All posts by michaelhotard

Hotard: NFL Postseason Picks

The NFL preseason teases people more than the girl who “friend zoned” you in high school. As I told my buddies in high school, it gets better. All the teasing comes to an end this Thursday when the defending champion New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers. As exciting as the offseason and preseason were, from Geno Smith getting punched out of 10 games (literally) to Deflategate, the real thing is FINALLY upon us. It is going to be glorious. With that being said, every year there is always so much uncertainty looming around the NFL season.

Now is the time for fans and analysts to make all of their predictions regarding their favorite teams and players for the upcoming season, just so we can laugh at every blunder from now until February. According to NFL.com, at least four new teams have made the playoffs each year since 1990, with that number climbing more toward five in the last decade. The landscape is constantly changing in the NFL, which is why I believe people seem to crave it more with every season. It also helps that there is not 82 or 162 games. Each week becomes more meaningful than the next. That is what makes the NFL special.

Without further ado, I will introduce my lucky 12 teams to earn a playoff birth, along with my conference championship and Super Bowl teams.

AFC

1- New England Patriots 13-3

Is it really hard to understand why I take the Patriots as the top team in the AFC? Tom Brady had his four-game suspension lifted and I believe he will have a fantastic year because he is competitive to a fault. I feel like he wants to stick it to the commissioner. He is climbing in age and certainly isn’t the guy he was in 2007, but he still finds ways to win games. Since taking over the starting role for Drew Bledsoe in what seems like centuries ago, he has made the conference title game practically every other year (not an exaggeration).

2- Indianapolis Colts 12-4

The Colts made some great signings this offseason adding longtime Texans receiver and future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson, along with former 49ers running back Frank Gore. I think some veteran presence is exactly what the Colts need and they got it. I also loved them picking Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett in the draft. They still have issues on the offensive line, but that hasn’t seemed to phase Andrew Luck yet.

3- Baltimore Ravens 10-6

The Ravens are just a sound football team and its built from the ground up, which is why they seem to be at their best come playoff time. A solid front seven on defense and a solid offensive front is enough reason for me to believe Ravens will once again find themselves deep in the postseason.

4- Denver Broncos 10-6

Much like Brady, Peyton Manning has been winning for so long that it seems impossible to bet against him. I just have to wonder if the Peyton every football guru gushes over actually shows up. If he does, how long does it last? His first half of the season last year was typical Peyton numbers. He was erratic for the last 8 games due to injuries. So which guy are we going to get? He is still one of the best to ever play, no question, but age is definitely catching up.

5- Miami Dolphins 11-5

Yes, I love the Phins this year. Ndamakung Suh was a big win for Miami. Pairing him on that front line with Oliver Vernon and Cameron Wake will certainly be a trio that is tough to stop. Former LSU star, Jarvis Landry posted a solid rookie campaign with over 700 yards and five touchdowns. Miami was aggressive to get pass catchers this offseason as they snagged receivers Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings, as well as tight end Jordan Cameron. As icing on the cake, they drafted the speedster from Louisville Devante Parker in the first round. All I can say for the latest big money quarterback Ryan Tannehill is…pick your poison.

6- Buffalo Bills 10-6

A lot of people don’t like Rex Ryan as a head coach, but I do. Although I am unsure about Tyrod Taylor as a starting quarterback, it doesn’t matter. That offense is set up for success with running back Lesean McCoy and receiver Sammy Watkins. IF Percy Harvin can stay healthy, that offense is going to be a lot of fun to watch. Defensively, they did lose linebacker Kiko Alonso as part of the McCoy trade, but they still have a front four that includes Marcel Dareus and Mario Williams. With Sexy Rex running the show, that defense won’t miss a beat.

NFC

1- Green Bay Packers 12-4

I know receiver Jordy Nelson is out for the year, but Aaron Rodgers was a fantastic quarterback prior to having Nelson and it won’t change now. Donald Adams showed some flashes of potential last season and he finally gets to showcase it. Plus they still have a healthy Randall Cobb. Not saying you can just replace Nelson, but the best quarterback in the game will be just fine. Unless 12 goes down, they’re still the top dog this year.

2- Philadelphia Eagles 12-4

Unfortunately Sam Bradford has one massive question mark on his head. I was listening to The Herd on Fox Sports today and Troy Aikman said if he stays healthy, Bradford could be an MVP candidate. I don’t know if I am buying that, but I am not selling it either. I hope the former Sooner can stay healthy because I want to see the fireworks that follow.

