Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'm back and the Rays never left

WOW, sorry for the hiatus but certain things could happen to a person that limits his writing capabilities (work and kids). None the less I'm back in action and ready to tackle the situation at hand. It has been months since I last commented on my favorite team but don't think I wasn't paying attention. I like to think I have studied the team from all angles now and I'm pretty sure I have a good idea of what's going on.

We all knew after the last series in Boston that the Rays were destined to make the playoffs and if there was any doubt about there capability in October it was answered after game one against Chicago. Now for the seventh time this year the Sox and the Rays will square off for the ultimate prize, the pennant.

Today the two teams announced their starters with Sheilds facing Dice-K. From a statistical and a fan stand point you have to like the Rays. Jamie is just to strong, especially at home, and K is to inconsistent with his pitch count, not to give the Rays a victory. Maddon has Kazimr two and Garza three witch I do not like. Even though Kaz will throw a hundred pitches in three innings, Matt just can't seem to win on the road. So to be objective I will have the series at 2-1 Rays. Here is where things get tricky. Does Maddon go with Sonny or a fourth starter in general, or with the break will he give the ball back to Sheilds. If you look at the regular season Sonnistine has been just short of perfect against Boston witch freaks me out because you know he should start before Kaz but what are the chances of that happening. In my opinion he will start in enemy territorywhere he has had success and he will pick up a victory. This now brings us back to the Trop where Sheilds will close it out.

Now I haven't brought up offense, defense, or injuries but from a pitching stand point it is hard to argue the Rays win in five.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thoughts on Week 1

Week 1 in the NFL has come and gone, and the Dolphins are 0-1 again. For the 3rd consecutive year, the 'fins start the year with a bad note. This year, the loss was extra painful as it came against the division rival New York Jets. Also, for the 4th straight year, there was a new QB under center. Chad Pennington wasn't awful, going 24 for 43, 251 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT during a last minute, possible game winning drive. Not awful, not great. What may have hurt Pennington and the Dolphins the most was the lack of a running game. The surprising return of Ricky Williams to the starters role garnered just 10 rushes for 46 yards. Ronnie Brown only ran the ball 6 times. Meanwhile 8 different Dolphins caught passes. 17 rushing attempts to 43 passing tries is rarely a good sign. But the Dolphins were only down 6 points at halftime. Hopefully when the 'fins travel to Arizona, they can produce a more balanced, more effective offensive game plan.

The defense also played well, but not great. They held the Saint-to-be Brett Favre to just 194 yards passing, although he did throw two Favre-esque prayers that were answered, while the Dolphins secondary watched in awe. But in the 4th quarter, as the offense tried to mount a comeback, the defense held its own, recording 3 straight 3 and outs. Again, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin will provide another solid test next week in the desert.

An opening day loss is not the end of the season. There are good things to be taken from this game, as well as lessons to be learned. After the trip to Arizona, Miami travels to the Brady-less Patriots before the bye in week 4. Oh yes, and after the bye week, San Diego comes calling before the schedule lightens a bit. Didn't anyone tell Roger Goodell and the NFL powers to be that the Dolphins won just 1 game last year? Watch out, 0-4, the Dolphins are back.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gators Down Canes - Immediate Thoughts and other NCAA Football Observations

For the first time since 1985, the Florida Gators have defeated the Miami Hurricanes. The final score was 26-3, but the game itself was much more competitive. As I watched this game, intently, a few things stuck out to me...

For the Hurricanes: Miami has a blindingly bright future. Robert Marve looks like the real deal. The defense held up against, and at times looked better than, the Florida offense. Constant pressure on Tebow for the first 3 quarters. Miami committed no turnovers, a huge key, especially for such a young team. The overall team speed could lead them to an ACC title if not this year, in the very near future, especially when you see VA Tech lost to East Carolina, Clemson completly overwhelmed by Alabama last week, Wake Forest needing a miracle over the SEC bottom feeder Ole Miss, N.C. State get blown out by a less then impressive South Carolina, and Maryland losing to Middle Tennessee. I was very impressed by Miami. As I type, Florida State leads Western Carolina 62-0. It looks as though Miami and FSU could be on their way back up to join Florida as perennial powers.

For the Gators: Yikes. I'll go ahead and assume that Urban Meyer and the Gators were holding back, not wanting to show the SEC their full playbook. But 9 points through 3 quarters is not something you want to show Tennessee or Georgia or LSU... As good as Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, and Kestahn Moore were against Hawaii last week, they were non-existant this week. I don't recall hearing Emmanuel Moody's name once. Why? Even Herby or Musberger failed to bring it up. Maybe I missed it. But only 89 rushing yards for Florida. If they hope to compete in the SEC, that will have to improve. Aaron Hernandez took a big step into the starting tight end role. As for the defense, big impressive showing. Yes, the 'Canes offense moved the ball fairly well on the ground, at times. But in the end, the stats show only 61 yards gained rushing for the Canes. When Miami fell behind in the 4th and went to the air, the Gators defense looked even better. It's funny to think that Florida's secondary might be a bigger strength then the front 7, but at times it looked that way tonight. Only 79 yards gained through the air against the Gators. I hate to say it, but I think the defense outdid the offense tonight. Not that that's a bad thing... not at all.

In the end, a win is a win for my alma mater. It wasn't pretty, especially for 3\4ths of the game. But the Gators got past the 'Canes for the first time in the last 6 tries and now head into SEC play. They will take a week off before heading up to Knoxville for a showdown with the Volunteers. Miami also has a week off before they go up against Texas A&M. The Aggies have already lost to Arkansas State (who?) and barely held off mighty New Mexico today. Look for the 'Canes to steal that one. Then they will begin ACC play. 3 straight home games beginning with North Carolina, before hated Florida State comes to the Orange Bo... I mean Dolphins Stadium. If FSU's showing today is any indication of their season, watch out. Florida Atlantic put up big numbers in their win against UAB, 49-34. QB Rusty Smith got back into his rhythm after a rough game in Texas last week. Smith went 21 for 34, 325 yards, and 3 TDs. Charles Pierre lead the ground attack, rushing for 138 yards and 2 TDs.

Other NCAA thoughts; what happened to the Big East? #8 West Virginia got dominated by East Carolina, 24-3. And it wasn't as close as the score indicated. #19 South Florida needed an overtime touchdown to get past UCF. The same UCF that only managed 7 points through 3 quarters in week 1 against I-AA team South Carolina State. UCONN also needed a late, 4th quarter comeback AND overtime to get past Temple. While that sounds like a great basketball storyline, this is football. Temple football... Syracuse lost to Akron, and Pitt held off mighty Buffalo. Not the Bills, the Bulls. Last week, Louisville got spanked by a down Kentucky team, and Pittsburgh, some pundits favorite to win the league, lost to Bowling Green. Yikes. Lots of talk this week has been about a down ACC this year, but when you really look at it, it's not that bad. The ACC went 2-4 against IA teams last week. But when you take a closer look, there's reason to be calmed. The losses were against top 10 teams Alabama and USC, as well as an East Carolina team that should now be favored to be one of those BCS-crashers. The Big East, on the other hand, has reason to worry. The University of South Florida is the frontrunner to make a BCS bowl... yikes. I could go on and on about college football, but I'll stop here. And I hate to say it, but watch out for the Big 10. The "top 2" are actually looking extremely vunerable, while the rest of the league is making giant strides. Ohio State managed a late comeback against in-state "rival" Ohio U. It was ugly. Michigan escaped with a win against another Ohio team, Miami (Ohio). A win is a win, but both teams will need to make huge strides if they are planning on contending for the Big 10 title. Penn State looks unstoppable. After a 66-10 throttling of Coastal Carolina in week 1, the Nittany Lions continued their attack with a 45-14 beatdown of Pac-10 team Oregon State. Wisconsin is coming off of an easy 51-14 win over another MAC team, Marshall. Illinois, coming off of a tough loss to a very solid Mizzou team last week, ran up 47 points against Eastern Illinois. Even Minnesota dismantled the same Bowling Green team that went into Pitt and won last week, 42-17. This could be a fun conference to watch in October.

Next week! Florida, Miami, and UCF have the week off. South Florida has the key matchup in the Sunshine State, as they head off to face Kansas. Florida State welcomes Chattanooga, a.k.a. cupcake #2 to Bobby Bowden Field, and FAU will need another big day from Smith and Pierre if they hope to upset Michigan State in East Lansing. Oh yea, and I think there's some game out in California... Ohio State vs. USC? If OSU plans to show up like they did today against Ohio U, they might as well not bother booking a flight. Can't wait!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Panthers' News

The Florida Panthers kept the offseason interesting by acquiring Toronto Maple Leafs' defenseman Brian McCabe and a fourth round draft pick in the 2010 draft in exchange for Mike Van Ryn.

The outgoing Panther, Mike Van Ryn, was lost for a majority of the 2007-2008 season. Last offseason, he had surgeries on both wrists, and he played in only 20 games before being placed in the injured reserve list in November, when he had yet another surgery. His best year in Florida came in '05-'06, when he was a +15 and accumlated 37 points (8 G, 29 A). There have been questions all offseason about his durability.

McCabe is entering his 13th season in the NHL. He's scored at least 20 points every year, including three consecutive 50-point seasons from 2004-2007. He has averaged 49 points over the last 3 seasons. He had fallen out of favor in Toronto, both with the GM and the fans. The Leafs have been looking to unload his contract for awhile now, and Florida has the space. While he is 4 years older then Van Ryn, he is an immediate offensive upgrade, as well as a solid, veteran presence on the blueline. McCabe is just another leap forward in solidfying what has been one of the worst defenses in the league the past few years.

