Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Site Update/Transactions/Notes

I have a lot of little stuff to touch on today, so I thought I'd throw it all into one post. Here goes:

I'm nearly done updating the organizational rankings posts (which you can find linked on the right side of the page,) so they should be relatively accurate. If you check them out, you'll notice that some of them have limited transactions information for the season, and some don't -- I'm not going to be updating that for the 2007 rankings (and it's very incomplete information), but starting with the 2008 version of the rankings I'm going to make every effort to keep what amounts to a full transactions log with every player.

Also, sometime in the next two weeks, I also intend to make a post covering free agents who I think the Twins could end up pursuing. Also in the middle of the month, I'll be posting my thoughts on which players the Twins should add to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Of course, my college football rankings, posted every Saturday night, will also continue. Finally, as always, I'll periodically (every two days or so) be posting a notes column covering MLB (and other sporting) news.

I haven't posted a transactions post in a good long time, and it's a good time for a new one, since the Twins just released a bunch of players. I'll comment on some of these names in a later post if I get a chance to, but for now, here's the list (courtesy of Baseball America):

RHP - Jose Acosta
RHP - Jose Castillo
RHP - Jesse Floyd
RHP - Danny Powers
LHP - Jesus Carnevales
LHP - Michael Rogers
1B - Nick Biagini
3B - Matt Betsill
OF - Wesley Connor

There are no names there that really stun me, but Danny Powers would be the closest thing to a surprise on the list. His 5.28 ERA in 59.2 innings for New Britain goes a long way to explaining his release, I would think. As I said earlier, I may comment in more depth later if I get a chance.

Just a few things I wanted to cover:

1.) The Tigers didn't wait long to start improving their team, picking up Edgar Renteria from the Braves in exchange for a couple of solid minor league prospects (pitcher Jair Jurrjens is particularly interesting). This move will apparently facilitate Carlos Guillen's move to 1B, where he'll replace Sean Casey full time. Hard to see that exchange being anything but a positive for the Tigers.

2.) Joe Torre and Don Mattingly to the Dodgers? Makes sense to me -- Torre isn't getting any younger, and at 67, the prospect of taking a year off probably doesn't sound particularly appealing to him. I don't know how things will work out, but this seems to be a fairly good fit.

3.) I said before that if the Twins didn't sign Torii Hunter before the end of the exclusive negotiating window on November 12, they'd lose him. Now, Hunter has decided not to negotiate with the Twins during that window. I understand his position, but I stand by my statement -- this move convinces me fully that Hunter will not be a Twin next year. When inspiration strikes, I'll write up some more detailed thoughts on what this means for the organization, but as I've said before, it ain't good.

4.) Can't wait for the NBA season to start tonight -- I usually don't care about the NBA, but for some reason I've been excited for tonight's games for about 2 weeks. Don't really know where that came from, but I'm not going to question it either. My TV will be tuned to TNT this evening, and to ESPN tomorrow. Also, I'm lucky enough (or maybe that's unlucky enough) for the Wolves first opponent of the season to be the Nuggets, so I'll get a chance to see the season opener on local TV (I'm in Boulder, Colorado, in case you weren't aware).

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

RIP Rockies

"Rocktober" (wannabe trademark of the Colorado Rockies, who will pursue you with a vengeance if you use it as, let's say, the name of a Rock Festival or something) has come to an end, and the off-season is upon us. As a result, here are some bonus notes for tonight (my earlier notes can be found below).

1.) This series was a sweep, but at least Games 2 & 4 were exciting. I thought that the Rockies were going to make the comeback tonight, but Jonathon Papelbon shut them down. At least the last inning contained a near homerun from Jamey Carrol, who may have been auditioning for the role of the 2007 Mark Lemke, and a Series-ending strikeout. What I'm saying is, we got a good game for the finale.

2.) How about Jon Lester? Guess he won't be a big-game question mark the next time around. Aaron Cook was also very good in his first start since August 10. Somewhat perplexing, though, is the way that Hideki Okajima and Brian Fuentes essentially fell apart in Colorado.

3.) This is non-World Series related, but I'm sure you all heard during the game about A-Rod's decision to opt out of his deal with the Yankees. Frankly, this doesn't surprise me, simply because the decision to opt out was driven by one thing: money. I could be pejorative and say that it was all about "greed," but I guess I don't really begrudge a guy earning as much as he can. I was amused, however, to see that agent Scott Boras was attempting to justify the decision by saying that there was too much uncertainty over whether Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettite would be back next year. Ummm . . . Scott? They're all old. They won't be around for long. A-Rod would have likely been in New York for another 8-10 years. I can understand worrying about the way the organization is being run, but there's no way that this decision was driven by whether three guys who will probably all be retired or significantly diminished in the next 3 years or so were going to stick with the team for next year. As I said before, this was all about money.

4.) The Twins have a 15 day exclusive negotiating window on Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva starting tomorrow (which by my count will extend to November 13), and I fully expect that both of them will be free agents by the time that window expires. It's looking less and less likely that Hunter will return to the Twins, and unless Silva signs for significantly below what he's likely to get on the market, he won't be back either. Still, if there's any hope of Hunter remaining a Twin next year, I think he'll need to be signed before the 13th -- once other teams get to make offers, I think it'll be over.

5.) One last thing on the Yankees -- with Joe Torre and Alex Rodriguez now gone (at least, barring a change of heart from the Yankees about negotiating with A-Rod now that he's opted out), could this be the start of an exodus? I don't think Andy Pettite will be back (I'm assuming he'll retire), but Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada will probably come back to monstrously large contracts. If they all leave, however, what will that mean for the Yankees? And are we headed back to the 1980's era, when free agents generally didn't want to go to New York? As much as I despise the current incarnation of the Yankees, I have to admit that they're an interesting team to talk about.

And now . . . let the off-season begin. I can't wait until Spring Training 2008!


World Series Notes

It's about 3 hours before the start of Game 4, and possibly the end of the 2007 MLB season -- that makes this an appropriate time to collect my thoughts on what we've seen through the first three games of this series, and what I suspect we'll see tonight (for what it's worth).

1.) First, let me say that I really didn't see this coming. I expected Game 1 to go to the Red Sox, because Josh Beckett is awesome in the post-season, and because I thought the Rockies bats would be a little sluggish after the long layoff. Check and check -- 13-1 was a bit excessive, but in the end, the result was exactly what was supposed to happen. Game 2 I thought could go either way -- I expected Curt Schilling to be good but not great, Ubaldo Jimenez to keep the Rockies in the game, and the Rockies bats to start to heat up. Unfortunately, Schilling was very good, and the bats didn't get started. Since I rated Game 2 a tossup, a 2-0 Red Sox lead in the Series wasn't that surprising either.

Ah, but then there was Game 3, where things went completely haywire. Josh Fogg is not a particularly good pitcher, but he's been money when it counted for the Rockies this year, and I expected him to be comfortable in Coors Field. More importantly, I expected that Daisuke Matsuzaka would be anything but comfortable in Coors -- and I didn't think he'd last more than 4 innings. Instead, he made it into the 6th, drove in a couple of runs with a hit, and gave his team exactly what they needed. While the Rockies bats came alive to a certain degree, the poor pitching of Fogg and Brian Fuentes was just too much. So, I guess I read this thing completely wrong.

2.) For the record, I'm rating tonight's Game 4 a tossup. Aaron Cook hasn't pitched in forever, but that's been the case for the rest of the Rockies starters as well, so what the heck. Jon Lester is a good pitcher but hasn't had to face the pressure of pitching with a chance to win the World Series. The Rockies bats seemed to start up again last night, and I expect them to stay hotter than they were in Games 1 & 2. Finally, the Rockies weren't able to take advantage of Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz in the field yesterday, and I think that could play a role in tonight's game. On the other hand, the Red Sox are clearly the better team. As I said before -- tossup.

3.) Even though I'm rating the game a tossup, I'm pulling hard for a Rockies victory. For one thing, they're my adopted team this post-season, so I'm still rooting for an improbable come from behind World Series title. Simply as a baseball fan, though, I'm hoping for some World Series drama for a change -- we haven't even seen a Game 6, let alone a Game 7, since 2003 -- and if this series ends in a sweep, it'll mark the third sweep in the last four years. I'd say that clearly demonstrates the superiority of of the AL -- but last year's 4-1 win by the Cardinals over the Tigers makes that a slightly harder argument to make. Still, that looks like an anomaly when compared with the sweeps by the Red Sox over those same Cardinals, and the White Sox over the Astros (anyone remember that World Series? Anyone? Bueller?).

4.) Onto some non-Series news, it sounds as if Joe Girardi is going to be the next manager of the Yankees. There seem to be two really big questions about Girardi as a Yankee, however: (1) will he be too independent-minded and resistant to the "suggestions" that I'm guessing periodically come down from on high, and (2) will he be too abrasive with the veterans on this very veteran team? Once this becomes official I might take a deeper look at those questions, but for now I just pose them for your consideration.

5.) If the Series ends tonight, the off-season will officially begin tomorrow with the start of the free agency filing period. Let's hope that doesn't happen quite yet. Go Rockies!


My College Football Top 25

I'll have my thoughts on the World Series up tomorrow afternoon (short version -- really, truly, honestly, I thought the Rockies would win tonight and make a series of it by winning tomorrow, but the magic seems to have worn off). However, after another unbelievable week of college football, I present to you my weekly top 25. As always, feel free to criticize or offer support in the comments.


1 (1) - Ohio State (9-0)
The naysayers kept saying that the Buckeyes hadn't beaten anybody all year (and they were right), and that as soon as Ohio State faced a real test, they'd be done. Normally, facing Penn State on the road would count as a "real test." Ohio State didn't flinch in passing that test, however, winning 37-17 in Happy Valley. Just three games remain on the Buckeyes season (Wisconsin, Illinois, and at Michigan), and each of them presents the possibility of a loss -- but don't be in the least surprised if November 17 pits an undefeated Ohio State against a 9-2, 7-0 in the Big Ten Michigan squad for the Big Ten title.

