Let’s make All-Star picks, shall we?


With the All-Star break looming, now is as good a time as any to toss out some second half predictions for my Bravos, as well as the rest of the league.

As a Braves fan, I can’t draw anything greater than a mediocre level of excitement from a 6 game cushion over the Nationals, a team buried in injuries and deflating expectations. We’ll take it, but don’t mistake that for over confidence – my Braves wouldn’t fair well if the post season started tomorrow.

Our recent starting rotation improvement has been mitigated by a home run drought threatening to expose the already glaringly obvious deficiency surrounding this line up – we don’t make enough contact. This is a dead horse, I know, but striking out at this clip with runners in scoring position just isn’t something any team can overcome. The second half will need to hold better plate discipline and more regular contact in the middle of the order if we expect to make a respectable playoff run.

I’ll take Scherzer and Wainwright for their respective league’s Cy Young Award, and Cargo for N.L MVP. Carlos Gomez deserves a lot of love here, but I’m not convinced he’s proven enough or plays on a team capable of contention. Team standing shouldn’t play any significant role in stat-based awards, however it can be a tipping point. I’m not taking a huge chance with this next one, but is the Puig for N.L Rookie of the Year bandwagon full? If not, come around and pick me up.

Everyone, myself included, probably wants to entrust another MVP to Cabrera. He’s still arguably the best all-around hitter in the majors, fields his position respectably and happens to play for a winning ball club. It doesn’t change the monotony of it all. Miguel continues to hit at a higher level than everyone else and it’s getting painfully easy to predict. Although if Baltimore can manage a fiery second half, watch out for Davis in Miguel’s rear view mirror.

Both Western Division races look like they’ll go down to the final weeks. Arizona and Colorado, behind a mind blowing season from Goldschmidt and what we’ve come to expect from Carlos Gonzalez, still look to be favorites. That isn’t to say The Giants can’t sneak into contention, or perhaps a Padres squad suddenly pitching TOWARD their ballpark’s strength.

In the A.L, the A’s aren’t going away and, analytically, they’re beating teams exactly the way you’d expect. Oakland is barely above the league average in almost every major offensive category (BA, OPS, OPS+, HR) but once again lead the A.L in walks. They’re getting guys on and hitting well with RISP, typical Athletics baseball. Here are my divisional picks:

West – Colorado over Arizona, but barely.

Central – St. Louis should run away with the division, their pitching is that strong. The aftermath will leave Cincy and Pittsburgh fighting over wildcard spots.

East – Atlanta shouldn’t have an issue locking up the East, mostly due to Washington’s injury troubles.

West – Oakland is such a fun pick here. I love watching how fundamental they are at the plate. Texas obviously has a real shot here and the Angels are hitting very well. Anaheim just can’t pitch, that isn’t changing.

Central – It’ll be increasingly tough for Cleveland to hang around in the second half. I’ll be the first to admit the Indians are pitching better, an issue which notoriously collapses first-half Cinderellas. The Tigers are just too dangerous when they start to see the ball well.

East – This is the best race in Baseball. Every team in the A.L East is over .500 – think about that for a second. The Rays would be leading the N.L West and are currently loving 4th place, staring up at The O’s, Yankees and Red Sox. Tough, tough division.

Wild Card

N.L – This one seems a bit too obvious. As it stands, the Reds and Pirates have a grudge match on the horizon. Home field could have a significant impact on this one, as Great American Ballpark should be re-assessed by the MLB or closed. It looks like a high school field. Bonds might have hit 900 homers as a Red.

A.L – Baltimore  jumps Texas because Davis isn’t a fluke. He’s a legit power hitter and should be stirring up a ton of pride in Baltimore.

I’m going to keep playoff and World Series picks to myself for now. Sure, I’m a coward.


Sometimes you just get beat.

As a sports fan, I completely understand a man’s almost impulsive defense of his team. We develop a myriad of excuses build around a very simple concept: The shifting of blame. Crimson Tide fans, myself included, felt just such an impulse around 7PM on Saturday.

Alabama hosted Texas A&M as arguably the nation’s best team. Sure there were those touting Oregon and K-State as contenders, but I think we all felt those teams were a step behind Bama. They have it all, right? The country’s best defense, a mistake free quarterback and an offensive line ready to start for the Chiefs next week.

All of those statements were, and still are, true. But there’s something all SEC fans should know from experience. When you line up in the SEC, even as the nation’s best squad, there’s always a chance you’ll leave with a loss. This can be said for any SEC conference game, but rings especially true in the case of a very talented A&M team.

Texas A&M played about as well as any team could be expected to play under the circumstances. Johnny Manziel showed up and hung 345 yards and two TDs on Alabama – in Tuscaloosa. I’ll say that again – in Tuscaloosa. Do I need to mention a national title shot was on the line? All things considered, this performance was other worldly. Oh yeah, their defense played big as well. This was a perfect storm of incredibly well coached, well practiced kids playing for pride and acceptance. Acceptance granted.

That isn’t to say there wasn’t some Crimson Tide blame to go around. Poor play calling and a costly fumble resulted in a hill too high for McCarron to climb, but that’s the SEC.

As fans we love to collectively enjoy the SEC’s dominance. But in being dominant we have to accept the reality of a loss on any given Saturday. And when you spot a good team 20 points in the first, you should expect to lose.

Tampa Bay has a ton of weapons, but their secondary leaves much to be desired.

The Bucs front office is looking really good right now.  It wasn’t too long ago that we all wrote Freeman off as a guy who couldn’t meet expectations – a guy who couldn’t handle the NFL on a mental level. Enter Vincent Jackson.

