October 6, 2007

Maryland-Georgia Tech Mid-Game Update

With all due respect to Jordan Steffy, who I like and I hope to see coaching with the Terps some day, the quarterback auditioning is closed. Chris Turner has secured the position, and I foresee a very exciting season the rest of the way.

Radar Guns Juiced for the Playoffs?

It seems to me that the last couple years, the radar gun numbers have been outrageously high. Maybe it's just that the teams with hard throwers are the ones that make the playoffs, or the adrenaline has that much effect, but I've never seen so many guys throw 95+. When Jamie Moyer throws 90 tomorrow, for the first time in a decade, you'll know I'm right. MLB just wants us to be impressed.

The real reason for this post is to run the white flag up. I picked the Angels, Yankees, Phillies, and Cubs. Those teams are now 0-8. Hope no one took those picks to the bank, or their bookie.

As for Cleveland, anyone have any questions why Cleveland is known as "The Mistake by the Lake"? That horde of flies looked terrible, like a Fear Factor episode. Maybe that was the plague incurred by Lebron abdicating his throne by wearing a Yankees cap to the game yesterday. Until I see a picture of him from the mid-90's with Yankees stuff on, when the Indians were better than the Yankees, I'm calling him a bandwagon sell-out.

Props to Manny. Yet again he's showed why he's worth the money in the postseason, unlike a certain third baseman for the Yankees. Could any two players be more clutch than Manny and Big Papi? Go Tribe, or the NL.

October 5, 2007

NCAA Graduation Rate Requirements

Our commenter Ben brought up the fact that Maryland Basketball has a 0% graduation rate over the NCAA reporting period. Here is my response:

I'm not pretending it isn't a big deal. It is a big deal because the NCAA is going to artificially take scholarships (read: roster spots) away.

Maryland is a big school. It provides tutors, and I'm sure the athletes have a bank of old exams to study (like every fraternity does). The kids are smart enough to get into the school (which is not an easy feat these days.) If they make the decision to play basketball for four years, with their only compensation being free tuition if they choose to get a degree, that's fine with me.
I understand a player needs so many credits to remain academically eligible to play, but since when can we force a guy to get a degree?
Hi, I'm Miles Brand. If I get sanctimonious about education, everyone will forget how badly I botched Bobby Knight's firing.

Once the last buzzer sounds in March (or, April...drool), the basketball factor drops out of the equation. There are pro camps and agent interviews and strength training sessions. Nearly all of our players play professionally somewhere, and for far more than they could have gotten with a BA in Criminal Justice. And if they do blow out a knee? They hopefully have enough money scraped up to return for one last semester of college. If they don't, they're just as eligible for Federal loans as anybody else.

Why is this such a big deal to so many people? No one crucifies the parents when one of their kids doesn't finish college, even when it's totally covered by the parents. Those kids have everything going for them that the athletes do, except they don't have to spend hours and hours practicing and playing basketball each week. Might it be because those kids are white kids from Rockville rather than black kids from Baltimore?

And as for the NCAA's punishment of withholding scholarships, can you imagine if the NBA reduced a team's roster limit because a player did something the league did not like? Not something bad mind you, but something that wasn't really in the best interests of the image of the NBA. The team would cry foul, pointing out that these are adults and the team shouldn't have to babysit them like spoiled C-list TMZ.com celebrities. Isn't that pretty much what the NCAA is doing?

Week 5 Against the Spread NFL Picks

Brien's out of the loop this week, so he has instructed me to just have him pick against Russell. Last week, our cellar dweller Russell put up a sweet 5-0 week, while Jeremy also managed to post a 4-1. As the teams settle into more well-defined roles this year, hopefully all our records will improve.

Russell (8-11-1) and Brien (10-10-0)

After a perfect week, I'm just trying to stay on top of my game. Last week, not only were my picks 5-0 ATS, but all three underdogs won. Here are some more gems.