Brian may have said it best himself. "“I’m excited about coming.’’ McCabe said. “There’s a great group of young guys here and a good mix of talent. Bringing in Cory Stillman, a guy with two Stanley Cups, and the acquisitions of Ballard and Boynton is a big upside. With myself added, and Jay Bouwmeester, who is one of the best defensemen in the league, hands down, I think we have one of the best defensive units out there. Plus you have an All-Star goalie."

The Cats defense will likely play at least 3 new faces in the starting lineup; McCabe, along with offseason signees Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton. Alongside them are returning starters Jay Bouwmeester and Bryan Allen. Noah Welch or Karlis Skrastins will probably be the 6th defensman. GM Jacques Martin promised to improve the defense this year. He has given it an entirely new face. First game is October 10.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Welcome to the Swamp...

On Saturday, the Miami Hurricanes travel north to renew their rivalry with the my alma mater, the Florida Gators. I can't wait. While the Hurricanes lead the series by a few games overall, recent history is forgettable for Gator fans like myself. 2 embarrassing bowl games and a debacle in the now demolished Orange Bowl in 2003 are memories I wouldn't mind erasing. But this is 2008.

As I watch Vanderbilt beat the Ol' Ball Coach for the 2nd consecutive year, I am reminded that this is a new college football. Upsets are as likely as blowouts, it seems. This Miami team that ventures into the Swamp is talented, there is no doubt. Young, yes. Inexperienced, very. But there is no lack of potential, speed, or talent. But this isn't a state high school championship they're coming to play. This isn't Glades Central they're lining up against. This is the Orange and Blue versus the U.

As my esteemed colleague E.J. points out, college football is a game of emotion. And while the 'Canes might be too young and stupid to realize how big of a challenge this will be for them, you can bet the farm that Saint Meyer will be educating the current Gators on this matchup's recent history. There will be film sessions of the 2004 Peach Bowl. There will be DVDs made and passed out showing Sebastian the Ibis on the field celebrating with the U before the 2000 Sugar Bowl was over. While some of these players may not have grown up knowing this was THE rivalry in the state pre-1987, they will know now. Both teams will come into this game angry. This will be a rivalry game, have no doubts.

But this is the difference. Of the 100 players on Miami's roster, 40 or either true or redshirt freshman. 21 true freshman played in Miami's opening game against Charleston Southern. It may not have helped that they were able to sleepwalk their way to a 52-7 win. The last thing they need to be thinking is, "Hey, we just scored 52 points, we're unstoppable!" A freshman QB is starting his first collegiate game... ever... in the Swamp... at night... on national TV... The talent is undeniable; in 2006, he broke Tim Tebow's Florida State High School records in passing yards and touchdowns. But his receiving core is questionable, at best. There's no question that Miami's running game is the key to their upset chances. Time of possession will be a key stat on Saturday night. Unless of course the Gators score on 3-4 minute drives all night long...

Welcome to the Swamp. In Florida's opening win against Hawaii, the Gators scored touchdowns on offense (4 rushing, 1 passing), defense (2 INT returns), and special teams (punt return). 11 different Gators rushed to combine for 238 yards on the ground. 11 different players. Harvin didn't play, remember. Major Wright, Wondy Pierre-Louis, and Joe Haden have the Gators secondary looking much improved already, while Brandon Spikes and Carlos Dunlap lead the front 7 that looks quicker and faster then last season's defense.

I'm superstitious, I don't like being favored. I don't like expectations. I was nervous before the Hawaii game. I'll be nervous before the Citadel come to Gainesville in November. I'm nervous now. Miami has speed, they have talent in the right places. I won't be surprised at all to see a tight score at halftime. But this is Florida vs. Miami. This is high school rivalries bleeding into collegiate hatred. This is making up for the last 6 times these two have met. This is a defense looking to prove they won't be the reason Florida doesn't have a title shot this year. This is the fastest, most explosive, weapon filled offenses college football may see. Ever. This is Gator country. This is the Swamp... only Gators get out alive.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Hurricanes Fan's Perspective on UM-UF

The big day is fast approaching. I've been circling this date on my life calendar since the Canes last met the Gators in the 2004 Peach Bowl. The rivalry resumes in Gainesville. Although I am a graduate of both schools, there's no real struggle here - I've been a Hurricanes fan all of my life. I love the Gators, have several Gator shirts and other assorted memorabilia, and am a proud member of the UF Alumni Association. But I'm studiously avoiding all of those items strewn around my apartment as the day approaches. I grew up on Gino Torretta, Lamar Thomas, Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp, the Rock, Tremain Mack, Ryan Clement, Danyell Ferguson, Dan Morgan, Reggie Wayne, and Santana Moss.

Miami has the series lead at 28-25, including claiming victory the last 6 times the teams have faced. Yet I've never as a Canes fan felt more David to another team's Goliath. When was the last time the Canes were 3 TD underdogs? Nary a commentator has given Miami the slightest chance to prevail on Saturday in Gainesville. The deck, to be sure, is stacked against a UM victory - the abysmal 2007 season, a freshman QB that's never taken a college snap, playing 18 freshmen in last week's romp against Charleston Southern, going up against the reigning Heisman trophy winner, the #5 team in the country, and a team just 2 years removed from the most recent championship. Taking off the orange-and-green glasses, and applying strict rationality to the upcoming game, my head gives the Canes no chance at all.

But my heart says otherwise. Kirk Herbstreit likes to say that college football is a game of emotion, and that is one reason that the Canes do have a chance on Saturday. For all of their inexperience, the Canes may be too young and dumb to know that they are statistical longshots to win on Saturday. The freshmen who played last week were carefully picked by Coach Randy Shannon for their old-school, tough-as-nails approach to the game. In fact, one of the glaring things about the 2008 newcomers is that they've already taken leadership roles on this team. Guys like Jacory Harris, Marcus Forston, Sean Spence, Jordan Futch, Brandon Harris have been supplanting many of the upperclassmen as vocal leaders. They were winners in high school - the first three haven't tasted defeat in 3 years - and they will not accept a repeat of the Hurricanes' 2007 season on their watch.

Crazy things happen in college football. See Appalachian State over Michigan and Stanford over USC in 2007. See East Carolina over Virginia Tech and UCLA over Tennessee in 2008. The game increasingly does not go as scripted as parity takes over the college football landscape. Moreover, there is a very real chance that the Gators, knowing their strategic advantages, are not taking the Canes too seriously. Chris Rainey recently said that both FSU and UM suck. Louis Murphy actually went as far as to suggest that Florida is the real "U" (his comment was funny because it was based on how many championships the Gators have won; someone should advise him that the current count is Miami 5, Florida 2, thank you). With success comes pride, and excessive pride can lead to cockiness (the pride cometh before the fall, I hear). I'm not saying the Gators as a whole are cocky, or that that would even make a difference - just that some of their players' comments indicate as much. The Canes have been offered prime bulletin board material. We'll see if they can harness their rage into a colossal upset on Saturday.

So, the two in-state rivals resume their dance on Saturday. The Gators have all of the talent in the country on their side. The Canes will play the inspired underdog. U ready?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Looking Ahead...

So with the Marlins free-falling out of playoff contention, there has been a lull in South Florida Fan Blogging. You can only "look ahead" and "preview" so many times. But now we enter September. College football is in full swing. The NFL kicks off in less then a week. The NHL's first faceoff is a month away. I'm looking forward to prognosticating and reacting to all that I can in the coming month and beyond.

While we were away... the Miami Hurricanes, Florida Gators, Central Florida Knights, and even the South Florida Bulls all got their seasons off to successful starts. Unfortunately for the Owls, FAU suffered a big loss to #10 Texas. (Florida State took a bye in week 1.) One of the marquee games in week 2 sees the Miami Hurricanes travel up to the Swamp to take on the Gators. The Gators should be heavy favorites, and are hoping to get Pre-Season All-SEC'ers Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes back on the field. I'll be looking forward to providing all that I can, albeit with a slight Gator bias, in regards to that game, as I'm hoping E.J. will as well.

A week from today, the Miami Dolphins start their season against Brett Favre and the hated New York Jets. Ricky Williams continues to shine, and received a 1-year extension this weekend. More thoughts as they occur to me...

Lastly, the Florida Panthers drop the puck October 10. My personal favorite of the South Florida franchises, I'm sure there will be some discussion as the season draws near and camp gets into full swing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Grilled or Blackened?

How do you like your fish? You might say the Marlins are "cooked"... they just blew 2 games in San Francisco to the 2nd to worst team in the NL, and now find themselves 6 back of the NL East leading New York Mets. Both losses came via the walkoff.

Last night, the Marlins managed to tie the game in the top of the 9th with a pinch-hit, 3-run home run off the bat of John Baker, only to see the game slip away in the bottom of the 9th. Reliever Matt Lindstrom entered the game, and promptly walked the leadoff man, and we all know that leadoff walks are the mating call of game-enders... A single, a sac bunt, and a sac fly later and it was all over.

This afternoon, the Marlins again came from behind, tying the game in the top of the 7th. But, lo and behold, the Marlins bullpen gave it up in the 9th again. This time, it was closer Kevin Gregg who entered the game in the 9th. He actually struck out the leadoff man, but followed that up with the impending walk. Gee, wonder how that was going to end. A stolen base and a sac fly later, the Giants' winning run stood on 3rd. That's when Gregg unleashed the winning pitch... to the backstop, allowing the winning run to cross the plate.

The Fish have now gone 3-7 in their last 10 games, while the Mets, after their win tonight against the Braves, have gone 9-2 in their last 11. All that adds up to the Marlins trailing those Mets by 6 games in the division, and quickly fading. Kevin Gregg has 2 losses in his last 3 appearances. The offense, which has lived and died by the long ball, seems to be drying up. And there is no time to rest now. The Marlins start a 3 game series in Arizona tomorrow night, and there will be a 6'10" future hall of famer to greet them. Randy Johnson takes the hill against Anibal Sanchez. While the final two pitching matchups may favor the Fish, the Diamondbacks are in a playoff battle of their own, and seeing how the Marlins dealt with the ghastly Giants, there should be some soul searching going on in the charter flight tonight.