2 (2) - Boston College (8-0)
Like Ohio State, many pundits thought that the Eagles had built a gaudy undefeated record against inferior opponents, and would fold when pushed. On Thursday night, BC faced Virginia Tech in Blackburg, and came out with a narrow, miraculous win. Even though things were close at VT, a win is a win is a win, and BC deserves to stay at #2 this week. Games against Florida State, at Maryland, at Clemson, and home against Miami remain on the schedule, but each of those games is winnable. A rematch with Tech in the ACC title game (quite possibly for a chance to play for the National Championship) may be in the cards.

3 (3) - LSU (7-1)
LSU was idle this week, but there's no reason to move them down the rankings. If LSU wins out, I'll probably place them back at the top of my rankings -- but for now, I can't justify placing them ahead of Ohio State or BC, who have both taken care of business. If push came to shove, though, I'd lobby for LSU to be in the national title game over BC, and probably over Ohio State as well. These things have a way of working themselves out -- I'm guessing at least one of these three teams will lose in the last few weeks to make less of an issue out of it. If LSU loses, though, it will be to a surprising team -- games at Alabama, vs. Louisiana Tech, at Mississippi, and vs. Arkansas remain, and all are very winnable.

4 (4) - Oklahoma (7-1)
Another idle one-loss team. I'm keeping them here for now, but several teams below them (Oregon, West Virginia, Arizona State, and arguably Kansas) could easily be put here in their place. The Sooners have games vs. Texas A&M, Baylor, at Texas Tech, and vs. Oklahoma State remaining on the schedule -- which should translate to an 11-1 record and a trip to the Big XII championship game, and maybe to a berth in the National Championship game, if the pieces fall into place the right way.

5 (8) - Oregon (7-1)
Alright, they're good. Last week, I got razzed a bit for having the Ducks too low on my rankings, and the case could be made that they still are. Nonetheless, for now I'm going to leave them here in 5th, recognizing that they have a very interesting game coming up against Arizona State next week that should play a very significant role in determining who will win the Pac-10. The loss against Cal is starting to look like a missed opportunity, though, after the Golden Bears have dropped 3 games in a row. After the ASU game, Oregon travels to Arizona and then UCLA, and finishes up at home against a suddenly interesting Oregon State team.

6 (7) - West Virginia (7-1)
I leapfrogged Oregon over WVU this week because even though the Mountaineers had an impressive victory (31-3 in Rutgers against a Scarlet Knights program that just knocked off South Florida the week before), the Oregon win over USC was better. Still, with South Florida tumbling, WVU is in the drivers seat to win the Big East and get a BCS bowl berth -- remaining games are against Louisville, at Cincinnati, vs. Connecticut, and vs. Pittsburgh, which is a pretty favorable schedule this year. The smart money is now on WVU to run the table.

7 (12) - Arizona State (8-0)
The Sun Devils run has been impressive, and normally beating Cal (even at home) by 11 points would be enough to get an undefeated program some love. While I moved ASU up 5 spots, though, I still left them behind several once-beaten teams on the rankings, and mostly that's because I'm not yet a true believer, and think each of those teams is better than the Sun Devils. Next week's game at Oregon will be the last true test I need, though -- if they win that game, they'll be in my top 5, and probably in my top 3. After finishing with the Ducks, ASU will travel to UCLA, and then finish off the season at home against USC and Arizona; that's not an easy schedule no matter how you slice it, but it's hard to look at Dennis Erickson's first season as anything but a success, no matter what happens from here.

8 (11) - Kansas (8-0)
Yet another hard-to-believe undefeated ballclub. Kansas today waltzed into College Station and held onto an early lead to beat A&M 19-11 to stay undefeated. Next week's game against Nebraska no longer looks particularly daunting (what a mess the Cornhuskers are!), and games at Oklahoma State and vs. Iowa State the two weeks following shouldn't be too bad -- but the season ender at home against Missouri could be where Kansas' dreams of an undefeated season come to an end. If not, it will mean Kansas is going to the Big XII Championship, probably for a shot at Oklahoma -- and I don't see them surviving that unscathed.

9 (14) - Missouri (7-1)
Speaking of Missouri, they had a tuneup game against Iowa State today and won by 14 points. Next week, they travel to Colorado to face an up-and-down Buffaloes squad before returning home to face Texas A&M, with games at Kansas State and at Kansas waiting at the end of the season. If I had to put money on either Kansas or Missouri to win the Big XII North, I'd go with Missouri.

10 (5) - Virginia Tech (6-2)
For 57 1/2 minutes on Thursday night, Tech looked to be on the way to reinserting themselves into the National Title picture. Instead, the Hokies are left putting the pieces back together after a devastating sideshow loss. All is not hopeless, however -- if the Hokies win out (remaining schedule has VT playing at Georgia Tech, vs. Florida State and Miami, and at Virginia), they'll win the ACC Coastal Division and likely get a rematch against Boston College. While the National title hopes are gone, then, the chance for revenge remains at hand.

11 (6) - USC (6-2)
I'm not sure what to think of the Trojans now -- they just got beat by a very good Oregon team, on the road, so I can't fault them too much. Nonetheless, they just don't seem to have the mystique around them that we've all become used to in the last 5 or 6 seasons. With games against Oregon State, at Cal, at ASU, and vs. UCLA left on the schedule, the Trojans have no gimme games left -- and if they want to get into a decent bowl game (such as the Holiday Bowl) they better perk up and win out.

12 (13) - Hawaii (soon to be 8-0)
The Warriors still haven't beaten anybody of note, but games against Fresno State, at Nevada, vs. Boise State and vs. Washington should at least beef up the strength-0f-schedule a little bit. That game against Boise State is particularly nasty, and I suspect will spell the end of Hawaii's undefeated season. For now, though, Hawaii's done everything you could ask (except for that narrow win on September 8 over Louisiana Tech).

13 (15) - Michigan (7-2)
Beating Minnesota at home isn't all that impressive -- but coming back in style from two early-season defeats is. Michigan is a very good team that will be under-ranked all year because of the two early losses; in a season as crazy as this one has been, though, that seems a bit ludicrous. If Michigan wins out and takes the Big X crown, they'll have won themselves some sweet vindication.

14 (19) - Texas (7-2)
Here's another team that benefited this week largely from all of the losses surrounding them. Texas' 28-25 win at home vs. Nebraska isn't that impressive in a season where Nebraska might not even become bowl eligible (seriously, it's a distinct possibility). Remaining games at Oklahoma State, vs. Texas Tech, and at Texas A&M should be interesting, but ultimately the Longhorns should come out on top in each. Unfortunately, they're now just playing for second-fiddle in the Big XII South, and the top-flight-but-not-BCS Bowl game that comes with that post.

15 (NR) - Georgia (6-2)
I snubbed Georgia in my poll last week, and that proved to be a big mistake. Georgia's two losses have come to South Carolina and Tennessee -- two teams that are right in the middle of a round-robin series of beatings that's infesting the SEC and leading to somewhat mediocre looking numbers. Georgia has a tough schedule remaining -- home vs. Troy, Auburn, and Kentucky before finishing the season at Georgia Tech -- and if they go undefeated they'll likely face LSU in the SEC title game. A BCS Bowl bid is by no means out of the question for the Bulldogs.

16 (NR) - Connecticut (7-1)
Fine! I give in! Here's another team that I thought was a joke, but UCONN beat South Florida today to remain the Big East's last conference unbeaten. Suddenly, it doesn't seem impossible that the Huskies could beat Rutgers, win at Cincinnati, and beat Syracuse at home before traveling to West Virginia on November 24 with a conference title and a BCS bowl bid on the line. Somehow, though, I'm still expecting to trip up somewhere -- and next week against Rutgers seems like a very probable spot for it to happen.

17 (9) - Florida (5-3)
I can't dump them from the poll after so many teams from the top 25 lost this week. The SEC is a meat-grinder, and the Gators have now lost 3-of-4 against Auburn, at LSU, and against Georgia (with the lone win in that stretch coming at Kentucky). Games against Vanderbilt, at South Carolina, and vs. Florida Atlantic and Florida State are left on the schedule -- which means Florida should finish 9-3. If Georgia trips up, Florida could still find themselves in the SEC title game.

18 (NR) - Wisconsin (7-2)
I didn't have many options for who to put in these last 8 spots, so I had to start recycling teams that had already fallen out of the poll earlier this year. Wisconsin has rebounded nicely from loses at Illinois and at Penn State by pounding Northern Illinois last week and Indiana this week -- but the party will come crashing to a halt next Saturday when the Badgers travel to Ohio State. Looks like this ranking isn't going to last too long . . .

19 (10) - South Florida (7-2)
Another team that I couldn't bring to drop out of the top 20. The Bulls need to rebound quickly if they want to still have a shot at a BCS bowl berth -- a loss by West Virginia and two losses by UCONN would do the trick -- with games left against Cincinnati, at Syracuse, vs. Louisville, and at Pittsburgh. Couldn't ask for a friendlier finish to the season if you were USF.

20 (25) - Auburn (6-3)
Another of the SEC teams that keeps having to scrap for victories. Auburn has a bizarrely scheduled game against Tennessee Tech next week before traveling to Georgia on November 10 and facing Alabama at home on November 24 to finish off the season. Victories in those two games could make things very interesting at the top of the SEC ladder.

21 (NR) - Boise State (7-1)
What is there to say? Everybody else is losing, Boise State is still a reasonably good team, and at 7-1 I fell comfortable slipping them into the rankings, even as high as 21st. The only real test left for the Broncos will be on November 23 at Hawaii (the other three games on the schedule are vs. San Jose State, at winless Utah State, and home against Idaho). I'm predicting that they run the table to finish 11-1 and hand Hawaii their lone defeat of the year.

22 (NR) - Purdue (7-2)
Much like Wisconsin, I'm retreading Purdue because there have to be 25 teams in the rankings (even though it seems as if an awfully lot of teams would prefer the anonymity of being unranked, based on the rate that ranked teams are losing this year). Purdue has winnable games at Penn State, vs. Michigan State, and at Indiana to finish off the season.

23 (23) - BYU (5-2)
Not much to say this week -- the Cougars were supposed to play at San Diego State, but the fires caused the game to be postponed. No idea when it will be replayed, but I'm guessing BYU will be ready for it.

24 (NR) - Clemson (6-2)
Nice win at Maryland this week for the Tigers, but three very challenging games to round out the schedule will determine whether Clemson will have any staying power in the polls -- the remaining games are against Wake Forest, Boston College, and at South Carolina -- and all three could end up being losses.

