White Hat Sports Headlines

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet 16, BREAK IT DOWN!

First off, I know, new header, I have finally changed the name of the page to "Sterling Sports". I think I can, seeingsthough I am the last survivor of the site that was started more than a year ago. Now onto the Degenerate Break it Down of the Sweet 16.


1. Louisville v. 12. Arizona

Louisville should run away with this one. Arizona was one of the hottest teams coming out of the first two rounds of the tournament, but look for Rick Pitino's Cardinals to bounce back after a couple tough games. In the tournament the old adage is very true, what doesn't kill (or eliminate you) makes you stronger(makes you stronger, (I guess I only had to change the beginning of the saying). Louisville is one of those deep teams, when you can bring a guy like Edgar Sosa off the bench, you're without a deep team. Arizona's starting 5 have been producing incredibly effectively, except the kryptonite for a team like this is taking on a team with a deep bench. Take into account the coaching mismatch and Louisville should roll by about 16 points.

3. Kansas v. 2. Michigan St.

This is going to be a terrific match up. Sherron Collins (who Tom Izzo called this afternoon on the Jim Rome show, the best point guard in the country.) matches up with the very skilled Spartan back court. These are two veteran teams that have had tournament success and two of the top coaches in the country. This is going to be a very good match up, I see Kansas winning it though. On the latest edition of the BS Report, J.A. Adande and Bill Simmons talked about how teams who win a championship go a round further than they probably should the next season. I had Kansas losing last weekend to West Virginia, so if I do believe somebody who picked BC to go to the Elite 8 just to jinx them, then that's what I will do.

Kansas pulls this one out by 5 in what is going to be a terrific game.


1. UCONNv. 5. Purdue

This game could be better than I thought and after the revelations and the yahoo.com piece about recruiting violations at UCONN, they could be in for a rough weekend. The only thing that could save them is the fact that I believe most of the UCONN players are there via recruiting violations. This won't distract this team because I don't think they care about anything beyond what goes on between the lines.

UCONN will roll in this one, by 16, but will stumble in the Elite 8 against either Memphis or Missouri.

3. Missouri v. 2. Memphis

This is going to be an incredibly athletic game, up and down and if they are each hitting their shots this could be the highest scoring game of the tournament. These are two teams that could turn this into a track meet. This is also a huge game in one of my bracket pools with my buddy Tom. He has Missouri in the Final Four and I have them in the Elite 8 so this is a showdown game in this tournament and so far I have lost many of our showdown games. It would also be nice if Carolina were to lose to Oklahoma like I have picked, but that's another column.


1. PITT v. 4. Xavier

Xavier pulled away from Wisconsin in the last round and PITT had a real battle with Oklahoma State (See Louisville). PITT survived and really played very well in that game. Oklahoma State could not have played any better in that game and people looked at it as a sign of weakness for PITT, when really they showed what they were made of that they could take the best shot from an extremely athletic team. Xavier is a similar style to Oklahoma State but not as talented. PITT should roll in this one and into the Final Four.

2. Duke v. 3 Villanova

I can't possibly be objective in this game. The Dukies had to battle Texas and Villanova eliminated UCLA very easily across town from their own campus. This is a very good match up, Doug Gottlieb said that it was the best match up of the Sweet 16, and it might be. There will be very little post play in this one, very little inside game and there will be plenty of tremendous guard play and plenty of 3's will be jacked up. I'll be watching this one in Shoeless Joe's in Fort Myers, had I known that the Sweet 16 was going to be in Boston, I would have been at this one in the Garden.


1. UNC v. 4. Gonzaga

Here's another game that it will be hard for me to be objective about. I do think that it's possible that this could be an upset in the making. Gonzaga on paper matches up pretty well with North Carolina, except that suddenly Ed Davis is playing very well for Carolina and Ty Lawson looked fantastic against LSU. Pargo and Heytvelt will have their work cut out for them now, so I think UNC will pull this one out by about 12.

3. Syracuse v. 2. Oklahoma

Oklahoma has had a couple of real battles in this tournament that might not be like the other top teams that had this same affliction, (Louisville and PITT, by the way, these three teams are all in my Final Four, how good do I feel?) This is going to be a tough match up, can Blake Griffin take this game over? Yes, will he? That is the question that will dictate who wins this game.

Oklahoma wins by 6.

Off to Fort Myers, check back next Tuesday for my annual Grading the Sox column.

Sterling Pingree

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It was the best of times.....

