The Flyers go Hog Wild

Let’s say you’re on a road trip with your family from New York to New Mexico. You drive and you drive, and you drive some more. You get to El Paso, and your dad decides to turn the car around, drive back East, and try the trip on a completely different route, because he thinks it’s better. If your family didn’t stage a mutiny before he had the chance to do it, you’d be pretty pissed off the rest of the trip. That’s what Paul Holmgren just did with the Flyers.

Most hockey fans with an idea of what they are talking about believed that the Flyers were one competent goaltender away from winning a Stanley Cup. Well, they’re going to get their goaltender, but they just removed two of the key cogs that helped make the orange machine roll. Most people believed that Ville Leino and Nikolai Zherdev would have to go in order to create the cap space for Ilya Bryzgalov, the Russian goaltender whose days in Phoenix were quite obviously over. Instead, they’ve got Bryzgalov, a team minus two of its best players, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and a prospect. This is a team taking on a whole new image; a team that looks like it’s trying to start something new.

I don’t know if you missed the hockey season that preceded this one, but the Flyers played in the Stanley Cup Finals as a 7th seed, against the Chicago Blackhawks, who had basically stocked the warchest and invested everything they could into winning the cup in 2009-10. Fittingly, the Flyers lost on a weak goal, which really captured the problem in Philadelphia. Goaltending. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter might have been party animals, and that might have made Paul Holmgren mad, but they were not the reason that the Flyers got their butts handed to them by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Bruins. It was, once again, putrid goaltending, and defense that left a lot to be desired.

For Mike Richards, Los Angeles gave Philadelphia Brayden Schenn, who was its top prospect, and Wayne Simmonds, a solid 2nd or 3rd line scorer, who helps the Flyers maintain some depth. Schenn has scored 315 points in 242 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, and many believe that he will be a very strong player in the NHL one day. Is one day going to come soon enough for Flyers fans? It’s hard to tell.This is a town that is starving for a cup.

Speaking of one day, that’s what the Flyers are planning for with the 8th pick of this NHL Draft, which they received from Columbus, along with a 3rd rounder, and Jakub Voracek, another mid-line scorer. Maybe Brayden Schenn and Pick #8 will be a dynamic duo that will dazzle Philadelphia in the future, but again, that’s not what Philly was supposed to have been planning for. This trade feels like Paul Holmgren cutting off his nose to spite his face. One of the amusing undertones to this is the fact that Paul Holmgren looks exactly like Jurgen Prochnow, famous for his roles in Das Boot, and the movie that focused on a glass called das boot, Beerfest.

Maybe the Flyers will look like this next year

Amidst all of this, they signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9 year, $51 million deal. In the last two off-seasons men named Ilya have signed for 26 years and $156 million. That seemed relevant to point out. Bryzgalov’s contract will likely be front-loaded, and when he gets old, the Flyers and him will part ways, with very minimal financial damage to the Flyers, and Ilya having made the lion’s share of the money he could possibly earn in the contract.

There are rumors that the Flyers could be in the market to make a run at a guy like Brad Richards or Steven Stamkos, but that feels like a “pie in the sky” idea. Paul Holmgren looks like a mad scientist if it works out that way, but it’s a lot of eggs in a fragile basket if that’s his plan. All I know is, I feel like somebody should have jumped in front of Paul Holmgren before he finally pulled the trigger on this deal. I don’t think that Philly fans are going to like the end result of this, as they may have just turned themselves into the Phoenix Coyotes of the East. A team with a really strong goaltender, but no player who really terrifies his opponents. Mike Richards was always a threat, Jeff Carter could score from anywhere on the ice. All of that has been sacrificed in order to take a completely different route to the cup.

Welcome to El Paso, Flyers Fans, and I’m sorry to tell you– the car’s turning around.

Steve Sabato is a Staff Writer for Home Field Advantage


2011 NBA Mock Draft – What a Draft

Thursday, June 23rd, at 7:00 p.m. EST, the NBA Draft will begin on ESPN. A potential lockout looms large over the NBA, and this years draft class doesn’t quite jump out on paper. Kyrie Irving, and all 11 games played at Duke are projected as the number one pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Arizona’s Derrick Williams may be more appealing to the Cavs. The rest of the draft has college guys with excellent college résumé, such as senior Kyle Singler of Duke, and interesting projects like the 18-year-old Bismack Biyombo of France. It truly is a wait and see draft with plenty of doubters; but this draft has huge potential for sleepers.

Cleveland has the first and fourth pick, so they’ll be looking to rebuild, plus a few teams are trying to get the #2 pick from Minnesota, such as the Lakers, Pacers and Suns. Do I think it will happen? Possibly. I tried it out. Names like Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Kevin Love, Marcin Gortat and Roy Hibbert have been mentioned. Trades, I can’t predict too well, but I will try my best.

#1 overall, Cleveland Cavaliers

PG, Kyrie Irving, Duke, Freshman
As my partner in crime, fellow Home Field Advantage write Steve Sabato said, Irving seems to have risen to the top because there really is no one else–the Cam Newton effect. Irving does have a great skill set, and he showcased them in his freshman season–the 11 games he played in. Irving was hurt and made a comeback in the NCAA tournament, but wasn’t full strength. Most thought he’d return because of the injury, but he declared for the draft. He’s not Cleveland’s next LeBron, but he could be a spark for the wayward Cavs. Has the skills, good size (6’4″), definitely talented.