One quick bright spot I failed to mention after it happened. On Tuesday night in San Francisco, Ricky Nolasco pitched a tremondous, 2-hit, complete game shut out of the Giants. The Marlins had gone 301 starts since last logging a complete game, a Major League record. If only that had ignited the rest of the team...

Canes Practice Update

On the 'Canes last scrimmage of the fall before actual gameday action on Tuesday night, the offense played lights out, especially sophomore WR Leonard Hankerson, who had up to this point been invisible. "Hank" had 3 long TD receptions. Here are some other practice tidbits since I last checked in:

* I've been talking a lot about future freshmen sensations LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin. As the practices have rolled on, Benjamin has actually been separating himself from the rest of the pack. His explosiveness and big play ability have been a constant since he arrived in Coral Gables earlier this month. Byrd, and fellow freshman Aldarius Johnson, are primed to have big rookie seasons, but Benjamin is the one who has earned consistent raves from the usually stoic Randy Shannon.

* A couple of interesting return game options. At punt returner, freshman Thearon Collier has shown flashes. He is lightning quick, a throwback to UM great Roscoe Parrish. Defensive tackle Joe Joseph has another comparison - "We have another Devin Hester out there." That's high (and premature) praise. We'll just have to see. At kick returner, I'm excited about the possibilities presented by sophomore RB Shawnbrey McNeal. He was an unexpected bright spot last season, and bursts through any sliver of a seam he can find with Bolt-ian speed (okay, maybe he's not THAT fast). He had a 50 yard gain at Tuesday's scrimmage.

* Speaking of running backs, Javarris James and Graig Cooper have seen limited action this fall as Shannon wants to keep his two top horses healthy for the upcoming season. In their absence, fifth year senior Derron Thomas has more than adequately filled in. He was a top back coming out of high school, and it has been sad to see him play third fiddle to a couple of underclassman, but he's never complained, boasts an almost 5-yards-per-carry career rushing average, and has been impressive in fall practices. With JJ, Coop, Shawnbrey, and Derron, running back depth is no issue whatsoever at Canes camp.

* Chavez Grant has emerged as the team's best performing cornerback. He has been a perennial ball hawk this fall, and is a lock to start against Charleston Southern next week.

* I'm a little worried about starting defensive ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey. They've been nursing injuries throughout the fall, and have been held out of seemingly every practice for 2 weeks. Their replacements - Adewale Ojomo, Steven Wesley, Andrew Smith, Marcus Robinson, and Gavin Hardin - have done well, but if Miami is to have any shot at uprooting the Gators on September 6, they're going to need their very best pass rushers healthy to make Tim Tebow's life as uncomfortable as practicable.

* As far as the QB competition between Robert Marve and Jacory Harris, we should have a starter named in the next couple of days. Up to this point, neither Marve nor Harris have separated themselves. But practice onlookers say it's because both have played with competence and poise (an instant upgrade over the departed Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman).

* 7 days!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ronnie or Ricky...

Ricky Williams is the leader in the clubhouse. The starting running back for your Miami Dolphins is not Ronnie Brown.

Ronnie's recovery from his ACL surgery is well-known, but a thumb injury suffered on Saturday in the pre-season game against the Jaguars may have set him back even further. He didn't practice yesterday, and Ricky Williams has been impressive both in camp and in the 2 pre-season games, averaging almost 5 yards per carry. When the season kicks off, it looks as though Ricky will be the main guy, with Ronnie in the backup role. Let the nickname contest begin, everyone needs a little R n' R...

One other rumor concerning the Dolphins regards recently released Falcons WR Joe Horn. It appears as though the 'fins see this as a chance to acquire a veteran receiver to help the current young, inexperienced receivers on the roster. Even if Horn isn't at his best, it can only be a positive to bring in a vocal leader like Horn to a team desperate for leadership. Imagine Pennington and J. Horn in the huddle...

Speaking of Pennington, it seems as though his main competition for the starting role is rookie Chad Henne, not returners John Beck or Josh McCown. We have to assume one of the returning QBs will be released, or hopefully traded soon. Game 1 is September 7.

Marlins Not Hanging Around...?

No sooner did I claim the Marlins postseason hopes were on the rise did the Fish do what they do best; prove me wrong. On August 14th, I proclaimed hope for the home town boys. The Marlins went on to lose 3 of the next 4 games and fell from a game and a half out to where they currently sit 4 games back of the division leading Mets. An optimist might point out that if you were looking for a team to collapse late in the season, you'd simply have to look to last season's historic Mets' failure to garner hope.

Here's the problem. The Marlins bullpen has been awful, at best. In 3 of the last 4 losses, a reliever has been the losing pitcher of record. Included in those are a Kevin Gregg blown save and a complete collapse of Renyel Pinto, who gave up 5 earned runs in Sunday's loss to the Cubs. After Gregg's blown save Friday night, he did come back Saturday night against the same Cubbies to redeem himself and earn a save.

Now, the new outlook. Tonight, the Marlins start a 9 game road trip, starting tonight with 3 out west against the struggling San Francisco Giants. Ricky Nolasco returns to the mound looking for his 12th win of the year. The starting pitching matchups have to favor the Marlins, as the Giants starters combine for just a 10-16 record, and none of the 3 probable starters for San Fran has a .500 record. Scott Olsen and Josh Johnson are the listed pitchers for the final 2 games of the series. After San Francisco, the Marlins head to Arizona. The Diamondbacks are in a battle for the division with Man-Ram and the streaking Dodgers, so this should be a tough fight for the Fish. After a day off, the Marlins head back east for a 3 game set with the Braves. If the Marlins can handle this trip no worse then 6-3, then the weekend series with the Mets will be a season changer. Leaving August no further back then a couple games, and the dreamers can continue to dream.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Marlins Still Hanging Around

Not a lot of ground has been made or lost over the last few weeks for the Florida Marlins. A quick glance at the standings have the Fish a game and a half out of the division lead, despite being just 5-7 in August. The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies continue to flip flop in and out of first place.

A quick glance at the remaining schedule, however, might offer a slight glimmer of hope. The Marlins play both the Mets and Phils two more times over the last month and a half of the season, splitting those series home and away. But it's the other 9 series left on the schedule that might prove most important for the Marlins playoff hopes. They have a combined 19 games against the Nationals, Giants, Braves, Astros, and Reds, all teams that the Fish should handle. The Phillies, meanwhile, have a 4 game set at Wrigley Field vs. the Cubs and a 3 game series with the streaking Brewers. The Mets open September at Miller Park against those Brewers, and then welcome the Cubs to town for a 4 game series in the last week of the season. The Marlins toughest road series outside of the division is a weekend series in St. Louis. The worst part about the Marlins schedule is they close with 7 straight road games and no days off over the last 13 days of play.

But combine those 19 games with the 12 against the Phillies and Mets, and you have to think the Marlins are feeling good about their place in the world. I'm not one for over-used sports cliches, but they "control their own destiny."

The Marlins will try to get a 4 game series split with the Cardinals tonight at Dolphins Stadium. Scott Olsen takes the hill and will be trying for his first win since July 19.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hurricane Freshmen WR's Continue to Impress, Defense Taking Shape

The practices are closed until the opener against Charleston Southern on Aug. 28, but the players and coaches say enough after them to piece together some adequate news and notes about how they've gone. Here's what I've gathered:

* In yesterday's 7-on-7 drills, freshman wide receiver LaRon Byrd caught two TD's, continuing his string of mightily impressive performances. Fellow true freshman Davon Johnson supposedly made two jaw-dropping catches and even hurdled over two defenders on his way to a TD. It looks like Johnson is working his way into the discussion of top freshman wide receiver of the summer, along with Byrd and Travis Benjamin.

* Senior Bruce Johnson is far and away the top performer at cornerback in August, and it's a foregone conclusion that he'll start the year. Based on the early results, it looks like junior Chavez Grant will start on the other side. Demarcus VanDyke and Brandon Harris look to back up Johnson and Grant.

* Meanwhile, on the defensive line, as ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey continue to be held out for precautionary reasons, redshirt freshman Adewale Ojomo is turning heads. He is fast, has gotten significantly stronger since last season, and has found himself in the backfield a lot more than Hurricane offensive line coaches would like. His emergence is good news for depth at the defensive end position (beyond Ojomo, Moncur, and Bailey, there really are only three players - Steven Wesley, Marcus Robinson, and Andrew Smith).

* As for the defensive tackles, freshman Micanor Regis is impressing. He and former Northwestern standout Marcus Forston are locks to play major minutes this season, barring injury.

* All in all, the defensive is said to have dominated the last few practices. They are adept at creating turnovers and havoc in the backfield with surprise blitzes. Defensive coordinator Bill Young, who burst on the scene last year leading the Big XII champ Kansas Jayhawks defense, is making his mark early and instilling a more aggressive style to the defense which was Charmin soft in 2007.

* 16 days.

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Ornery" FAU Defense Readies for 'Horns

As FAU prepares for its first real game since the New Orleans Bowl last Dec. 21, confidence is high that the Owls can go into Austin and give the Longhorns a tough game - not just on the scoreboard but in the trenches.

Coach Howard Schnellenberger is firm in his belief that the FAU defense, which often won the turnover battles last season, is even better and meaner in 2008.

Schnellenberger believes that a mean, tough defense can stifle a Texas offense that thrives on athleticism, not physicality. While it may be hard to fathom that a Sun Belt team is scheming to overpower a team from the BIG XII, that is the game plan Schnellenberger is sticking to - at least out loud.

