Pancakes In the Age of Enlightenment- Look At Meee I\'m Peter Pannn.. T\'shamon

So this weekend I went out to celebrate the 30th birthdays of my friends Kenny and Brian, who both happen to have been born the same day, February 28, in the same year, Anno Domini 1975. The plan was for me to go out to the local fun center/karaoke bar, have a few beers, watch Brian sing “Sussudio” in the style of Phil Collins, and then have my lovely girlfriend pick me up and take me home at 12:45 AM.

The night was close to wrapping up when I was persuaded, no, challenged, to stay by birthday boy Brian. He informed me he was going to sing “Rebel Rebel” in Portugese ala “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”, and I found that impossible to resist.

The revelry continued until the establishment closed at 2 AM. Then we piled into Kenny’s car and were chauffeured back to Kenny’s house by his wife. When we returned to the homestead I attempted to get online and show everyone my column. We soon realized we were too drunk to read, so we had a few more beers, vomited, and after I was insolent and placed in a burlap sack and beaten with reeds called it a night, pretty standard stuff really. Kenny retired to bed, which his wife was already in, Brian was on the couch and I was on the loveseat.

The next morning, when I woke up, I was informed I had done some sleepwalking the night before. Apparently, after getting up to pee, I had forgotten I was not at home. I strolled into the bedroom and climbed into bed. The only problem with that was it was not my bed, and I had crawled into bed with Kenny and his wife. Kenny’s wife was awoken by my earth shattering snoring and vacated the bed so as not to disturb Kenny and my “special friendship”. What made this all the more disturbing is that Kenny apparently sleeps with no clothes on.

At first I did not believe this story, as I had no recollection of it, but I have heard enough concurring witnesses to arrive at the conclusion that is indeed true. So that is how I climbed into bed with a naked man. If you liked that story, don’t miss “Beer and Bloating in Las Vegas”, which will be my account of 5 guys spending a week in Vegas betting on first round NCAA tournament games and trying to get out of town with their minds and fading youth intact. I’ll be dropping that on the world March 24.

As for this week, we’re going to have some fun, oh yes we are! We will drain and embalm the 2004 AFC South combatants, look ahead at how the NL West is shaping up this year, and see what the almighty and omniscient Pomazak Ratings have to say about how the NCAA Tournament seeds look as we head into Conference Tournament play. Let’s make this happen!

NFL COMPOST MORTEM- AFC SOUTH
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 12-4, 1ST PLACE AFC SOUTH, 2ND NFL Total Offense, 29th NFL Total Defense
When you think about the Colts, the first thing you think is, “Indianapolis is not South”. Unless you’ve ever been there, in which case, you know that it most certainly is. The second thing you think about the Colts is that they are the most fun team to watch in the NFL, and you would be absolutely right.

For those of you too young to remember the early 80s, let me smarten you up. Back in those days there was a team called the San Diego Chargers. They had a bearded QB named Dan Fouts and a running back who wore glasses named Chuck Muncie and a host of other talented offensive players like Kellen Winslow, Wes Chandler, the list goes on. The Chargers put up about 40 points a game and made the playoffs pretty much every year. If fantasy football were around in those days, the Chargers would be the team you always wanted to see on TV, because you either had someone on them playing for you or were going against someone that played for them every week. As exciting as the Chargers were though, inevitably they would always run into a team in the playoffs that would shut them down and keep them from ever getting to the Super Bowl. The Colts are the new Chargers.

In my world, the blame for this falls on Head Coach Tony Dungy. Dungy is one of those coaches the media is 100% gay for. He can do no wrong in the eyes of ESPN or Brian Baldinger or any of the other imbeciles who yell at you about football all day every Sunday. All you ever hear is how great a coach he is. I say, if he’s so great a coach, let me ax you this, he’s supposed to be a defensive mastermind and yet the thing that is keeping his team from winning championships is the DEFENSE. I am pretty sure you could have Johnny Unitas coach the Colts into the playoffs and then lose, and he’s dead. Do you know why? Because they have Peyton Freakin Manning, that’s why. There is no way this team as presently constituted can ever lose more than 8 games, none. So you have to ask yourself what value does Dungy add to the team, and the answer I get is not a whole lot.

Next season will be a make or break one for the Colts as we know them. Edgerrin James is already as good as gone, headed to Miami, and if the Colts don’t bring home some hardware next year, more changes may follow.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 9-7 2ND AFC SOUTH, 23rd NFL Total Offense, 11th NFL Total Defense
One of the key steps in establishing a successful NFL franchise is to forge an identity for your team. When I say “St. Louis Rams”, or “Indianapolis Colts” you immediately think of exciting, high scoring football. When I say “Baltimore Ravens” or “Pittsburgh Steelers”, you think of a bruising running game and a punishing defense. When I say “Chicago Bears” or “Arizona Cardinals”, you think of bumbling ineptitude. You get the idea. It is better to know what you are then to just drift around in mediocre oblivion like, say, the Saints or the Broncos, or the Cowboys.