#2 overall, Phoenix Suns (from Minnesota for Marcin Gortat, Pick #13)

PF, Derrick Williams, Arizona, Sophomore
6’9″ Williams exploded this year, especially in the tournament, where he lead the team to an Elite 8 appearance. Williams is hyper athletic and can create his own shot. Phoenix will have a threat to add to Steve Nash’s targets, making him a little happier for the final year of his contract. Suns supposedly covet Williams, Minnesota has been shopping this pick; Steve Nash won’t be moved.

#3 overall, Utah Jazz

C, Enes Kanter, Turkey
Kanter was slated to play his freshman year at Kentucky but eligibility issues held him out for the year. Kanter has huge hype surrounding him, but not a lot of American experience. Small chance he will be a dominant center (6’11”), he is skilled and could add a new type of center to the League, or disappear in a few years, never know with these centers.

#4 overall, Cleveland Cavaliers

SF, Kahwi Leonard, San Diego St., Sophomore
San Diego St. was a surprise (not quite a surprise, but under the radar), and Leonard (6’7″) was a leader. His shooting ability is a question but is a potential good wing player, good offensive skills, good defender and easily coached, as he showed a lot of improvement his 2 years at San Diego St. Could compliment Irving well.

#5 overall, Toronto Raptors

PG, Brandon Knight, Kentucky, Freshman
Knight will captain the Raptor offense from day one, and allow DeMar DeRozan room to roam. Knight (6’4″) can create shots for Bargnani and Amir Johnson, plus he adds his excellent scoring. Passing is a plus, but can score. Could be one of the league’s top guards in a few years.

#6 overall, Washington Wizards

SF, Jan Vesely, Czech Republic
Vesely is a big slasher (6’11”), and John Wall will love big Jan cutting across the paint. Vesely has size and a good frame, but is a project. With good coaching, Vesely could become a specialized weapon in DC

#7 overall, Sacramento Kings

PG, Kemba Walker, UCONN, Junior
This is possibly a little early, possibly a little late; but Kemba is a baller. Tyreke Evans could be SG, with DeMarcus Cousins at C–scary young, talented team. There would be no shortage of scoring in Sacramento, and with so many options, Kemba (6’1″) would have so many opportunities to learn to pass effectively.

#8 overall, Detroit Pistons

PF, Tristan Thompson, Texas, Freshman
Detroit could use an NBA ready prospect and at this point, Thompson (6’9″) is the best available for that criteria. The lengthy lefty will have time to develop with Charlie Villanueva and is a good defender, can come off the bench and make a difference.

#9 overall, Charlotte Bobcats

PF, Marcus Morris, Kansas, Junior
Charlotte will most likely look for a sure thing, Marcus would be it in the project heavy draft. Their front court is lacking (Kwame Brown, DeSanga Diop) and Marcus Morris can create his own shots, talented offensive post (6’9″) and can learn more.  Will potentially get a lot of minutes early.

#10 overall, Milwaukee Bucks

SG, Klay Thompson, Washington St., Junior
The Bucks could take a big man to help Bogut, but SG is also a need, someone to play alongside Brandon Jennings. He’s NBA ready and has a good shot (6’7″). Impressed scouts with his shooting ability, and athleticism. Could develop into a starter at some point.

#11 overall, Golden State

C, Donatas Motiejunas, Lithuania
Golden State is in a bit of project rebuild mode, with new coach Mark Jackson, Monta Ellis rumored to be on his way out via trade, but building around rising talent Stephen Curry. Motiejunas (7’0″) is rumored to stay an extra year in Europe, and could sign in a year and provide a big body to take Andris Biedrins’ spot. Young talent to stash away, Warriors usually go their own way in draft.

#12 overall, Utah Jazz

PG, Jimmer Fredette, BYU, Senior
Jimmer (6’3″) is a star in Utah and the state would love the Jazz even more if they took Jimmer (that’s a lot, they have good fans). Jimmer is a high risk, high reward, he could have a JJ Redick type career, or Jimmer college style translated to NBA. Can score anywhere, driving to the paint or from 3. Otherwise, they’re going with a project.

#13 overall, Minnesota Timberwolves

SF, Chris Singleton, Florida St., Junior
Minnesota is getting athletic, and Singleton (6’9″) may be the best athlete in the draft, with a huge wingspan. The Wolves need a 3-4 wing type, and Singleton could fill the role. Flynn, Beasley and Love with developing Singleton will be a talented lineup.

#14 overall, Houston Rockets

SG, Alec Burks, Colorado, Sophomore
Houston needs a PG to develop for the future but there are none at 14, so the best available would be Burks (6’6″). If Yao were for sure out, there aren’t a lot of centers available either, and the best option would be the big SG with good passing ability, a slasher, and a good on ball defender.