Seattle (+6) over PITTSBURGH - A little West Coast respect. Each team's only loss was in the desert. The Steelers offense needs to get better to be the elite team people think they are. FG's won't cut it. Brien takes PITTSBURGH.

Tampa Bay (+10) over INDIANAPOLIS - Tampa has the best D that the Colts have seen so far, and Garcia is elusive enough to keep the chains moving. Brien takes INDY.

Dallas (-10) over BUFFALO - The Big D is putting up 30+ a game, and Buffalo's got nothing. An ugly MNF blowout. Brien takes BUFFALO.

SAN FRANCISCO (+3.5) over Baltimore - Dilfer's one of the best backups in the league, and Baltimore hasn't shown much on either side of the ball. Baltimore is 0-2 on the road this year, with 6 TO's at Cinci and a poor showing at Cleveland last week, giving up 27 each time. Brien takes Baltimore.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Carolina - I'm going out on a limb thinking NO will be better after the bye, and the David Carr Panthers are certainly not world beaters. If NO goes 0-4, they're done for the year. Brien takes Carolina.

Jeremy and Magic 8 Ball (11-6-3, 10-7-3 respectively)

Well... my fantasy football teams are doing well and I have a winning record picking these games. Sounds like it's about time for the wheels to come crashing off, and this slate of football games is just the right medicine for that. That being said...

Jeremy's Picks:

Arizona (-3) over ST. LOUIS - Gus Frerotte starting against the Cardinals who handed the Steelers their first loss... home field can't be worth this much. Staying in this crappy division...

Baltimore (-3.5) over SAN FRANCISCO - Frank Gore isn't going to be able to run on the Ravens and Trent Dilfer is just a little too old to pull this week's Daunte Culpepper "statement game."

GREEN BAY (-3.5) over Chicago - Green Bay is just a much better team and with home field, I like them to cover this spread.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-3) over New York Jets - Giants are a better team, but my question is: Do the Jets dress in a visitor's locker room???

KANSAS CITY (+2.5) over Jacksonville - I wanted to pick a dawg and the Chiefs with their insane home field advantage and the Huard-to-Bowe connection heating up to take some pressure off LJ seem to be a good pick.

Magic 8 Ball Picks:

ST. LOUIS (+3) over Arizona - "My signs point to yes." [Rams beating spread]

SAN FRANCISCO (+3.5) over Baltimore - "Yes." [49ers beating spread]

NEW YORK GIANTS (-3) over New York Jets - "My sources say yes." [Giants beating spread]

Chicago (+3.5) over GREEN BAY - "My answer is no." [Packers beating spread]

Jacksonville (-2.5) over KANSAS CITY - "Don't count on it." [Chiefs beating spread]

J-Red (9-10-1)

Interconference rules are in effect this week:

Baltimore (-3.5) over SAN FRANCISCO - Baltimore is in the AFC.

INDIANAPOLIS (-10) over Tampa Bay - Indy is in the AFC.

PITTSBURGH (-6) over Seattle - Pittsburgh is in the AFC.

TENNESSEE (-8) over Atlanta - Tennessee is in the AFC.

Jets (+3) over GIANTS - Both teams are totally mediocre, but the Jets play in the AFC.


(Percentage is Win/Tie %, which counts pushes as a half win and half loss.)

Jeremy - .625
Magic 8 Ball - .575
Brien - .500
J-Red - .475
Russell - .425

Russell - DAL, NO, SF, SEA, TB
Jeremy - ARI, BAL, GB, KC, NYG
Magic 8 - CHI, JAX, NYG, SF, STL

Nobody picked: WAS -3.5 Det, HOU -5.5 Mia, NE -16.5 Cle, DEN -1.5 Sd

October 4, 2007

Are They Who We Thought They Were? - NFC

After a quarter of the season, we have a pretty good idea of the season to come for the NFC. I think it's fair to say that the NFC is again the weak sister, and many of the teams aren't as good as we thought they were. A few are better.


