Baseball

Rockies
Today is the first game of the season for my Colorado Rockies! We play our hated rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sure, it’s a “meaningless” spring training game, but I am absolutely stoked to finally have games. This also means that I need to resubscribe to MLB audio so that I can catch all the games this season (it’s a bargain at $14.95!).

I definitely will be watching a few battles during spring. Rockies top prospect Dexter Fowler will be in camp, and I’m pulling for him to win the centerfield job. I want Ian Stewart to somehow win a starting job. Preferably, this would be at 3B, although this would probably require a trade of Garrett Atkins, which seems less likely since the Twins have now filled their 3B void by signing Joe Crede. Stewie might end up at 2B or in the outfield. With SP Jeff Francis out for the year, a lot of players will be competing for jobs at the back end of the rotation. I’m hoping that Franklin Morales can harness his talent and make the team. And of course I want to see my favorite player, SS Troy Tulowitzki, get off to a hot start.

World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic begins on March 5. Since baseball has been dropped from the Olympics (at least in 2012) this is going to be the best international tournament we see for a while. Many of the top major league players won’t be playing, but there will be some familiar faces. Six Rockies will be participating. Catcher Chris Iannetta and outfielder Brad Hawpe will play for the USA. Rockies pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez (Dominican Republic), Jason Grilli (Italy), Manny Corpas (Panama), and Adam Bright (Australia) will suit up in the uniforms of our enemies.

The WBC is divided into four pools (A,B,C,D) with four teams in each pool. There is a double elimination tournament in each pool, with the top two teams in each pool advancing to the next round (pools 1 and 2). Once again, there is double elimination. The top two teams from each of those pools advance to the semifinals. The champion of each pool plays the runner-up of the opposite pool to determine the finalists.

The USA is in a pool with Venezuela, Canada, and Italy. Here are my predictions. Japan, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, USA, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico advance to the second round. Japan, Cuba, USA, and Dominican Republic advance to semis. Japan loses to Dominican Republic in the finals.

Taipei and South Africa could be on the wrong side of some really ugly games. Pool D is probably the toughest, top to bottom. It features the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, and The Netherlands (which includes the Netherland Antilles).

Manny watch
Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers continue their negotiations. Manny originally wanted 100M over 4 years. However, with the economy being in the tank, the Dodgers being his only serious suitor, his reputation as a malcontent, and his age (36), there is absolutely no chance of this happening. We’re about five weeks away from the start of the season, so it’s about time to end this game of chicken.

Football

Vikings
My Vikings are apparently on the verge of trading for Houston Texas backup QB Sage Rosenfels. Sage and I share an alma mater (Iowa State) and I am a big fan. He was the QB of a 9 win season in 1999 – the first 9 win season since 1906. It would have been 10 wins if not for a bad call on a field goal at the end of the game. I’m not much of a fan of current Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson, so I would love to see Sage take the starting job away from him.

Bad first impressions
Last week was the NFL’s scouting combine (“the combine”). For those of you who might not be familiar with the combine, it is an event where all of the top college players get together in one location. They are measured, weighed, interviewed, given an IQ test, and put through a variety of physical drills (weight lifting, 40 yard dash, and everything in between). This is the opportunity for players to make a strong impression with the scouts. It is an extremely important day for these players.

Perhaps not so important for Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith. Smith had previously been touted by some experts as a top 5 pick. He showed up at the combine overweight, with the explanation that he got a late start with his training. He didn’t offer an explanation (such as an injury the impaired his ability to train), leaving the scouts to wonder why he got a late start. After all, he had been suspended for Alabama’s bowl game for violating team rules (red flag) so he basically had 3+ months to focus on getting ready for the combine. Smith then abruptly left the combine early.

Smith definitely left an impression on the NFL personnel, albeit not a good one. Some people are suggestion that he will fall to the late first round or early second round. The average first contract (multiple years) for a late first rounder is about $20 million less than the average first contract of the #5 pick.

Now Smith admits that he didn’t handle things very well. Of course, a good media skewering tends to get you to look in the mirror.

Injury
The top wide receiver in the draft, Texas Tech junior Michael Crabtree, was unable to compete in the combine due to a stress fracture. He does not have blazing speed (but does possess awesome talent in every other area) and he could have erased some doubts with a fast 40 yard dash time. The injury may cause him to fall in the draft. I personally think that it would be a serious mistake to pass up Crabtree. While it is true that he benefited from a pass-crazy offense at Texas Tech, Crabtree has crazy skills and could be a special player in the NFL.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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