Sunday, April 30, 2006

Congrats to Tony Palmer (left) and Brad Smith on being selected in the NFL draft. Smith was selected as a wide receiver by the New York Jets and Palmer will play for the St. Louis Rams.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

2006 Football Preview

By Tiger Fan

Well Tiger fans, the NFL draft is upon us, which means football season is just a few months away. This season will be the first year of the post-Brad era and I think it will provide a clear answer to the question of whether Pinkel will be able to win big games without Brad. I’m not sure he can… but I sure do hope I’m wrong. Who knows? Maybe he’s got another red-shirt freshman waiting in the wings to shock us all like No. 16 did in 2002. Maybe Chase Daniel will make us forget the Brad Smith era faster than we ever thought possible. Maybe Mizzou really will challenge for the Big XII North title this year. Or… maybe they won’t. But either way, it should be fun.

Before I get to my preview, a bit about my ratings system:

A = The Tigers should outplay the opposition at that position in every game.

B = There will be flashes of brilliance, but also some growing pains.

C = Average. We’ve got guys to take up space, but they won’t outplay anyone good.

D = The unit will be okay most of the time, but there will be lapses that hurt the team.

F = Reserved for the positions that are a true liability to the team.

The Offense

Brad Smith has started the last 48 games for the Tigers at QB and holds almost ever significant offensive record in the books. The offense returns eight starters from last year’s squad, but Smith isn’t one of them and that’s bound to slow down the unit’s production. The good news is that Chase Daniel is not exactly a rookie: he played in 10 games last season, including leading a fourth quarter comeback against Iowa State. Let’s hope he continues to improve because if we have learned anything about Pinkel’s offense, it’s how important the quarterback is.

Quarterback – B+

Chase Daniel, Chase Patton, Brandon Coleman

I think Daniel will be a solid player, but it’s the depth of this group that makes me add the plus. If Daniel struggles, don’t be surprised to see Patton get some snaps to prove what he can do. It’s a unique luxury to have a former Elite 11 quarterback as a back-up and Pinkel shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of it if need be. Of course, if Daniel’s performance in the spring game is any indication (11 of 12 for 120 yards and 2 TDs), there’s nothing to worry about – or else it’s our defense we need to worry about. Hard to say at this point, but identified Daniel as one of its “Stars of Spring”. Good publicity for an MU player? Best of luck Chase, you’re gonna need it.

Running Back – B-

Marcus Woods, Tony Temple, Jimmy Jackson, Earl Goldsmith, Connell Davis

I’ll reiterate my rating system: expect flashes of brilliance, but a lot of growing pains. The biggest key for this group will be avoiding injuries. Woods and Temple both have star potential, but have struggled with injuries over the last couple seasons (in fact, Temple missed all of spring practice with an injury). The other key will be holding onto the ball. Temple has always had fumbling issues and although Connell Davis has a surprisingly good spring, he put the ball on the turf a lot. Temple has shown the ability to make huge plays in the past, but he has also made critical turnovers. Who will we see this year?

Offensive Line – C+

Tyler Luellen, Monte Wyrick, Adam Spieker, Mike Cook, Joel Clinger

This veteran group of linemen seems to be getting a lot of hype in MU circles and I’m not sure why. Yes, it’s nice to have four returning starters on the o-line, particularly when the group is comprised of all juniors and seniors. But I don’t remember particularly good protection for Brad when he dropped back to pass last year. Since then, the Tigers lost their best o-lineman to graduation (Tony Palmer). I hate to be pessimistic, but I just can’t envision a scenario in which the line is able to improve significantly from one season to the next.

Tight End – A+

Martin Rucker, Chase Coffman, DeQuincy Howard

Tight end is the one position that Mizzou should dominate in every game this season. Most teams would love to have any one of the Tiger starters, much less both. Coffman was a freshman All-American a year ago and Rucker is a sure-fire NFL prospect. As a former tight end, Pinkel loves to run plays for his tight ends and that’s probably a good thing, since his tight ends are his two best offensive weapons. Daniel has already shown that Coffman is one of his favorite targets and I expect that to continue because it seems like no one can guard Coffman one-on-one: The linebackers are too slow and the DBs are too small. The only question is how a team with two All-American tight ends can run four and five wide receiver sets out of the shotgun on every play. Unbelievable.