"Once we step out on the field with Texas, the only ones who can help us is ourselves. Texas always has a very polished team that has great talent, but they aren’t tough, they aren’t a physically tough team."

FAU returns eight starters on defense, and Schnellenberger is counting on them as well as four experienced backups moving into starting roles to lay the wood on the Texas receivers.

"My defense will get to a point where they will be mean, nasty and ornery bastards and that’s what you need for Texas. Texas will move the ball with tit-for-tat, screens and options, but we’ll make them pay a price whenever they catch one of those dinky passes. We’ll put three hats on them and make them not want to get up, that’s the way to beat Texas."

Sounds like a plan to me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dolphins Open Preseason, Display Why They Traded for a QB

The Dolphins went all out to acquire ex-Jet quarterback Chad Pennington, and now we've seen why. The Fins were beat by the Tampa Bay Bucs, 17-6. All 3 Miami QB's played, and all 3 struggled to show any signs of progress. 2nd-year man John Beck, rookie Chad Henne, and career backup Josh McCown failed to get in the endzone, and never really looked comfortable. Chad Henne probably showed the most potential. Henne was 5 for 10 for 67 yards, but led both field goal drives. McCown and Beck will more then likely be fighting it out for the 3rd string QB job.

One bright spot for the Dolphins was Ricky Williams. 5 carries for 31 yards, including an impressive 12 yard run that showed that the old Ricky might be in that cloud of smoke somewhere. With about a month to go before the regular season, there is much work to do. Pennington will presumably get starting reps in practice this week, and it's only a matter of time before he is officially the starter. If the running game can get going, Pennington will be that much better, and the Dolphins might be able break that 2 win barrier this season. Next exhibition is Saturday against another solid defense in Jacksonville.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ex-Jets QB Lands in Miami

The Dolphins were unable to land the big catch, but with Brett Favre going to New York, the Jets released quarterback Chad Pennington. That paved the way for the Miami Dolphins to sign the ex-Jet to a 2 year, $11.5 million deal.

Once again, Bill Parcells' old ties remain strong. Parcells drafted Pennington in the first round when he was a member of the Jets organization. In this years draft, the Dolphins also selected a QB, Michigander Chad Henne, which makes it appear that either John Beck or Josh McCown will be traded or released.

Pennington has had a solid career, albeit a roller coaster ride at times. A career 65.6% completion percentage ranks tops in NFL history among QBs with at least 1,500 pass attempts. 2007 was an above average year, as he completed 68.8% of his passes. He's also known to be a solid leader in the huddle and one of the smartest players on the field. The only downside he brings with him is his lack of armstrength, which has had him in and out of the starting role in New York the last few seasons. But I can live with that. This is clearly an immediate upgrade to the QB position for the Dolphins.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Canes Find Rising Stars in Byrd & Benjamin

Looking at the list of Miami Hurricane wide receiver commitments for 2008 a month ago, two names would have stood out - Aldarius Johnson and Tommy Streeter, both from Miami Northwestern High and both among the top 15 at their position coming out of high school. But as fall practices have progressed, those aren't the two names that Coach Randy Shannon consistently singles out for accolades (and Shannon isn't one for doling out accolades anyway).

No, the two that Shannon cannot stop effusing over are LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin. They were the #60 and #42 ranked high school senior wide receivers in the country last year, according to Although they both garnered some notable offers from college football powerhouses, they received nowhere near the attention and focus as Johnson and Streeter. In yesterday's practice at Coral Gables, Benjamin nabbed 3 TD's, including one off of a reverse and another of 50 yards. Byrd has a big, physical frame, but also has unlikely speed for a man of his size (6-foot-4), clocked last year at a 4.46 forty yard dash. In case you're wondering, Benjamin was recently clocked at a 4.26. Many are comparing him to Santana Moss and Roscoe Parrish - the next great slot man at the U.

It will be interesting to track Byrd and Benjamin's improvement. They are already one of the surprising developing storylines at Hurricanes practice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More Tidbits From Coral Gables

The Canes are 22 days away from the home opener against Charleston Southern, but I'm on top of the practice situation at Coral Gables as the Canes prepare for the Florida Gators (you can't honestly believe they'll spend 4 weeks preparing for Charleston Southern and 1 week preparing for UF). Here's the latest:

* It looks like Randy Shannon's son, Xavier, is locking down the starting center position. The 5th year senior who transferred this summer from FIU, where he was a multi-year starter, has gotten into offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland's good graces with his mental aptitude and advanced maturity (funny, they were saying things like that in the mid-80's about Shannon the Elder). He is physically unimpressive, but has picked up the offense better than anybody contending for the starting center gig (Tyler Horn, Matt Pipho, and A.J. Trump).

* Senior safety Anthony Reddick has been held out of practice the past couple of days. He's missed two seasons with ACL tears, so coaches are wary of bringing him back into the tough practice routines too fast.

* There was an article in yesterday's Herald about fullback Patrick Hill's head-hunting instincts, but check this quote out from his backup, freshman John Calhoun (not the 19th century Senator): "I was brought in to lay people out and that's what I'm going to do...I love the position to be honest with you." You just have to love the type of people Randy Shannon is bringing in to the program - sounds like old Miami to be honest, and I couldn't be more excited.

* Junior cornerback Chavez Grant, who has been the Hurricanes nickel specialist, is priming for a larger role this season on the outside, and will most likely start the season there. Freshman Brandon Harris, who has exhibited great cover skills and an impressive early display of leadership, is Grant's backup (for now).

* Someone put me to sleep for the next 3 weeks. I don't want to have to wait.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Marlins and Phillies: Take 4

The Marlins currently hold the season series lead 5-4, but 6 of the 9 games have been at home. In fact, every series has been won 2-1 by the home team.

This is a huge opportunity for the 2nd place Marlins. Trailing by 2.5 games for the NL East lead, the Fish could cut that to 1.5 with a series win (or take over first with a sweep). Falling to 3.5 or 5.5 back, however, would be pretty costly. Yes, these games are important.

What would I like to see most of all? How about a win over Jamie Moyer for a change! I just have a feeling that this will be it...we'll see if I'm right.

Summer Flash

Echoing Sponge's comments from a few days ago, how encouraging has it been to watch Dwyane Wade perform in the pre-Olympic exhibition season for Team USA? In case you haven't been watching, Flash leads the Americans in scoring, averaging 17.3 points a game - and this coming off the bench.

I dare say that he looks more explosive now than at any time in his career, coming off of shoulder surgery that kept him out of 31 games last season for the Heat. His defensive effort has been inspiring this summer - he is quick to jump into the passing lane and when he's got himself a steal, it is "good night, sweetheart" for a clear path monster dunk. A healthy and rejuvenated Wade, along with a squad that looks menacing (outscoring opponents in the exhibition season by an average of 36 points per game) and hungry, will likely signal a return to world basketball supremacy for the United States.

It was not a foregone conclusion that Flash was going to ever get back to his old form - surgeries have a funny way of making has-beens out of former stars (read: Penny Hardaway). It is awesome to see that Wade not only is back in old form, but may be better than ever. Watch out, NBA - he's baaaaack.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dolphins Tab Starting QB (for now)...

The first depth chart of the year is out from Dolphins camp, and lo-and-behold, Josh McCown is listed as QB 1. Of course, head coach Tony Sparano was quick to point out that the depth chart is in a constant state of flux, so take it for what it's worth. Both 2nd-year QB John Beck and rookie Chad Henne are still in the running to take the start in pre-season meaningless game #1. From; "I don't make much of it right now. It's something that we had to produce and put out there so we put it out there," Sparano said. "That depth chart in your hands right now won't be the same this afternoon, never mind tomorrow, so it's going to change every single day."

From online blogs and random radio ramblings I've seen and heard so far, it seems as though Beck has been struggling early. While he did get quality playing time last year, he hasn't seemed to progress as much as you'd think\hope he would have. Josh McCown has been in the NFL going on 7 years now, so you'd assume he'd have the experience factor going for him, but it's hard to look back on his career and pick anything out that gives you hope. A career 58% completion rate along with 35 TD's to 40 INTs doesn't scream starter. Maybe Chad Henne will sneak into the starter's role after all. What's worse, the devil you know or the devil you don't? First "pre-season" exhibition game is Saturday against the Bucs. It might actually be interesting to watch, just to see who does what under center.

At Long Last...A UM Football Practice Report!

I feel like Rip Van Winkle awakening from a long and deep slumber, peering outside the window of my cavernous abode, and seeing the very brightest of sunshines for the first time in months. The happiest five months of the year are upon us - college and pro teams are holding spirited practices and there was even an NFL exhibition game last night (okay, so maybe that's not so exciting). The Canes, meanwhile, have held two practices. Here is the latest buzz from the Greentree Practice Field in Coral Gables:

* Perhaps the biggest question mark heading into the fall was at wide receiver, where Miami is counting on an awful lot of true freshmen to lead them. The newcomers did not disappoint. The stud of the group was the 6-foot-4, 211 pound LaRon Byrd, from Louisiana. Sporting the #47 and snatching balls out of the sky with scary regularity, Canes fans had a vision of another "playmaker" who wore the same number - Michael Irvin. His size is considerable, his speed more than adequate, and his hands well advanced for his relative inexperience. Two more newcomers who shone were Travis Benjamin and Davon Johnson. Benjamin dazzled with his speed (he clocked in Saturday at 4.26 in the 40 yard dash) while Johnson drew raves with his elusiveness. Both have the makings of excellent slot receivers and/or kick returners.