3- Seattle Seahawks 11-5

Losing center Max Unger in the trade for tight end Jimmy Graham will be tough on the offensive side. Although, I do love that Russell Wilson finally has a big name to throw the rock to. The big question is coming on defense though. Safety Earl Thomas is expected to play in the season opener. Great news for Seattle fans, however, fellow safety Kam Chancellor is unhappy and plans to hold out. The team is still loaded, but that hurts and is why I have them dropping to 11-5.

4- New Orleans Saints 10-6

I feel like I am being a bit of a homer here, but the Saints have a favorable schedule so I think they can manage to sneak out of the division with the title. There are just so many questions. How will the defense rebound with all the injuries? Who is the go-to-guy on offense? Are they really going to focus heavily on the run game? I love that the offensive line is looking damn good again, on paper. The reason Dallas looked like the best team in football come playoff time was their offensive line and of course Demarco Murray. The defense was below average, but it was masked because they were rarely on the field. I think the Saints could use a similar formula to reach the playoffs again.

5- Arizona Cardinals 11-5

Defensively, the Cardinals won’t miss a beat. Offensively, it comes down to Carson Palmer. Much like Sam Bradford, if Palmer can put together a healthy year, this is a dangerous football team. Cardinals already had a solid offensive line and they wound up getting former 49ers guard Mike Iupati, which only boosts the offense.

6- Minnesota Vikings 10-6

Adrian Peterson makes his triumphant return and he finally has a solid signal caller to play off of. Teams will not be able to just stack the box anymore. Good luck covering Mike Wallace if you choose to do so. Teddy Bridgewater was fantastic toward the end of last season notching in a pair of three-hundred-yard outings and managed to not dip below a 68 percent completion rate in the final five contests.

Championship Sunday Picks: 

AFC- Ravens @ Colts

NFC- Seahawks @ Packers

Super Bowl Pick: 

Packers over Colts –

MVP- Aaron Rodgers

Hotard- 10 Best Athletes I have ever seen

As I was driving home from work, an idea popped in my head. I began thinking about the best athletes I have seen during my 24 years in this world and I decided to put together a list of the top 10.
My brainstorming came to 20 total athletes ranging from four different sports: basketball, baseball, football and soccer.
While soccer, baseball and football have always been in my wheelhouse from the time I was a young child, basketball really began to come into the mix around 2009-10. I always followed it, just not as in depth as I do now.
After much self debate and narrowing down, I finally have it. I can confidently say that performing surgery might have been easier.
Before reading ahead, please make notes that I set several ground rules for myself before coming up with the list…
-The athlete must play in a team sport. That means superstars like Michael Phelps and Tiger Woods are ineligible. Trust me, both of them would be on the list otherwise.
-You had to watch the athlete with your own two eyes and understand what you were seeing. Sorry to the people my age who will complain that my list doesn’t have the great Michael Jordan. Why you ask? Because I was 7 when he won his last title. The only recollection I have from Michael Jordan is Space Jam, which trolls may say is reason enough for him to make the list.
-The athlete may not have translated to the professional realm, but perhaps you loved watching them so much in college and it is two to four years you wish you could have back.
The parameters are set. Let’s do it!

Honorable Mention

fullycoveredsports.com

Ken Griffey Jr, Outfielder, Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox
Career Stats: .284, 630 Home Runs, 1,836 RBIs

Junior will be the only honorable mention for my list because I feel dirty leaving him off. He was THE GUY growing up in the late 1990’s. Let’s be honest, who didn’t love Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball on Nintendo 64? He was truly a transcendent star because of his “I am here to have fun” kind of attitude. He also had one of the smoothest swings I have ever seen to go along with his smooth demeanor. Unfortunately, the second half of his career was injury-plagued. I always wonder how good his numbers could have been if he stayed healthy? Either way, the Kid will always be one of the greats that I will never forget.

10- Randy Moss, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers
Career Stats: 982 rec, 15,292 yards, 156 TDs

It did not take Moss long to show his talent. The first round pick from Marshall caught 17 touchdowns in his rookie season. From 1998 to 2004, Moss only had one season where he didn’t reach double digits in touchdowns and under 1,200 yards. Everyone thought his career was dead when he joined the Oakland Raiders (Rightfully so). After two long seasons, he returned to form and set the bar for receiving touchdowns in a season with 23 when he jumped ship to the New England Patriots. How many times have you heard someone scream that a defender got “Mossed” in a pick up game? There is a reason for that. Personally, I am glad he revitalized his career when he joined the Patriots because people began to forget how good he really was because of his off the field antics and his two years in limbo.

kobe-bryant-2419- Kobe Bryant, Shooting Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Career Stats: 25.4 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, 5.4 rebounds per game