Wide Receiver – B-

Will Franklin, Brad Ekwerekwu, Tommy Saunders, Greg Bracey

I’m willing to give this group the benefit of the doubt because, with all due respect to Brad Smith, he wasn’t the best passing quarterback ever to line up under center. All the wide receivers knew Brad was looking to run first and even if the ball was thrown in their vicinity, it might not be on target. With Daniel at QB, those excuses are gone. That being said, if the ‘Copter doesn’t take off as a star this season, this group will be mediocre at best. Franklin will have to step up and fill the shoes of the departed Sean Coffey – and Justin Gage before him. He doesn’t have the size of either No. 12, but he has superior speed and has the potential to be a tremendous deep threat. Will he reach his potential? That remains to be seen.

Punting/Kicking – D

Adam Crossett, Matt Hoenes

Yes, I know Crossett made some lengthy kicks late in the season. Yes, I know the coverage last year was worse than the actual punting. Yes, I know he played well in the spring game. But I’m being realistic… has there been any time in the Gary Pinkel era where you ever felt confident – or even comfortable – when it came time for Mizzou to make an important kick? I know I have never had that experience. It should not be a surprise when your kicker makes a field goal. It should not be cause for celebration when a punt goes further than 30 yards. It should not be an adventure every time you line up for an extra point. I hope I’m wrong about all this, but I’m sticking with historical precedent until someone proves me wrong. Crossett, PLEASE prove me wrong!

The Defense

John Kadlec was quoted last week as saying this might be the best Tiger defense he has ever seen at Mizzou – and given how long Kadlec has been watching the Tigers, that is really saying something. But I’m afraid I have to disagree. This is a solid unit, but I’m not even sure it is as good as last year’s squad. The defense lost just four starters, but that includes three members of the secondary. Hopefully some younger players will be able to step up and make plays because Mizzou’s pass defense was already porous with those senior leaders. If not, it could be a long season. The other key is for the Tigers to keep the defense off the field some times. Last year the offense ran more plays than any other team in the country… but they also ran them faster than any team in the country and often went three-and-out. That doesn’t give the D much time to catch its breath.

Defensive Line – B-

Brian Smith, Jamar Smith, Stryker Sulak, Lorenzo Williams

The top four defensive lineman from last season are back, as is regular contributor Xzavie Jackson. Defensive end Brian Smith is already Mizzou’s all-time sack leader and should draw a double team in most games, opening things up for others to make a play. If Pinkel sticks with last year’s game plan, Smith and Stryker Sulak could both play a few downs at linebacker in pass rushing situations. The big test for this defense will be stopping the run up the middle. That task will primarily fall to Jamar Smith and Lorenzo Williams. If you can’t stop the run, it will be very difficult to win in the Big XII.

Linebackers – C+

Marcus Bacon, Dedrick Harrington, Van Alexander, Brock Christopher

Bacon and Harrington head a rather shallow crop of linebackers for the Tigers. The departure of Derrick Ming will hurt the Tigers from both a leadership and playmaking standpoint. Bacon and Harrington are both pretty solid players but they are not the kind of dynamic playmakers the Tigers need in order to dominate defensively. Help could be waiting in the wings. Redshirt freshman Chad Washington has turned some heads in spring practice and recently signed Juco player Quaran Barge will be eligible in the fall. Hopefully, these players will be able to contribute right away.

Secondary – C

David Overstreet, William Moore, Domonique Johson, Darnell Terrell

Gone is the Tiger’s best playmaker from a year ago, Jason Simpson, and the top two corners, A.J. Kincade and Marcus King. The only good news in the secondary is the return of David Overstreet, who led the team in tackles a year ago and has All-Conference potential. The problem is a corps of DBs without much experience. Johnson and Terrell have both shown the ability to make big plays, but they have also been beaten on short passing routes in a defensive scheme that seems to encourage large cushions. Beyond these two, there is very little depth and if either of these two goes down with an injury, the Tigers could be in serious trouble. William Moore has also shown potential at free safety, but he will need to bounce back from an injury in the Independence Bowl. Without Overstreet, this group would be graded as a D.

Kick Returning/Coverage – F

This is a problem every year for the Tigers and there’s no reason to expect that it will get any better this season. Temple and Woods have both shown the ability to make things happen on returns, but it doesn’t happen consistently and the blocking is not good. As for the kicking coverage, it’s always an adventure – an adventure that usually allows several return touchdowns each year.