The offseason acquisition of Vincent Jackson has given Josh Freeman the extra weapon he needed to stretch the field and regain his waning confidence. We’re now staring down a performer responsible for 5 straight games with a passer rating of over 100, not to mention a TD to INT line of 13/1.

While Jackson has been a huge part of Freeman’s success, it’s impossible to ignore the impact Martin has had on Tampa’s downfield passing game. Doug Martin is the definition of draft day success. You can’t overlook the risk they took on Doug. Scouting a guy and feeling you’ve seen something others overlooked is one thing; checking that gut instinct on a second and third rounder is something else. Dominik was given this opportunity because someone in the Tampa front office trusted his judgment, and it appears Dominik never questioned that fact.

Whether or not Tampa is in the midsts of a huge organizational upswing isn’t even in question, but their playoff hopes in 2012 are more than suspect.

With the likes of Rodgers, Ryan and Brady ripping zone coverage to shreds, shutdown corner play is becoming increasingly important in today’s NFL. When Aaron hits up Denny’s at 4am, he’s subbing out his eggs for 2 deep zones. You just have to get solid man play out of your secondary in order to compete. With that being said, Tampa has arguably the league’s worst tandem in Wright and Biggers.
The pair has landed Tampa near the cellar in total passing yards against and looked bad in the process. If you couple that with a very stout run defensive, you’ve done half the opposing coaches’ jobs for them.

The idea is that Tampa contains the run in an effort to force third and long situations advantageous to zone play from the safety and linebacker positions. The problem with this theory is a lack of secondary personnel to pull it off. Teams will continue to abandon the run and go down field until the Bucs prove they can put up even the slightest fight down field.

As Tampa comes down the stretch they’ll have Brees and Ryan standing between them and a playoff berth. If they get it done it’ll be because Wright and Biggers remembered they belong at this level.

EU Economics 101

A comical, yet tragic, update regarding the economic bonfire in Western Europe has been long overdue – here we go. For anyone (most people) not following the scenario in Europe, I’ll give a quick recap.

When the majority of Western Europe bought into currency consolidation through the European Union, their most prominent point of foreign criticism focused on how more successful nations, such as France and Germany, could afford to bankroll the social welfare of nations who simply didn’t possess the resources or structure for long term economic competition. France and Germany believed the opportunity for expansion into such countries would help to mitigate their losses, but understood the rebuilding challenges would be tough at best.

We’ve now reached a point, due to ill-advised policy decisions and bad economic planning, where Greece, Spain and Portugal are all on the verge of complete collapse.

I know what you’re thinking. This is simple, right? I mean The Greeks messed up. They like, America overspent, and in a country that couldn’t pick up NYC’s garbage collection bill from last week. Wrong. The European Union, in an effort to avoid further devaluing of its own currency, is considering an almost complete write off of all Greek debt.

After an underwhelming meeting between the Obama administration and European leaders at Camp David over the weekend, it has become increasingly clear that Europe’s defaulting nations are unwilling to compromise on any plan that doesn’t involve debt consolidation or removal. Greece is even considering a return to the Drachma, a valueless currency they held prior to joining the EU.

The idea of Greece exiting the EU causes a ton of problems, the largest of which is a possible run on Greek banks.

Just as in the United States, Greece has deposit insurance. But with frightening talk of a return to the Drachma, Greeks in the know are pulling out. Experts believe any retreat from the Euro will result in substantial losses to the value of any currency remaining in Greek banks. Here’s the problem. Greece doesn’t have any money.

According to EU sources Spain would stand a modest chance of paying out what it owes account holders, while Portugal and Greece stand no chance at all. Through all of this, France and Germany are still not willing to watch these countries implode.

At what point do you simply let the Greek people suffer for the mistakes of their altruistic Government? I’d say $1 Trillion ago would have been a nice start. But we aren’t going to see a change. Greece and Portugal will fail to be sustainable countries because they have no industry or discernable value within the global economy – this is simply a fact. They have no resources. Their people have no sense of labor value. They produce little to nothing in the way of meaningful exports. They provide Western Europe with no positive contributions.

In closing, social engineering fails – again. But I guess we’re all just our brother’s keepers, right? I mean, that’s what Jesus supposedly told someone at some point. Apparently mankind has taken that passage to heart, and clearly to our own detriment.

Locke on paternal government

Locke theorized that at its core all human government lies rooted in paternalism. That is to say, to which ever extent a government feels compelled to justify its existence, it does so via the father-child relationship.

As a god fearing protestant whose entire philosophy centered around inherent human rights, Locke struggled with juggling his hatred of government with his admiration for the Biblical hierarchy of family. He believed, regardless of its collective nature, that a government should be viewed as an individual and subject to natural law. That notion created the following problem:

If governmental control is immoral due to one man’s lack of right to forcefully compel another, then a parent’s control over the actions of a child must also be immoral.

This concept challenges everything from child labor to age of consent laws. The currently accepted norm is that a society can collectively decide at what age a citizen is capable of making their own decisions, and in turn due rights. But does the right to remove life, liberty or property from anyone, at any age, fall under the umbrella of government? More importantly, does it even extent to parents? Does a 6 year old have the right to property ownership, or do his shoes belong to whomever provided them? A 10 year old clearly lacks the right to pursue his own liberty, as he’s legally linked to his parents for the first quarter of his life.

We so often make powerful statements, such as those contained within our bill of rights, only to backtrack towards something more socially acceptable. Progress is often the result of swallowing a tough pill, and they don’t come much tougher than parental rights.