What the Jaguars have done in two years under the coaching of Jack Del Rio is successfully reinvent themselves as a hard-nosed, defensive team. The Jags kept themselves in games all the way up to the end in 2004 by keeping the score down and controlling the ball, and surprisingly showed some pluck by actually pulling out and winning a large number of those games in the waning minutes. QB Byron Leftwich is far from a superstar, but he has shown that while his numbers may not be impressive, and he is not an electrifying player, he is a winner. That, as Tom Brady has shown us, is the most important quality a QB can have and Leftwich has proven to me at least that he has “it”.

This offseason will be a pivotal one for the Jags. They have targeted former Titan WR Derrick Mason to help improve the offense and give Leftwich someone to throw too, and that would be a good pickup. On the flip side, star safety Donovan Darius is miffed that he has had the franchise tag slapped on him 3 years running, and wants out, a loss which would be a blow to the defense that carried the team in 04. It looks like the arrow is pointing up for the Jaguars, though. Look for them to return to the playoffs in 05.

HOUSTON TEXANS 7-9 3RD AFC SOUTH, 19TH NFL Total Offense, 23rd NFL Total Defense
Everything I just wrote about the Jaguars, you can apply the opposite to the Texans. As they enter their 4th season of play, they still don’t have an identity. They are not an expansion team anymore, that much we know. They have at least shown they have reached a point where they have leveled the playing field for themselves and are one of the teams in the mix for a playoff berth next year.

But I’m struggling to put my finger on exactly what Houston Texans football is. You look at their offensive/defensive ranks from last year, and they are middle of the pack in both. You look at their record and its mediocre. You look for star players and you don’t see any. This franchise is not bad but its just kind of meh.

The man who the Texans are waiting to lead them out of the level of mediocrity they have found is QB David Carr. Car’s development and the Texans development are one and the same. He was the first player drafted by the franchise and clearly the man in whose basket all of the eggs have been placed. That said he hasn’t shown he is or can be a winner yet. He’s proven he’s not going to be Tim Couch-like disaster, but he hasn’t proven he’s going to be all that good either. He kind of reminds me of Ken O’Brien with the Jets in the 80s and early 90s. He’s OK and he’ll win some games and put up some numbers, but you just can’t see him winning a playoff game. He’s just good enough to paralyze the franchise into not making a change, yet not good enough to take them anywhere. That’s a problem.

TENNESSEE TITANS 5-11 4TH AFC SOUTH, 11TH NFL Total Offense, 27th NFL Total Defense
One thing you’ll always hear if you ever listen to the broadcast of a Titans game is how tough QB Steve McNair is. “Steve McNair is tough as nails!” or “Steve McNair is a warrior!” or so on and so forth. To that I say, OK but he’s always hurt. How does being hurt all the time make you tough? It doesn’t compute for me. It reminds me of that scene in “The Breakfast Club” where Anthony Michael Hall tells Judd Nelson “So you’re saying I’m an idiot because I can’t make a lamp?”, and Judd Nelson tells him “No, you’re a genius because you can’t make a lamp.” Sometimes you just have to take things at face value ya know?

That’s how I feel about Steve McNair. He’s not a gladiator, he’s not a warrior, and he shouldn’t be glorified because he’s always hurt. I’m sorry he’s in pain but he’s just injury prone and there’s no way around it and it is holding down the Titans as a franchise. Maybe if his head wasn’t so big.

I say, release McNair, and hand the offense over to QB Billy Volek, RB Chris Brown (who in all fairness is is another guy who is as brittle as Marzipan), WR Drew Bennett and new offensive coordinator Norm Chow and stand back. Yes I am a cold hearted bastard but that would be the best thing for this franchise. Instead they are going to be hanging on the status of McNai’s turf toe or strained abdominal muscle or pulled eyelash or whatever the hell will be wrong with him next year and end up at 7-9 because they can’t find any continuity or rhythm. Oh well.

HOT STOVE HOEDOWN- NL WEST
Can you believe it? This is the last week of our hot stove hoedown, and coincidentally as I type this drivel I am getting ready to listen to the White Sox spring training opener, baseball has returned to us and life is good.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Key Additions
2B Jeff Kent
RHP Derek Lowe
OF J.D. Drew
3B Jose Valentin
C Dioner Navarro
OF Ricky Ledee
C Paul Bako

Key Subtractions
3B Adrian Beltre
OF Shawn Green
OF Steve Finley
IF Jose Hernandez
IF Alex Cora
RHP Jose Lima

Projected Rotation
LHP Odalis Perez
RHP Brad Penny
RHP Derek Lowe
RHP Jeff Weaver
LHP Kaz Ishii

I can best sum up the Dodgers offseason in the words of Moe Syzlak when I say, “WHAAAAA?”. I’m going to have to watch the Dodgers games closely this season to see if there is an ex-stripper sitting in the owners box clapping when the team loses as she secretly plots to move the team to Miami. Tommy Lasorda would be rolling over in his grave if he wasn’t so busy eating.