Game-by-game predictions: 7-5 (4-4)

This season is full of borderline games for Mizzou. They are perfectly capable of beating Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Nebraska and Oklahoma – but they are equally capable of losing those games. This should also be the year for the Tigers to beat the kansas schools – but history has shown us that is not always a given, regardless of the talent. It should be a wild season. The Tigers could finish 6-6 or they could finish 9-3. I’m guessing it’s going to be somewhere in the middle… and another middle-of-the-pack finish in the North. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

Murray State – W

If the Tigers don’t win this game against a I-AA opponent, they should just go ahead and quit… ‘cause it will be an ugly season. But that won’t happen. The Tigers should roll to an easy win (like they do in their first game almost every year), causing fans to become ridiculously optimistic and declare this the best Tiger team in history. That should be fun for a couple weeks.

Mississippi - W

This should be a fun game, and I think the Tigers pull it out. Ole Miss is an SEC school, but not a good one. This should only increase the unfounded euphoria in Tiger nation.

at New Mexico – L

Every year, the Tigers lose one of their non-conference games that should be easy wins (see: New Mexico, Troy, Bowling Green, Bowling Green). Last year it was New Mexico and I think the Lobos will do it again this year. It reminds me very much of the 2001-02 home-and-home series with Bowling Green. When the Falcons came to Columbia, nobody knew they were any good so we started jumping off bridges after the Tigers lost… but as it turned out, they were a pretty good team and made a bowl. Then they killed us the next year at Bowling Green. I think the same thing happens here and all the Tiger fans who had been talking about a Big XII championship for the first two weeks of the season will suddenly declare that the Tigers are terrible. Gotta love Mizzou fans.

Ohio – W

I don’t see the Tigers blowing this one – plus, I’ve got several Bobcat fans coming in for this game, so we have to win. Period.

Colorado – W

Every year it looks like Colorado will have a down year and it seems like every year, they figure out how to pull things together and steal another Big XII North title. But Barnett is finally gone and I don’t think Dan Hawkins will have them playing at a top level in his first season. It will be close, but the Tigers should win the Big XII opener.

at Texas Tech – L

For reasons that I don’t quite understand, Pinkel tends to coach well against Texas Tech. It doesn’t really make any sense, given that Tech passes on almost every down and we can’t usually defend the pass at all. I think Pinkel’s luck runs out this year and we lose a tough one on the road.

at Texas A&M – L

This has less to do with the talent on the field and more to do with the fact that Mizzou tends to struggle on the road. It should be a close game, but I’ll give the edge to A&M because they are playing in College Station.

Kansas State – L

The Tigers blow an easy home win every year and this will probably be it. KSU is not very good… but they haven’t been very good for a few years now and that hasn’t stopped the Tigers from blowing double-digit leads against the Wildcats in each of the last two seasons. I’ve never seen the Tigers beat KSU, so I’m giving the Wildcats the benefit of the doubt until I do.

Oklahoma – W

Almost as predictable as a bad Tiger home loss is an unexpected Tiger home win. I’m going out on a limb and saying that the Tigers shock the Sooners on Oct. 28 and the goalposts come down (in fact, if I wind up attending a wedding on that day instead of the game, it’s almost certain to happen). The Sooner offense is one-dimensional and the defense is not as good as it has been in the past. Pinkel has coached well against Stoops in their two previous meetings and I’m hopeful that will continue. Last time OU came to Columbia, the Tigers were one fake field goal short of a huge upset. I think they get it done this time.

at Nebraska – L

The Tigers should be able to beat Nebraska. After years of futility, they have gotten the monkey off their backs by beating the Huskers two of the last three years. Pinkel is like a completely different coach against Nebraska, taking chances and cutting folks loose to make plays. Despite stealing an Alamo Bowl victory last year, NU is not that good. But the Tigers haven’t won in Lincoln since 1978. That’s almost 30 years. I can’t bet against the Huskers until Mizzou proves they can do it.

at Iowa State – W

I haven’t heard anything about ISU in the offseason. We’ve beaten them the last three seasons. I think the Tigers pick up a rare road win and become bowl eligible.

Kansas – W

Senior Day. In Columbia. The Tiger seniors have never beaten kU. The beakers lost several key players off a good defensive unit and their offense still stinks. If Pinkel can’t motivate his guys to win the Border War, he should be fired. I don’t care how many games he has won and how many bowl games he has made. Four straight losses to mediocre kU teams with inferior talent is unacceptable. Show some heart! Show some pride! If not for the fans, do it for yourselves! And I think they will… capping off another mediocre season for the Tigers.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Just when you thought it was safe to be a Mizzou fan...