25 (16) - Virginia (7-2)
Virginia has been a fraud for most of the season, but since wins are the bottom line I fell into position and dutifully ranked the Cavaliers pretty high on my list. This week, though, there were no miracles for Virginia -- they lost 29-24 at NC State -- and things could get ugly the rest of the way, as Virginia will face Wake Forest, Miami (in Miami) and Virginia Tech to round out the season. I nearly booted UVA from the rankings entirely, but in the end thought that they made a fitting #25 squad. I have a feeling we'll all be waving good bye to them soon enough.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nightly Notes

The Rockies long, strange layoff finally ends tomorrow with the start of the World Series. In honor of the opening of my favorite event of the year, here's a notes column:

1.) First off, I'm sad to say that I was not able to get World Series tickets. I know you're all terribly disappointed for me . . .

2.) I suppose I should give a final, definitive prediction on this series. Let me start by saying that in almost every category, and virtually every matchup, the Red Sox have the edge. The Rockies have some really fun players (Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki particularly, but really there are a lot of good stories on this team), but they just don't have anything like the star power that the Red Sox will be sending onto the field. Rationally, then, I should pick the Red Sox to win in 4 or 5. I'm not going with the numbers on paper, though -- I really think that the Rockies have the confidence necessary to get the job done, so I'm going to pick the Rockies in 6. After all, it's not as if the Rockies are a bad team -- lost in the stories about the remarkable 21-1 run is the fact that this team isn't just lucky, but is actually pretty darned good.

3.) I feel for Tim Wakefield, who has been left off of the Red Sox postseason roster due to a shoulder injury that appears to possibly be career threatening. Wakefield was an integral part of this team in 2007, and it's too bad that his season is coming to a premature end. On the other hand, if I were a Red Sox fan I don't think I'd be all that upset about the baseball side of this -- I mentioned in my "Beckett v. Wakefield" rant from last week that Wakefield just hasn't been very good at all in the postseason, so Jon Lester starting Game 4 over Wakefield probably gives the Sox a better chance to win.

4.) Speaking of Game 4 starters, the Rockies will also be shaking things up a bit. Regular post-season #4 Franklin Morales has been bumped to the bullpen to make room on the roster for Aaron Cook, who hasn't pitched since early August. On the one hand, I want to rail against this move -- Morales has been reasonably good since joining the rotation, and Cook at this point is an unknown. In the end, though, I think this move probably works, for three reasons: (1) the player being left off the roster is Taylor Buchholz, who hasn't pitched in the post-season -- no big loss there; (2) Morales provides a third lefty in the bullpen, which could be very significant for Clint Hurdle as he tries to match up with the sox lineup; and (3) Hurdle wouldn't have made the move if he wasn't convinced that Cook could contribute. If the Rockies can get 4-5 innings out of him in Game 4, it would be a success.

5.) In non-World Series news, the A's seem intent on moving -- but please tell me they'll be able to come up with something better than the "Fremont Athletics" if the move takes place.

6.) Tony La Russa is back for more abuse in St. Louis. Yes, they won the Series in 2006 -- but no one is going to argue that that team was all that good. In truth, the Cardinals seem to be headed in the wrong direction, and if I were La Russa, who knows darned well that he'd be highly in demand if he left St. Louis, I probably would have checked out. Heck, sit out a year if you don't like this year's openings. I just don't think the Cardinals are going to be competitive during his new contract, and I really don't blame him for that.

7.) Did anybody notice that Mariano Rivera seems to have backtracked from his earlier defense of Joe Torre? I don't have cites for you, but I seem to recall Rivera saying in the aftermath of the loss to the Indians in the ALDS that if Torre left the team, he'd have to think seriously about whether he wanted to return. Now, his agent essentially said that Torre's departure has no effect whatsoever on Rivera's plans. I'm guessing the agent got to Rivera and pointed out that the Yankees will drastically overpay for his services, and that he'd probably only get half the dollars per year (and fewer years to boot) if he went elsewhere. The Yankees seem poised to bring back Rivera and Posada, but I would just about guarantee that they'll overpay and go too long contract-wise for both. While that may work in the short-term, neither of these guys is a young player anymore -- and by the end of their contracts, I'm guessing they'll be as welcome as Jason Giambi is now.

That's it folks -- can't wait for tomorrow! Go Rockies!


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Red Sox v. Rockies

I'm in the middle of grading papers, so I can't spend too much time blogging tonight -- nonetheless, I felt that I had to at least get a few quick thoughts up regarding a World Series that is simply unbelievably improbable.

1.) First, congrats to the Red Sox -- they established themselves as the favorite in the AL early in the season, and they lived up to it. While I would have rather have seen the Indians in the series, I have to admit that Fenway is a great stage for World Series baseball.

2.) The decision to start Tim Wakefield in Game 4 ended up not mattering. I still think it was the wrong decision, for all of the reasons that I stated before -- but in the end, the Sox were able to win three straight and now will have Josh Beckett available to start Game 1 on Wednesday night.

3.) The Rockies finally have an opponent -- and I would assume that they'll be flying into Boston sometime tomorrow so they have a full day off in Beantown before the Series gets underway. If nothing else, it would be a change of pace from the simulated games they've been playing in Denver.

4.) I, along with what will undoubtedly be a monstrous number of other Coloradans, will be trying to buy World Series tickets tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

5.) It would have been nice if the last couple of games had been closer -- this could have been a great series, and instead it turned into something of a dud. At least this one was close until late, unlike Game 6 which I muted about 3 innings in so I could concentrate on other things. Hopefully the World Series games will be more interesting!

That's it -- back to grading. I can't wait for Wednesday! I love the World Series! Go Rockies!


Saturday, October 20, 2007

My College Football Top 25

The crazy college season continued this week, as yet another top 5 team went down (as did a couple more top 10's). I've read plenty of articles this week about the guessing game being made by those who are filling out polls -- but honestly, when is it not? Anyway, here's my weekly attempt at filling out a top 25 ballot. As always, feel free to let me know when you think I've messed up.


1 (1) - Ohio State - (8-0)
The really ironic thing about Ohio State being at number 1 is that this is a year in which everyone is down on the Big X -- and with the way the conference has played this season, that really isn't much of a surprise. Nonetheless, Ohio State is at the top of the polls despite having a non-conference schedule that included wins over Youngstown State, Akron, @ Washington, and Kent State. The only good wins the Buckeyes have racked up have come against Purdue, and today against Michigan State. If they go undefeated, I fully expect that they'll be in the National Championship game -- but that 8-0 record is pretty flimsy, and any of Ohio State's last four opponents (@ Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and @ Michigan) could easily pull off an upset win.

2 (2) - Boston College (7-0)
The Eagles didn't play this week, which should mean that they'll be fully rested when they head to Blacksburg next week for the most important game they'll play during the regular season. If they beat Va Tech, BC will be in the drivers seat in the ACC, and will have an excellent chance to finish the season undefeated.

3 (5) - LSU (7-1)
The SEC is brutal, and LSU nearly saw its National Championship hopes disappear tonight against Auburn. In the end, though, the Tigers pulled out the victory, and they can now say that they're through the toughest part of their schedule. LSU's remaining games are against Alabama, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi, and Arkansas -- and they should win each of those. I still think that this team is pound-for-pound the best in the country, and I expect at least Ohio State to lose a game at some point this season. In other words, I expect to see LSU playing for the National title in January.

4 (4) - Oklahoma (7-1)
For most of the day, Oklahoma let Iowa State hang with them. In the end, the Sooners emerged with a 17-7 win against the Cyclones. That was enough for me to move LSU ahead of them, but Oklahoma is still a very good, and very dangerous, team. Games remaining on the schedule include Texas A&M, Baylor, @ Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State -- and while everyone except for Baylor is a potential threat, I expect the Sooners to emerge unscathed to claim the Big XII South crown.

5 (7) - Virginia Tech (6-1)
Just like BC, VT had an off week to prepare for next week's ACC showdown. This will be Tech's chance to show the pollsters (and wannabe pollsters such as myself) that we've been overvaluing BC all season and taking too much away from the Hokies because of the week 2 loss to LSU.

6 (9) - USC (6-1)
The Trojans rebounded nicely from a mediocre performance last week against Arizona by beating up on Notre Dame this week. Pete Carrol better hope that this is a springboard to strong play, because next up is a very good Oregon team, in Oregon. With Cal plummeting and Arizona State still an unknown, the matchup with Oregon could be for the Pac-10 championship, and possibly for a berth in the national title game.

7 (8) - West Virginia (6-1)
The Mountaineers have been able to rebound from their loss on September 28 against South Florida by beating up on Syracuse and Mississippi State in their last couple of games, but a trip to New Jersey to face Rutgers is next on the list. As the Scarlet Knights proved by beating South Florida this week, that will not be an easy trip. WVU still has a shot at the Big East title, but they need to win out and hope that South Florida stumbles once more this season.

8 (12) - Oregon (6-1)
With Cal's aforementioned fall from grace, next week's Oregon/USC tilt looks to be the highlight of the Pac-10 season (all apologies to Arizona State). The Ducks could very easily have defeated Cal on September 29 to come into this game undefeated, but the breaks went the other way in that game. They've looked very good in each of their wins this season, and I should probably rank them higher than 8th -- but they'll have to chance to prove me wrong by taking out the Trojans next Saturday.

9 (10) - Florida (5-2)
Can we just give 5 BCS slots to the SEC? For years, fans in the South have been saying how great SEC-style football is, and most seasons I dismiss it out of hand. This season, though, I'm drinking the kool-aid. If you stuck Florida or LSU in the Big X, they'd go undefeated in conference play this year. I think that Auburn and Kentucky would have a crack at doing the same. South Carolina and Alabama aren't too shabby either. The point of all this is that I feel perfectly justified in placing a two-loss team in the top 10 when the two losses were to SEC teams by a combined 7 points.

10 (3) - South Florida (7-1)
I bought the hype on the Bulls, and thought that they were clearly the best in the Big East. Unfortunately, they ran into a very good Rutgers team this week, and finally have a blemish on their record. The conference is still theirs for the taking, but they'll need to rebound quickly as they have to play at 1-loss UCONN next week. Don't forget, either, that for all of the love that South Florida has received this season, they have just a 1-1 conference record -- so the Big East really is still wide open.