Chicago: The curse of the Super Bowl losers has struck again, or was that just Rex sucking? We thought they had a great defense and a streaky offense, but with an injured defense and no QB, last year's playoff run looks like a thing of the past.

Detroit: Kitna predicted 10 wins, few believed him. A 3-1 start has made a few believers, though the debacle at Philly was concerning. Most people thought they would improve on last year's 3 wins, but not yet. This looks like a playoff team in the NFC, believe it or not. The Martz offense can score points, and credit Marinelli for assembling a decent team.

Green Bay: Wow. We thought they would improve slightly from last year, with Favre throwing it up to both teams. No one expected a 4-0 start, and Favre and the Pack definitely looks like a team to be reckoned with. The lack of a running game could be a problem down the line, but this is the 2nd best team in the NFC right now. A victory over Chicago this week would make them a playoff lock, in that division, which no one expected.

Minnesota: We thought they were a bad team, with a good defense and running game but no QB. Yup. The defense has scored 3 TD's so far, so has the offense. Definitely a disappointing start, but what did you expect with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm?


Dallas: We thought they'd be decent, definitely weren't expecting this. Head and shoulders above every other NFC team. Once the defense gets healthy, watch out. No contest for home field advantage and a bye.

NY Giants: We thought they would struggle without Tiki but still be decent. Jekyll and Hyde first four weeks have left them at .500. The record matches but you never know what you'll get when they take the field.

Philly: Once considered by some a contender for the division, now we know they're just bad (most of the time anyway). Excluding the Detroit massacre, they've scored 28 points in 3 games. That's not going to win too many games. If Westbrook misses significant time, stick a fork in this team.

Washington: Slightly better than the low expectations, but still rather unknown. Victories over Miami and Philly were nice (combined 1-7), but Detroit and at GB the next two weeks will be much better indicators of the rest of the year. This team will go as Jason Campbell goes. Could've been 3-0 if he handled the last minute of the Giants game well.


Atlanta: We thought the Falcons would struggle without Vick. They have. However, Petrino's getting the hang of this NFL thing, and in a weak division, expect a few more wins. Definitely not a playoff contender.

Carolina: We thought they would be good but not great. They are a very bad 2-2 team, beating the Rams and squeaking past the Falcons. They will be terrible until Delhomme returns, and suspect even then. Internal squabbling has already begun.

New Orleans: Not what we expected at all from the losers of the NFC Championship game last year. Apply the quotes of this video to every game the Saints have played so far, being outscored 103-38. Not much seems to have changed since Jim was the coach.

Tampa Bay: As I predicted a few weeks ago, Tampa is better than most people expected, and should win the NFC South unless NO or CAR get better in a hurry. Don't expect the loss of Cadillac to hurt as much as the loss of Petitgout, but Garcia is agile enough to keep things going. The D is much better than expected.


Arizona: We thought they would be better than last year and around 8 wins. About as expected as Whisenhunt and Grimm are clearly making a difference. Big win over PIT brings them to 2-2, but the two losses were by 3 pts each. Look for them to sneak into the playoffs with 8 or 9 wins.

San Francisco: We thought they would also be better and maybe 9 or 10 wins. 2-0 start had people excited, but two blowouts and a separated shoulder later, not so much. With Alex Smith and Vernon on IR, expect zero offense and the accompanying losses. The finish will be worse than expected, around 7 wins.

Seattle: They are who we thought they were. Best of the NFC West, but certainly not a great team. 9 or 10 wins and the division, just like last year.

St. Louis: "PLAYOFFS?!?! You kidding me? I just hope we can win a game." Expected to compete for a playoff spot with lots of offensive talent, but it's hard to score points when your whole line, and now QB and RB, are hurt. Until they start blocking, this is one of the worst teams in the league. Gus better wear a flak jacket or he'll have broken ribs too.

In case you missed it, J-Red covered the AFC yesterday.

October 3, 2007

Are They Who We Thought They Were? - AFC

We're at the quarter pole of the NFL season, which gives us just enough information to figure out if teams are who we thought they were. It turns out, we were quite wrong about more than a few.