* The most intriguing question was who was getting a leg up in the QB race between redshirt freshman Robert Marve and true freshman Jacory Harris (from two-time state champion Northwestern). By all indications, both were good, and already at this young stage in the careers outperforming last season's starters Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman. That is welcome news, but honestly not very high praise, considering that Wright and Freeman seemed to be among the worst one-two quarterback punches in the country last season. Marve seems to have the slight edge because he's had been around one more season, studying film and learning from Wright and Freeman's (abundant) mistakes. Harris is said to have one of the more beautiful and effortless passing motions you will ever see. Both are leaders and competitors, so it should be interesting. Third-stringer Cannon Smith, who can be seen in the new movie "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" (this is no joke), has made big strides since the spring, improving his arm strength and poise considerably (though probably not enough to enter into the conversation of who will start on August 28 against Charleston Southern).

* Marcus Robinson, rated the #4 outside linebacker in the Class of 2008 by, has been moved to defensive end because of depth concerns. He's one of the biggest incoming linebackers, and actually played some end in high school. Head coach Randy Shannon says that he should make an immediate impact as a third-down, pass rushing end. Wunderkind Allen Bailey sat out of the two practices, still recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.

* At defensive back, another thin position, Sophomore cornerback Demarcus VanDyke had a few pass breakups and looks to have bulked up a bit since last season. Brandon Harris looked fast and fierce. True freshman free safety Ramon Buchanon was getting plenty of reps this weekend, and VanDyke called him and fellow true freshman safety Vaughn Telemaque "ballers".

* I bought my tickets for the Charleston Southern game, and derived more joy from the experience than any man my age should.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ready, Set, Practice!

Owls training camp begins Wednesday at 3:30 behind the Oxley Center. Heading into day one of practice, there are several major questions that face the Owls despite the fact that about 17 starters are returning from last year's championship squad. Among those questions:

1) Who will play tight end in place of the injured Jason Harmon? -- Rob Housler and Jamari Grant are candidates and will most likely split time. Grant has more experience but Housler may have the inside track for the starting job.

2) Will the defensive line be able to improve it's pass rush? -- Definitely. It couldn't be any worse than last year after half the line went down with season-ending injuries. It's a testament to the strength of the linebackers and defensive backs that the Owls were able to win 8 games with such poor QB pressure. The line improved as last year's fill-ins gained experience. This season should be a major improvement.

3) Who will play safety? -- Kris Bartels and Taheem Acevedo are gone. Who will take their spots? This is a major one that we'll have to keep an eye on throughout August.

4) Can Rusty Smith be as great as he was last year? -- I don't see why not. He had an unbelievable sophomore season, quite unexpectedly, after winning the preseason battle over Sean Clayton. Rusty now comes into 2008 as the undisputed starter and star of the offense, the Sun Belt, and the South Florida college football scene. Can he handle it? I think so.

5) Can the Owls keep their chip-on-the-shoulder swagger that made them so tough last year? -- Duh. Schnellenberger is the master of this type of motivation, especially with an August 30th date with Texas looming. The respect for Coach S in the Oxley Center borders on reverence. When he talks, everybody listens.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Streak Contines...

In tonight's Marlins win against the Rockies, starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco was dominating. He struck out a career high 13 batters, and except for two mistakes to Matt Holliday, was exceptional.

Yet he was taken out after 8 innings, and Kevin Gregg picked up the save. Good for Gregg, bad for the longest streak without a complete game in the Majors. The Marlins' last complete game pitched came 287 games ago, on September 16, 2006. Yes, the top of the order was coming up, but Ricky had only thrown 93 pitches. Except for Chris Volstad's starting debut, where he fell just one out short of snapping the streak himself, the Marlins have been relying heavily on the bullpen this season. Gregg has been solid as of late, and hopefully he will stay that way.

The good news from tonight is that with the win, the Marlins jump a half game ahead of the Mets, and remain a game and a half back of the Phillies. The Marlins make a trip northeast next week, where they will visit both New York and Philadelphia. That should be fun...

A Quick Reminder

At the baseball trade deadline, I was reminded why I'm no longer a Marlins fan.

It was never about the team at all. In fact, part of me writing this blog is to admit I was wrong about the team. I predicted the Marlins to finish in dead last in the NL East, and to set all kinds of losing records. I honestly didn't know where the wins were going to come from, but they have proven me wrong with power hitting, solid pitching, and a positive attitude. For me, giving up the faith was never about the team.

It once again comes back to the worst management in the history of sports. It isn't the fact that the Marlins didn't get Manny Ramirez, as I'm not sure he would have made THAT much of a difference. However, it is the reason that the Marlins didn't get Ramirez that kills me.

Early reports say the Red Sox were not only willing to give Ramirez to the Marlins, but they were going to pay for his entire salary as well. The Marlins then decided to ask for another two million dollars out of nowhere, perhaps giving Loria enough money to take a vacation this offseason as he deals away more players. Don't tell me that the deal fell through because the Marlins were reluctant to part ways with Jeremy Hermida, as many reports say that the Marlins would have loved to get rid of the potential large upcoming salary. In the end, as it always is, it was all about the Benjamins.

It's obvious that the asking price wasn't that much, as the Dodgers quickly stole the Marlins place in the trade and gave up very little to get a big bat in their lineup. The Dodgers will make a playoff run in the weak NL West, and it may come back to this trade.

I still contend that although I was wrong about the Marlins, and even though they continue to prove me wrong by splitting series with great teams, and even taking a few, there's no way in the world the Marlins make the playoffs. They will miss by 5-10 games, and it may indeed come back to this trade.

The Marlins may lose another couple of promising players this offseason because of salary concerns, but they will still compete and do well next year. We're just going to have to learn the names of about five new starters.

You know, same drill as every year.

Dwyane Wade Looks...Wade-like

I've waited nearly 18 months to say this. Dwyane Wade is back! He truly is.

Have you seen his performances in the Olympic tune-ups? It's not that he's dominating weak competition (which he is) or that he's become a key member of the team. That certainly helps the argument, but that's not the main reason. It's all in the hop.

He hasn't been this explosive in a long time. He's slamming down dunks we all thought left his arsenal. He's using that brilliant first-step again. Mark my words...Dwyane Wade and the Heat are back.

Marlins Goal: Hang Around

Tim Kurkjian told an interesting story on ESPN the other night. In Spring Training, Hanley Ramirez asked him why the national media wasn't paying more attention to the Marlins. When Kurkjian explained the low expectations, Hanley said "will you be there when we're a game out in September?" Kurkjian said: "We'll all be there." (I may have paraphrased some).

Well, it's now the beginning of August and the Marlins are 1.5 games out. Can they hold on for another month? Better yet, can they take the division lead again?

The opportunities are there. The Marlins may have lost last night, but the team has played superbly of late. Taking 2 of 4 in Chicago was quite a feat (look what happened to the Brewers in Milwaukee). They beat the Mets in a series. Both Annibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson looking strong.

September 1st...I say they can be a game within first, if not in first.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bouwmeester Should be Traded Soon?

Bouwmeester's not long for Florida
By: Allan Muir
Sports Illustrated Article.

I'll never forget the first time I heard a scout gushing about a 14-year-old named Jay Bouwmeester. "I swore I'd never compare anyone to Bobby Orr," he gushed. "But that's exactly who this kid looks like."That scout wasn't the only one who dared invoke the name of the game's greatest defenseman -- and in my book, its greatest player -- when describing the potential of the young blueliner. It was his smooth skating, the effortless way he had of carrying the puck, his ability to make a game-changing play anywhere on the ice. This was a player who had a chance to be special.And while no one truly expected Bouwmeester to live up to Orr's unmatchable legacy, the hype dogged him through his final two seasons of junior, and through the early years of his NHL career. In fact, it took him until this past season before he truly looked capable of handling the role of franchise blueliner for the Florida Panthers.

His play hinted at an athlete who had finally grown comfortable in his own skin, someone ready to join the ranks of the game's elite defenders.But if he ever fulfills his potential, you can count on this: it won't happen while he's wearing a Panthers sweater.When Bouwmeester chose to forego arbitration and sign a one-year deal on Monday that is worth slightly less than $4.9 million, the signal was clear. He'll be the next in a heartbreaking line of Florida stars to desert that rudderless ship.Sure, the words coming out of the Bouwmeester camp in the wake of the agreement suggest that he would stay if only he could be swayed to believe the team is on the right track. Easy for him to say, because he already knows how this story is going to end.Who can blame him for seeking his emancipation?

The Panthers haven't been to the postseason in eight years, and in a tightly packed Eastern Conference where arguably only one playoff team, the New York Rangers, has slipped back, the chances of his club making the cut for the first time in Bouwmeester's pro career are slim. And despite years of high picks, there's little reason to believe that's going to change any time soon.Surely the parade of changing faces has been equally draining. Watching the team fail to keep Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen was painful enough, but add in the minimal return and it's a brutal reminder of an entrenched culture of mismanagement. So too is the fact that incoming coach Pete DeBoer is the fifth bench boss to guide the Cats since Bouwmeester joined the squad in 2002.

Despite the inevitable divorce that lies ahead, this deal is a good one for both sides. Worse comes to worst -- i.e. he spends the entire season in Florida -- Bouwmeester sets himself up to be an unrestricted free agent who can choose his own fate next summer.At the same time, his cap hit is manageable for almost every team, as long as a little salary comes back in the deal. That allows Florida GM Jacques Martin to entice the maximum number of suitors and maybe, finally, realize a reasonable return on the team's investment.So the only questions now are when Bouwmeester leaves, and for what?Conventional wisdom suggests that Martin keep his powder dry until the trade deadline, but that ain't gonna happen. Neither will he hold out until Jan. 1, 2009, the first point at which he can approach Bouwmeester about an extension.