#15 overall, Indiana Pacers

C, Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania
I see Valanciunas dropping to 15 because he isn’t ready on the defensive end for the NBA, but Indiana will be fine with that because they have Hibbert and with Valanciunas (7’0″), they can develop him, or use him as trade bait. His offense is almost there, but he’s not an entire package yet.

#16 overall, Philadelphia 76ers

PF, Bismack Biyombo, Spain
Biyombo has the scouts abuzz, and he is considered to be one of the most intriguing prospects. Only 18 years old (6’9″), he needs some coaching, but he’s got the talent. Extremely long and an athletic freak, he will need time–and lots of it to learn. Philly loves athletes and Biyombo will be too compelling not to take at 16.

#17 overall, New York Knicks

PG, Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech, Junior
The Knicks will go position of need, so PF and SF are taken care of. Billups is aging, but still effective, and bringing in a new PG will give them options in the backcourt. Shumpert can jump out of the building and distributes well. He’s a fast break kind of guard, something D’Antoni will love.

#18 overall, Washington Wizards

C, Nikola Vucevic, USC, Junior
The Wiz go big again with the 7 foot center from USC. Vucevic provides some depth and is closer to being ready than some of the other big men. He’s a big body, and has the potential to be a versatile contributor. He needs coaching, and time, high risk, high reward.

#19 overall, Charlotte Bobcats

PF, Tobias Harris, Tennessee, Freshman
Charlotte took Marcus Morris with their first pick, a PF, and Harris is listed as a PF, but is undersized (6’8″) and has the skill set to play SF. Gerald Wallace was traded midseason, and Harris compares, best case, to a Gerald Wallace. He’s a scorer and can rebound, not always in position, defense needs work.

#20 overall, Minnesota Timberwolves

SG, Marshon Brooks, Providence, Senior
Minnesota got a SF option earlier, now Brooks is a big SG who can score (6’5″). He’s a 6th man type, creates his own shots, but needs to pass more. With the rising Timberwolves, there could possible be an environment with a lot of options, forcing Brooks to pass more. Look for big scoring numbers from him when he gets a shot to play.

#21 overall, Portland Trailblazers

PF, Kenneth Faried, Morehead St., Senior
The Blazers need froncourt depth. Greg Oden is chilling somewhere with Sasquatch, Pryzbilla is gone, Marcus Camby is old, and LaMarus Aldridge is the guy. Gerald Wallace helps with rebounds, but Faried would come of the bench and simply do work on the boards. Undersized PF (6’8″), Faried will bang the boards with anyone, be tough and is probably the best rebounder in the draft. His poor offensive skill set can improve over time, but it doesn’t quite need to as Portland has some scorers available. Being from Portland, the pick will either contribute for years, or be gone after 4 seasons.

#22 overall, Denver Nuggets

SF, Jordan Hamilton, Texas, Sophomore
So Carmelo is gone, and Hamilton isn’t the same player. The Nuggets also have good forwards such as, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, so this is a depth choice, and best available. Hamilton (6’9″) slid a little in my draft, but could go earlier. Good scorer, and can rebound from the wing spot. Defense needs work.

#23 overall, Houston Rockets

SF, Nikola Mirotic, Serbia
Scola is getting up there in age, but still productive. Mirotic (6’10”) could stay in Spain like Scola did and develop some more, giving Houston more firepower in the years to come. Offensive game is very good, defense and strength must be improved.

#24 overall, Oklahoma City Thunder

PG, Reggie Jackson, Boston College, Junior
Russell Westbrook is staying, I’m not suggesting anything. OKC has good depth, but PG could use a long defender just in case. Jackson will be a good role player as he has a developed 3-point shot. He’s a SG stuck in a PG’s body (6’3″)–athletic and hard-working so it could work out.

#25 overall, Boston Celtics

PF, Justin Harper, Richmond, Senior
Harper improved by leaps and bounds each year playing for the Spiders, a good sign in a prospect. Good height (6’10”) and a great shooter for that height. Floats around and can create shots, if his defense and strength can improve, he will be a real steal, lot of potential.

#26 overall, Dallas Mavericks

PF, Markieff Morris, Kansas, Junior
Twin brother went earlier, and always overshadowed Markieff. Dallas can’t repeat with that front court depth, adding Morris (6’10”) will help. He’s bigger and stronger than his brother, but lacks the offensive talent–his rebounding is coveted though.

#27 overall, New Jersey Nets

SF, Davis Bertans, Latvia
The Nets will need veterans to help them now, so possible they’ll draft for the future. Bertans (6’10”) isn’t ready yet, they can stow him over in Europe and let him grow. His shot has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki’s by scouts, good ball handler, but rebounding and defense are lacking though.

#28 overall, Chicago Bulls

PG, Norris Cole, Cleveland St., Senior
The Bulls don’t need much, PG depth wouldn’t hurt. Cole (6’2″) would come off the bench and distribute next to, or in place of Derrick Rose for depth. Cole is a good role player who does everything well, but nothing outstanding.

#29 overall, San Antonio Spurs

SF, Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA, Sophomore
Spurs are an excellent defensive team, and Honeycutt has a lot of potential on D. Could potentially defend the 2, 3, or 4 position. The Spurs’ depth has depleted, Honeycutt (6’8″) can provide off the bench and defend a scorer.