Unfortunately, basketball was not a top priority for me when he and Shaq three-peated and tore up the league. However, the black mamba has had enough in the tank to sustain greatness for the last 18 years. The last two or three have been rough though. I started to really get into a basketball around the time of Kobe’s second run with Pau Gasol. Bryant has that “killer instinct” you always hear about. He is also one of the most gifted scorers in the history of the league. Unlike some of the elite scorers of today, like the Houston Rocket’s James Harden, Bryant gave the Lakers both ends of the floor. Because of his scoring ability, I feel like a lot of fans forget that he has accolades for his defensive prowess, like 9 time All-NBA defensive team. Much like Moss, when people shoot turn around jumpers, there’s a reason they yell “Kobe” in your local recreation leagues. He is a true transcendent star of the NBA.

ladainian_tomlinson-3638- LaDainian Tomlinson, Running Back, San Diego Chargers and New York Jets
Career Stats: 13,684 rush yards, 145 rush TDs, 4,772 rec yards, 17 TDs

Size, speed, power, the total package for a running back. LT was a blessing to watch through the early 2000’s. The three-time first team all-pro running back played in a time where the backfield fueled the offenses. He currently sits at fifth for most rushing yards and third in total touchdowns for a career. He also holds the record for touchdowns scored in a single season with 31. In 2003, he became the first and only running back to have over 1,000 yards rushing and catch 100 passes. I am just not sure there will ever be another running back who has a 9 year stretch of dominance the way LT did.

soc_g_wambacha_5767- Abby Wambach, United States Forward
Career Stats: 183 international goals, World Cup Champion, Three-time Gold Medalist

The girl has a knack for scoring goals as she holds the international record for women. Not only did she score, she scored when it mattered most. I saw it happen time and time again. The header she sailed in the net during the 122nd minute against Brazil in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal match will always be a play I remember. It sent the game to a shootout, which the United States went on to win. I remember when Wambach first stormed onto the scene, she garnered comparisons to the great Mia Hamm. Wambach certainly lived up to all of the hype and it was amazing to see her finally get her first and only World Cup as a player.

15556320-mmmain6. Derek Jeter, Shortstop, New York Yankees
Career Stats: .310, 3,465 hits, 260 Home Runs, 1,311 RBIs

Loyalty. Honor. Respect. Jeter epitomizes the type of athlete you want your favorite organization to have. Spending his entire career with the New York Yankees, he helped them claim five World Series Titles. He was probably the most consistent athlete I have seen in my lifetime thus far. I mean, how many times did we see him poke a ball into right field for a base hit? His last at bat EVER was a freaking walk-off hit through the gap between first and second base. I have only seen one Major League Baseball game, which was in Tampa for Jeter’s last season. The second he announced 2014 would be his last year, I knew I had to go see the captain play. In that game, he made the same game winning RBI single he had made his entire career.

FBL-ESP-CUP-BARCELONA-GETAFE5- Lionel Messi, Forward, Barcelona and Argentina
Career Stats: 286 Club Goals, 46 International Goals, Four-Time Footballer of the Year

Messi is the biggest football/soccer star in the world right now. Messi is a god with a soccer ball. How is he so fast, yet so effective in keeping the ball attached to his feet? I have gone on Youtube binges in awe of his highlights. He knows how to slice defenders like butter and then finish at the goal. Despite the Argentine not winning a World Cup, he still receives recognition for arguably being the greatest of all time. He certainly is the best player that I have ever seen.

cnbc_sports_defectors_bonds24- Barry Bonds, Outfield, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants
Career Stats: .298, 762 Home Runs, 1,996 RBIs, 514 Stolen Bases

To all the baseball purists who would scoff that I have Bonds on this list, stop. He was great before he started taking PEDs and he was great after. Baseball was infested with doping and I am tired of the argument so save it. Although I think Bonds is an arrogant jerk, good God he was talented. People forget that before his head and body swelled like a balloon from all the steroids, he was a 30 home run and 30 steal kind of player. On top of the that, he was a phenomenal defender. In 2001, he finished the season with 156 hits, 73 were Home Runs. People can try to erase what he did in his career, but my eyes and mind will always have vivid memories of Bonds crushing the crap out of the ball at the most pitcher-friendly ball park in the MLB.

bloody-tebow3- Tim Tebow, Quarterback ,Florida Gators
Career Stats: 8,927 passing yards, 83 TDs/16 Ints, 2,947 rushing yards, 57 Rush TDs, Heisman Trophy Winner, Three-time Heisman finalist, Two-time National Champion