The Dodgers acquisitions just seem goofy. Jose Valentin at third base didn’t work with the White Sox 2 years ago and it’s not going to work in LA this year. Especially now that he’s playing Dodger Stadium instead of US Cellular Field, which will decrease his home run total by about 10 per year. Jeff Kent’s pissed off little mug will do nothing except stink up the clubhouse that already includes nut case OF Milton Bradley, who already is unhappy that new acquisition J.D. Drew is taking center field from him.

The rotation is decent and is made better by playing in Dodger Stadium, and of course they have closer Eric Gagne, but the Dodgers got some problems heading into this season. They do, however, have the fact that their main rival will have a never ending circus surrounding them this year thanks to Barry Bonds going for them, and don’t underestimate that.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Key Additions
SS Omar Vizquel
RHP Armando Benitez
OF Moises Alou
C Mike Matheny

Key Subtractions
RHP Dustin Hermanson
C A.J. Pierzynski
OF Dustan Mohr
OF Ricky Ledee

PROJECTED ROTATION
RHP Jason Schmidt
RHP Brett Tomko
LHP Kirk Rueter
LHP Noah Lowry
RHP Jerome Williams

The Giants definitely can be counted as a team that improved itself this offseason. Armando Benitez answers their closer question, Mike Matheny gives them great stability behind the plate after A.J. Pierzynski sulked through last season, and Omar Vizquel and Moises Alou bring solid veteran bats.

That said, the Giants are a mere footnote to the Jerry Springer Roadshow that is the Barry Bonds Steroid Circus. Can they continue to go about their business and play ball while controversy swirls around their large headed home run champion wherever they go? That I don’t know. I would tend to think “yes”, because they are a veteran bunch of 40 year old men for the most part. But then I think about how veteran players are often the same ones who are the most snippy with the media and the ones with the thinnest skin, and I tend to think “no”.

In addition to the obvious Bonds distraction, the rotation is suspect at best. When Brett Tomko is your number 2 starter then you have yourself a problem area. Too bad Brett Tomko is not a “Problem Solver” like Tyson Tomko, then that would be a different story. The wildcard in the rotation is Noah Lowry, who looked like an ace in the making in limited action last year. If he is the real thing, he could provide the added push the Giants need to get into the playoffs.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Key Additions
RHP Woody Williams
OF Dave Roberts
RHP Ryan Bukvich
LHP Darrell May
RHP Rudy Seanez
IF Geoff Blum
IF/OF Eric Young
OF Mark Sweeney
P Chris Hammond
RHP Miguel Ascencio

Key Subtractions
LHP David Wells
OF Jay Payton
IF Ramon Vazquez
OF Terrence Long
RHP Dennis Tankersley
SS Alex Gonzalez
RHP Antonio Osuna

PROJECTED ROTATION
RHP Brian Lawrence
RHP Jake Peavy
RHP Adam Eaton
RHP Woody Williams
RHP Miguel Ascencio

Well I’ll be damned if the Padres don’t have a nice little team here. In fact, since I’m just that nuts I am going to pick them to ride their strong young rotation and the relative calm that surrounds them compared to the Dodgers and Giants to a surprise 2005 NL West Championship.

The Padres just kind of shuffled in and out various and sundry this off season, but the core of the team remains intact. They have a decent lineup that is also pretty good in the field, and a rotation that can hang with that of the Dodgers and is better than that of the Giants. The key acquisition was their pickup of veteran starter Woody Williams, who can not only serve as a mentor for the young rotation but also contribute 10+ wins himself.

I honestly see nothing not to like about this team. Except for the whole thing with GM Kevin Towers admitting he looked the other way when he suspected Ken Caminiti was on steroids. So basically, in my estimation, he should be put on trial just like any other business executive who has knowledge that his organization is cheating to improve its performance.

You get thrown in jail for looking the other way while the company you manage cooks it books, but as a baseball executive you can admit you basically knew one of your players was juicing his way to an early grave but you let him do it so you could win an NL pennant in 1998 with a bunch of roided up boobs (Caminiti admittedly, Greg Vaughn went from 18 HR in 1997 to 50 in 1998 so draw your own conclusions there, I’ve already addressed similar statistical oddities with Steve Finley and their connection to 1998 Padre Randy Myers in this column), and continue to “compete” by becoming a haven for those kinds of players (Phil Nevin is listed at 180 lbs but mysteriously started hitting 25+ homers after being considered a bust before arriving in San Diego in 1999, Ryan Klesko fits a similar profile ), and all of a sudden you’re a swell guy because you’re “coming clean”.