#30 overall, Chicago Bulls

SF, Kyler Singler, Duke, Senior
Singler had an outstanding career at Duke, and is a winner at the college and high school level. Known scorer, good teammate by distributing well for his size (6’9″), can get in there and rebound but not against the biggest bodies. Defense needs help a he isn’t very athletic (just take a gander at him). Can contribute coming off the bench in key situations, and he’s from Oregon.

Now this mock draft will probably get 3, maybe 4 picks correct. There will be trades and I’m no NBA hardcore. I’ve watched a lot of them in college and did my studying. My ability to predict outcomes haven’t started well here at Home Field Advantage (Heat in 7 games, and a Vanderbilt-Virginia College World Series). I’m confident in my evaluations but I’ll leave it up to the NBA franchises. Watch for a strong Euro showing, as well as long, athletic, project types. Got some help from a friend, and credit is due, Cal Keizur; I didn’t listen to you much. Also, one team will make a bonehead pick, just wait for it.

Michael Schwartz is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage

Down Goes Sir Albert

I’ll save you from the “Machine is broken” talk. Albert is human and has feelings. Now, what does this non-displaced fracture of Albert Pujols’ left wrist mean for his future? The St. Louis Cardinals’ future? Baseball’s future?

Why, I do not know, but I cannot find any video of the injury. It would be right here.

Anyways, right off the bat (oh boy, puns), not much for baseball’s future. The League will miss Albert, but no rule changes or any of that baloney (ahem Buster Posey). Albert was out of position and was making an effort to get an out (Buster was out of position, off-balance) and an accident happened. I wouldn’t want to be in the wrong position at the wrong time this season, stars are falling. No rule changes here, no fuss.

Now for Sir Albert’s future, there are some legitimate question marks. Will his wrist and forearm properly heal? To his former strength? Will his swing be affected? The wrist is a joint, where the two bones of the forearm connect to the metacarpal hand bones. A non-displaced fracture of the wrist is most often a fracture of the radius, the bone that rotates with your thumb side. Of the two bones, the radius is larger and is more important in the wrist joint. Pujols bats and throws right-handed, which helps. As seen in the play where the injury occurred, his left and gloved hand was jammed into the base runner; aside from that play, no other future concerns in the field. Hitting may be a different story, but this is Albert Pujols people. His left arm is leading toward the pitcher as the hitter and takes care of the downward motion of the swing and the pull through. His broken wrist will have some short-term effect on his power, but he’s a good enough hitter to hit line drives and conserve some of the energy in that wrist. It will be sore of course, but with good rest and rehabilitation his wrist should heal, I expect it to be 100% for the 2012 season. Once he returns after the 4-6 weeks the Cardinals staff set, he’ll be good, but not his usual self. The majority of his power comes from his incredible hitting ability, and hand-eye-coordination, giving him all the power and skill in the world. If St. Louis makes the playoffs, Albert will find a way to be his dominant self.

Things aren’t so awful for the Cardinals, either. Tony LaRussa is an excellent manager, and this years team, is special for LaRussa. Nearly all of the position players play multiple positions, allowing LaRussa to plug-in different lineups, and they’re all playing well. Lance Berkman has played left, right and first and is having an incredible comeback season. The pitching staff has been able to plug and chug new pitchers, and maintain a high level of play. Pujols’ contract is up after this year, after not resigning this off-season. As I’m writing this, St. Louis is half a game up on the Brewers for 1st in the N.L. Central. Even with Pujols in a “slump”. For Albert, a .279 batting average is no bueno; but his 17 homeruns and 45 RBI are decent. Albert’s injury is a chance for the Cards to see what they have as a team, and potential see what life without Pujols could be like. Will Pujols resign with the Cards after the season? He most likely won’t get the 10 years he was asking for, but chances are he’ll be back in St. Louis next year. The Cards will be more than willing to bring their star back, with fewer questions than other clubs. If Albert Pujols gets away, shame on them.

Rory v. Tiger

This past weekend, 22-year old phenom Rory McIlroy dominated the field to notch his first major championship at the U.S. Open at Congressional. McIlroy established a new record score of 16-under par and won by the second-largest margin in the tournaments long history.

Shortly after the victory, many experts, journalists and casual sports fans were quick to tab young Rory as “the next Tiger Woods” and a true threat to Tiger’s dominance over the last 15 years.

America, let’s slow down. As a society, we are always desperate to find the next big thing and to claim that this player is not just equal, but better. Examples include Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby as the next Wayne Gretzky, Washington Nationals prospect Stephen Strasburg as the next Nolan Ryan, and most notably, Miami Heat forward LeBron James as the next Michael Jordan.

Much of this hype is driven by the media, where extreme hyperbole is natural. In fact, Sports Illustrated used to run a series called “The Chosen Ones”, a list that included LeBron, New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, prep star basketball player Sebastian Telfair, and high school baseball wonder kid Bryce Harper. Each time, the magazine made these young players out to be the best players of all-time, before they played on professional game.