He is the greatest college football player that I have ever seen, period. Look above to the accolades and it is fairly easy to see why I believe that. His NFL career may not have panned out, but you can’t take away what he did at the college level. Urban Meyer knew he had a special talent in Tebow, which is why he used his QB as his main running back as well. At 6’3 and 240 plus pounds, Tebow is a monster and tough to bring down. If you stacked the box, he had weapons such as Riley Cooper, Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez to throw to. Tebow made it damn near impossible to stop Florida’s offense. I always loved his spirit and competitive nature. There will always be a spot in my memory bank for number 15.

peyton-manning2- Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos
Career Stats: 69,691 Passing Yards, 530 TDs/234 INTs, Five-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl Champion

Peyton Manning was the face of the NFL growing up. You could find him on every other commercial on NFL Sundays. There is a good reason for it, he helped change the game into what the quarterback position is now. Quarterbacks now need a greater understanding for the position before a snap is even taken. They now have to control the line of scrimmage and make pre-snap reads and audible if need be. Still to this day, I don’t believe there is a quarterback in the league who is nearly as good at the line of scrimmage. Towards the end of the season, Manning underperforms due to his age. If the latter for him is 35+ touchdowns and 4,600+ yards, most guys can’t do that in their best season. That’s not too shabby.

AP_lebron3_ml_140711_16x9_9921- LeBron James, Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat
Career Stats: 27.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.9 apg, Four-time NBA MVP, Two-time NBA Champion

Since being drafted in 2003, he has been the most decorated player since Michael Jordan. He has also been the most criticized athlete I have ever seen. He has reached the finals five straight years, which is incredible. It is mesmerizing watching him play every year. There isn’t a single athlete who I have enjoyed more than LeBron. At 6’8 and 260+ pounds, he is a mammoth of a man. The fact he can dribble and pass the basketball like a point guard is amazing. There is no weakness in his overall game. He can score, rebound, pass and defend. He can literally do it all. Because of his size, speed and overall athleticism, he can defend a team’s best player regardless of position. That is sick. Even though Cleveland lost this past year’s NBA finals, watching LeBron do what he did during that run is something I don’t think we will ever see again. For all those who hate on him because you worship Michael Jordan, stop and enjoy the show. Put your fists away for a minute and enjoy the talent. There will never be a greater specimen than LeBron James.

BONUS…

While a lot of thought went into my top 10, I started thinking about the top 5 athletes of tomorrow. I will give you a short list of five young stars who I think could make their way onto this top 10 by the time their career is finished.

neymar-may-not-score-as-many-goals-for-barcelona-as-messi-but-he-might-end-up-a-better-international-star-than-even-pele5- Neymar, 23, Forward, Brazil and Barcelona
Career Stats: 44 International Goals, 31 Club Goals

He is one of the brightest young stars in soccer at just 23. Neymar helped lead Brazil all the way to the 2014 Fifa World Cup Finals where they were demolished by Germany in his absence. The fact he is playing alongside Messi on Barcelona will only help him long term.

MLB: NLDS-San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals4- Bryce Harper, 22, Outfield, Washington Nationals
Career: .284, 82 Home Runs, 211 RBIs

I have been following Harper since he was in high school. Hype always surrounded him because of his ability to hit the long ball. So far, he has not been a disappointment. Harper is having a magnificent season in 2015 with a .330 average, 27 home runs and 64 RBIs.

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks3- Russell Wilson, 26, Quarterback Seattle Seahawks
Career Stats: 9.950 Pass yards, 72 TDs/26 INTs, 1,877 Rush yds, 11 rush TDs, Super Bowl Champion

Since coming to Seattle in 2012, he has been to two Super Bowls. I understand he has a great running back in Marshawn Lynch and one of the best defenses of all-time. I seem to remember a young guy by the name of Patriots Tom Brady having a similar set up early in his career, so let’s not use that as a write off to how good Wilson is. The 5’11 quarterback knows how to manipulate the pocket and make plays on the run. I see it about four or five times a game where makes a throw 25-30 yards downfield placing it in a perfect spot to where only the receiver can get to it. I am excited to see what he does with a legitimate go-to guy in Jimmy Graham.

anthony-davis-nba-boston-celtics-new-orleans-pelicans-850x5602- Anthony Davis, 22, Forward, New Orleans Pelicans
Career: 19.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg

Davis is coming off of a fantastic 2015 campaign where he finished with 24 ppg, 10 rpg and nearly 3 bpg. With new head coach, Alvin Gentry, Davis is about to be milked into an even bigger star now that a high octane offense is coming to the Big Easy and I can’t wait to watch.