The intentions of Bouwmeester are clear, so the time to pounce is early, perhaps during training camp. Not just because of the constant distraction that the situation will create, or the fear of an injury curtailing his value, although those factors certainly play into the equation. And not just because every game the Panthers lose further weakens Martin's bargaining power.No, they have to move Bouwmeeter asap in order to get the franchise moving in some direction -- hopefully forward -- rather than simply treading water.Who might be in the market? Who wouldn't be?The 6-4, 212 Bouwmeester is a package that any team would love to add. He's developed into the league's premier workhorse, leading the NHL in both total time on ice and average TOI per game last season. He hasn't taken a night off in three years.

The silky skating continues to be his primary asset, and his physical game is rounding nicely into shape. And while his point totals have dropped in each of the last two seasons (46 to 42 to 37), his goals have risen from five to 12 to 15, a sure sign of his increasing comfort with the puck and his improving ability to sniff out scoring chances. And Bouwmeester, the third overall pick in 2002, will have just turned 25 when the season begins in October.The Anaheim Ducks, already over the cap for this season, might seem like an unlikely candidate, but they'd have to be the leader in the clubhouse.

They have just one blueliner, Chris Pronger, under contract past this season and his deal extends only through 2009-10. The Dallas Stars, who could lose both Sergei Zubov and Philippe Boucher after this season, also should be in the running. The Senators and Devils also have the needs and the assets to get involved in the bidding.That particular process won't be for the meek. The package likely will be more than the one Atlanta won from Pittsburgh in the Marian Hossa deal (Colby Armstrong, Eric Christensen, top prospect Angelo Esposito and a 2008 first-round draft pick). Look for it to involve two high-end prospects with some NHL experience, a top junior-aged prospect and a first-rounder.That's steep, but for a special player like Bouwmeester, it's worth the risk.

If we can get more than what ATL got for Hossa, TRADE HIM NOW lol. I have no faith they will get a fair trade since they never do!

No Manny, No Problem.

Instead of attempting to lead a young ballclub near his home in Weston, Manny Ramirez becomes outfielder No. 5 in the "city of Angels" tonight. And even though the national media, as well as Philllies' and Mets' fans, will never miss a beat in reminding us we could have had that slugger with an IQ of around 58 on our team, all is well in Fishtown.

Bitterness? Maybe. Misinformation? Never. Looking deep into it, there was no need for a second Ramirez, he would have been nothing more than a luxury. As a Marlin fan ever since I became interested in the sport, its pretty obvious that things are never quite that easy around here. During both years pictured on that banner in deep left field at Dolphin Stadium, we've done it the hard way, winning the Wild Card, and finishing up with a ring.

In case you haven't noticed, the Marlins are only 2 games out of said Wild Card after the shellacking Milwaukee recieved from the Cubbies(who we were a Van Den Hurk away from winning a series against). And remember, this all occuring during periods of time where we saw guys like Mark Hendrickson on a regular basis.

I won't say its all coming together, because, frankly, I have no idea. The Fish have been all over the place this year, leaving me thrilled one day, and kicking myself the next. Theres been times where I've begged to sign guys like Uggla and Hermida to extensions, and wanted to throw knives at them some days later. But through it all, I love this team as it is, even though I'm welcoming Mr. Rhodes with open arms(any guy who does well with every team, then stinks it up with the Phillies is fine by me).

I'm probably blinded by the return of Anibal, followed by a 12-2 win against the Rockies(I guess they brough Coors Field with them?), but hey, maybe that's just Alan being Alan.Yes, I was willing to divulge my name for the purpose of this mindblowing story.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny Traded...

... to the Dodgers? Yes, it's true. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Manny Ramirez has been traded out of Boston to Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers. All day, it seemed a matter of time before the Marlins and Ramirez came together, but in the end the Fish were just asking too much in return, and the Pirates and Red Sox found another dance partner.

The Marlins did make an important acquisition in left handed reliever Arthur Rhodes, but the big catch got away. Time will tell if they have enough pieces to make a run at October.

Marlins PLEASE get MANNY

What is going on. It's past 4 pm and no word yet?

Come on Fish! Get him away from the AL East!

More Evidence of "Deadness"

Ken Rosenthal has now joined ESPN in calling the Manny deal "dead." This looks like the presiding viewpoint now.

I'm disappointed, but it's really not a catastrophe. Manny would have been exciting, could have vaulted the Fish into the playoffs, and should have brought 10,000 more fans to the park. The Marlins still come away from the deadline with a host of prospects, a good squad, and a stronger pen.

Gerald Laird could still be acquired as well. With Annibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson back, it's almost as if the team picked up two arms. The team, as is, will contend.

Manny Update: ESPN vs. The World

ESPN likes to refer to themselves as "the worldwide leader." That epithet could be put to the test today.

While ESPN continues to declare the Manny trade dead, other sources are in disagreement. The latest word out of Pittsburgh has the Pirates agreeing to the deal, with the Marlins and Red Sox just battling over cash. If that's the case, the trade is still very much in the works.

Who's right? We'll find out in the next two hours.

Manny to the Marlins "Close to Dead"

Those were the words from Peter Gammons, as expressed to media sources and on ESPNNEWS' MLB Trade Deadline special.

Before we all lose hope, however, there are conflicting reports. The always dependable Ken Rosenthal seems to think there's still a good chance, and the Red Sox could be bluffing in the hopes of getting a better deal.

Why the holdup? The Marlins are apparently a shrewd bunch. As Manny continues to make disparaging comments and hold the Red Sox more and more hostage, the Marlins have been pressing for more prospects. There's no doubt that the Red Sox are desperate to get rid of him, but the Marlins may have to back off some.

Let's see what the word is at 3PM. Maybe the teams get back to the table and agree to something. The greatest catalyst for a deal is always a deadline.

Arthur Rhodes at a Glance

Arthur Rhodes has had a storied career in Major League Baseball, stretching across 5 teams (Seattle twice) and including a few memorable incidents (remember when his earrings were so bright, they were distracting the hitters?)

Even at 38 years of age (almost 39), he can still throw some fireballs. In 22 innings of work, he compiled a 2.86 ERA, a 26-13 K/BB ratio, and a 2-1 record. He wasn't as strong last year, but relievers tend to have see-saw type seasons, especially late in the career.

Gaby Hernandez was a very steep price to pay for Rhodes, but this should help solidify the Marlins' pen as they make a stretch run.

Apologies to Gerald Laird

As several readers have pointed out to me (one even in a comment), perhaps I was a bit hasty on judging Gerald Laird.

While I'm still not convinced this year is much more than a fluke, his numbers are actually quite impressive in 2008. When I examined his stats, I must have been looking at 2007 and before.

Here are his season stats:

.320/.376/.448, 4HR, 13Doubles

Those are pretty good, but we all know Texas plays in a bandbox. Surely those are home-inflated stats, I thought. Here are his Home/Away splits:

Home: .292/.364/.396
Away: .347/.387/.500

Hmmmm. Somebody feels like an idiot (that would be me). So thank you to the readers who had more sense than I did. Laird would be a great acquisition and a huge upgrade, at least based on this year alone.

Manny the Marlin at 50-50

Reports are flowing in on the Manny to the Marlins situation, all of which contain differing information. Until or if a deal gets done, I doubt we'll know which players and/or teams are involved.

The one thing most sources seem to agree on, however, is that the deal is about a 50-50 go. The indicator, they claim, will not be agreed upon players so much as time constraints. There are so many variables being tossed around that the deal just might not be completed by 4PM. This should be very interesting.

It's worth noting, however, that suddenly Ryan Tucker isn't a certainty and neither is Mike Stanton. Who is it then? Lots of confusing information. I'll do my best to sort it out before the end of the day.

Trade Made! (No, not Manny...)

It looks as though the Marlins have been reading our blogs. Well, that or they are aware of the blatantly obvious. The Fish have added to their bullpen by adding Seattle Mariners' reliever Arthur Rhodes. The Marlins gave up pitching prospect Gaby Hernandez.

First, the numbers. Rhodes is in his 17th MLB season, and has appeared in 36 games with the M's this year. He has a very neat 2.86 ERA, and 26 strikeouts in just 22.0 IP. Left handed batters are hitting a lowly .200 against Arthur.

Great move for the Fish. Pinto and Miller have been up and down all year, (lately down) and closer Kevin Gregg has been decent recently, but also has had his share of letdowns. Rhodes coming in gives Fredi a good lefty option to come out of the pen.

Manny Mania: The Scoop

Just got back from the Marlins' scintillating 7-5 win over the Mets...which further solidifies my belief that the Fish should go for it all, RIGHT NOW.

What better way to do that than by adding one of baseball's all-time greats, Manny Ramirez. And this wouldn't just be Manny...this would be a motivated Manny. This would be a case of Manny being the best Manny.

Here are the details:

Some reports had a three-way trade between the Marlins, Red Sox, and Pirates already done. Things have since stalled a bit, so no word on whether it's finalized. The main contents of the deal involve Jeremy Hermida going to Pittsburgh, Jason Bay going to Boston, and Manny Ramirez coming to Florida. The Marlins would be throwing in Ryan Tucker and likely Mike Stanton (two of their top five prospects, according to rotoworld), while possibly receiving a prospect back. The Red Sox would pay all of Manny's salary.

My thoughts? DO IT! The price is steep, certainly, but Manny is a sure thing. This is a franchise desperately in need of a publicity stunt. The Marlins are deep enough in pitching prospects that they can afford to make the sacrifice.

One thing I have to say: No matter what criticism people levy on the Marlins, they have always shown a propensity to make bold moves. While the rest of the league plays cowards, the Marlins go for it. The Marlins may be cheap, but they have guts. And guts won them two titles already.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Manny to the Marlins? Terry Glenn to the Dolphins?

Trade Rumors regarding Manny Ramirez have been heating up as of late, and the Florida Marlins are now front runners in the Manny sweepstakes. The deal would reportedly include Jeremy Hermida or Josh Willingham, and a couple other young players.