Here are the AFC reconciliations of perception and reality. The NFC teams will come tomorrow. Think of it as an early way for me to back out of my posts earlier that I liked the Rams in the NFC West, and I thought New Orleans was the best value Super Bowl future bet in the NFC.

The Jim Mora photo has nothing to do with this post. I just really like Jim Mora. PLAYOFFS?!?!


Baltimore - We thought they were a dominating defense who lucked into a couple games last year to go 13-3, but would improve on offense. We found out they can't score touchdowns, due to a combination of performance and play-calling.

Cincinnati - We thought they would be an average team with a dangerous offense. We were right, but that defense isn't shutting anybody down. Is Marvin Lewis a defensive genius? Is Mike Nolan? Is Rex Ryan? Is [insert next Ravens D coordinator]?

Cleveland - We thought they'd be learning on the fly with Brady Quinn and Joe Thomas. Derek Anderson is just competent enough to make good use of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. They're not necessarily better than anyone, but they will punish you for not showing up.

Pittsburgh - We thought they could be pretty good if the old Ben Roethlisberger came back. We found out they can be pretty good when the old Ben Roethlisberger is back.


Buffalo - We thought they'd generally suck, with the exception of some J.P. Losman/Lee Evans explosions. We're not even getting those.

Miami - We thought they'd have a tough time, with an old quarterback, aging defense, and new coach. At least Ronnie Brown is doing very well, as he's the extent of their youth movement.

New England - We thought they could be dangerous with the same team from last year's AFC Championship Game adding Randy Moss and Adalius Thomas. We didn't think they'd be averaging 35 points a game and winning by almost 20 a game. If you want to crown their ass, crown 'em.

New York - We thought they might have been that team in the 6-10 to 10-6 range last year that caught all the breaks. We found out they REALLY caught a lot of breaks last year.


Houston - We had no idea what to think. They have no real running back, and Matt Schaub was a virtual unknown, unless you want to go back to footage of him raping Maryland at Virginia. We found out that Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson is a very good combination, and the young defense is rapidly improving.

Indianapolis - We thought they'd win 13 games, because that's what Indy does in the regular season. We found out that they're almost the exact same team as last year, though the run defense has been better in the early going. Their biggest threat comes from the improvement of their division mates. Exercise caution before crowning their ass.

Jacksonville - We thought we had no idea what to think. Byron Leftwich was cut right before the season, and they moved forward with exciting weapons like David Garrard, Matt Jones, Earnest Wilford, Dennis Northcutt and Mercedes Lewis. Maurice Jones-Drew is the only real threat, and they reek of an 8-8 team that only degenerate gamblers and people in north Florida follow.

Tennessee - We thought last year they might have caught a lot of breaks, and benefited from the motivation of playing with Vince Young. Again this year, he is proving that you can't spell victory without VY.


Denver - We thought this team would be as good as Jay Cutler. Yup. At least the running game is still strong.

Kansas City - We thought this team would be as good as Brodie Croyle. Yup. At least Damon Huard is around to eke out just enough wins to get them out of the top 5 of the draft. Larry Johnson probably wishes he was still holding out.

- We thought this team would be as good as JeMarcus Russell. Luckily, he held out and Daunte Culpepper and a strong defense and decent running game are keeping Oakland around. In this division, you can't count them out, and that alone is a pleasant surprise.

San Diego - We thought this team would be as good as PhiLLLLip Rivers. I'm kidding. We thought Lorenzo Neal and LaDainian Tomlinson would steamroll over whomever, with Rivers throwing bombs to Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson when the defense stacked the box. We thought their defense, though not lights out, could hold teams under the 21 points San Diego should be guaranteed in any non-Martyball system. We forgot that Norv Turner is his own demotivational poster. We also forgot that they lost Wade Phillips to Dallas (gee, he took all the points with him) and Cam Cameron to Miami (what, exactly, did he take with him?). We also forgot that Ted Cottrell is the only demotivational poster that competes with Norv Turner. Not happy times in America's Finest City. "PLAYOFFS?!? We can't do diddly poo."