By Tiger Fan

Rumors are now swirling that multiple MU basketball players are in legal trouble that, if true, would be enough to have them kicked off. Since it hasn't been reported anywhere, I'm not going to perpetuate the rumor by repeating it here (not to mention the fact that I don't have all the details). Let's hope it's not true because it's the last thing the athletic department needs... more PR problems

The biggest issue is that if every rumor regarding Mizzou players that is being published on the Internet right now is true, we will barely be able to field a team next season. Let's assume for a moment that Thomas Gardner really has no plans to come back. And let's assume that Keon Lawrence really does want to weasel out of his Letter of Intent and go to Big East school. And let's assume the new rumors are true. Combine all this with the graduation of Kevin Young and Jimmy McKinney and we are left with this roster:

Leo Lyons
James Douglas
Marcus Watkins
Jason Horton
Nick Berardini
Matt Lawrence
Vaidatus Volkus

Again, that's assuming that all this rampant speculation is true. Ideally, it's all BS and there are four or five more guys on next year's team, plus a recruit or two that Mike Anderson is able to nail down. Either way, I feel back for Coach Anderson. He probably knew the situation here was bad, but I'm sure he never imagined that he would have six scholarship players at the beginning of next season. I think he's a good coach, but no one can win with the line-up listed above. Let's just hope the rumor mill is wrong...

How has it come to this? Three years ago, we had a team with two preseason All-Americans (Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson), an NBA prospect (Linas Kleiza), a guy who led the nation in scoring as a freshman (Jason Conley), a former McDonald's All-American (Travon Bryant) and several solid role players (Josh Kroenke, Jimmy McKinney, Thomas Gardner and Kevin Young). It's crazy to think how quickly it all happened. Unebelievable. Nice work Alden.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

kU in big trouble... or at least they should be

By Tiger Fan

For most of my college career, it was kind of difficult to come up with good comebacks when chastised by kU fans. Sure, we knew our school was superior, but when we were losing to them two or three times a year in every sport, it was tough... not to mention our trouble with the NCAA. But recently, kU has been making itself into an easy target. We have split the season basketball series with them each of the past two seasons. They lost to Bucknell. Then they lost to Bradley. And now, this...

In a 25-page letter dated Feb. 16, 2006, the NCAA has charged kU with a wide range of violations, including the ever popular "lack of institutional control". The letter, released to the public yesterday, includes allegations of academic fraud and impermissible gifts involving the football team, impermissible gifts and cash payments from boosters involving the men's basketball team, and impermissible transportation involving the women's basketball team. Also identified were a myriad of unreported secondary violations in every sport from women's soccer to men's golf.

In fairness to kU, there's nothing here that they didn't turn up in an internal investigation last July. But the eleventh allegation in the letter -- the one that charged the department with "failure to exert appropriate institutional control" from 1997-2003 -- is the most damaging. The NCAA is still compiling more information before handing down its punishment (if you've been a Tiger fan for long, you are all too familiar with how long this process takes), but it doesn't look good for the beakers. How bad is it? The last Big XII team to be hit with the "lack of insitutional control" label was Baylor... and that was when one of their players murdered a teammate.

Clearly, kU isn't on the same level as Baylor, but one thing is very clear: these allegations are much more serious than the illegal flip-flops and phone calls that got the MU basketball team put on probation and eventually cost Quin Snyder his job. kU may not find out its fate until September, but "lack of institutional control" is not a label the NCAA throws around lightly. Saturday's KC Star reported that kU got the label for four reasons:
1. It went without a compliance auditor for 20 months
2. It failed to report 26 secondary violations in a timely manner
3. It failed to educate coaches and boosters about the rules
4. It allowed academic fraud and recruiting violations within the football program.

Suddenly, I don't feel quite as bad about losing to kU for the last three seasons in football. At least Pinkel runs a clean program. Later on Friday, kU showed its true character by announcing that it is working with Fatgino on a contract extension (they claim he didn't know about the problems... kind of like Nixon didn't know about Watergate, I would guess). Classy folks... but I would expect nothing less.

The amazing thing to me is how little the attention the media is giving this story. On Saturday afternoon, the Star's Web site had the kU story ninth on its sports page... below stories about the NHL and NBA playoffs (which don't involved KC at all) and a track meet. had no mention of the story on its front page and had a short piece buried in its college football section. Maybe it's because Columbia has more journalists per capita than any other city in the world, but it seems to me that the stories about the Mizzou investigations got a lot more play... and the school got a lot more criticism.