11 (16) - Kansas (7-0)
Can the Jayhawks really be good? As I mentioned last week, Kansas' road to the Big XII championship game is as easy as it gets in this conference, and so far they've taken care of business. Nonetheless, I still have a pretty strong feeling that the games at Texas A&M and at Oklahoma State (not to mention the season finale against Missouri) could be trap games -- and Nebraska, due to be played on November 3, is always dangerous (even in a down year such as this). Bottom line -- I just don't think Kansas is a good enough team to claim the Big XII North -- but while they're winning, they might as well dream big.

12 (14) - Arizona State (7-0)
Arizona State hasn't proven much yet other than that they're in the top half of the Pac-10 and are capable of beating the teams that they should be beating. Next week's matchup against a suddenly struggling Cal program will be by far the biggest measuring stick this season for Dennis Erickson's Sun Devils. With games at Oregon and UCLA and at home against USC and Arizona to end the season, you have to think ASU is going to fall back to the pack awfully quickly. At least that 7-0 record looks nice and shiny for now.

13 (13) - Hawaii (7-0)
Yes, I had Hawaii ranked one spot ahead of ASU last week. Yes, both teams were idle this week. How, then, is it possible for Hawaii to have fallen behind ASU in this week's rankings? Simply put, I experienced a bit of "ranker's remorse." Hawaii is an interesting story, and they have a chance to go undefeated this season -- if they can beat Fresno State, Boise State, and Washington, that is -- but I simply couldn't put them in my top 12. Fact is, they've done nothing to deserve a ranking even as high as 13, but like most rankers I see a "0" in the loss column and my mind short-circuits. For now, then, I'll keep them up here, but as the season wraps up I reserve the right to change my mind on them, even if they stay undefeated.

14 (19) - Missouri (6-1)
All of the attention being paid to Kansas has to feel the Tigers feeling a bit left out. The only loss for Mizzou this season is at the hands of Oklahoma, and they've now defeated Texas Tech and Nebraska (which, I guess, isn't worth much anymore). In other words, Mizzou is a pretty solid team, and should match up well with anyone in the Big XII North. The season ending battle at Kansas on November 24 could very well be for a shot in the Big XII championship game, and I think Mizzou would stand an excellent chance of winning that matchup.

15 (20) - Michigan (6-2)
Convinced yet? Believe me, I know how bad Michigan's season opening losses were -- but since then, they've defeated Penn State, Purdue, and Illinois (amongst others) to get to 6-2 with a 4-0 conference record. To me, they're clearly the second best team in the Big X. Forget about the losses to Appy State (embarrassing) and Oregon (excusable) -- this team is legit.

16 (18) - Virginia (7-1)
Under the theory that wins are ultimately all that matter, I'm giving Virginia the benefit of the doubt and ranking them based on their 7-1 record. Nonetheless, is there a less meaningful -- or trustworthy -- record in college football this season? Since losing in Wyoming to open the season, the Cavaliers have won 4 games by 2 points or less, and another by 5 points. Their only blowout win of the season came against my alma mater, the Pittsburgh Panthers, and the only other win that wasn't close was an 11 pointer against Duke. A 7-1 record has to mean something, but when you've won three in a row by a combined 4 points, how good is that record, really?

17 (6) - South Carolina (6-2)
I still think that the Gamecocks are a good team, but today's loss against Vandy was just bad. The South Carolina offense mustered just 6 points, and with games against Tennessee and Florida still on the schedule, you have to think that a third loss is a virtual certainty. All of a sudden, a team that had a chance to go to a top tier (albeit non-BCS) bowl game is probably going to be stuck heading someplace far less appealing when the season ends.

18 (11) - Kentucky (6-2)
It's kind of harsh to drop the Wildcats this far after losing to a very good Florida team, but South Carolina beat Kentucky fairly decisively earlier this season, and I was reminded of that when they both lost this week. Kentucky's losses are to better teams, so I think they'll rebound to a greater extent than will South Carolina -- but for this week at least, my inner-ranker told me to put Kentucky a spot behind the Gamecocks.

19 (23) - Texas (6-2)
It has to be nice to get back-to-back creampuffs on the schedule. Texas just finished pounding Iowa State and Baylor (both on the road) over the last two weeks, and now gets to welcome a weakened Nebraska team into town next Saturday. Oklahoma should run away with the Big XII south, but Texas can at least still salvage a very good bowl game if they can finish off the last four weeks with wins against Nebraska, @ Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and @ Texas A&M.

20 (NR) - Rutgers (5-2)
If you beat a top 5 team and have a legitimate record, you get back in the polls. Next week will be telling -- if they beat WVU, they'll easily be in my top 15. If they lose, they'll once again be unranked.

21 (NR) - UCLA (5-2)
UCLA's win over Cal wasn't quite as impressive as Rutgers win over South Florida, but it was still a quality win, and it took the Bruins to 4-0 in the Pac-10. This is a team that still has a chance to claim the Pac-10 title, with a horrifying three-game gauntlet against Arizona State, Oregon, and @ USC to finish off the season. Which UCLA squad will show up for those games -- the one that beat Cal 30-21 today, or the one that handed Notre Dame their first win on October 6?

22 (15) - California (5-2)
I just couldn't bounce them from the rankings just yet -- although I came fairly close. Clearly, the Oregon State loss carried with it some kind of hangover. The Golden Bears better find the remedy, and quick -- they face undefeated Arizona State next week on the road. Three losses in a row would be devastating for a program that thought it was a legitimate contender for a National Championship when the season started.

23 (25) - BYU (5-2)
Very few people will put BYU on their ballot this week, but I stuck them in at #25 last week, and circumstances dictated that they get a little bump up from me this time around. They beat Eastern Washington today -- not exactly a powerhouse -- but I think they're a legitimate top 25 team (that 31-6 win over Air Force is starting to look pretty solid, for instance). They could make me look good by winning out, so I'll be rooting for them the rest of the way.

24 (17) - Texas Tech (6-2)
The Red Raiders lost at Mizzou tonight, but that's not a sin. Ultimately, while I considered replacing them with several other teams (Penn State, Clemson, Wisconsin, Purdue, Alabama, and UConn all received serious consideration), I decided to keep the boys from Lubbock in the top 25. In the next two weeks, Tech will face Colorado and to Baylor -- so they should be 8-2 when the season ending matchups at Texas and at home against Oklahoma roll around.

25 (21) - Auburn (5-3)
Remember what I said about the SEC earlier in this post? Auburn is a big part of why I think that conference is something special. The Tigers are very good, but the schedule has been fairly brutal. Two of Auburn's three losses have come against South Florida and LSU, and both were very close. Their only other loss was a five pointer against Mississippi State. Bottom Line: Auburn is a very good team, and I'm stubbornly going to keep them in my top 25.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nightly Notes

I have some wide-ranging things to talk about tonight, so the old "Nightly Notes" column seemed like the right format to go with. Here goes nothing:

1.) I have to start with the ALCS, don't I? Josh Beckett was his amazing self tonight, and C.C. Sabathia was pretty good but not great. As a result, the Sox live to fight another day. With Curt Schilling going against Fausto Carmona in Game 6 in Boston on Saturday, the Sox have a good chance to push the series to Game 7. I believed strongly that Beckett would be solid tonight -- but I still think it was a mistake not to start him in Game 4 -- and I still think that the Indians are going to win this series.

2.) It seems as if Tim Wakefield was going to pitch Game 5 if he hadn't pitched Game 4, and that mystifies me almost as much as the decision not to start Beckett in Game 4 in the first place. Curt Schilling pitched Game 2 of the series, and with the two off days and two games between Game 2 and Game 5, he would have been able to pitch Game 5 on full rest. The whole idea of having Beckett go in Game 4 would have been rendered idiotic if you then turned around and started Wakefield in Game 5 -- but was there any reason that Schilling couldn't have gone in Game 5, with Daisuke pitching Game 6 and Beckett coming back for Game 7? There's something here I just don't get. Ah well -- the Red Sox will either make Terry Francona look very smart by coming back in this series, or they won't. We'll see what happens.

3.) I have been a big fan of South Florida ever since they beat Auburn, but they lost to Rutgers tonight to continue the ridiculous streak of ranked teams losing to unranked teams. This is good news for Big East haters -- an undefeated South Florida squad would have had an excellent chance of finishing in the BCS top 2 to earn a trip to the National Championship game. As it is, we're into somewhat absurd territory anyway -- can you say Ohio State/Boston College? If I had to guess, BC will lose at some point, and LSU will end up facing Ohio State for the title. Honestly, thought, this season has been so ridiculous already that very little would surprise me. I'd laugh pretty hard if the championship game ended up being, let's say, Hawaii/Boston College.

4.) About that Joe Torre situation -- I don't know who to believe here. Tom Verducci calls the Yankees cowardly for making an unfair offer to Torre; but fellow CNNSI columnist Jon Heyman says the offer was perfectly fair. Peter Gammons and Tim Kirkjian , meanwhile, says in this video piece that Yankee was Torre was mistreated considering what he had done for the organization. The questions just keep piling up: was the offer fair? was it made in good faith, or did the Yankees make an offer that they knew Torre would refuse? Did Torre have any intention of returning, or did he just want to make the Yankees look bad by rejecting an offer that he probably had some indication was forthcoming?

Ultimately, I think that Torre deserved the right to walk away on his own terms, and the decision by the Yankees to guarantee just one year on the deal was probably the deal-breaker. Many analysts tonight made it quite clear that the lame duck status of Torre throughout 2008 would have been a tremendous distraction, and Torre made the move that was right for the players. Ultimately, I have no idea what went on in the meeting between Torre and the team, or the organizational meetings that came before. I can say definitively, though, that I wouldn't want to be taking over for him -- it seems like a can't win scenario (well, almost -- a World Series title in 2008 would pretty much constitute a win; nevertheless, I think the Yankees might be in for some transitional shock in '08, especially if a few free agents walk). I'm sure that there will be much more on this in the days to come.