Checkback for NFC comments tomorrow from Russell.

October 2, 2007

Week 6 CFB Picks

After a week of upsets, there is an exciting lineup of games which will separate the contenders from the pretenders, "Blockbuster Week". With that in mind, I'm focusing on the matchups that matter for conference titles. Rankings shown are AP, spreads from Sheridan.

#9 Florida (+9) over #1 LSU - I'm certainly not questioning LSU's talent, but Florida was embarassed last week. Urban is not a fan of being embarassed and LSU will feel the brunt of that wrath. Florida's run defense has been suspect so far, and that's my biggest concern with this pick. Even though everyone seems to like LSU in this game, I think there's a little bit of a danger they overlook the defending champs. Sound hard to believe? We'll see. It will be fascinating to watch.

#4 Ohio State (-6.5) over #23 PURDUE - Ohio State has had the luxury of an easy opening schedule. They've gained confidence, got a couple road wins, and will torch Purdue, and have become a really good team. It's hard to pass the ball when you're running for your life, which is what Painter will be doing all game.

#5 Wisconsin (+2.5) over ILLINOIS - Definitely a WTF line for me. I know Wisconsin has not impressed but any team that has only lost once since the start of last season is my pick when getting points against an unranked, unproven, inexperienced team.

#8 Kentucky (+4) over #11 SOUTH CAROLINA - Kentucky has one of the most balanced offenses in the country, and without Jasper (or Casper, I forget), SC will give up some points. If SC struggled with Miss St, it should be a really long day against Kentucky.

#10 Oklahoma (-10.5) over #19 TEXAS - Read my lips: BLOWOUT. This will go about how the Oklahoma - Miami game went a couple weeks ago. They'll be discussing those 60+ point Oklahoma victories from 4 or 5 years ago from about the 2nd quarter on.

#12 Georgia (+2) over TENNESSEE - This pains me, as a Tech student, but Mark Richt is much smarter than Fulmer, and he has a better team.

#22 CLEMSON (-5.5) over #15 Va Tech - Both teams are overrated, substantially. That said, Tyrod's first real game, on the road in Death Valley, could be a struggle. Expect a low scoring affair unless Clemson rekindles their offense. That's right, I took a home team.

#17 MISSOURI (-7) over #25 Nebraska - This spread is larger that I would like, but Missouri is better than most people think. Wins over Illinois and Ole Miss don't look so bad. Nebraska gave up 40+ to Ball State, and Missouri can score with the best of them.

#21 RUTGERS (-3.5) over #22 Cincinnati - Rutgers recovers from last week, and Cinci hasn't played anyone. Ray Rice has a big game.

And a bonus pick from the MD grad who's now attending GT,
MARYLAND (+3) over Ga Tech - MD pulls out a very low scoring game. MD can't block GT's blitzes, but Tech has no offense. The only Tech TD last week was off a blocked punt which gave them the ball in the red zone. The Terps played well last week against a good team and will keep it going.

Last Week: 3-4-0
Season: 15-13-0

MLB Divisional Playoff Picks

While many of us have already shifted our primary focus to football, the baseball playoffs should be interesting and at least keep us entertained when the football's a blowout. But really, October baseball is always fun.

American League:

Angels at Red Sox: While the Red Sox have the most recognizable set of names in the rotation, none of the starters has finished the season on the highest of notes. Dice-K probably has a tired arm, Schilling is starting to look old, and Beckett can be great or mediocre. The Sox bullpen is their real Achilles heel, with no decent setup man other than Timlin (maybe). The Angels have the pitching to make this an interesting series. The key will be whether the Halos can get their speedsters on the bases enough to disrupt the Sox pitching and manufacture some runs. Look for a big series from Vlad the Impaler. Pick: Angels in 4.