Andrew-Luck_crop_north1- Andrew Luck, 25, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Career Stats: 12,957 Pass yards, 86 TDs/43 INTs

When Luck was drafted three years ago, I believed all the hype that he was destined to be a Hall of Fame QB and maybe the greatest to ever play. He took a 3-13 Colts team and made them a playoff contender. In his first three seasons, the Colts have yet to miss the playoffs and he has improved each year working with limited weapons and an abysmal offensive line. No signal caller has been pressured or hit more since Luck has entered the league. Luck has been knocked down or sacked 352 times in three years. Yet, he has not missed the playoffs and also managed to throw 40 touchdowns last season. Yep, I am still believing he could be the greatest of all time 10 years from now.

Leave your thoughts and comments below.

Hotard’s Top 10 Quarterbacks Heading into 2015-16

As the NFL season knocks on the door, analysts and journalist have began compiling their respective lists of the top signal callers in the NFL.
I figured now would be a good time to take a crack at my top 10 quarterbacks heading into the 2015-16 NFL season.
Before I begin my list, keep in mind that the NFL and sports in general are about the “what have you done for me lately,” mentality. I remember when San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick was being looked at as a one of the future gems of the NFL.
After a down year, he is sitting in limbo trying to figure out his identity. It seems like a century ago when Kaep was a stud.
Bottom line, it never ceases to amaze me what a few years of game film and success can do to a quarterback. The game changes quick, so it is best to evolve with it.

LETS BEGIN…

fancloud.com10- Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

I may be in the minority to include Tannehill into my top 10, but I love the guy. He has steadily improved his numbers every single year since his rookie season (2012). He finished last year just north of 4,000 yards to pair with a 66% completion rate. Icing on the cake, 27 touchdowns to 12 interceptions isn’t too shabby either. The only knock so far has been his record. He and the Dolphins have not eclipsed eight wins in a season yet, but I am thinking this may be the year.

Joe Flacco fanspeak.com9- Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

I remember when Flacco claimed he was the best quarterback in the NFL and everyone laughed. Only problem was, the joke was on them as he went on to win his first and only Super Bowl. Flacco has been one of the more consistent play callers in the league. Since entering the league in 2008, he and the Ravens have only missed the playoffs one season. When the Ravens make the playoffs, Flacco isn’t exactly a quarterback you want to face. The guy has yet to go one-and-done in the postseason and hoists a record of 10-5. In his 15 appearences, he has thrown for 3,223 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Tony_Romo-geeksandcleats8- Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Still to this day, he is the most unfairly critiqued quarterback in the NFL simply because of the logo on his helmet. People hate the cowboys thus hating the quarterback. We all know the narrative that Tony Romo is not clutch. FALSE. He has the highest 4th quarter QB rating of ALL TIME. The problem is, all of his meltdowns have typically been when everyone has watched. Many times, it is because he is making a throw into a tight window. Oddly enough, didn’t Brett Favre miss out on two Super Bowls because of that same “gutsy” decision making? When Romo does it, it’s “bone headed.” People, especially fans, always want it both ways. I digress. Bottom line, he is coming off his best season and will always find a way on my top 10 list.

100710-Ben-Roethlisberger-SW-PI_20101007230653_660_3207- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Something about Big Ben that I cannot put my finger on just always leaves him out of the top 5. I watch him play and he is great, don’t get me wrong, but I just have never liked him enough to put him in that top 5 spot. There is no denying his ability to manipulate and move around the pocket and fire downfield. Now that he has a top receiver in Antonio Brown, he will age well moving forward.
Buffalo Bills v New Orleans Saints6- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Normally, I would stick Brees in the top five, but he has lost that big play ability it seems. I am not sure what to make of Brees heading into 2015. As a Saints fan, I have noticed he held on to the ball too long last year and doesn’t have the same strength to make throws he made three years ago. Is he still one of the best quarterbacks in the league? Absolutely, no question. I’ll take a Brees down year over most guys’ best season. Just not sure he is top five anymore. With some tweaks to the offensive line and moves that signify the Saints could be shifting to a more run-oriented offense, he could go on to have an outstanding year relying on play-action, much like Romo did last year.

5- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Maybe my favorite guy to watch in the NFL right now. His ability to make plays downfield by avoiding the pass rush is incredible. He has helped the Seattle Seahawks reach the last two Super Bowls and I firmly believe (Prediction alert) he is about to make round three. I’m salivating over the fact he now has a big target in Jimmy Graham. For a while, they made hype about how great he is at home because they were literally unbeatable at Century Link Field for two years. More impressive are his numbers on the road and being poised and confident away from the rabid Seattle fans. Last season, Wilson threw for just under 2,000 yards, 14 touchdowns and just 1 interception on the road. For those who have claimed he is a “game manager,” game managers don’t do that.

peyton-manning-run24- Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

It is evident that Manning, like Brees, has lost some luster in his arm and wears down more rapidly. However, Manning is still a tower at 6’5. He was on pace to have another historic season early last year, but wear and tear caught up in the second half. He is still one of the most intelligent signal callers of all time. Combine that with his size, the guy won’t be hurting too much to sustain success.