5.) Just a very quick Arizona Fall League update -- Matt Macri, acquired from the NL Champion Colorado Rockies (boy, does that look weird), is one of the hottest hitters in the AFL. In 23 AB's, he's clubbed a couple of homers and is hitting a robust .348 -- gotta like those numbers. On the pitching side, the most notable performance thus far has been turned in by Eduardo Morlan (who spent most of the season with the Miracle) who has pitched 3 innings and is yet to allow an earned run.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Playoff Thoughts

*** Update Added to #3 -- 9:35 pm MDT ***

It's a couple of hours before the start of Game 4 of the ALCS, and it seems like the appropriate time to put up my thoughts on that game and the playoffs generally -- mostly because I have a prediction that I should make before game time so I can be mocked or praised accordingly after the game. Here are the notes:

1.) First, congratulations to the Rockies. If the campus here at CU-Boulder is any indication, the Rockies have earned themselves a fair number of bandwagon fans who simply were non-existent before September 16. I know many "true fans" mock the bandwagon, but I don't at all -- you can't build a loyal fan base without starting somewhere, and this kind of performance from the Rockies might just be enough to kick-start something special here in Colorado. That said, if the team doesn't win the World Series and finishes 80-82 next year, much of the bandwagon will disappear -- but probably not all of it. This run has been big for the Rockies franchise, and could have a very positive effect in the future.

2.) An eight day layoff before the World Series is somewhat silly, but honestly I don't fault MLB too much for what happened here. First, baseball intentionally staggered the start of these series so maximize the number of nights in which there was just one game on. Honestly, I don't have a problem with that -- I get to watch more baseball at a decent hour, and don't have to worry about as many overlapping games. In my perfect world, I probably wouldn't go as far as the MLB did, arbitrarily inserting an off-day between Games 4 & 5 -- but this isn't a particularly egregious problem. The biggest issue is that the Rockies swept the series, and that's completely out of MLB's hands. The Rockies will be fine after the layoff, and if they lose the series it won't be because they had so many off days.

3.) On to my prediction: The Red Sox are going to lose tonight when Tim Wakefield pitches poorly and Paul Byrd pitches reasonably well for the Indians. Second prediction: Tonight's loss will lead to the Indians winning this series and advancing to the World Series against the Rockies. Untestable Hypothesis: Josh Beckett should pitch tonight, and would give the Red Sox a better chance of winning if he did so.

Ok, this isn't exactly earth-shattering stuff -- a whole 'lotta people have been saying that Beckett should start over the past 24 hours, including (off the top of my head) Keith Law, Rob Neyer (I think -- my apologies to him if I made this up), and a few various ESPN radio personalities. Nonetheless, I absolutely believe that Terry Francona is making a very big mistake, one that I think is likely to cost his team a championship.

To steal (and expand on) Keith Law's argument -- managers are starting to fear the idea of bringing starters back on short rest because the overall numbers are so terrible. However, those are general numbers, which are useless in any particular case. I haven't looked the numbers up myself, but it sounds as if Josh Beckett actually has a history of pitching quite well on short rest. He also threw just 80 pitches in Game 1, so he didn't exactly over-extend himself. Add to that the fact that Beckett would be available to pitch in Game 7 (on full rest, thanks to off days) if he pitched Game 4, and the fact that Wakefield hasn't pitched in a game since September 29, and this to me seems to be an obvious decision. Of course, Terry Francona has a job as a big league manager, and I don't -- so he probably knows something that I don't. I just won't be remotely surprised if this decision directly leads to the Sox playing golf next week, rather than trying to hand the Rockies their first post-season loss.

UPDATE: For about 4 innings tonight, I thought I was wrong. That all changed in the fifth inning, when Wakefield started the inning by giving up a homer to Casey Blake and proceeded to give up 5 earned before being yanked. Paul Byrd did exactly what I thought that he'd do -- pitched beautifully for five innings before giving up back-to-back dingers and getting pulled. I have no idea what would have happened if Josh Beckett had started tonight's game, but I strongly believe that the Red Sox wouldn't have given up 7 runs in the fifth. Francona made a big mistake tonight.

4.) I'm over the Torre thing -- make a decision already, Boss.

5.) Just a random Twins question here -- if Wayne Krivsky hadn't been hired by the Reds, do you think Krivsky or Bill Smith would be the GM today? I still think it would have been Smith, and I think the Twins got the better of that deal -- I don't like what Krivsky has done since taking over in Cincinnati (although I'm not as ambivalent about the Dusty Baker hiring as many commentators are, and I still wish Krivsky well going forward).


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reviewing the 40-Man Roster

As I mentioned a few days ago, I've decided to quash my "What I'd Do" post due to extreme length and general incomprehensibility. In lieu of that post, however, I'm going to be analyzing various off-season issues as they come up. This post is devoted to the current state of the 40-man roster -- including my judgments on who the Twins should remove from the roster prior to November 20, the deadline for adding players to the roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Here goes nothing, position-by-position:

The Twins in previous years have typically carried only 3 catchers on the 40-man roster at any given time unless circumstances dictated otherwise (such as late this season, when the Twins ended up with 5 catchers on the roster due to injuries). Joe Mauer and Mike Redmond obviously aren't going anywhere, as they fill the starter and backup roles.

The other two catchers on the roster are Chris Heintz and the recently added Jose Morales, coming off of a great season in Rochester. Heintz has been the Twins primary third-string catcher for a couple of years now, and has one option year left. Morales hasn't yet been optioned at all, meaning the Twins could continue optioning him to the minors through 2010 without having to make an ultimate decision on him.

My preference is to keep both of these players on the roster as insurance against injury. Morales is an obvious keep because of his apparent upside and the long period for which the Twins can keep him around. Heintz is a tougher call, however, and I could see the Twins choosing to part ways with him. The first reason is simply that Heintz doesn't actually catch all that much anymore -- when he's in Rochester, he plays a little infield and DH's some. Second, he's getting a bit long in the tooth (he's 33-years-old, compared to Morales, who is just 24). Finally, Morales also seems to have a higher upside at the plate. As a result, it may make sense to take Heintz off the roster to clear room for another player. As I said before, however, a player with his experience is still a useful commodity, and I'd keep him around for his last option year.

Infielders (7)
This is a position where I'd expect the Twins to do some active re-tooling over the course of the off-season. The only two positions that I think are set in stone for next year are starting First Baseman Justin Morneau and starting Shortstop Jason Bartlett. Beyond that, the Twins have already stated that Nick Punto is virtually certain to start the season as the starting Second Baseman.

Beyond that, Third Baseman Brian Buscher and Middle Infielder Alexi Casilla may or may not make the team out of spring training, but they aren't going to be removed from the roster anytime soon, either. Casilla is still viewed as the Twins eventual second sacker, and Buscher played well enough at third to at least get a chance to continue developing in that role throughout next season, either with the Twins or in AAA.

That leaves two players who the Twins will actually have to make decisions about this off-season. The first is Middle Infielder Chris Basak, who the Twins claimed off waivers from the Yankees in August. I would not keep Basak on the roster, because I think the Twins have numerous other options available in the minor leagues who could fill his role (although with Luis Rodriguez having been claimed by the Padres and Tommy Watkins possibly not returning, the competition has thinned a bit). Nonetheless, the Twins almost certainly didn't claim Basak without having a plan for him, so I expect him to stick around at least through Spring Training, with a chance to win Luis Rodriguez's old job.

Finally, there's Garrett Jones, who possibly should be classified as an outfielder at this point. Either way, Jones is out of options and has struggled at the big league level in limited appearances. As with Basak, the Twins will probably keep Jones around through Spring Training to give him a chance to claim a job. Also as with Basak, I probably wouldn't be so generous. While Jones started to improve offensively at the end of the season, I don't think he'll be a significant contributor to the team, and I'd give his roster spot to someone else.

Outfielders (7)
First, it's clear that Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel aren't going anywhere in this off-season, despite being arbitration eligible. Cuddyer will be the starting Right Fielder again next year, and Kubel will get a chance to win either the left field or DH jobs, depending on who the Twins pick up through free agency. Also a virtual certainty to be back is backup outfielder Jason Tyner, who once again had a decent season for the team, and who can now fill the Lew Ford role without having to look over his shoulder AT Lew Ford (as should have been the case last year). The Twins also aren't going to take Center Fielder Denard Span off the roster this off-season -- even though it's extremely unlikely that he'll start the season in the Majors.

That leaves three more players -- one of whom will be gone, one who might be gone, and one who probably should be gone. We'll start with the easy one: Rondell White is eligible to file for free agency when the World Series ends, and he will do so. While he's likely to retire, it's still good practice for a retiring player to file for free agency to kep his options open. The player who might be gone is, of course, Torii Hunter. I've made clear previously that I would do everything in my power to bring him back, and hopefully the Twins can find a way to keep him around. If they don't, scoring runs next season will become that much more difficult. I don't know what's going to happen with Hunter -- but I'm not encouraged by the lack of any rumblings indicating that negotiations are ongoing.

Finally, the Twins still have Darnell McDonald on the roster. McDonald was acquired from the Nationals for the rights to Levale Speigner over the summer, and is now out of options. Considering that the outfield situation is in flux, the Twins will probably keep McDonald around for a Spring audition. I would not, however -- McDonald is about to turn 29 and he has a career .269 average in the minor leagues. I don't see any reason to keep him on the roster.

Pitchers (21)
First, there are a lot of players who simply aren't going to be removed from the roster at this point in the off-season, and I'm just going to name them and get them out of this discussion: Scott Baker, Boof Bonser, Jesse Crain, Matt Garza, Matt Guerrier, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Dennys Reyes, Juan Rincon, Johan Santana, and Kevin Slowey will all be with the team next year barring a trade or something unforeseen -- even Baker, who is out of options and in need of a solid spring to earn a starting job (although he's easily a front-runner for one of the spots that's going to be available next year). That's 13 players we no longer have to discuss.

The only player who is a virtual lock to be removed from the roster is Carlos Silva, who is eligible to file for free agency after the World Series and who will do so in a heartbeat -- he's in line to be one of the better starters available on the market this winter, which means he's probably in line for a pretty hefty payday. It's always possible that the Twins could decide to bring him back, but I think it's pretty unlikely.

That leaves seven more pitchers to consider, and I'll go through them in alphabetical order. First up is Ricky Barrett, a lefty who will be 27 when the season rolls around next year. Barrett has been on the roster since November 2006, so he has 2 option years left. He's also pitched reasonably well in Rochester over the past couple of years. Unless the Twins find themselves in a position where they desperately need to free up a roster spot, I'd keep Barrett around.