Yankees at Indians: We all know what the Yankees have: old pitching and incredible lineup. The Indians are more of an unknown. The lineup has a lot of pop, and Sabathia and Carmona had great years at the top of their rotation. The key for both teams will be patience early in the game, working counts, so that each lineup can exploit the other's bullpen. Unfortunately, I think the crafty, aging Yankee pitching will have a good series against a young lineup. Petitte is back, and I can't remember the last time he lost in the postseason. I hate myself. Pick: Yankees in 4.

National League:

Rockies at Phillies: The battle of fading momentum. The Rockies have won 13 of their last 14. The Phillies have come back from 7 down with 17 to play, with some help from the Mets. The only pitcher with decent credentials on either team is Hamels, but neither ballpark really limits the home runs. Expect a high scoring series, with plenty of excitement. I think the Rockies come back to Earth. The schedule really hurts them. After playing a 13 inning game last night and all that excitement and then the red-eye to follow, they're the first game tomorrow at 3. The Phillies have slightly better pitching and a few veterans with some playoff experience. Pick: Phillies in 5.

Cubs at D'Backs: This is the toughest series to handicap in my opinion. Both teams have greatly exceeded expectations. The D'Backs are very young but managed the best record in the NL. The Cubs looked unbeatable at times, but terrible at others. As I see it, the experienced, high-quality Cubs starting pitching will dominate the inexperienced Arizona lineup. I'm going out on a limb and calling for a sweep, though it could be a sweep the other way. Pick: Cubs in 3.

See you next round, though just so the record is straight: Angels to win it all. I hate the Yankees and the Red Sox.

US Sucks at Rugby

The US has once again failed to win a fixture at the Rugby World Cup, and finished dead last in our group. We're an English colony. We have 300 million people. Why no good rugby? Maybe it's the lack of cheerleaders...

TMQ and ECB Agree

Today, Gregg Easterbrook (TMQ) wrote:

However, last week's filing was only the first of several types of litigation that might arise from Beli-Cheat -- this being America in the 21st century, there is a good chance courts will contemplate the scandal. If a judge does allow any Beli-Cheat litigation to proceed, plaintiffs will win the ability to conduct discovery, depose witnesses and inspect evidence. The NFL says it destroyed all the Patriots' videotapes and cheating notes. It's perfectly legal to destroy evidence until such time as a court or law enforcement office requests same, so if Beli-Cheat becomes a legal case, the NFL probably isn't on the hook for its little shredding party. But the history of legal discovery and of subpoenas shows it is common for there to turn out to be more copies of evidence than the parties thought.
Saturday, J-Red wrote:
If the suit can survive the summary judgment phase, the parties will conduct discovery. That's where things get very interesting. It's unfortunate that the suit wasn't filed before the NFL destroyed the tapes, as they would not be allowed to destroy potentially relevant evidence. Discovery in the legal sense is the only way we'll actually know how often the Pats cheated and against whom. If people like Gregg Easterbrook (TMQ) are right, and cheating took place in the Super Bowls, the NFL has a very puckered collective asshole right now.
C'mon TMQ. I e-mailed you the story and my comments on how discovery could be interesting, and I can't even get a little dap in your widely read column? Help a Marylander out brother. I might burn my copy of The Progress Paradox tonight.

Week 4 Picks Recap

We have a couple big winners, but none bigger than Russell's 5-0 ATS performance last week. Russell needed some redemption, and found it by basically disagreeing with most of us. Wise move. Jeremy was also impressive in posting a 4-1 mark on last week's games. Here are the results and standings:

Jeremy (11-6-3) - DET, GB, NE, SD, SEA
Magic 8 Ball (10-7-3) - CHI, CIN, GB, KC, SEA
Brien (10-10-0) - BAL, GB, HOU, NYJ, SEA
J-Red (9-10-1) - DAL, DET, IND, MIN, PIT
Russell (8-11-1) - ARI, CLE, GB, KC, SEA

Note, my record is corrected. I credited myself with six losses last week, rather than just the four I earned.

