent offense. The Padres haven’t been that bad in September (15-13), but they couldn’t win either of their last two games at Milwaukee, which would have sent them to the postseason automatically. The pitching matchup for this game is a mismatch: Jake Peavy vs. Josh Fogg. Peavy, the guaranteed Cy Young winner, was the only pitcher in the majors to have below a 3.00 ERA this season, and he beat that mark by a mile (2.36). Fogg had a great September (3-0, 3.25 ERA), but is average at best. The Rockies do have the advantage of playing at home though, so this game will be interesting.

Players of the Day: Magglio Ordonez, Tigers: 3-4, 2 RBIs, won AL batting title with .363 average, finished second in majors with 139 RBIs.

Carlos Pena, Devil Rays: HR (46). In Pena’s remarkable yet underappreciated season, he finished second in the AL in homers, fourth in RBIs (121), and second in slugging (.627).

MLB General

The Full Count: Can the Phillies overcome (being the Phillies)?

1. Wild Card Warriors: The Phillies are playing extremely well and have nearly caught up with the Padres for the wild card lead. After three straight wins, they are only 1.5 games back. They beat the Rockies 6-5 in a comeback victory. Down 5-2 in the seventh after a Matt Holliday homer, the Phillies tied the score off of Pat Burrell’s three-run shot. They won in the 10th inning thanks to Ryan Howard’s RBI double. Howard also hit his 38th homer earlier in the game. The Phillies haven’t gotten any closer to the Mets, who have four straight wins and lead the division by six games. However, they are the hottest team among the wild card contenders, with a 10-5 record their last fifteen games. That gives them a decent shot at making a playoff run.

2. Back to a Draw: The Brewers-Cubs division battle has been back-and-forth recently. After the Brewers took the lead on Sunday, their loss and the Cubs’ win on Monday has tied up the division again. The Cubs routed St. Louis 12-3, giving the Cardinals their fourth loss in a row. Ted Lilly, who is having an excellent season at 15-7 with a 3.85 ERA, picked up the win with a solid start. Chicago’s offense gave him plenty of help, as Aramis Ramirez went 4-5 with two homers and Derrek Lee had three hits and a homer. Meanwhile, the Brewers were crushed 9-0 by the pitiful Pirates. All five Brewers pitchers who appeared allowed a run, while the offense only mustered four hits. This division race, by far the closest in baseball, will be decided by which team can do better against poor opposition. Both teams have a remarkably easy schedule down the stretch.

3. Good News and Bad News: The Tigers had an up-and-down day on Monday. They beat the Blue Jays 5-4 with a four-run rally in the ninth inning. Magglio Ordonez went 4-5 and had the game-winning hit, and Curtis Granderson had two RBIs. On the other hand, they lost Jeremy Bonderman for the season. Bonderman, who had lost 7 of his last 8 decisions, has an elbow injury. It won’t require surgery, but it is severe enough to shut him down the rest of the year. The injury gives a reason for Bonderman’s struggles, as he had an 8.23 ERA his last ten starts after going 10-1 with a 3.53 ERA previously.

Player of the Day: Scott Kazmir, Devil Rays: 7 innings, 5 hits, no runs, 10 strikeouts in a 1-0 win over Boston.

MLB General

The Full Count: Oh these divisions races are excellent

1. The Lead is Gone: The Diamondbacks’ NL West lead over the Padres, which was 4 games on August 19, has now disappeared. San Diego has won the first three games of their series with Arizona and 7 of their last 8 overall. The Padres won 3-1 on Wednesday thanks to Greg Maddux’s excellent pitching. Maddux issued no walks for his sixth straight start, going seven innings with one run allowed. The Padres won the game in the eighth with two runs off Arizona relievers. Arizona, which has dropped three of its last seven games, will face the Padres four more times within the next week. Ace Chris Young will take the mound for the Padres in the final game of the series as they try to complete the sweep.

2. Statement Series: The Angels showed the Mariners who’s boss in the AL West division by sweeping them in dominant fashion. The Angels outscored the M’s 24-8 on the series, including an 8-2 win on Wednesday. Jered Weaver was excellent, throwing eight innings with one earned run, five strikeouts, and no walks. The offense backed him up well, with 17 hits. Red-hot Garrett Anderson went 4-5, and Vlad Guerrero hit his 22nd homer on the year. The Angels teed off on Felix Hernandez, who allowed a season-high 13 hits and 6 runs. The Angels won their fourth straight while Seattle lost for the fifth time in a row. The gap in the AL West has increased to 5 games, though it was only one at this time last week.

3. Indian Warfare: The Indians are crushing all opponents and widening their lead over the Tigers at the same time. Cleveland has won five straight and extended their division lead to a huge 4.5 games. Meanwhile Detroit continues to struggle, losing two straight to the Royals. The Indians completed a sweep of the Twins with a 4-3 win on Wednesday. In a matchup of Cy Young candidates, CC Sabathia proved to be better than Johan Santana. Both went six innings, with Sabathia allowing two runs and Santana four. Santana had his second straight below-standard start after that 17-strikeout performance a couple weeks ago. He lost his fourth game since the All Star break, when he usually dominates. Sabathia allowed exactly two runs for the sixth straight start, and has a 2.97 ERA since the All Star break. He became the eighth member of the 15-win club with the victory.