It was the worst of times.

That pretty much wraps up my bracket right now. My Final Four is intact, 7 of my 8 Elite 8 teams are still alive and I got 13 of 16 teams in the Sweet 16. I'm trailing my Buddy Tom by 5 games. The Dukies are still alive, so I'm hanging in there. My performance hasn't been great, almost every game that I picked and got wrong I quickly second guessed. After being very successful bracketwise the last 3 years I knew that I was in for trouble this year, also because this is just a wide open year in my opinion. My past performances indicate that I might still be in for a solid finish. My past performances indicate that my later round picks are better than my early picks and while peoples picks are going down in flames and mine are surviving I keep picking the bones that are the Final Four games.

From this past extended weekend of games, there are teams that looked great in one of their two games (Duke, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Louisville, PITT and North Carolina) and then there is the only team that really looked good in both (UCONN). How is this going to transfer to the round of 16? It's hard to tell, the next 3 days are an amazing thing, some teams that looked like they might get knocked out in the second round(Duke, Louisiville, Pitt and Missouri) could very easily come back hot on Thursday.

I will be back this week with game by game predictions, before I head to Fort Myers for the end of Red Sox and Twins Spring Training on Thursday.

Coming next week, my annual Grading the Sox column from Fort Myers.

Sterling Pingree

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bouncing back

It's just a day of good news and bad news for me so far in the big dance.

I went on a run and got all four mid afternoon games correct and right now Washington is going to make it number 5 in a row after my inauspicious start.

The bad news is that my buddy Tom is somehow 7 for 7 right now.

Oh how I hate BYU right now. The games tonight are gonna be big, but I'm feeling pretty strong about my picks. Hoping my Western Kentucky upset pick comes through, I feel good about it, Illinois is banged up and Western Kentucky BEAT LOUSIVILLE this year.


Sterling Pingree

Things are bad......

Tourney is underway and of course I'm decked out in my oversized Duke hoodie and Jordan shorts. That's the good news, the bad news is that I only have one game right so far and even that game I wish I had gotten wrong (Memphis). My buddy Tom is busting my chops, even though I've beaten him consistently in bracket pools throughout our college career. Each year we make a bet and the loser has to buy Chinese food for the winner. Nothing tastes better than free Chinese food that you earned because of your bracket supremacy, I have it once a year.
Things are starting bad, but I can backup the two bad picks that I made.
1. I took BYU over Texas A&M, yes it was a dumb pick, but when picking my bracket I always look for trends and things that I could see happening that could be a storyline in the tournament. I really like Utah State to pull off the upset and Arizona screws me over every year whether I pick them or not, so I chose "or not" this year. So I was going with a whole "Stormin' Mormon" thing and I guess it's just not working out. Though I still love Utah State.
2. I am in Pat Neshek's bracket pool this year. Thinking that it might be good karma to pick his Alma mater in the first round, I took the Butler Bulldogs. Plus I really liked their inside game and as it turns out, that was the bright spot of their game today. They came as advertised and LSU came together, they were a team that was trending downward at the end of the season, things just didn't match up.
I had a bad feeling going into this year's tournament, I've had a couple spectacular years in a row, picking the national championship right each of the last three years. This could be the year I get brought back down to earth.
More updates throughout the day, I might be going out tonight though, and my Dukies play Binghamton at 9:40pm tonight. I might have to blow off some friends to watch the Duke score at the top of the screen. For the only time this year, its the one time I hope the Duke game isn't on tv, because if it is, that means that it's close. I don't want close, I want blow out and 30 from Gerald Henderson Jr,

Updates coming.

Sterling Pingree

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Classic? Yes! The Best? No!

First off, there is no chance that this column is about racing, Nascar or any type of racing whatsoever. So if you started reading this because you thought it was about racing, then keep reading and you'll learn something useful.

Last night we may have witnessed one of the most entertaining college basketball games of all time. I will not call it the greatest college basketball game of all time, that still goes to Kentucky vs Duke when Laettner hit the game winner. (Yes, I am a Duke fan, no, I'm not being a homer.) It didn't have the buzzer beaters, it didn't have great shots, or incredible plays. The biggest highlight of the game was the Devendorf buzzer beater that wasn't, and then Paul Harris missing two point blank lay ups before finally laying the ball in while getting fouled pretty much putting the game away in the 6th overtime. The game will absolutely live on in the memory of college basketball fans. The only problem was that it wasn't in the Big Dance, it was in the Big East tournament. If last night's game was on CBS on a Sunday afternoon or Saturday afternoon, then this would become a game that is mentioned in the same breath as any big time NCAA tournament game that's ever been played. Part of the romance of the game was because it was watched by fans of the two teams, and then hardcore college basketball fans, that is what will hold it back. My Mom remembers huge games, she even remembers watching Laettner hitting the game winner against Kentucky and things like that. She would probably remember something about last night's game if it didn't start before she went to bed. If it started at 1pm on Saturday while I'm watching the game, it would be that marathon game.