Next up is Nick Blackburn, and I don't think too much discussion is necessary here -- Blackburn exploded last year, pitching brilliantly and making his way onto the 40-man roster in September. The Twins aren't going to turn around and remove him now when he looks to be on a Major League trajectory -- probably not for 2008, but quite possibly by 2009.

That brings us to Carmen Cali, a lefty who was brought in for Spring Training 2007 to compete for a spot in the bullpen. While he didn't make the club out of spring training, he ended up getting 21 innings of work with the big league club, posting a 4.71 ERA. He was much better in AAA, getting 47.2 innings of work and putting up a 2.45 ERA. Cali is now out of options, but there's no reason not to bring him back and let him compete for a job in Spring Training (yes, I know I've been saying that quite a bit). I would keep him around, and I think the Twins will do the same.

Next up is Julio DePaula, and I don't think there will be a significant question over what to do with him this off-season. DePaula was horrid with the Twins this year, posting an 8.55 ERA in 20 innings of work -- but he's been really good in his minor league career, and last year (2.90 ERA in 83.2 innings) was no exception. DePaula has two option years left, so while I don't expect him to be pitching for the Twins next year (barring injuries), I don't see the Twins taking him off of the roster.

Fifth on the list is Jose Mijares, a lefty who spent most of his 2007 season in New Britain. Mijares has just one option year left, and it's almost certain to be used next year -- but as with DePaula there's no reason to remove him from the roster now. He put up a 3.54 ERA in 61 innings for New Britain last year -- nearly identical to the 3.55 ERA in 63.1 innings he posted for Ft. Myers the year before. Those are respectable numbers, and he's a lefty -- the Twins might as well keep him around and see if he can develop in time to contribute for the 2009 season when he'll be out of options.

Sixth on the list is another lefty, Errol Simonitsch, who missed most of last season due to injury. Simonitsch is a starter with reasonable numbers, but he has just one option year left and will almost certainly be starting next season either in Ft. Myers or New Britain. I don't think that the Twins would face a significant risk of losing him if they removed him from the roster, but even if they did I'm not convinced at this point that it would be a significant loss. With a number of other players in a better position to contribute, and in more danger of being lost to the club, I would remove Simonitsch from the roster -- and I think there's a fairly good chance that the Twins will come to the same conclusion.

Finally, we come to Oswaldo Sosa, a right-handed starter who was really great in Ft. Myers last year (2.23 ERA in 105 innings) and was mediocre after being promoted to New Britain (4.50 ERA in 48 innings). Sosa has two option years left, and seems to be moving up the organizational ladder at a reasonable pace. As a result, I don't think he's in any danger of being removed from the roster at this point.

The Twins currently have 39 players on the 40-man roster. At least two more (Carlos Silva and Rondell White) are virtually certain to come off of the roster, and for now I'll assume that Torii Hunter will be sticking around. In addition to the free agent losses, I would waive the following players to make more room: Chris Basak, Garrett Jones, Darnell McDonald, and Errol Simonitsch. That would leave the Twins with a 33 players on the 40-man roster -- plenty of room to add three or four prospects to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft while also making a couple of free agent additions. I'll be watching closely over the next month to see what Bill Smith ends up doing prior to the November 20 deadline.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

My College Football Top 25

Rankings in college football are always a bit dubious, but this season they've been even less relevant than usual. After watching LSU lose to Kentucky, Cal lose to Oregon State, and USC struggle against Arizona, I'm really not sure what to think. I will say one thing -- I legitimately believe that Ohio State will run the table, and that they'll probably be the only program that is undefeated at the end of the year. If a team like Boston College or South Florida could find a way to avoid losing, however, we could be looking at a very unusual national championship game. With the BCS rankings set to come out tomorrow, here's my version of the top 25:


1 (2) - Ohio State (7-0)
The Buckeyes would seem to have little to fear from the rest of the Big X schedule, with once alluring matchups against Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Illinois now looking less compelling since each of those teams has two losses. However, the season ending battle at the Big House against Michigan on November 17 suddenly looks much more interesting with the Wolverines having won their last 5 ballgames. At this point, I wouldn't be remotely surprised if that game was for the Big X's BCS berth.

2 (4) - Boston College (7-0)
After four straight games against Army, UMass, Bowling Green, and Notre Dame, the Eagles suddenly have to travel to Blacksburg to face Va Tech with a chance to grab firmly ahold of the ACC.

3 (5) - South Florida (6-0)
The Bulls have won just one conference game this year, but of course it was two weeks ago against the Mountaineers. Now, the season will end with six straight conference games, starting with back-to-back road challenges against Rutgers and UConn. This team clearly seems to be the class of the Big East, but with all of the insanity this year, I don't think SFU should feel too comfortable with their position in the top 3.

4 (6) - Oklahoma (6-1)
The Sooners have rebounded nicely after being shocked in Boulder by Colorado, winning back-to-back games against Texas and a strong Missouri club. Now, the schedule gets quite a bit easier, with Iowa State due to be sacrificed next week. If Oklahoma doesn't sputter again this year, a chance at the national title may be forthcoming.

5 (1) - LSU (6-1)
I really struggled with how far I should drop the Tigers after their triple OT loss to Kentucky. On the one hand, Kentucky had just lost to South Carolina, a team that LSU handled efficiently back in September. On the other hand, Kentucky has shown themselves to be a pretty solid team and the game was in Lexington. In the end, I just couldn't move LSU down further than 5th -- does anyone really believe they're not a top 5 team? The murder's row SEC schedule made finishing undefeated a virtual impossibility -- but it also should mean that LSU will continue to get poll love, and that they still have a great shot to end up in the national title game.

6 (7) - South Carolina (6-1)
Speaking of South Carolina, how much bigger does that win over Kentucky last week look now? SC's only loss this season game in LSU, and they look like a legitimate threat to win the SEC East. Of course, Florida will have something to say about that -- and both the Wildcats and Gamecocks have games left against the Gators. Things should stay very, very interesting in the SEC for the rest of the year.

7 (8) - Virginia Tech (6-1)
As mentioned above, the Hokies next game is at home against BC. They haven't lost since the second week of the season, when LSU blew them out. Interesting matchups against Georgia Tech (who just took out Florida State), the Seminoles, Miami, and a suddenly interesting Virginia squad remain on the sked after the BC game -- and any of those games could easily be traps, making next week even more important for VT.

8 (9) - West Virginia (5-1)
Things worked out right for the Mountaineers this week, as they were idle. With Cal's loss to Oregon State, WVU still moved up. Next week, West Virginia will ease back into action at home against Mississippi State, with key matchups against Rutgers, Louisville, and Cincinnati to follow.

9 (10) - USC (5-1)
The Trojans didn't look particularly good in beating a not-very-good Arizona Wildcat squad today, but as with WVU above, circumstances conspired to move the Trojans up. That won't last long if USC can't play a bit better in the coming weeks. An easily overlooked game against Notre Dame is up next for the Trojans, with Oregon up the week after. Games against Cal-killer Oregon State, Cal, a surprisingly strong Arizona State squad, and UCLA finish things up for the Trojans -- and they could lose several of those games if they play like they did today.

10 (11) - Florida (4-2)
The Gators had the week off, and had to be pleased to see LSU tumble, putting Florida back in the SEC title picture (although a Kentucky loss might have been a little better in the long run). The fact remains, however, that the Gators have lost two in a row, and have to face those very same Wildcats next week in Lexington.

11 (17) - Kentucky (6-1)
It's awfully hard to find fault with what the Wildcats have done this year, with their one loss coming in South Carolina and good wins against Louisville, Arkansas, and now LSU. I said two weeks ago that if Kentucky could win at least one game against the trio of South Carolina, LSU, and Florida that they would have done accomplished something significant. Mission accomplished -- with a chance for a whole lot more.

12 (12) - Oregon (5-1)
I guess the Ducks didn't take their loss to Cal too seriously -- they pounded poor Washington State today 53-7, continuing a season that has been pretty remarkable. If the bounces had gone just a bit differently against the Golden Bears, Oregon could be 6-0 and in position to win the Pac-10.

13 (13) - Hawaii (7-0)
It didn't look pretty, but the Warriors again got it done on the road with another remarkable performance from Colt Brennan. Hawaii often struggles on the road, but the good news for them is that they have just one more game on the mainland this year, against Nevada on November 16. With the explosive offense they have on display, I legitimately think they're a top 15 team, and so long as they keep putting wins on the board I'll keep them up here.

14 (14) - Arizona State (7-0)
The Sun Devils are at the top of the Pac-10 following Cal's loss this week. However, as I mentioned last week, ASU now has to face Cal, Oregon, UCLA, and USC following next week's bye. Anybody want to pick them to run that gauntlet undefeated? Yeah, me neither.

15 (3) - California (5-1)
If this season has demonstrated anything, it's that one loss does not kill your season. However, a loss to a mediocre Oregon State ballclub, at home, was legitimate cause to drop Cal down significantly. Next week brings UCLA on the road, with ASU up the week after. Cal needs to buckle down quickly, or they'll be out of the rankings quickly.

16 (18) - Kansas (6-0)
I legitimately thought at the beginning of the year that the Jayhawks wouldn't even be good enough to make a bowl game this year. Guess I was wrong about that -- Kansas is already bowl eligible, and looking pretty solid. Simply put, Kansas blows out bad competition (as they did today to Baylor), and is good enough to have defeated Kansas State on the road. They also avoid Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech this season, and Nebraska is on the schedule but isn't very good. Suddenly, a Big XII North title is a distinct possibility.

17 (NR) - Texas Tech (6-1)
The Red Raiders have been on my short list for a couple of weeks now, but they really hadn't won an impressive game until they beat Texas A&M today. The one loss on Texas Tech's resume came at the hands of Oklahoma State on the road back on September 22, and they've bounced back strongly since that game. I suspect that Tech will struggle agaisnt Texas and Oklahoma (in the last two games of the season), but they should be able to hang with Missouri, Colorado, and Baylor in the next three weeks.