Rockies Fail to Consult with O's

Anyone in Maryland, esp the Orioles, could have told Clint Hurdle not to bring in the atrocious Jorge Julio, the ex-closer. What part of the 0-7 in save opportunities did he not pay attention to? He is probably the worst pitcher on the whole team to bring in for that situation (Armando Benitez a close second for worst in clutch situations).

But I guess they got the pitcher they wanted. Trevor Hoffman has had a HOF career, but a changeup isn't as good when the fastball's only 84 mph. And that fastball was very straight.

PS. Holliday still hasn't touched the plate. The Padres got robbed, though Hoffman would probably have given up a few more.

Congratulations to the Rockies! What a stretch run.

October 1, 2007

Mets' Fans Silver Lining

Check out the postseason ticket policy for the New York Mets. The face value of the ticket will be refunded to the account from which the tickets were issued. Basically, that's store credit. That'll make you think long and hard if you woke up this morning and said "I'll never go to another Mets game again!"

But, that's standard operating procedure in the MLB and NFL.

So what if you scalped the tickets already? The postseason starts Wednesday, meaning the physical tickets already have been sent out. I'm sure some were sold on EBay and Craig's List prior to Sunday's finale. Sounds like some people might have gotten a double dip.

Why Underlings Matter

This local news report on Bills TE Kevin Everett's miraculous recovery might contain a mistake.

Don't piss off chefs, cops, doctors, lawyers and local television news production assistants.

Safe for work, and very brief.

September 30, 2007

A Salute to the Nats...

How often can you say that a team who only wins 73 games and loses 89 has overachieved? Answer... not very often.

That's the case with your 2007 Washington Nationals. This was a team that pundits had picked to be "historically bad" and to challenge the expansion Mets for worst record ever. In this very space in late April I predicted at best a 105-loss season for the Nats. Not only did the Nats avoid losing 100 games, they avoided losing 90 games, and further avoided the cellar in their division finishing in 4th place. After starting the season in a total tailspin, they played .500 baseball since May 11.

The Nats finished with a better record than the Giants, Pirates, Reds, Marlins, Royals, White Sox, Devil Rays, and Orioles. They tied records with the Astros. That's tied for 24th in the league. And yes, if you're counting, this team that J-Red has called AAAA (or worse) finished with a better record than the Orioles for the third straight year, or in other words, in all three years the Nats have been in D.C. The O's did outdraw the Nats by 2,000 fans a game, but that's not too hard to imagine the reason for that when 20 home dates draw 40,000 Yankee and Red Sox fans to Camden Yards.

The Nats spoiled the season for the Mets, going 5-1 against them down the stretch, including a series sweep on the road at Shea. And who will ever forget the series sweep at Camden Yards when the "Let's Go Nats" chant echoed off all the empty green seats and reverberated in the ears of all those in the warehouse who tried to keep DC from getting a team.

Manna Acta and Randy St. Claire basically used duct tape to cobble together a pitching staff this season. By May, four out of five of the original pitchers in the starting rotation were shelved with injuries. The Nats dug deep, found castoffs and called up unproven talent, and had guys who could get the team into the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.

The team is going to spend in the offseason, and I would be more surprised if Aaron Rowand is not in a Nats jersey in April 2008 than if he is.

Now what is troubling for the Nats?

1) Attendance of 1.9 million this year at RFK. I have no doubt that attendance will skyrocket at the new stadium, which is going to be gorgeous. However, will these people keep coming if the Nats don't win after a few seasons? And how will these people get to and from the stadium?

2) The area around the new stadium... it MUST develop. Because it's going to be a logjam getting to and from the stadium on one subway line, the new stadium has to be in a neighborhood where people hang out at before and after the game (i.e. Camden Yards). It's not going to happen by next season. Hopefully by '09.

All in all though, it's been a hell of a season, it's been fun to root for the underdog, and the Nats have given me a lot of enjoyment. I have my worries about their future, but let's celebrate a great season that surpassed all expectations. GO NATS!