The other reason that the game will be remembered but wasn't the greatest was just the level of play. The overtimes were great but if you take them away the game is just another good, solid college basketball game. But when you add in the 6 overtimes the level of play went down so far. It's like when a baseball game goes 20 innings and each team has a reliever in that neither team wants in there, but you just know that it's going to end soon. There were players coming into the game last night that hardly played a minute all season and they were playing major minutes (if you're Syracuse) that could decide their fate.

The game did show one thing, it did show that UCONN does have heart. Which is something that I thought they were completely lacking. When asked the other day who I thought would win the tournament, I said right now I like Pitt, but Oklahoma would probably be my pick. (Blake Griffin healthy? Those losses for Oklahoma came when he was out with a concussion. Yes they lost yesterday, but apparently nobody wants to win their conference tournament's, so they can get extra rest for the NCAA tournament.) I was then asked why I didn't think that UCONN could win it all? My response was, when they get down they quit. They are no where near the same team when they get behind as they are when they have the lead the entire game and can dominate. They're a team that can put a team away when they know that they're better than them. But we saw it when they played against Pitt that when a team battles them and physically pushes them around they back off. Last night showed a little more of what they are made of, though they led the for the entirety of overtime and then lost the lead int he 6th overtime and eventually the game. So maybe they do have heart, but perhaps my new flack on them is that they can't put a team away? Yeah, that works for me. I don't like UCONN and that one sounds good.

Sterling Pingree

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Boston Direction

What makes the Red Sox a unique organization in Major League Baseball? Is it the fact that they are a contending team that has cut payroll and might be better than they were last season. What sets them apart more than anything else though is their willingness to explore different types of players, before you say it, no this isn't the Moneyball argument (though I am going to use the Oakland A's as an example) this is bigger than that. The Red Sox have expanded on the theory of evaluating players differently and because of available money, they have been able to get more creative with the players that they go after.

In an piece by WEEI.com's Alex Speier, he discusses how Japanese pitchers differ mechanically from their American counterparts. I'll take it a step further, which team has the most Japanese pitchers on it's 40-man roster? The Red Sox have 4 on the 40-man and 3 of those are on their 25 man roster (Dice-K, Okajima and Mr. Saito). The Red Sox have gone beyond looking for statistical abnormalities that were described in Moneyball, they have now gone into different form. Where the Oakland A's faltered was that they saw market abnormalities in the MLB Draft and thought that each draft would support the same abnormalities. They haven't. Barry Zito was the greatest example of this, Kirk Saarloos was a guy that they got from Houston and though he would support their theory and give them another way to find this type of player. Saarloos never had an impact, Zito left Oakland and his impact has been so minimal that his contract is widely considered the worst in sports history. It's not Billy Beane or his scouting department's fault that the market or guy's like Zito or even Mark Mulder have dried up, it's that they haven't been able to spend the money to dip into the pool of International talent that the Red Sox have done successfully and the Yankees have unsuccessfully. (I had to take a jab at the Yankees at some point in this column......Kei Igawa!)

Perhaps this is an overstatement but the Red Sox are now dealing with deception, but in a good way and potentially a great way. I watched the Red Sox spring training game with Tampa today and for 8 innings I was excited to see each pitcher the Red Sox threw out there. (I'm sorry Hunter Jones, you did throw a scoreless inning though, that's something.) Masterson for 3 innings, Papelbon for 1, Bard for 1 (WOW), Tazawa for 2 (impressive) and Bowden for 1. How many franchises can do something like that? Right now there is only one team that can entertain for an entire spring training game in the beginning of March?

I'd be deceiving you if I said it wasn't the Boston Red Sox.