We'll have to wait a while to see how it all plays out. To me, this is a litmus test for the NCAA. They have historically been very hard on middle-of-the-road major conference teams (like Mizzou basketball, Michigan basketball or Texas A&M football), but looked the other way when one of the "legendary" college programs breaks a rule (like Ohio State football, Duke basketball or any sport at Texas). Unfortunately, kU hoops is one of those renowned programs... and as such, we might see their athletic department get a free pass (or at least a greatly reduced fare). I've always said the NCAA is somewhat corrupt and hands out punishments arbitrarily. That's why I think you'll see a lot of very angry Mizzou fans in September when kU comes out of this with a slap on the wrist. But I'll be happy to eat my words if the punishment for kU fits the crime. Or maybe I'll just save my words for kU fans the next time they try to talk smack...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Game recap

By Tiger Fan

Hooray! The nine-game losing streak is over for the once-hyped Tiger baseball team. Mizzou knocked off SLU 4-0 at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon, MO, Wednesday night at the annual Wood-Bat Classic. As you might expect, several members of The Zou were on hand. Here’s how it all went down:

On the Field

-Eight Mizzou pitchers combined to hold SLU to one hit and strike out 11 batters. The Tigers were clearly using last night’s game to get some work for its bullpen guys as Brant Combs was the only pitcher to go more than one inning (he pitched two). The official scorekeeper gave the win to starter Rick Zagone, even though he only faced three batters. Nick Admire and David Cales each struck out all three batters he faced.

-Trevor Helms drove in the first two runs of the game with a homerun to left field in the second inning. It was only the fourth homerun of Helms career and it was all the more surprising given that the game was played with wooden bats.

-Helms created another scoring opportunity in the fourth by causing a big collision at first base. With runners at first and second, Helms bunted the ball toward first in an attempt to move the runners up. The first baseman and the pitch both broke for the ball, leaving no one at the bag. The SLU second baseman got there right as Helms arrived at the base. When the two crashed together, the ball went flying and Helms was safe at first. Derek Chambers came around to score to make it 3-0. Meanwhile, the SLU second baseman was struggling to get to his feet. Gary Pinkle may want to consider letting Helms try out at linebacker next season.

Crazed Mizzou Fan Notes

-The good news is that attendance was pretty good – and there were more Mizzou fans than SLU fans. The bad news is that the crowd was not into the game at all. Most folks seemed to be more interested in chatting than watching the game. Even when Mizzou scored, there wasn’t much of a reaction.

-We did meet one guy out front while waiting in the LONG ticket line (more on this later) who might be a bigger fan than any member of The Zou. He lettered in football under Don Faurot and he lettered in baseball under John ‘Hi’ Simmons. He has also missed just two football games since 1947 and carries a sweet tiger-striped cane with a tiger head at the top. We didn’t catch his name (his wife gave him the ol’ “Come on dear, it’s time to go into the stadium, no one cares…” look and he had to go)… but we’re going to try to look through some archives and figure out who he is. Either way, Tiger Cane Guy, we salute you.

Seen and heard in the stands:

-Tiger Fannette and Rocky Mountain Tiger’s girlfriend Heather apparently disagree with the long-held assumption that chicks dig the long ball. After a careful consideration of all the positions, they determined that they prefer the guys who serve up the homers. That’s right, pitchers. What’s wrong with everyone else? I’m just quoting here, but: Catchers are too fat, middle infielders are too small and corner infielders are too muscular. There was a close competition between outfielders and pitchers, but pitchers were given the nod for having better legs. Apparently, this is what girls think about at baseball games. Who knew?

-Frontier League commissioner Bill Lee was on hand at the home of the league’s River City Rascals, chatting up the umpires between innings.

-In the fourth inning, a SLU batter hit a high foul ball toward our front row seats on the first-base line. Born-A-Tiger and I jumped up to try to catch it while Tiger Fannette let loose a high-pitched scream of terror. Luckily, Tiger first baseman Derek Chambers snagged the ball a few feet from the stands and saved the day.

-This wasn’t exactly in the stands, but it wasn’t really part of the action either. We looked down to first base during one Tiger at-bat to see the first base coach on a cell phone. On the field. During the game. For the love of Joe Horn, what was that about? We asked for the number, but he didn’t respond…

Irritating/pleasant Athletic Department Decisions

-I’ll start with the kudos: I think the Wood Bat Classic is a great event every year. The Mizzou baseball team needs more exposure and this is a great opportunity to tap into the broad Tiger fan base in St. Louis and get some support for the Tigers. T.R. Hughes is a great venue… it’s too bad Mizzou can’t play all its games in a facility like that.