Crouch-Brady-Deflategate-Press-Confrence-12003- Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Part of me wanted to slate him out of the top 5 due to his suspension for Deflategate. The guy is still coming off of his fourth Super Bowl win and sixth appearance. The combination of him and Head Coach Bill Belichick is just unfair. I suspect they will back near the top and fighting for a Super Bowl.

AndrewLuck2- Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

The most can’t miss QB prospect has been everything he was expected to be and more. It is truly a treat to watch him play. He is the next transcendent star that the NFL has to offer. Luck really is a combination of Peyton Manning (intelligence) and John Elway (athleticism and arm). He could easily make a case for the top spot. It only took Luck three years to toss 40 touchdowns in a season. That is with a sub par offensive line as he has been hit more than any quarterback the last three years and without a true number one receiver.

tumblr_m12fz1K7XN1qdyvixo1_5001- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

The two time and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player tops the list, no surprise here. Maybe the most impressive thing about Aaron Rodgers is that he isn’t slinging the ball 40 times per game and yet he still puts up nearly 40 touchdowns and 4,400 yards each season. His touchdown to interception ratio is obnoxious every year. He has a massive arm and can pinpoint it anywhere. Let’s be honest, Rodgers has made a career off the back shoulder throw. No matter, who he throws to, they become stars. RODGERS! DISCOUNT DOUBLE CHECK!

Now that I have spewed my top 10 list, share yours below or tell me what an idiot I am because of something that you may not agree with. I welcome it.

Fantasy Baseball Team (Movie Edition)

For many of us, baseball is considered to be a boring sport, period. I played until I was 19 and I too could never watch it on television. I absolutely love watching games live with a hot dog and beer in hand, but count me out if you ask me to watch baseball on the tube. However, make a movie about baseball and I am there every time.

Growing up, sports movies were a staple of my childhood, especially baseball. I remember watching The Sandlot, Angels in the Outfield and Rookie of the Year on VHS nearly every week. I could spew a list of baseball movies I absolutely love and maybe I will rank them sometime soon, but I am here to talk about my favorite players from those movies. I will compile a list of my ultimate fantasy team.

The guidelines are simple, the object is to win NOW. I am not talking about longevity for a career, just one year to win a title.
You get three starting pitchers, one reliever, one closer. As far as the fielders are concerned, you get the starting nine with a designated hitter and three bench players. Of course no team is complete without a coaching staff so you get three.

Keep in mind, this is going off of movies that I have seen. There are several movies that I will be stoned to death for admitting that I have not seen so let’s get that out of the way…The Natural, Bull Durham, The Scout, For Love of the Game and you will probably hate me for this last one and I can’t say I blame you, Field of Dreams (I cringe when I say it out loud and I am sorry).

Let’s begin with our pitching staff…

Starting Pitcher- Amanda Whurlitzer – Bad News BearsAmanda Whurlitzer

My ace is a girl, deal with it. She has a mean streak and can hold her own in any given situation. She was handed a plate full of crap the second she joined the Bears, but it didn’t take much convincing to let the boys know she was the real deal. She has a nasty arsenal of pitches including her high velocity fastball, a mean curve and she bends the rules. Whurlitzer kept vaseline under her cap and would use that to execute the most illegal pitch known to man, the spitter. If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. #TeamAmanda

Starting Pitcher- Kenny DeNunez – The Sandlot

Who doesn’t love good old DeNunez? The kid has a swagger about him that I love. On top of that, no one could touch him, except for the rest of the guys on his team. He no-hit those preppy turds who challenged them to a game away from the Sandlot.

Starting Pitcher- Eric Van Leemer – Summer Catch

Although he is a bit of wildcard because of off the field issues and despite being a grade-A asshole, he has talent. He was working his way through the Cape Cod Summer League cutting down hitters like trees. Unfortunately, it was halted when he accidentally set fire to the pressbox. For one season, I will take the risk.

Relief Pitcher- Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn – Major League I & II

Naturally, no bullpen is complete without Wild Thing. All it took was some new specs to get him throwing strikes and burning people with the heat. The only reason I don’t have him as my closer is because you know damn good and well he will have an identity crisis.