18 (NR) - Virginia (6-1)
Here's another team that I've considered placing in the rankings for a few weeks but just haven't been able to pull the trigger on. Partly, that's because of the narrowness of some of their victories -- 2 points at UNC; 2 points at Middle Tennessee State; 1 point today against UConn. Still, the only loss this season game in week 1 at Wyoming, and even if most of the wins haven't been spectacular, they've still been wins. The next five weeks are tough, however, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that Virginia could finish the season 6-6.

19 (16) - Missouri (5-1)
Missouri fell only three places despite losing today for a couple of reasons -- firstly, because they were beat by Oklahoma, a top 5 team; and secondly, because so many of the teams from 15-25 also lost this week. Mizzou still has a good chance to finish strongly in the Big XII North. A matchup with Texas Tech next week should help set the pecking order in the conference.

20 (NR) - Michigan (5-2)
Convinced yet? The Wolverines were, of course, horrible in the first two weeks of the season, losing to Appy State and Oregon in the Big House. Since then, however, Michigan has reeled off five straight wins and find themselves at the top of the Big X along with Ohio State. The last five games of the season will provide some serious challenges -- games on the road at Illinois, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, and a home game to end the season against Ohio State -- but the Wolverines legimitately have a shot at a BCS bowl bid.

21 (23) - Auburn (5-2)
The Tigers have won four in a row since losing to South Florida and Mississippi State on the 8th and 15th of September. I probably would have moved them up farther, but they barely managed to beat Arkansas today by the anemic score of 9-7. Next up: LSU in Baton Rouge.

22 (25) - Tennessee (4-2)
The Volunteers made it back into my top 25 last week after beating Georgia. Today, they managed a solid if unspectacular win over Mississippi State on the road to move up a bit. Remember, Tennessee's only two losses this season are on the road to Cal and Florida -- and while the Cal loss doesn't look as respectable this week as it did a week ago, it's still not a terrible loss. This team is, I think, better than a lot of people think.

23 (NR) - Texas (5-2)
I took the Longhorns out of my top 25 last week after their second consecutive loss, but with so many top 25 losses again this week I've moved them back in. Really, though, this teams only good win all year was against a TCU team that turned out not to be very good -- so I think the Longhorns are probably in trouble moving forward when they play Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M to finish the season -- I just don't think they're going to win more than 2 of those games.

24 (19) - Illinois (5-2)
It's not a sin to go on the road and lose, even if it's to an inferior Iowa team. Of the ranked Big X teams that lost this week (the Illini, Wisconsin, and Purdue), I think Illinois is the best -- hence, they stay in the rankings. Unfortunately, next week brings the rejuvenated Wolverines to town.

25 (NR) - BYU (4-2)
Heck, no one else wants to stay in the polls, so why not give the Cougars a chance? BYU's two losses this season came at UCLA and at Tulsa (55-47). They have no particularly impressive wins, although beating Air Force 31-6 should count for something, and beating New Mexico on the road isn't too shabby. I don't particularly expect BYU to stay here (and there's no way that the national polls will have BYU anywhere near a top 25 ranking), but I don't really like my other available options, so BYU gets the nod.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

More Transactions

The Twins continued to tweak their roster today, tying up some loose ends and generally getting things into the shape you'd expect heading into the pre-free agency period.

First off, Lew Ford and Josh Rabe both elected free agency after being removed from the roster last week. While I'm a little disappointed to see Rabe go, I'm pleased the Ford is moving on. As I've said many times before, he's a very nice guy, but his baseball skills don't seem to be moving in the right direction. Hopefully he hooks on with a team that could use a part-time outfielder/nice guy.

Next up, the Twins outrighted Matt LeCroy from the roster, and LeCroy also elected to become a free agent. This was a move that obviously was coming -- the Twins simply have no place for LeCroy, and only a fluke caused him to be added to the roster at all. Unfortunately, LeCroy seems to want to give it a go for one more year -- I say unfortunately because this year made it very obvious that he's no longer a Major League caliber ballplayer. I hope for his sake that he retires and takes up coaching -- something I think he'd be suited for, based on personality. Outrighting LeCroy dropped the Twins 40-man roster to 36 players -- briefly.

The Twins also chose to activate all injured players from the 60-day DL today, reinstating Jesse Crain, Francisco Liriano, and Jose Morales to the roster. As a result, the roster was pushed back up to 39 players.

Finally, there's the curious case of Infielder Alejandro Machado. Machado was a Rule 5 pick last December out of Washington, but spent the entire season on the Disabled List. In order for a Rule 5 pick to stay with the team that drafted him, my understanding is that he has to spend the equivalent of a full year on the active roster, so Machado would have to spend all of 2008 on the roster to avoid being returned to Washington (unless they decided they didn't want him). Here's where things get tricky -- Machado was assigned to AAA today (ESPN uses the term "assigned," while the Twins website says "outrighted"). More than likely Machado was actually outrighted, removing him from the 40-man roster entirely. This presumably will give Washington the option of reclaiming him from the Twins, working out a trade for him, or just letting him stay with Minnesota. I don't know of any other way that this transaction could have worked, but the lack of clear information on Machado does make me wonder if there's a wrinkle here that I'm not seeing. Either way, for now we'll say that he's been removed from the roster entirely, leaving things at 39 players.

The Twins roster is now much cleaner than it was a few days ago, but I suspect that Bill Smith is still evaluating the roster to decide whether he wants to trim some fat before free agency clears Rondell White, Carlos Silva, and possibly Torii Hunter from the roster as well. Then, prior to November 20, Smith will have to decide which Rule 5 eligible players he wants to protect from the draft by adding them to the roster. I will of course have thoughts on that as the time draws nearer.


Nightly Notes

Alright, so it's a bit of a misnomer to call these "Nightly Notes" since they don't exactly happen nightly. Nonetheless, I'm keeping the name -- at least I write them at night, so that sort of counts. Anyway, here's the first real playoff/off-season version of the nightly notes for your edification:

1.) First off, an update on this blog. After producing a disgustingly long, rambling, and virtually incomprehensible "What I'd Do" post, I've decided to ditch that format. There's simply too much stuff that happens over the course of an off-season for me to comfortably talk about in one post. Instead, I'm going to address things as they come up. First up will be a player-by-player look at the 40-man roster, including which players I would drop from the roster right now (but not yet which players I would add to protect from the Rule 5 Draft -- that'll be coming in early November). I think this will be more manageable, and will have the upside of not scaring nearly as many people away from the post.

2.) Now, onto the actually important stuff -- go Rockies! This team is just plain fun to watch, and I am fully on the bandwagon. Winning tonight's game was huge for a lot of reasons for the Rockies: Brandon Webb is by far the most dangerous pitcher in the D-Back's rotation, so beating him is very good news; the Rockies now essentially have home-field advantage, and they're very, very good at Coors Field; the win keeps the ridiculous momentum going. I could go on, but there's really no need to -- it's pretty obvious that grabbing a Game 1 win, on the road, against the best pitcher your opponent will throw at you in the series is a positive. I can't wait for Game 2 tomorrow night!

3.) The ALCS gets underway tomorrow with a Josh Beckett - C.C. Sabathia tilt. I think that the Red Sox should be favored in this series, but I also think that it's very possible that Sabathia and Fausto Carmona could outpitch Beckett and Curt Schilling in the first two games -- and if that happens obviously the Indians would be in good shape. I'm picking Boston in six games in this series, but would not be in the least surprised if the Tribe pulled off the (minor) upset.

4.) What's with all the long-time GM's leaving their posts? Terry Ryan, Walt Jocketty (St. Louis), and now John Schuerholz (Atlanta) are all moving on -- and that's a whole lot of fire power that's departed the GM ranks in the past couple of weeks.

5.) My money in the Yankees managerial sweepstakes is on Don Mattingly. I don't see George Steinbrenner backtracking on his statement that Joe Torre had to lead the Bombers to the ALCS in order to retain his job, and of the names mentioned as possible replacements (Mattlingly, Joe Girardi, and Tony LaRussa being the most frequently mentioned), I think Mattingly makes the most sense. Steinbrenner has been grooming him for the job for several years, he's on the bench right now, and the fans would probably be thrilled with the choice. Anything can happen with the Yankees, but I think this makes a lot of sense and will probably be the way things go.

6.) Finally, a non-baseball note -- Florida State lost to Wake Forest tonight to continue the bizarre streak of ranked teams losing games. If this is any indication of what's to come, we'll be in for a third straight wild weekend. I can't wait!


Monday, October 08, 2007

Down Goes Torre . . . and a Dynasty

(Beware -- serious schadenfreude lies ahead)

Ok, so it's not yet "official," but tonight sure did have that feel about it, didn't it? Somehow, someway, the Yankees after 2001 have become the Atlanta Braves. As I was watching this team over the last few days, especially tonight, it all just looked so tired and played out. I'm referring to so many things here -- and I'll start with the team itself in this series. Chien-Ming Wang was hopeless. Alex Rodriguez was once again horrible -- at least until it didn't really matter and his team was already down by 4 runs. Captain Awesome (a.k.a. Derek Jeter) was equally bad until picking up a couple of hits in his first two at-bats tonight. Jason Giambi needn't have bothered to put on the uniform. Yes, I admit that I was getting a little bit worried when Joe Borowski came out for the bottom of the 9th -- but that was because it was Joe Borowski, he of the 5.06 ERA this season, and not because I thought this Yankees team had any magic to fall back on.

Really, though, there was so much more that seemed, frankly, a bit desperate. Ronan Tynan singing God Bless America? (And this is not a patriotism thing -- I have no problem with the idea of singing God Bless America -- I have a problem with the pomposity of it all as it plays out in Yankee Stadium). Yeah, we've been there many, many times before -- and do the networks (well, TBS) really need to keep covering this? It's pretentious. How about the theme to The Natural playing when Bobby Abreu took Borowski deep in the ninth -- a homerun that cut the lead to two runs. Seriously? The Natural? For a homerun that still left the team behind? Guess they were pulling all the stops out on that one.

My point with all of this is that it's time for a change in Yankee Stadium, and we're about to see one. Joe Torre is probably gone -- and really, it seems as if that's the right move. Honestly, he hasn't been at his best the last few years (not that he's gotten much help from his superstars). A-Rod will probably take this opportunity to exit stage left. If I were Jorge Posada, I'd be testing free agency as well. Mariano Rivera might actually retire to become a priest (remember that wild rumor from a few years back?). And really, let's be honest here -- this current crop of Yankees isn't going to be winning the World Series anytime soon. They just don't have the fire. I expect to see an overhaul, starting in about 10 minutes.