If we’ve learned anything about setting standards this high, we’re often incorrect in our initial assessments. Sidney Crosby, though a great player and a star in the NHL, is clearly no Wayne Gretzky, who’s nickname is “The Great One”. Strasburg, already sidelined with Tommy John Surgery, made a huge splash when he came into the league, but probably won’t throw seven no-hitters like Ryan or break the all-time strikeout king’s record. And LeBron James will never be compared to Michael Jordan again after his most recent playoff meltdown.

So, why must we be so quick to anoint Rory McIlroy as the next Tiger, who is easily a once-in-a-lifetime athlete? First, the reasons why Rory is even in the conversation:

-He has held a lead at one point in time in three of the last four major championships (exception of the 2010 PGA Championship)
-Of the two majors in 2011, he has been the leader at the conclusion of seven of the eight rounds played (exception of the final round at The Masters)
-Set a record for lowest score in a U.S. Open Championship while winning wire-to-wire

All of those are great reasons and show that McIlroy is on the cusp of stardom. However, he isn’t Tiger. Nowhere close to Tiger. And here’s why:

First, McIlroy’s U.S. Open performance isn’t the most dominating performance of all-time. He did set the record for lowest score in Open history, but he did it at a course that was full of red numbers. The most impressive U.S. Open performance is and will probably always will be Tiger’s 2000 victory at Pebble Beach. Remember, in 2000, Tiger won with a score of 12-under par, which was a record. Not only was his score a record, Tiger was the only player that year under par. He won by 15 strokes, still a U.S. Open record. Nobody will touch Tiger’s dominance in 2000 ever.

Second, while it is impressive that Rory has led at some point during three of the last four Majors, he has only captured one victory. Young Tiger, at the height of his dominance, would never had let those leads escape. In fact, Tiger has never lost when leading after 54-holes at a Major Championship. McIlroy not only didn’t win The Masters in April after holding the 54-hole lead, but he shot an 80.

Third, Rory’s win at the U.S. Open was only his third career win, and only his second on American soil. Tiger has won 71 PGA Tour events, including his 14 Major championships. He’s also won 38 times on the European Tour. Enough said. Not to mention, Tiger played this year’s Masters on a gimpy leg and almost came away the victor. At 35-years old, Tiger still has some productive years of golf ahead of him (Jack Nicklaus, widely considered the greatest golfer of all-time, won his 18th and final major at the age of 46).

So, let’s not jump the gun and call Rory McIlroy the next Tiger Woods. Instead, let’s enjoy McIlroy’s tantalizing game and the parity that is starting to form in golf.

Even better, let’s wait until a healthy Tiger has a chance to stare down McIlory in a final grouping at a major championship. Until then, Rory McIlroy will only be a talented, young golfer on the rise.

And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

Greg Kaplan is a writer and co-founder of Home Field Advantage

Ah Summer- the College World Series

For the 67th time, the NCAA will hold the College World Series, but this time, it’s in the brand new TD Ameritrade Park. But don’t worry, it’s still in Omaha, Nebraska.

Rosenblatt may be gone, but its memory lives on as host to some of the best baseball around, a rich history. Those lucky enough to attend a game at Rosenblatt love the atmosphere and the history, where guys like Terry Francona, Larry Walker, Pat Burrell and Rod Dedeuax roamed.

College baseball has seen a slight rise of popularity in the past decade, due mostly to expanded media coverage and more money for programs. More athletes are recognized in the college ranks in the baseball world, primarily through the College World Series. Plenty of ball players are still drafted out of high school, skipping college, but more are going to school. This year has no shortage of potential talent, and excellent pitching.

The 2011 College World Series should be a part of your summer sports television lineup, if it wasn’t already. 3 North Carolina, 6 Vanderbilt, 2 Florida, 7 Texas, Cal, 1 Virginia, 4 South Carolina, and Texas A&M are the World Series teams, a mix of blue bloods and newcomers. Virginia, the #1 national seed cruised through the regionals and super regionals, while Cal, a sleeper team from the Pac 10, took over the Houston regional and beat Dallas Baptist for a spot. Every team is a one seed, except for Cal, but many are new to the college post season. The CWS is double elimination in bracket play, and then a best of three championship series.