Terry Glenn is also close to coming to terms with the Miami Dolphins. Terry Glenn was recently waived by the Dallas Cowboys. Hopefully he'll have someone capable of throwing him a football by the time the season rolls around.

Exciting times in South Florida

Add Gregg Zaun to the List

The Marlins seem determined to acquire a catcher, and they're scouring the league for all available has-beens, former mediocres, and replacement level options. Why? I don't know.

Like Paul Lo Duca and Pudge Rodriguez, Gregg Zaun also has some sentimental ties to the club. You may remember him starting in the late 90's before finding a home in Toronto. The Marlins just love to bring back old flames, so this fits right into their designs.

Much like Laird, however, Zaun hasn't been a productive regular for a while. I'd much rather keep the prospects and settle for a Matt Treanor/John Baker duo.

Other Marlins Trade News

Here are the other rumored deals:

1. Arthur Rhodes - This deal has an excellent chance of happening. As long as it doesn't cost the Fish too much, I'd be for it. I wouldn't want to give up a good prospect, however. I expect this to come through.

2. Gerald Laird - UNDER NO CONDITION SHOULD THIS DEAL HAPPEN! Unfortunately, I'm afraid it will. Why are the Marlins interested in Laird? He sucks. There's absolutely no reason to acquire a catcher because he has a bigger name, when his stats are atrocious.

3. Brian Fuentes - Fuentes will be traded somewhere, but don't expect it to be Florida. The Marlins ARE in the mix, however, and the possibility remains. The Rockies are probably asking too much for it to be worthwhile for any team.

I'll be keeping you posted!

Manny to the Marlins? GREAT IDEA!

It's been confirmed. The Marlins are in serious talks to acquire Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox. Before I get into the details, let's be frank about's still a long shot.

Here's how the deal would go down. Jeremy Hermida would likely be a centerpiece of the deal. I would imagine the Red Sox would also want a good prospect, perhaps a Ryan Tucker type. A Hermida-Tucker deal could work out well for both teams. Perhaps Hermida reaches his unmatched potential in a different uniform, while the Marlins get Manny on a one-year rental. After the season, the Marlins would get two draft picks as compensation for Manny signing elsewhere, and Cam Maybin may be ready for the big club (move Cody Ross to the corner).

This is a deal I'm 100% for.

Additional Thought: If the Marlins are going to trade for Manny, why not go the extra mile? Go sign Barry Bonds! Imagine this lineup:

1. Hanley Ramirez, SS
2. Jorge Cantu, 3B
3. Manny Ramirez, LF
4. Barry Bonds, 1B/LF
5. Dan Uggla, 2B
6. Josh Willingham, LF/1B
7. Cody Ross, CF
8. Matt Treanor, C
9. Pitcher

Sure, the defense would get even more atrocious, but that's a murderer's row if I've ever seen one. And you can get Bonds for NOTHING. And the Marlins would finally create a buzz around the team.

Beinfest...if you're reading this, make it happen!


What better day to come back from my little mini-vacation than on the eve of the MLB Trade Deadline. And the best part about it? The Marlins are DEFINITELY buyers.

I'll be providing updates throughout the next two days on the latest rumors and speculation. I have a feeling something big could be in the works (cough*Manny*cough). Stay tuned!

Terry Glenn Coming to Miami?

In other NFL news... yes, there are other rumors swirling around training camps outside of the great state of Wisconsin. One such rumor is that the Dolphins are looking into adding ex-Cowboys receiver Terry Glenn. Bill Parcells and Terry Glenn go way back. Glenn was drafted by Parcells in New England and played for Parcells and new Dolphins coach Tony Sparano in Dallas. The Cowboys released Glenn last week.

While this would be an instant veteran upgrade to a very inexperienced wide out group, I'm not sure how much production Glenn has left. Hes had 2 right-knee surgeries last year and only played in the final 2 games of the season last year for Dallas, making 2 catches in the Cowboys playoff loss to the Giants. I mean, he was released by the Cowboys for a reason, right? On the other hand, the price is right, and he probably wouldn't demand a big contract. He is 34 and a minor injury risk. He also has 4, 1,000 yard seasons, including one as recent as 2006. So go ahead and bring him in, work him out, and if all else fails, he'll be a great instructional model for the 'fins current receivers. Of course, if the Dolphin's QB-still-to-be-named can't get him the ball, it'll be a moot point.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bouwmeester Signs 1 Year Deal

Trade has got to be coming.

Hearing date was tomorrow, obviously they wanted to get it done today. Somthing is going on.

Schneider Schneider Trade Rumours are heating up this morning as well...Many of the same teams, but it is possible that Florida or Tampa could be in this one as well...I will add Schneider to The Chart after making some more calls...(added) look to Ottawa and Montreal here...

4.8 for the one year BTW. JM still has hopes to sign him long term.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's Time to go to Dallas

Dramatic 3-2 wins over the Cubs on consecutive days have masked the fact that the Marlins are in a team-wide batting slump. With Jeremy Hermida and Jorge Cantu the lone exceptions, the Fish just aren't hitting, even with the wind blowing out at Wrigley.

Luckily, there may be an in house solution. I had a chance to personally witness Dallas McPherson of the Albuquerque Isotopes, and the guy is a major league player stuck in Triple-A. Not only is he a better hitter than Mike Jacobs, he would probably be one of the top three hitters on the Marlins if he were allowed to come up.

McPherson's ridiculous stats are aided by Albuquerque's mile-high altitude, but most of his prodigious homers would sail out of any park. He has hit 35 so far this season, with 77 RBI, a .399 OBP and .290 average in 330 ABs. His home/road splits are a little troubling (he's hitting .315 at home and .259 on the road and 23 of the 35 jacks have been at home) but he leads the PCL in homeruns.

Jacobs has hit 20 home runs but his .239 average and sub .300 OBP do more harm than good. The problem is what to do with him. He seems to be a vital part of the clubhouse and is definitely one of the likable guys on the team. He would be difficult to trade because even bad teams have decent first basemen and Jacobs is the anti-utility player. Optioning him to the minors would send a bad vibe and could disrupt clubhouse chemistry, while trading him for another Major Leaguer could be accepted under the guise of strengthening the team.

I saw McPherson play three games, a small sample size. I don't know what Beinfest's scouts are telling him, but from what I saw he is a better player than Jacobs in every aspect of the game, can play both corners and hit lefties and righties. At worst he will be a September call-up that can add a BIG bat to the bench for the stretch run.

ALSO ALSO: Isotopes leftfielder John Gall, a quintessential Quadruple-A player was summoned to the U.S. Olympic team. He is a Triple-A All-Star that never sticks in the Bigs. An Olympic gold medal would be the highlight of his career... Jason Wood continues to plug away for the 'Topes, he delivers big hits and is Mr. Versatility. The Marlins should welcome him back for September... Isotopes Park is the nicest minor league stadium I have ever been to. The altitude makes for some wild games and lots of homers. The park has a hill ala Houston in centerfield, 428 feet from home plate. The right-center gap is 404 feet, a mark the McPherson easily clears time and again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Latest on Bouwmeester

His Arbitration hearing is scheduled for July.29.08
He has recently rejected a multi year contract extension from the Panthers worth a little over 5 million a year. It is apparent that the Panthers are low balling him since he is worth (to the team) about 6 million a year.
Lets all keep in mind that Bouwmeester is the player who this organization was planning on building around. This organization also was planning on building around Luongo but didn't want to pay up. Jokinen was also "untouchable" and would not be traded by the Panthers.
The Panthers 3rd overall pick is about to pack his bags and leave Florida like so many other great players have before him. Its tradition in Pantherland to always trade away their best talent just to stay under the playoff line come the end of the season. At least the Panthers are consistent losers.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Canes Suffer A Hit On The O-Line

Freshman offensive lineman Brandon Washington, one of the national champ Northwestern Bulls that was supposed to be an integral part in the Canes eventual revival, will have to wait a season to make any sort of impact on his new team. He, along with two others - linebacker Antonio Harper and safety C.J. Odoms - are headed to Milford Prep (NY) since they could not get academically qualified for the beginning of the fall semester.

Miami desperately needs offensive lineman help, with recruiting at the position precariously thin over the years. Washington's absence puts even more pressure on freshman Ben Jones, also from Northwestern, to help bolster the o-line, which outside of spring impressives Jason Fox, Orlando Franklin, and Joel Figueroa, has many more question marks than answers.

Perhaps the key to the season is how much protection the offensive line can give a freshman starting quarterback (the Canes have nothing but freshmen at the quarterback position) - you know teams will be gunning for the green QB. Newcomer fullback Patrick Hill - known to blow a few people up in his pre-Miami days - will be heavily counted on to be the last line of defense to protect either Robert Marve or Jacory Harris once the season starts.

In other news - I can't wait for football season (as you can surmise from the July college football posts).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hudson vs. Nolasco: Great Matchup

There's a lot at stake tonight, and it rests in the hands of two excellent pitchers.

The Marlins will put forth the ace of their staff, Ricky Nolasco, but he'll have to outperform Tim Hudson. Hudson has done well in his career against the Fish, but the Marlins did get to him once this year.

It's worth noting that the Marlins offense has been slumping of late. Pitching has been winning the last few games, with a few home runs sprinkled in (such as last night, when the Marlins amounted 4 hits, essentially silenced except for Mike Jacobs' 3-run bomb). The Marlins will need a stronger showing to beat Hudson.

NL East Race is Riveting

With the Phillies playing the Mets (and making tremendous ninth inning comebacks) and the Marlins battling the Braves, the NL East is rocking right now.