Either that or they will write a book called “Moneyball” about you and make you out to be some kind of big genius when the real way you level the playing field for your small market team is pretending your team doesn’t have an obvious steroid problem. Billy Beane I am looking in your direction.

You want to know how to eradicate steroids in baseball? Punish the GM’s who give people like Jason Giambi 8 figure salaries when they KNOW they are on steroids. And by punish I mean prison, just like any other business executive who gets caught cheating. See how fast this bullshit stops.

COLORADO ROCKIES
Key Additions
IF Desi Relaford
OF Dustan Mohr

Key Subtractions
3B Vinny Castilla
RHP Steve Reed
SS Royce Clayton
LHP Shawn Estes
OF Mark Sweeney
Projected Rotation
RHP Shawn Chacon
RHP Jason Jennings
LHP Joe Kennedy
RHP Aaron Cook
RHP Jamey Wright

Do you know who Garrett Atkins is? How about Clint Barnes? Matt Holliday? J.D. Closser? No I am not ringing ANY bells? Well all these guys will likely be in the Rockies’ Opening Day lineup. Chin-hui Tsao will be the closer when he’s not making his famed General Tsao’s Chicken. People are actually going to be charged money to watch this team play. I drink Drano.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Key Additions
RHP Javier Vazquez
3B Troy Glaus
RHP Russ Ortiz
OF Shawn Green
SS Royce Clayton
IF Craig Counsell
LHP Brad Halsey
LHP Shawn Estes
OF Jose Cruz

Key Subtractions
LHP Randy Johnson
1B Richie Sexson
OF Danny Bautista
IF Shea Hillenbrand

PROJECTED ROTATION
RHP Javier Vazquez
RHP Russ Ortiz
RHP Brandon Webb
LHP Shawn Estes
LHP Brad Halsey

The D-Backs did they only thing they could do after losing 111 games last year, they went shopping girlfriend! They traded in their Randy Johnson and brought home a shiny new Javier Vazquez, Russ Ortiz, Troy Glaus, and Shawn Green.

Apparently they are modeling themselves after last yea’s Tigers, which went on a similar splurge in the offseason after losing an insane amount of games the year before. Much like those Tigers, the D-Backs will in fact be slightly improved, but that improvement will only translate to about 70-75 wins at best. The rotation looks a tad crappish to me, and the bullpen doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence either with unproven Greg Aquino penciled in as the closer. They do have a solid setup man in Randy Choate. Uh huh huh huh”¦I said “Choate””¦uh huh huh huh.

NCAA HOOPS-O-RAMA- Smarch Schizophrenia!!
A few years ago while trying to beat back a coma at work, I invented a NCAA Tournament seeding system that I have found gives me a pretty decent idea of what the field of 65 will look like. It’s not perfect, but its not too bad either. I won’t tell you how I get these, but I will tell you that it doesn’t involve the RPI rating, which ESPN’s Jay Bilas has deemed worthless this season, at all. If you want specifics email me and I’ll be happy to go into more detail on how I arrive at these. So here, for amusement purposes only, is what the spreadsheet spits out at me through the games of Tuesday, March 1. Enjoy!

#1
Illinois
N. Carolina
Kentucky
Wake Forest

#2
BC
Duke
Kansas
Louisville

#3
Syracuse
Oklahoma St.
Arizona
UConn

#4
Washington
Charlotte
Alabama
Oklahoma

#5
Michigan St.
Utah
Cincinnati
Villanova

#6
Florida
LSU
Pitt
Miss State

#7
Gonzaga
S. Illinois
DePaul
Texas Tech

#8
West Virginia
Pacific
Georgetown
Notre Dame

#9
Texas
Houston
Wisconsin
Maryland

#10
Miami FL
Georgia Tech
Memphis
Virginia Tech

#11
Vanderbilt
UAB
Texas A&M
NC State

#12
New Mexico
Nevada
St. Joes
Old Dominion

#13
Vermont
Davidson
WI Milwaukee
Winthrop

#14
UCF
SE Louisiana
Miami OH
Oral Roberts

#15
Holy Cross
UL Lafayette
Niagara
Tenn Tech

#16
Portland St.
Monmouth
Penn

Play In
Delaware St.
Alabama A&M

On the Cusp
Stanford
Arkansas
Minnesota
Iowa St.
Wichita St.
UTEP
N. Iowa
UCLA
Creighton
St. Mary’s

Well that is going to bring things to a close this week. Check out Dr. Jay Gauss’ column, it’s good. Jay feels that it is best to play a hotshot inexperienced QB over a less talented but more experienced backup, and next week I’m gonna tell him why he’s wrong. It’s just like Kurt Angle showing up on RAW to attack Shawn Michaels, I swear. In the meantime take care and I will see you next week.

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