North Carolina Tar Heels
2011 Record: 50-14, 20-10 in ACC, 3rd in the ACC Coastal Division
Hosted and won both the Chapel Hill Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 9 (1960, 1966, 1978, 1989, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011)
CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: Dustin Ackley, BJ Surhoff, Chris Ianetta
Drafted Players: SS Levi Michael (Twins 30th), RHP Greg Holt (National 247th)
Batting Leaders: BA- .335 Colin Moran (FR, IF), HR- 9 Colin Moran (FR, IF), RBI- 69 Colin Moran (FR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-1 Patrick Johnson (SR, RHP), ERA- 2.27 Patrick Johnson (SR, RHP), K- 120 Patrick Johnson (SR, RHP)
Young team with excellent pitching, defense carried the Tar Heels for the most of the season and has been instrumental in their CWS run. Their offense is nothing to scoff at, young bats will have to step up in the first game against Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt Commodores
2011 Record: 52-10, 22-8 in SEC, 3rd in the SEC Eastern Division
Hosted and won both the Nashville Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 1 (2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: David Price, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Minor
Drafted Players: RHP Sonny Gray (A’s 18th), LHP Grayson Garvin (57th Rays), 3B Jason Esposito (64th Orioles), RHP Jack Armstrong (99th Astros), 1B Aaron Westlake (106th Tigers), LHP Corey Williams (117th Twins), RHP David Hill (187th Nationals), RHP Mark Lamm (206th Braves), C Curtis Casali (317th Tigers), RHP Navery Moore (446th Braves), RHP William Clinard (928th Twins), OF Joseph Loftus (1384th Diamondbacks)
Batting Leaders: BA- .357 Jason Esposito (JR, IF), HR- 17 Aaron Westlake (JR, 1B), RBI- 59 Jason Esposito (JR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-1 Grayson Garvin (JR, LHP), ERA- 1.21 Navery Moore (JR, RHP), K- 119 Sonny Gray (JR, RHP)
All-around solid ball club with two big time starters and an excellent pitching depth. Offense is powered by Westlake and Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson Mike Yastrzemski, especially in the postseason. If their pitching is on target, look for Vandy to excel in the CWS, starting in the first game against UNC.

Florida Gators
2011 Record: 50-17, 22-8 in SEC, 2nd in the SEC Eastern Division
Hosted and won both the Gainseville Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 7 (1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010, 2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: David Eckstein, Mark Ellis, Matt LaPorta, Al Rosen
Drafted Players: LHP Nick Maronde (104th Angels), RHP Anthony DeSclafani (199th Blue Jays), LHP Alex Panteliodis (282nd Mets), RHP Thomas Toledo (341st Brewers), 1B Preston Tucker (498th Rockies), C Ben McMahan (701st Brewers), RHP Matt Campbell (751st Phillies), CF Tyler Thompson (1387th Nationals)
Batting Leaders: BA- .376 Mike Zunino (SO, C), HR- 18 Mike Zunino (SO, C), RBI- 68 Preston Tucker (JR, UTL)
Pitching Leaders: W- 10-3 Hudson Randall (SO, RHP), ERA- 1.72 Steven Rodriguez (SO, LHP), K- 83 Karsten Whitson (FR, RHP)
Always a strong unit, the Gators rely more on offense, but have above average pitching. The entire staff goes through ups and downs, which could hurt in a very defensive CWS. Keep and eye on freshman RHP Karsten Whitson, drafted early 1st round last year but opted to go to school, whose stuff is filthy. They start the CWS against Texas

Texas Longhorns
2011 Record: 49-17, 19-8 in Big XII, Conference Champions
Hosted and won both the Austin Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 34 (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2011) CWS Titles: 6 (1949, 1950, 1975, 1983, 2002, 2005)
MLB Notables: Roger Clemens, Huston Street, Drew Stubbs
Drafted Players: RHP Taylor Jungmann (12th Brewers), LHP Sam Stafford (88th Yankees), SS Brandon Loy (167th Tigers), RHP Cole Green (295th Reds), LHP Andrew McKirahan (639th Cubs), 1B Tant Shepherd (732rd Mets), RHP Kevin Dicharry (1261st Phillies), C Kevin Lusson (1380th Rays)
Batting Leaders: BA- .358 Erich Weiss (FR, IF), HR- 5 Tant Shepherd (SR, IF), RBI- 44 Erich Weiss (FR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-2 Taylor Jungmann (JR, RHP), ERA- 1.15 Corey Knebel (FR, RHP), K- 123 Taylor Jungmann (JR, RHP)
Texas has been plagued by the new college bats, in a power drought, but the pitching staff is one of their best of all time. Jungmann is a star, and the other starters are winners. Pitching will determine how far Texas can go, starting with Florida.

Cal Bears
2011 Record: 37-21, 13-13 in Pac 10, 6th in the Pac 10
3 seed won the Fort Worth Regional and the Santa Clara Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 6 (1947, 1957, 1980, 1988, 1992, 2011) CWS Titles: 2 (1947, 1957)
MLB Notables: Jeff Kent, Bob Melvin, Xavier Nady, Conor Jackson
Drafted Players: RHP Erik Johnson (80th White Sox), SS Marcus Semien (201st White Sox), RHP Dixon Anderson (277th Nationals)
Batting Leaders: BA- .335 Tony Renda (SO, IF), HR- 7 Chad Bunting (JR, UTL), RBI- 42 Tony Renda (SO, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 9-6 Justin Jones (SO, LHP), ERA- 1.59 Kyle Porter (FR, LHP), K- 100 Erik Johnson (JR, RHP)
Cal, well, they stunned the college baseball world. No one expected them here, and now they are gaining the underdog fans. A well rounded team, doesn’t do anything spectacular, but they are getting the job done. They will have to battle to stay alive, the begin versus #1 overall Virginia.