The Marlins have held their own. They could have overtaken first place with a win on Monday, but they kept pace with a nice recovery last night. The decision to call up Rick Vanden Hurk? Brilliant! He only gave up 0 hits in 5 innings.

By all accounts, Andrew Miller will be out until the end of July and Annibal Sanchez will be back soon. That means Vanden Hurk will probably make one more start, at most. When Miller gets back, the Marlins will have 6 starters for 5 spots. My hunch is that Chris Volstad gets sent back down, but performance could change that. It would be a shame, considering how well he's pitched.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Predictable Pre-Season Talk

As sure as the sun rises and the sun sets, every team in the college football landscape claims to have made some pivotal and earth-shattering changes that will lead inexorably to their holding up the crystal football trophy at the end of the season. The 2008 Miami Hurricanes are no exception. Today's article in the Herald highlights their "new attitude," which as you can effortlessly surmise - involves more discipline, more toughness, and more justifiable excitement over next season's prospects.

This Canes fan is not buying it. Even under the horrific Larry Coker regime, it was the same ol' song and dance, and it is now the stuff of legend how disturbingly undisciplined and uninspired those teams were. There is a new seven-player council (full of veteran Coker recruits) enforcing a rigid new code of on and off-the-field behavior cultivating the habits and practices of champions. That is nice, but what ultimately matters - and I think the players in this group, including Eric Moncur, Jason Fox, Colin McCarthy, and Glenn Cook know this - is that this team gets back to championship contention by winning and winning often.

Of course, you don't turn a 5-7 team around overnight, and baby steps like this one may help. But it sounds too much like July 2006 and July 2007 to be taken seriously at this point. Let's start with a season of more "W's" than "L's" before we talk of reviving the slumbering giant.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jason Taylor Traded

According to, Miami Dolphins DE Jason Taylor has been traded to the Washington Redskins for draft picks. The 'fins recieve a 2nd rounder in 2009 and a 6th rounder in 2010. Wow.

This offseason has been full of drama for the Dolphins and JT. That has now come to an end. Taylor reportedly asked for a trade at the beginning of this offseason, and the Dolphins were originally looking for a first round pick. They didn't get that. They got what will probably amount to a good 2nd stringer and a guy who might make the practice squad.

As if there wasn't enough drama around Taylor, the Dolphins so far have failed to comment on the trade, even after the trade was announced. In fact, Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene stated that, "we're not prepared to confirm that." Jason Taylor said all the right things while saying nothing. "I love Miami (and) will always cherish my 11 years with the Dolphins," Taylor said in a statement. "Having said that, I'm looking forward to meeting with Mr. Snyder and getting to know my new coaches and teammates. I'm just proud to be representing our nation's capital as a Redskin." Well, the Redskin's don't mind commenting on it. And ESPN doesn't have a problem reporting it. And I don't have a problem saying the Dolphins might have the worst defense in 2008. Joey Porter and Channing Crowder don't scream leadership to me. Their most experienced DE right now is 4 year vet Matt Roth (who?). 2008 1st round draft pick (32nd overall) Philip Merling will probably have to play a cruicial role in the upcoming season.

Now I know JT wasn't exactly looking forward to coming back to play for the Dolphins. He's made it known he wants out (I still think he exaggerated his "brushoff" by Parcells to give him more reasons to be traded.) The question became would you want someone who doesn't want to be there, but a high caliber player on the field playing for you? Probably not, but he's been the Dolphin's face for years. You think Dolphins, you think Taylor. Trading him is losing the final piece of what used to be the Dolphins puzzle. Now it just looks like a 4 year old tried to tackle a 1500 piece jigsaw.

The Dolphins are going to have problems scoring points to begin with, unless one of our three backup QB's learns very quickly, or one of our five 3rd WR's turn into Randy Moss. Tack on a defense that might not be able to keep the points off the board, and we might be in for another long year. But look on the bright side, another high draft pick in 2009, plus an extra 2nd round pick, we might have a great college team next season. Then again, it's only July. I guess I should wait until at least October to throw in the towel.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Marlins 2nd Half Outlook

The Marlins begin post-All-Star game play tonight trailing the co-division leaders New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies by a game and a half. The Mets are riding a 10 game winning streak that has put them back in the playoff picture. The Phillies visit south Florida for a 3 game weekend series that could set the tone for the remainder of the season for both teams. TSFFB favorite Jamie Moyer goes against Marlins ace Ricky Nolasco in game 1 tonight.

A Quick glance at the schedule for the remainder of July shows that we should have a pretty good grip on this team's postseason chances by the end of the month's trade deadline. After the 3 game set against the Phils, the struggling but persistent Atlanta Braves come to town. Josh Johnson and Chris Volstad will get their all-important 2nd start of the season, 1st home start, and we should get a little clearer picture of the impact they will have. Then comes the test. A 4 game set at Wrigley Field against the NL's best, followed by a 3 game series back at home against the New York Metropolitans. The first week in August sees the Fish travel north for back-to-back 3-game sets against the Phils and Mets again. The Marlins don't have an off day for the final 13 days of the regular season, and the last 7 sees the Marlins on the road. A random, 1 game (series?) against the Reds, followed by 3 against the Nationals and then what potentially could be a huge finale against the Mets.

Should the Fish come home from New York August 11th no worse then 2 or 3 games back, then they'll have to be taken seriously. All the NL East talk on the "4 letter network" has been around the Phils and Mets. No mention of the Marlins. Of course, it's a distinct possibility that by then, they are 5 or 6 out and hoping for catastrophic collapses to befall Philly and\or New York, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's see how these first 2 weeks go to get us to the trade deadline. Adding a solid bullpen guy or a veteran catcher could go a long ways to getting us to October baseball. Oh yea, and just in case, the last 3 games of the year are in Shea Stadium.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Marlins Looking To Add a Little Pudge?

Reports from are saying that the Florida Marlins are talking to the Detroit Tigers about reacquiring Ivan Rodriguez. The Marlins, whose catching woes are fairly well known in South Florida, have been in search of veteran catcher for awhile now. Early rumors had the Fish interested in the Nationals' Paul Lo Duca, Colorado's Yorvit Torrealba, and Cincinnatti's David Ross, but it appears as though the Marlins aren't very excited by any of those options.

So far, the Tigers appear as though they aren't interested in a trade quite yet. They are trying to get back into the AL Central race and hope that Pudge is a part of that. But if they slip far enough back by the trade deadline, Rodriguez might become available.

The Marlins are also looking into bolstering the bullpen, especially if a catcher isn't on the market. The loudest rumors have been about the Rockies' Brian Fuentes. Owner Jeffery Loria says he has no issue adding to the payroll. I would hope not, considering the Fish are just 1.5 games back and have the league's lowest payroll by some $22 million.

It looks as though the Marlins are a team to watch as the July 31st trade deadline looms. Who's going to be wearing the black and teal when the first pitch of August is thrown?

Panthers Schedule Breakdown

Panthers Schedule Breakdown

October: 9 games (5 home, 4 away)

The Panthers open the season with two back-to-backs in the first month, including one to start the season. They face some tough competition with opponents like Minnesota, Montreal, and San Jose. There are only a few games you can look at and say Florida should win (Atlanta at home, Islanders at home, at St. Louis). If the Panthers can escape October at around .500, the first month will have to be considered a success.

November: 14 games (5 home, 9 away)

Once again the schedule makers have done nothing to ease the Panthers pain during their historically worst month of the season. Florida starts the month with a five game road trip, featuring two back-to-back sets. Not only do the Panthers face stiff competition in the West (and their first game against Olli Jokinen in Phoenix, November 8th), but also face the defending champion Red Wings, Devils twice, and rival Rangers twice. In action basically every other night, Florida will be hard pressed not to repeat a struggling November.

December: 14 games (6 home, 8 away)

Florida continues the trend of getting road games out of the way early in the season, as their season total finishes 2008 at 16 home games and 21 road games. This month features the Panthers second five game road trip in as many months, this time taking them on a trip throughout Canada facing the Senators, Oilers, Flames, and Canucks. Florida receives visits from Colorado, Nashville, and Montreal, as well as facing the new look Lightning in a home and home set. If the Panthers are anywhere near the .500 mark after 2008, they will be looking up heading into the home stretch.

January: 12 games (7 home, 5 away)

Florida faces its most relaxing stretch of the season when they don’t leave the state of Florida for eight straight games, although they do face difficult foes in Dallas, Philadelphia, Carolina, and Montreal. Despite a relatively difficult level of competition, this is the month Florida needs to make its move. With so many home games, not to mention tilts against recent underperforming teams in the Islanders and Maple Leafs, this could be the Panthers chance to get back into the division race, if they aren’t in it coming into the month.

February: 13 games (7 home, 6 away)

This is another month that the Panthers have a chance to make a move. A month that starts off with three of four against Toronto and the Islanders, Florida also has a season long five game home stand. The Panthers get a heavy dose of the Atlantic Division this month, facing the New York and New Jersey teams five times. With only one back-to-back all month, the Cats need to capitalize and move up the standings.

March: 15 games (8 home, 7 away)

March will once again be a month for fans to come see the Panthers many times at home. An equally longest five game home stand commences for the second time in as many months, with three opponents from the Panthers very own Southeast Division. Florida visits Buffalo twice in a matter of weeks, takes a trip to Philadelphia and to Dallas. Somehow the Panthers only get one back-to-back set this month, despite playing nearly half the days of the month.

April: 5 games (3 home, 2 away)

Unlike last season, Florida ends the season with just two straight against division rivals, rather than the nine of last year. Florida gets Atlanta twice down the stretch, but faces a tough Pennsylvania stretch, hosting Pittsburgh and visiting Philadelphia in the season’s final week. The Panthers close with a home game against Washington, one that all Panthers fans hope will end with the biggest celebration in a decade.