Sterling Pingree

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The song remains the same

So let me get this straight, the Dodgers offered Scott Boras 2 years and $42.5 Million for Manny Ramirez. Scott Boras then said he would start taking serious offers for his client now. He pretty much said that the Dodgers offer was insulting his client and that he was going to get his client 4 years and $100 million dollars. Here we are almost 5 months later and Ramirez is taking $2.5 million more than the initial "insulting" offer from the Dodgers. So what is the difference? What has changed since November and really what has changed from last week when this same contract was offered?

Here's what has changed:

1. The economic climate just got worse and progressively worse than it was in November.

In a regular year this $2.5 might be another $8 to 12 million dollars possibly. The Dodgers were in a horrible position all off season and have fawned all over Manny and Boras just knew he could get more money out of them for him. The economic climate just eliminated other teams from jumping in seriously and trying attain Manny. In a different year, the Giants probably get into the bidding and the Nationals might as well, driving up the price for the Dodgers. In the end, Boras didn't get to do what he loves to do and position two teams against each other and get his player more years and more money than teams are willing to spend. So the economic climate limited the bidders in the Manny Ramirez auction.

2. The deferment of money over the next 5 season.

This was something that Boras said he did not want over the period of time of these negotiations. So my guess is that this affects the amount of money that Boras pulls in with this contract and that option. Does that mean that Boras's money is deferred as well? If so that is a tremendous example of an agent putting his needs or concerns over those of his client. This is just something I thought of looking at how the deferment of money could affect this deal and why the Dodgers wouldn't want to do it, so it had to be Boras I guess that didn't want this because Manny deferred a ton of money the entire time he was in Boston. This time in Los Angeles he will only defer the $25 million that he makes the first year before he can.......

3. Manny can opt out of this contract at the end of the season.

This is where the deal gets slanted in favor of Ramirez and Scott Boras. People are saying that the Dodgers got the best of Boras this time, but really if Manny has a good season or a remotely good season this year, Boras will get his deferred $25 million dollars over the next 5 years and still opt out of the second year of his contract and go back out onto the market when hopefully the economy is better and concerns about how his tenure in Boston are another year in the past. So right now people are saying that the Dodgers are getting a great deal and they could be if they win the World Series this season. If they don't, they are going to have to chase what is essentially a rental player for them for another entire off season.

So the problem is, the Dodgers are going to have to go through this entire thing all over again next off season, because I don't think there is even a chance that Manny accepts his player option for the second season of this contract. Especially with Boras telling him that he can go out on the free agent market again next season and get say, 3 years and $75 million. This off season the Dodgers lost everything off their pitching staff except Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda. If they have to enter into a bidding war or a drawn out negotiation for Manny Ramirez again, they could lose out on even more.

Sterling Pingree

Monday, March 2, 2009

Umm, Scott, a moment of your time?

"Umm, Scott, a moment of your time?"


"What the hell are you doing? Manny is still a free agent, and you're still negotiating with the Dodgers like you're a used car salesman trying to sell them a 1994 Toyota Camry that's had a lot of engine trouble and could explode at any second. Here's the kicker, THEY WANT THE FREAKING CAR! Hell, they think they NEED this car. I guarantee you that the Dodgers are not focusing on anything else right now. They're not thinking about their thin pitching staff after it was ravaged by free agency, they're not thinking about having their first spring training outside of "Dodger Town" or that they allowed Saito to walk and have their entire bullpen resting on the broad shoulders of Jonathan Broxton. Ned Colletti is getting splinters in his posterior from pining away for Manny and he truly believes that he was the absolutely only reason that they made it to the NLCS last season. Take a lesson from the Milwaukee Brewers, they know that CC Sabathia was a huge reason that they made it to the playoffs last year, but they also realize that guys like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder were just as important. How many home runs did Ryan Braun hit that won games last season down the stretch? 3? 30? The latter is actually closer to the actual number, the HeBrewer put that team on his back. Scott, you're really lucky that the Dodgers aren't realizing that they could make a run at getting back to the playoffs built around pitching. I know that you got Derek Lowe 4/$60mill in your sleep, and you are taking your time with the them? Do you really think that suddenly the Dodgers are going to realize that they are playing Spring Training games right now and suddenly are going to give him more money or more years? What do you think you are going to get out of them? 2/$50mill? 3/$75 mill?
You don't have the Giants or any other NL West teams bidding against them, so they're bidding against themselves and right now they're not raising their offer. It's over Scott, just end it already."

"You've been talking to who in Tampa?"

"Oh no, I didn't think they had any money left? Even in this economy?"

"Have mercy on your soul."

Sterling Pingree