Closer- Henry Rowengartner – Rookie of the Year

A simple arm injury turned this kid into a phenom beloved by the Chicago Cubs fans and one of the most dominant closers in Major League Baseball. When he finally lost his heat, he reinvented himself stealing a page out of his mother’s playbook, the Eephus. That’s right, the floater. The pitch that no one can hit and the pitch that no one can lay off of.

Lineup

Lead Off- Willie Mays Hayes CF – Major League I & II

Is there honestly another option here? Plays like Mays, runs like Hayes. The only guy in the majors who can steal second, third and home all in one inning. You know he’s going and you still can’t stop him. He is a nightmare on the base path and a high average hitter. The perfect lead off.

Credit: imgarcade.com
Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez Credit: imgarcade.com

2- Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez SS – The Sandlot

It was always known that The Jet would go pro in baseball. He was always head and shoulders above the rest. Throughout The Sandlot, the guy was never thrown out, even in his professional scene. He is your can’t miss prospect. On top of that, he was always a good guy. He took Smalls under his wing when no one else wanted him.

3- Dottie Hinson C – A League of Their Own

Athletic, beautiful, smart and could even manage a team. Although her heart wasn’t in baseball while her husband was overseas defending the United States in the war, she was still the best player in the girls’ league even with the distraction. If one year is all I need out of her, she is the focal point of my lineup.

4- T-Rex Pennebaker RF – Mr. 3000

Although the movie was centered around Stan Ross (they call him the boss), T-Rex was the one bright spot on the Milwaukee Brewers. He has a big frame, athletic, can hit, can field and can run. He is a do it all player and could be a league MVP.

5- Kelly Leak LF – Bad News Bears

Leak may be a child, but he is bad dude on the diamond. Pretty sure he hit a home run every time he stepped up to plate and helped elevate the Bears into a championship along with my ace pitcher. He was the kid you wanted in your corner. If this team ever has a brawl I can guarantee we won’t lose that either because of him and the next person in my lineup.

6- Jack Parkman DH – Major League II

After a short stint with the Cleveland Indians, he was traded because of his attitude and ability to give zero f****. He can hit for a ton of power and he is not someone you want as your enemy. “Don’t stand on the track when the train is coming through.”

7- Marla Hooch 2B – A League of Their Own

Marla Hooch, Hooch, Hooch. Timid and insecure about her looks because her dad raised her like a boy. That can’t all be bad because she is a hell of a ball player. Continue to gush because she is also a switch hitter. Thanks Mr. Hooch, because you made my team better.

8- Roger Dorn 3B – Major League I & II

Although we never got to see the bulk of his career, it was mentioned that he held his own both at the plate and in the field during his prime. As he got older, he cared less about winning and more about protecting his face. He will never be a stud on my team, but I don’t think he hurts us. Think of him as a glue guy.

9- Lou Collins 1B – Little Big League

Just an overall good guy who you want on your team. He always puts the team ahead of himself even when manager Billy Heywood benched him for bringing his mom home late one night. Collins sat there and took it like a champ.

Bench Players

1- Hamilton “Ham” Porter C – The Sandlot

Is there anyone on this Earth better at trash talking an opponent and backing it up? No, the answer is no. Although, if he tells anyone they play ball like a girl on this team, he may have an issue. No team would be complete without Ham though. Watch the classic scene below.

2- Ray Mitchell OF – Angels in the Outfield

The Angels got into the pennant race because they had God on their side. However, Ray Mitchell was the one player on the team who never received help from the higher power because he was an all-star caliber ball player.

3- Pedro Cerrano OF – Major League I, II & III

Who do you voodoo? Pedro freaking Cerrano. Guy can’t hit a curveball to save his life which is why I can’t plug him in the starting lineup just yet, but hey if I need a pinch hitter, I know who I am bringing in. Hopefully they give him the fastball.

Coaching Staff

Head Coach- Jimmy Dugan – A League of Their Own

Once he got over his drinking problem, he became one of the best managers in the league. He is a bit of a wild card, but hey Dottie Hinson can keep him in check.

Assistant Coach- Jake Taylor – Major League I & II

Coaching became his calling card after his playing days. He helped Rube Baker get over his issue throwing back to the mound. He also helped Ricky Vaughn and WIllie Mays Hayes get back to form.

BkEilBnCUAACl5WAssistant Coach- Phil Brickma – Rookie of the Year

He is as out there as they come. He locked himself in a cage and missed a game. He locked himself between two doors in a hotel and missed game. He never lost his cool either. On top of that, the guy invented hot ice. He heats up the ice cubes in a microwave. What an innovator! ‘
So there you go, my fantasy baseball team from the movies. Feel free to comment with yours below. I would love to hear yours!

