Wow, how did it get here so quickly. We have done tons of preview stuff and we still feel like we're not completely ready professionally for football season.
As a fan? We're stoked. As a sports department — using new computers and new software — these first few weeks of the football season will be, shall we say, interesting. Very interesting. Interesting like when a buddy describes a blind date as having a great personality or being a great cook.
From the "Talks too much" studios, we're gonna have to get it or a shotgun will — there's no time for lengthy speeches.
You once said there is no more important position than closer in baseball. You said this was partially due to the shifting responsibilities in the rest of the bullpen. Brandon League was the Dodgers closer. He was signed to a big contract because he was supposed to be the guy. He didn't work out, and Kenley Jansen moved into the closer role. Since then, the Dodgers have won at an unbelievable clip. The Orioles last year had Jim Johnson who helped lead them to the playoffs. This year he's blown nine saves. Shelf life is so short for closers. Only three teams have the same closer as 2011. Rivera, Kimbrel, and the Indians Perez. Teams sign someone expecting them to be their savior and set up their bullpen accordingly. Then, he stinks, they replace him, and the team gets better. The Red Sox signed two guys to head up the back of their bullpen. Both blew out their arms, and now Koji Uehera is leading the charge. The Red Sox are winning and are in first place. The Pirates were not in first place when their lights out, All Star closer Jason Grilli went down with an injury. They are in first place with Melancon as their closer. I say all this to again try to argue that closers are not that important. They are too volatile. They vary greatly from year to year, so you never know what you are going to get. And in cases like the Pirates, where they lost the man that was dominating, it still doesn't hurt them. The Braves bullpen hasn't lost their closer, but they have lost their two best set up guys....and they still have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Relief pitchers are generally a dime a dozen. There are exceptions. Rivera is an exception (although even he just blew three saves in three days...and the Yankees still won two out of three). Kimbrel may be an exception. Chapman may be an exception. Jansen may be an exception. There are no other exceptions in baseball right now for closers.
I wrote last week that the Braves and Dodgers are headed for the date in the NLCS and the Braves biggest edge is Kimbrel.
While I have softened my stance on the supreme importance of the closer, your examples could be taken in two different angles.
There's your view that different guys can do the job and they are a dime a dozen. Grilli proves your point the best, but we don't know how many save situations the new guys have been in.
But of your other examples — The Dodgers didn't take off UNTIL they solved their closer situation. And we know of your extreme admiration for the Dodgers closer and we concur.
Jansen, Chapman and Kimbrel are certainly the outliers in all regard because they have such dominating stuff, but we make the argument that biggest edge a dominant closer offers is the strat-egery edge it has on the opposition. Dominant closers affect how opposing managers try to control a game. Example: If you are in a one-run game against the Braves or Reds, you better move you pieces to score before the ninth. You know it and the they know it.
From Longtime Listener
Jay, love the 5@10 and have been reading since the beginning -- when you had a morning thing and an afternoon thing (what was that called?).
Anyway, the last two falls you have made me a lot of 'entertainment' and just wanted to make sure you are going to keep making picks this year. You hit 70 percent last year -- my retirement fund thanks you.
You are going to make picks, right?
Thanks for sticking with us. The old-school model was much, Much, MUCH shorter than the current version. It was 5 small items at 10 a.m. and an afternoon update called the 2:00 Drill, which we posted at 2 p.m. With the comments back-and-forth we try to do with the morning post, we punted the afternoon option.
As for the picks, well, yes, we plan on going at it again this fall. We'd love to be able to say 'book' 70 percent, but that's a lofty number we have reached the last two falls.
We'll try to do them each Thursday starting next week. Remember, each of these suggestions are for entertainment only and we already have placed the first "entertainment" pick of the season, taking Ole Miss -1 over Vandy on Tuesday. (Of course that number has gone to Ole Miss -3 in several locales and if it goes much higher, it could be the rare double-up, flip-flop and offer value on both sides of the coin.)
Oh how ready are we for college football?
The days seem to be moving more quickly. The wine is flowing like water in Aspen. The world is spinning with a brighter shine. Sweet.
That said, the reality of reality makes me wonder:
How bad are our Auburn Tigers going to be and is there any end in sight of the Tide's dominance?
Take care friend and take it where you can get it.
Great to hear from you kind sir.
Yes, the wine does flow like water in a little place called Aspen... where beautiful women flock like the salmon of Capistrano. Kick his tail Sea Bass.