I'll finish this rant with one final thought -- for the past several years, I've hoped throughout the season that the Yankees would miss the playoffs. Frankly, I'm sick of seeing them in the post-season every year. Let's see Seattle, or Toronto, or the Twins instead. But tonight, after watching the Yankees bow out in the first round to a team that the whole city of New York thought was going to get crushed by the Yankees machine, I have to wonder whether this way might just be more fun after all.

OK, I lied -- one more thought, this one centered on how I could actually lose my irrational hatred of the Yankees (it's not as far fetched as you might think). First, they have to miss the playoffs. Next year would be good. And really, a three-year absence would be ideal. Then, they have to continue what they're doing by developing pitching. Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes -- good start. Heck, developing more players like Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano wouldn't hurt either. Stop giving washed up pitchers (ahem -- Roger Clemens) ridiculous sums of money just because you can. Hire another class act like Joe Torre as the new manager of the ballclub. Retire George Steinbrenner to pasture, and turn the team over to someone a bit less megalomaniacal. Then, maybe, I and the millions of other Yankee-haters can get over it -- because we are, after all, talking about the single most storied franchise in baseball history. I want to get the feeling that a playoff game in Yankee Stadium is a special event again. Until then, however, I'll keep on feeling gleeful that another season has ended without a 27th Yankee World Series crown. Sweet dreams, non-New Yorkers -- and go Indians!


Saturday, October 06, 2007

My College Football Top 25

My friends, we have been spoiled the past two weeks. There have been so many great moments in sports over the past couple of weeks that at the end of the weekend, I feel completely drained. Halfway through this weekend, I feel the same way -- what an incredible day of college football! Oh yeah, I would be remiss if I didn't congratulate my adopted Colorado Rockies for sweeping the Phillies and advancing to face the D-backs in the NLCS. Call me crazy, but I think they have a pretty darned good chance of making it to the Series. Anyway, back to the task at hand -- here's my Top 25, after a second straight week of massive upheaval.


1 (1) - LSU (6-0)
I feel pretty good now about having had LSU at the top of my rankings since I started doing this after week 2 -- they will be at the top of both polls tomorrow (although Ohio State will be getting some love), although things were a bit more interesting than Les Miles and his boys probably hoped for tonight. In the SEC, there are always potential losses lingering around every corner, and LSU goes to Kentucky in a game next week that could easily turn into a loss. However, the toughest is now behind LSU (although Auburn, coming up on October 20, might beg to differ), and the Tigers are in good position to reach the National Championship Game.

2 (4) - Ohio State (6-0)
Ever since the Buckeyes strolled into Seattle and beat Washington in week 3, I had an inkling that Ohio State was in good position to take advantage of an LSU or USC loss. The Big X looks like a very weak conference this season, and after dispatching Purdue today the rest of the schedule looks to be manageable. An OSU/LSU title game is a distinct possibility.

3 (3) - California (5-0)
The Golden Bears had the week off, but they had to be a bit disappointed watching USC fall tonight -- it makes a possible win by Cal over USC on November 10 look a little less impressive, and could hurt their chances of making it to the national championship.

4 (6) - Boston College (6-0)
BC keeps moving up the charts despite playing weak competition. This week, they pounded Bowling Green to reach Bowl eligibility, and next week they'll face a very beatable Notre Dame squad -- but all eyes will be set on a clash with Virginia Tech on October 25.

5 (7) - South Florida (5-0)
The Bulls escaped with a win against Florida Atlantic today, but a win is a win -- I didn't penalize Wisconsin for barely beating The Citadel, for instance, and FAU is better than The Citadel -- but they're going to have to protect the ball better if they want to have a chance to finish undefeated and get a BCS berth.

6 (8) - Oklahoma (5-1)
The Sooners proved that they're still a good team by beating Texas today and re-establishing some momentum after losing last week to Colorado. All of a sudden, next week's game against Missouri looks very interesting.

7 (12) - South Carolina (5-1)
The Gamecocks one loss this year came against LSU, and they have good wins over Georgia and Kentucky. South Carolina could still sneak into a BCS game by winning the SEC East and beating (presumably) LSU in the SEC title game -- but Florida will be trying to prevent from happening when they meet towards the end of the season.

8 (13) - Virginia Tech (5-1)
Like South Carolina, the Hokies only loss this season came at the hands of LSU. They hadn't won any impressive games until this week, however, when they took out Clemson. A very important match against Boston College is coming up on October 25.

9 (11) - West Virginia (5-1)
WVU recovered from a loss to South Florida last week by pounding Syracuse this week -- but it will all be for naught if the Mountaineers don't get some help from another team in the conference. If the Bulls win out, the Mountaineers are done. On the positive side, games against Rutgers and Louisville no longer seem so daunting -- but what to make of suddenly hot Cincinnati?

10 (2) - USC (4-1)
There is absolutely no excuse to lose to a team that you were favored to beat by 41 points. The Trojans don't even have the good ole' "we were looking ahead" excuse available to them, because they play the horrid Arizona Wildcats next week. Plain and simple, USC was bad tonight, and they deserved to lose. On the other hand, I still think that, all things considered, they're a top 10 team that had a bad night. I think that a move outside of the top 15 would be justified just on the basis of what happened on the field -- but on the basis of an honest evaluation, I can't go further down than this.

11 (10) - Florida (4-2)
Florida hung with LSU, in Baton Rouge, for most of the ballgame. This is still a very good football team, despite losing in back-to-back weeks. They absolutely need to get it together, as they face Kentucky, Georgia, Vandy, and South Carolina following next week's bye week. They simply cannot afford to lose again -- but for now, I give them credit for still being a very good team.

12 (14) - Oregon (4-1)
Oregon was idle this week, and they get winnable matchups with Washington State and Washington coming out of the bye. USC's loss still gives the Ducks hope to win the Pac-10 -- but they're going to need Cal to lose in order for that to happen.

13 (15) - Hawaii (soon to be 6-0)
Hawaii is an offensive machine, and I would be stunned if they found a way to lose to Utah State. As I write this, Hawaii is in the lead. I still don't know how I'll feel about the Warriors if they go undefeated -- but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

14 (22) - Arizona State (6-0)
Most of the Sun Devils wins this season have been dominant wins, but this week's game against Washington State provided a good test. Nonetheless, reality is probably about to set in, as ASU faces Washington, Cal, Oregon, UCLA, and USC in their next five contests. Good thing that Bowl Eligibility is already secured!

15 (23) - Cincinnati (6-0)
By beating Rutgers in New Jersey this week, the Bearcats proved that they're a threat to win the Big East. Games against Louisville and Pitt the next two weeks seem very winnable -- but what will Cincinnati do against South Florida on November 3?

16 (NR) - Missouri (5-0)
Mizzou started the season by beating Illinois, and that didn't seem that impressive at the time. Now, things look a bit different, as the Illini have reeled off 5 straight wins. Meanwhile, the Tigers win tonight against Nebraska puts them firmly in position to contend for the Big XII North title, and justifies an entry to the poll at #16.

17 (9) - Kentucky (5-1)
I reluctantly put Kentucky into the top 10 last week after they became impossible to ignore, but they could be out of the poll in a couple of weeks after meeting up with LSU and Florida.

18 (NR) - Kansas (5-0)
More surrealism -- the Jayhawks upended Kansas State in the Sunflower Showdown today, and that makes the early season drubbings they placed on 4 hapless non-conference opponents look a bit better. A matchup with Baylor next week should provide another win (and Bowl Eligibility), but games at Colorado and Texas A&M the two weeks after that will provide a true measure of how good Kansas really is.

19 (NR) - Illinois (5-1)
Illinois has reeled off wins against Indiana, Penn State, and Wisconsin over the last three weeks to put themselves in first place in the Big X. And here I was mocking Ron Zook -- looks like he's about to get the last laugh. The Illini can gain Bowl Eligibility next week by beating Iowa on the road, and a game against Michigan on October 20 will likely determine who Ohio State's number 1 contender for the Big X title will be.

2o (5) - Wisconsin (5-1)
It hasn't looked easy for Wisconsin since they beat Washington State in the opener on September 1. Finally, the Badgers luck ran out in Champaign-Urbana -- and next week Wisconsin has to go to Happy Valley to face Penn State.

21 (17) - Purdue (5-1)
I actually didn't want to punish the Boilermakers this much for losing to a really good Ohio State club, but that's just how things worked out. I suspect that Purdue is better than Michigan, and we'll find out next week when the two teams meet in the Big House.

22 (NR) - Florida State (4-1)
It may have been a bit premature to write off the Seminoles after they lost to Clemson on September 3. Since then, they've defeated UAB, Colorado, Alabama, and NC State -- and they look like solid contenders for the ACC along with BC and Virginia Tech.

23 (NR) - Auburn (4-2)
Speaking of writing off a team too early, the Tigers deserve another look after beating Florida two weeks ago and pounding Vandy this week. Auburn's September 15 loss to Mississippi State can't be spun into a positive light, but the loss to South Florida the week before looks a lot more forgivable now than it did at the time. Auburn gets Arkansas next week as a tuneup to a fight with LSU on October 20, and if they could find a way to pull that win off, they could still be in excellent position within the SEC.

24 (NR) - Colorado (4-2)
The Buffaloes two losses are against Arizona State (6-0) and Florida State (4-1), and they have a strong win over Oklahoma. With teams dropping like flies around them, I think it's time to give CU some love.

25 (NR) - Tennessee (3-2)
I really agonized over what I was going to do with this spot. I considered a lot of teams (Virginia, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Indiana, Alabama, Michigan, Maryland), but in the end I thought that Tennessee's dominance against Georgia, coupled with the fact that the two losses they've suffered were at the hands of Cal and Florida, was enough to give Tennessee this spot for a week. The Volunteers have to prove themselves against Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Kentucky as the season plays out (along with a few less compelling games), so they still have a chance to prove they belong. For now, I think #25 is not inappropriate.

Georgia (4-2), Nebraska (4-2), Kansas State (4-2), Texas (4-2), Clemson (4-2), UCLA (4-2), Michigan State (4-2) -- notice a pattern, here?