Virginia Cavaliers
2011 Record: 54-10, 22-8 in ACC, 1st in Coastal Division and ACC Champions
Hosted and won both the Charlottesville Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 2 (2009, 2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: Eppa Rixey, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds
Drafted Players: LHP Danny Hultzen (2nd Mariners), C John Hicks (123rd Mariners), RHP Will Roberts (158th Indians), 3B Steven Proscia (213th Mariners), RHP Philip Wilson (305th Orioles), C Kenneth Swab (636th Royals), RHP Cody Winiarski (1101st White Sox)
Batting Leaders: BA- .366 David Coleman (SR, OF), HR- 8 Steven Proscia (JR, IF), RBI- 58 Steven Proscia (JR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 12-3 Danny Hultzen (JR, LHP), ERA- 1.49 Danny Hultzen (JR, LHP), K- 151 Danny Hultzen (JR, LHP)
A dominant team, which has held down the nations #1 spot in the rankings the entire year, the Cavaliers are very good, but not unstoppable–but close. Hultzen leads a ridiculous pitching staff, and the offense has excellent depth. The team has experience, and talent. Only way to beat the Cavs is by jumping on the pitching staff and score–a lot. They start out with Cal.

South Carolina Gamecocks
2011 Record: 54-10, 22-8 in SEC, 2nd in SEC East Division
Hosted and won both the Columbia Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 10 (1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1985, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011) CWS Titles: 1 (2010)
MLB Notables: Adam Everett, Landon Powell, Justin Smoak
Drafted Players: OF Jackie Bradley (40th Red Sox), RHP Matt Price (184th Diamondbacks), SS Peter Mooney (649th Blue Jays), OF Adam Matthews (695th Orioles), LHP Bryan Harper (907th Nationals), LHP Steven Neff (1257th Giants), LHP Jon Webb (1465th Reds)
Batting Leaders: BA- .359 Christian Walker (SO, IF), HR- 10 Christian Walker (SO, IF), RBI- 60 Christian Walker (SO, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-3 Michael Roth (JR, LHP), ERA- 1.02 Michael Roth (JR, LHP), K- 95 Michael Roth (JR, LHP)
The defending National Champs are back, complete with last years CWS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. USCeast has another strong team, also lead by pitching. The offense is even strong, leading me to think they will be hard to beat. If the Gamecock pitchers are getting outs, look out. South Carolina leads off against Texas A&M

Texas A&M Aggies
2011 Record: 47-20, 19-8 Big XII, 2nd in the Big XII
Hosted and won the College Station Regional and won the Tallahassee Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 5 (1951, 1964, 1993, 1999, 2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: Chuck Knoblauch, Cliff Pennington
Drafted Players: RHP John Stilson (108th Blue Jays), RHP Thomas Stripling (288th Rockies), RHP Nickolas Fleece (415th Reds), RHP Adam Smith (779th Yankees), RHP Brandon Parrent (921st White Sox), C Kevin Gonzalez (1090th Astros), RHP Steven Martin (1120th Astros)
Batting Leaders: BA- .390 Tyler Naquin (SO, OF), HR- 7 Matt Juengel (JR, IF), RBI- 49 Matt Juengel (JR, IF) & Jacob House (JR, UTL)
Pitching Leaders: W- 14-2 Ross Stripling (JR, RHP), ERA- 1.68 John Stilson (JR, RHP), K- 110 Michael Wacha (SO, RHP)
The Aggies silently floated into the CWS defeating a good Florida State team to get here. The pitching staff is a strong point (surprise), but the offense may struggle at times. They are a scrappy team, almost feast or famine, but they’ve been lucky enough to feast most of the year. They will be hungry and will battle hard, starting off against the defending champs, South Carolina.


This College World Series will definitely be interesting; it’s the first year with the new, less bouncy aluminum bats (reason for the low homerun numbers and stud pitching numbers), and the new stadium. Scores will be low and pitchers will need to stay on the mark for all 9 innings, for letting up just one big inning could hurt any of these teams.

I see it coming down to Vanderbilt and Virginia, two strong, all-around teams whose bats can sustain a long enough run to win it all. Hultzen and Gray will be the headliner pitchers, their performances the turning point of the Championship Series, but the real test will be in the 2 and 3 starters for both. Who can keep the runs off of the scoreboard. Ultimately, Virginia will win it all, the second year in a row an team wins its first title. Hultzen will become a household name for his work on the mound, and Yaz 2.0 (Mike Yastrzemski) will capture a large audience as he performs well for Vanderbilt. Virginia has been good enough to be #1 all year, and rarely do I chose that season long #1 to win it all, but UVA has been consistently too good, they’re only misstep was against Miami in the regular season (you should know me, have to plug the Canes).

Sit down and watch starting Saturday, June 16th, live on ESPN. And if you chose to watch only a little, the championship series will surely be a dandy. It’s college baseball baby, and it’s hit the boiling point–let’s get it on!

Michael Schwartz is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage

90 Days Later

NFL Commissioner and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith deep in contemplation on how next to put the screws to NFL fans

The NFL Lockout has been going on for 90 days. The start of free agency has officially been pushed back to “whenever it happens” status, and mini-camps and OTAs have honestly been about as exciting and/or newsworthy as they were when the teams were in charge of them, as opposed to the player-organized status they currently have. All the lockout has really shown thus far, is that the NFL really could not care any less about what you think, as long as you pay up when the season inevitably starts.