We're cautiously optimistic about the Tigers. We believe greatly in Gus Malzahn's ability to get points out of any quarter — he made Chris Todd a record-setter for crying out loud. We believe Auburn will win 7 games. Not great; not terrible.
The overall records is not as important to us as the principle that this team competes with other SEC teams. Other than the LSU game last year, Auburn looked brutal against SEC foes. Despondent even. That must change ASAP.
To merge this question with the previous, Auburn opens at home against Washington State as a 13-point favorite. Thoughts?
As for the other part of your question and the other team in Alabama, well, no, there is no end in sight for the Tide's dominance. The only thing that can derail this bunch is an injury to AJ McCarron. Seriously.
Put it this way: Alabama has won three of the last four national titles, and this is their best offensive team of the litter. By a lot.
Ben Affleck as Batman??? Does that mean Matt Damon is going to be Robin?
This will not end well. What do you think?
This definitely has a Clooney-feel to it, no?
That said, while we'll reserve judgement, it's going to be a tall order for anyone because of how good Christian Bale was as the Dark Knight in the last three Batman installments.
In truth, we're willing to defer to JMC in almost all super hero matters. He is the Green Lantern of the 5-at-10 universe — even from the Dallas-satelite office.
JMC, get on the mic, my man.
Did you see that the SEC coaches voted Murray as the league's top QB? Nuts.
Who do you take between Murray, Johnny Football and AJ McCarron?
And could you and Paschall talk about this on the radio -- I listen to Press Row almost every day. You guys are good.
Thanks for the email and the kind words. We'll ask Paschall which of those guys he'd take. We may even ask him which SEC QBs he'd take all-time.
Personally, going into this season and at this moment, our order is reverse-alphabetical — Murray-McCarron-Manziel.
We believe Johnny Football is going to struggle, and we're not so sure he's out of the NCAA doghouse just yet. We think Murray is a touch more accurate than AJ. As for NFL prospects, we'd go McCarron-Murray-Johnny Football.
We love the draft. You know this.
From Hogan the Hero
Do you play fantasy football? I have noticed you don't talk a lot about it, but was curious if you do.
If you do, our draft is Sunday night, got any pointers?
Thanks and love the 5-@-10. Good stuff.
First a question for you: Is your handle a shoutout to the old TV show, Hulk Hogan or Crocodile Dundee actor Paul Hogan. Or is your name Hogan? Thanks, and we'll press send and listen.
We used to play a whole bunch of fantasy football and baseball. We also used to play a whole bunch of Xbox.
Then we had kids, and that thing called free time was no longer free. (Side note: There are a few things in life that can't be defined, they have to be experienced. One of them is when you are expecting your first child, and people say, "It's going to change your life" and you say, "Yeah, we know, we're excited." You do not know. In fact you have no idea how much it's going to change your life. None. In all the right and great ways, but there's no way to put it into words.)
We still pay attention to fantasy sports — hey paying attention to interesting sports angles and stories is part of our job. And those people that think fantasy sports is not a sizable part of the sports scene are wrong. One national survey we saw had less than 10 percent of the country played golf in the last year. Same survey had roughly 15 percent of the country played in some sort of fantasy sports league in the last year.
Anyhoo, here are our tips for fantasy football, which is dominated by the draft. We love the draft. You know this.
Rule 1: Know the rules to your league. Seriously. Like Hamilton told Spicoli, "Learn 'em, live 'em, love 'em." If you get points for receptions, Reggie Bush is way more valuable and receivers move higher on the overall draft board.
Rule 2: Take a running back in round 1 if all possible. Do not reach and get a back that splits time in round 1 (take Calvin Johnson instead). But if one of the everydown guys is on the board, you have to take him.
Rule 3: Either be in front of the position run or be at the end of them. If everyone is taking wide recievers, and the choice is between Reggie Wayne or taking the best tight end, take Jeremy Graham. There is great value between the elite at a position and simply good. There are lots of Reggie Waynes.
Rule 4: Take a kicker last. Period.
Current trend to watch: With so many quarterbacks posting big numbers in pass-heavy offenses, there are several good quarterbacks to be had after the first few rounds. Don't over reach for Manning or Brady because your dog is named Peyton or Pats. There are a bunch of QBs out there and Tony Romo fantasy-wise is every bit the player as Brady, and he has more weapons.
That's the beauty — and the beast of fantasy sports. But hey, real life is not much different. Brady made like $35 million last year; a few million less than his wife Gisele made.
Discuss and have a great weekend.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...
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Great questions this week, and thanks for the kind words.