Player of the Day: Aaron Harang, Reds: 9 innings, two hits, no runs, 8 strikeouts in an 8-0 win over the Pirates. The underrated Harang has by far the best winning percentage in the league with a 14-3 record.

Detroit Tigers

The Full Count: The Tigers looked grrr-eat!

1. Statement Win: The Tigers’ win on Monday gave them a series win over the Yankees as well as some confidence. They crushed New York 16-0, scoring runs in each of the first five innings. The Tigers had seven players with multi-hit games and 20 hits overall in the rout. Brandon Inge had four RBIs, while Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco each had two runs and two RBIs. The Tigers’ pitching was excellent too, as Justin Verlander shut down the majors’ highest-scoring team. Verlander went seven innings, giving up three hits and no runs, in what was his best start since June. Despite the win the Tigers are still 2.5 games back of the Indians, who beat the Twins 8-3. However, that could change quickly, as the Tigers have some momentum going into nine straight games against losing teams. The Yankees, who are now 8 games behind Boston, start a three-game set with the Red Sox on Tuesday.

2. Closing the Gap: Jake Peavy helped the Padres narrow the gap with the Diamondbacks as the teams began a four-game set. The Padres drew within two games of Arizona after their 3-1 victory. Peavy threw 7 innings, allowing three hits and one run and striking out 11. He picked up his 15th win of the season, tying Tim Hudson for the NL lead. Peavy also neared 200 strikeouts on the season (197) and lowered his ERA to 2.18. The Padres have an enormously important stretch of games over the next two weeks. They will face the Diamondbacks six more times, in addition to six games with the Dodgers and three with the Rockies.

3. You’re fired: Two years removed from back-to-back NLCS appearances, Astros manager Phil Garner and GM Tim Purpura were fired on Monday. Garner, who posted a 277-252 record in four years with Houston, will be replaced by Cecil Cooper as skipper. The 58-73 Astros are in last place despite playing in the league’s worst division. The team made the World Series in 2005, then sputtered to an 82-80 record last season. Cooper, a former five-time All Star with the Brewers, has managerial experience in AAA but not in the majors. The decision to fire Garner is certainly questionable (is he really responsible for the team not being able to hit?). However, when you’re in last place, any kind of change is good.

Player of the Day: John Lackey, Angels: 9 innings, no runs, five strikeouts in a 6-0 win over Seattle. Lackey has posted back-to-back shutouts his last two starts against the Mariners.

MLB General

The Full Count: Rangers’ bats must’ve been tired

1. Not Today: The day after the Rangers’ incredible 30-run outing, they were stopped in their tracks by the Mariners. Seattle, who leads the wild card and is one game back of the Angels, beat the Rangers 9-4. Ichiro had three hits and three RBIs, and Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro both homered in the victory. Jeff Weaver improved to 4-0 this month with another solid outing. Besides Brad Wilkerson (4-4, HR), the Rangers couldn’t get too much going offensively. They have the second-worst record in the AL, above only Tampa. The Mariners now have the third-best record in the majors, thanks mainly to a 41-24 mark at home.

2. Welcome Back: In Joel Zumaya’s second appearance since coming off the DL, he cost the Tigers a game. In a game that was scoreless through nine innings, Zumaya allowed three runs in the tenth, giving the Tigers another loss and putting them 2.5 games back in the standings. Both starters pitched brilliantly, with Nate Robertson and Jake Westbrook combining for 16.2 scoreless innings. The Tigers scored one run in the bottom of the tenth but couldn’t mount anything more. Since they had the best record in the majors on July 21, Detroit is 10-22. Now they have only the eighth-best record in the league, and they are five games out of the wild card chase. Unless the Tigers turn it around now, they will be out of the playoffs this season.

3. Padre Power: The San Diego Padres have held on tightly to their wild card lead. After losing the first game in New York, they won the last two, with their offense as the key component. San Diego won 9-8 on Thursday, in a game where two All Star closers both blew saves. Both Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner gave up runs in the ninth, then the Padres won in the tenth off Adrian Gonzalez’s homer. The Mets stole five bases in this one, including Jose Reyes’ 68th, but still lost. The Padres had 15 hits, including five players with multi-hit games. They still trail the nearly unstoppable Diamondbacks by three games, but it doesn’t matter as they have extended their wild card lead to two games. The Mets’ two straight losses have not affected their division lead, as both the Braves and Phillies have gone on losing streaks of their own.

Player of the Day: Mike Piazza, A’s: 4-5, HR, 5 RBIs in a 12-2 win over the Devil Rays. The A’s have won five straight and are one game above .500.