Nobody in their right mind actually believes that the NFL season will be missed. This is especially true now that there have been reports that the sides have been meeting and negotiating with minimal input from the mediator. Albert Breer of has said that the “drop-dead” date for a deal to be in place in order to start in time for the first pre-season game, would be July 15. I expect that there will be a deal in place by then, especially now that there have been reports of Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith having “jovial” dinners in midtown Manhattan. How cute.

A deal will be done, and I’m sure that the general population of NFL fans will consider this ancient history, and it’ll all go back to being the $9 billion-plus industry it is. It just seems relevant to note that we, as fans, were pretty much collateral damage in a league’s labor negotiations, arguing over money that we give them. Every time you buy a Giants shirt, John Mara gets paid, Eli Manning gets paid, and the New Meadowlands gets that much closer to being paid off, and you, of course, get a shirt. Everybody wins. Yet, when guys like John Mara and Eli Manning see that this league is currently generating $9 billion in revenue, there is suddenly a problem with the business model. John Mara says his peers, the owners, need a bigger cut, and guys like Eli don’t want the “greedy” owners digging into their slice of the cake. Suddenly, either they’re going to get the share of cake that they want, or you are basically going to end up paying for more cake. And guess what. You’re going to pay for more cake. That’s right. When everything is said and done in this over-dramatized, multi-billion-dollar slapfight, you’re going to have to keep up with The League, or The League is going to leave you behind.

At the end of the day, the NFL’s new labor deal will (SPOILER ALERT) end up looking a lot like what it currently has in place, with some more benefits going to retired players, the owners getting a little more off the top, and the players having less mandatory off-season work–which will inevitably lead to an 18-game format being unveiled in a couple of years. This will all end up happening. What will also happen is the incline of ticket, merchandise, and all other prices associated with showing your support for the teams you love. It’s like gas. We hate that it’s $4 per gallon, but we keep buying it don’t we? We buy it because we need it. People spend money on the teams that they love, because they need those teams. People spend $20 a person to go to the movies, because they need the temporary escape from reality. And, of course, this is the same reason people spend all the money they have on drugs. When things become a necessity, the demand for those things becomes inelastic (thank you, Professor Henry Rodgers) and we will spend anything to have them.

I have to say, my least favorite part of this “labor dispute” has been the fight between the two sides for the support of the public. Yes, there are the sheep out there who will inevitably be swayed by one side’s sob-story or the other’s. However, at the end of the day, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that they’re both screwing us. That’s why it was so frustrating to see the leaders of each side get on their pulpit, and tell us how they had our backs. All I really want, and all you should want, from either of these sides, is that they level with us. Fine, we’re going to spend $30 for hot dogs one day, and a ticket will only be obtained through mortgaging your house, we get that. But, if that’s the case, don’t tell me you have my back. As the wise Judge Judy titled her book: “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

Steve Sabato is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage

Three more Marist College baseball players drafted

After star outfielder Mike Gallic was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 18th round, the Marist Red Foxes baseball team supplied the draft with three more talented young players.

Seniors Ricky Pacione and Eric Alessio and junior Jon Schwind in the 41st round or later on Wednesday. Schwind was the highest drafted player of the three, receiving the Pittsburgh Pirates 41st-round selection. Since he is only a junior, Schwind could choose to either sign a professional contract with the Pirates or return to Marist for one more season and re-enter the draft next summer.

Alessio, who worked mainly out of the Marist bullpen last year, posted an ERA of 2.27 which resulted in him being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 49th round.

Of the three, however, the most interesting selection was of Pacione, who was Marist’s leading hitter at .367 for the season. Pacione was the hardest out I ever saw watching Marist baseball games over my final two years at school. In one doubleheader, Pacione recorded a combined 5-5 with a couple doubles and two walks. He has a beautiful understanding of the strike zone and patience that will most certainly translate against harder competition.

It wasn’t Pacione being drafted that is interesting as far as the news goes (I had Pacione and Gallagher as the two likeliest Foxes to get drafted after Gallic, Gallagher went undrafted). Instead, it was the position the Los Angeles Angels listed Pacione as for the 48th-round selection. In my previous post, I stated that Pacione simply doesn’t have the gap-to-gap power to play an offensive premium position like the corner outfield slots. I saw Pacione, who has experience playing all over the field for the Red Foxes, as a potential option for a team at second base, a position that usually is defensive first and offensive second. But, the Angels saw differently. They saw Pacione as something I have never seen him as:

A catcher.

The last two years, the two-spot on the Marist defense was manned by team leader Bryce Nugent. But, I’m sure the Angels scouts have either seen Pacione catch before or worked him out at catcher at some point in the scouting process to deem him capable of the position in a minor league setting. Either way, his development will be interesting to follow over the next couple of seasons.

Marist College has never produced a Major League Baseball player in the program’s history. But, with four new Foxes roaming in the minor leagues, the odds of Marist producing a pro becomes all the greater.

Good luck to all five Marist College draftees.

Greg Kaplan is a writer and co-founder of Home Field Advantage