Who Dat Nation…Relax!

For the second year in a row, the New Orleans Saints face financial hardships and they are making the most of the situation.
It began with the release of players like running back Pierre Thomas and linebacker Curtis Lofton.

It did not stop there.

On Tuesday afternoon, rumors circulated that the Saints were actively shopping Drew Brees’ go-to-guy, tight end Jimmy Graham.

Literally five minutes later, the Seahawks popped up as a potential suitor for Graham. Within 15 minutes from the news initially breaking, Graham was set to take his talents to Seattle.

Obviously, the Who Dat Nation is taking the news hard. First it was the beloved running back Thomas, a crucial piece in the Super Bowl winning team of 2009.

Then it was Lofton, a tackling machine for the Saints defense.

Now, Graham, arguably the best player who has the most upside on the black and gold roster.

I am here to tell the Who Dat Nation to have no fear because once again, General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Sean Payton are doing what is best for business.

There is one word that I want folks to keep in mind, VALUE.

As stated before, the Saints are tight on salary cap space and they have loosened the bind by trimming down the roster.

I love good ole PT Cruiser (Thomas) just as much as the next Who Dat. He has without doubt been one of the best players in Saints history, a true team guy taking pay cuts when asked and always putting his best foot forward no matter what was asked of him. From the bottom of my heart as a fan, I say thank you to Thomas.

However, put the emotion aside and realize the Saints saved a hair shy of $2 million in cap space for 2015. Is it worth it to keep Thomas?

He was used primarily for screens, where he simply isn’t as much of a threat as he used to be.

Sorry my fellow fans, but the answer is no.

Lofton was another player who came at a hefty price and his production simply wasn’t worth it. Cutting the 28-year-old linebacker saved the Saints $7.25 million. I realize Lofton racked up close to 400 tackles in three seasons with New Orleans, but he is also notorious for missing tackles. While I like Lofton, I don’t like a middle linebacker making $7.25 million, unless your name is Luke Kuechly.

As stated earlier, I believe Graham was the best player on the Saints roster with tremendous upside. Normally, I would not want a team I like to trade their best player, but in this case, sell.

New Orleans shipped Graham along with a 4th round draft choice for pro bowl center Max Unger and a 1st Round draft pick.
The Saints offensive line was horrendous last year, especially in the interior line. Often times last year, the pocket would collapse not allowing Brees to step up and fire the ball downfield as we have seen in years past.

Before the offseason began, there were rumors that either guard Ben Grubbs or Jahri Evans would be cut while the other would renegotiate their contracts. Both are among the five highest paid players for the black and gold.

It seems like forever and a day ago that both Grubbs and Evans were near the top of the league as guards. Unger will be a key part in the Saints offensive line success moving forward as he could potentially help milk whatever is left in the tank of the two guards until their replacements are found.

With center being one of the biggest needs after losing Brian De La Puente to the Bears last offseason, the Saints have found a fantastic replacement.

What we are seeing with New Orleans offense is not a rebuild, but simply a restructure.
Shipping Graham, focusing on the interior line and re-siging Mark Ingram to a 4-year deal could mean the Saints are going to focus attention on a power run game.

As far as tight end is concerned, have no fear because the Saints still have a young pass catcher in Josh Hill and an excellent blocker and reliable target in Ben Watson who both fit the mold of a true tight end.

While everyone can complain about losing tangible playmakers that you see on every snap, the most important positions begin up front.

The two teams (Patriots and Seahawks) that competed in the Super Bowl last year made it because of one common trait. Both teams control the line of scrimmage.

The Dallas Cowboys are another team that sticks out because they have been slowly building up the offensive line, which led them to a 12-4 season and a solid playoff run last year.

DeMarco Murray had the best season for a running back in Cowboys history and an aging Tony Romo had the best season of his career as well all thanks to a stellar offensive line, period.

Do I think the Saints will win the Super Bowl next year? No. That belongs to Seattle because that roster is still loaded and they have a solid back up at center named Patrick Lewis who hails from Metairie, Louisiana.

Adding Jimmy Graham gives them a go-to-guy that Russell Wilson has been missing desperately.

As for the Saints, this move will help them in the long term. Hopefully they will make some wise choices with the additional draft pick.

In the meantime, fingers crossed that the Saints can land either Tramon Williams or Brandon Browner in free agency.

From one Saints to another, relax. This is a business.

For a regime (Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis) who has a reputation of winning, 7-9 will not sit well with them.

Photo: Crystal LoGiudice — USA Today Sports

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