-This probably isn’t the AD’s fault, but the ticket booth at the stadium was a disaster. We arrived 20 minutes before the 6:30 first pitch and we were still in line as the first inning drew to a close. The folks selling tickets blamed the computers, but come on… it’s not like there were thousands of people there. If your computers are that slow, you’re better off handwriting the tickets. The tickets were my only complaint from a fun evening at the ballpark.

Other Tiger notes…

Consider this your weekly report… Golfer Stephanie Wavro – who lived on my floor at Mark Twain as a freshman – finished a surprising second at the Big XII women’s golf tournament this week. Wavro, a junior, recorded the best finish for a Tiger since 2003… Led by Wavro, the women’s team finished fourth at the tournament. Most importantly, they placed well ahead of kU, giving Mizzou three more points in the Border War standings… the kU now leads the Border War by just four points: 19.0-15.0. It looks like the contest will be decided by outdoor track and men’s golf. Come on Tigers, let’s do this!... Micaela Minner of the softball team became Mizzou’s all-time leader in career homeruns Wednesday in a loss to kU. Minner hit her 26th career homerun in the seventh inning. Congrats go out to Minner, but the fact that the Mizzou record was 26 proves what I already suspected: Softball, while fun to play, is boring to watch… Gymnast Adrianne Perry is representing Mizzou today at the national championship meet in Oregon. Born-A-Tiger astutely pointed out last night that gymnastics is the only sport where athletes seem to peak in their freshman year. Why is that?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Albert freakin' Pujols

By Tiger Fan

Normally, I try to stick to Mizzou sports. But sometimes, I witness something so epic that I feel the need to share. Plus, let’s be honest… there’s nothing all that exciting going on with Mizzou sports right now. I’ll say this: The much-hyped baseball team has completely fallen apart, blowing two four-run leads this weekend. There, now you’re up to date.

Moving on… I attended the Reds-Cardinals game yesterday at the new Busch Stadium to cheer on my hometown Cincinnati Reds. I left with one thought firmly imprinted in my mind: Albert Pujols is not human. With all due respect to guys like Barry Bonds and David Ortiz, Pujols is the most dominant hitter in the game. He long ago passed the “don’t go to the concession stand if there’s any chance he will come to the plate during the next inning” stage. I made Tiger Fannette wait a whole inning to get some nachos just to make sure we saw his next at-bat (which wound up being is second homerun). It’s reached the point where everyone in the stadium is surprised if he doesn’t hit a homer.

When the eighth inning ended with the Reds up 7-6 and I saw that Pujols was due up second in the ninth, I was just hoping that the Reds could get the first batter out so Pujols could only tie the game. When Jason Marquis singled up the middle to start the ninth, I called for the walk… I yelled for the walk… I begged for the walk. As Pujols stepped into the box, everyone in the stadium came to their feet in anticipation. Once David Weathers threw the first pitch and it was clear that they weren’t going to walk him, I started congratulating the Cardinals fans around me. Pujols then deposited a 1-2 fastball into the upper deck in left. Game over. The standing ovation lasted at least three or four minutes before Pujols took his second curtain call of the game. Well deserved.

The scary thing about Pujols is that he is still getting better. He’s only in his 20s and he is turning into a talented fielder as well. He robbed the Reds of several hits down the first base line throughout the game. Add in his three homeruns and five RBI and he was obviously the game’s MVP. And anyone who doesn’t think he is the MVP of the league hasn’t been paying attention.

A quick note on the Reds…

Why don’t they have a closer? You can’t send out Weathers or Kent Mercker all year to protect leads in the ninth inning when they have to go up against guys like Pujols and Derek Lee. It won’t work. We may set a record for ninth inning losses this season. Can anyone name for me the last good team without a bona fide closer? Remember what our bullpen was like when the Reds were good in the early ‘90s? Remember the Nasty Boys? Do the names Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers mean anything to you? You have to have a closer! Excuse me, I have to go find something sharper than my computer mouse…

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Since this blog began in January, we have already seen many examples of the trials and tribulations that make being a Mizzou fan so frustrating. Based on these events, here are some simple truths that will see all too familiar to the Tiger faithful.

If Mizzou has a top 25 preseason team and a consensus All-American, the team WILL fall apart and the player WILL underachieve or get injured.

The most recent example here is the Mizzou baseball team. The Tigers started the season ranked No. 10 in the country and Max Scherzer is still projected to be one of the top picks in the next MLB draft. But the Tigers have failed to live up to the hype. They are now 16-15 (6-6) after last night’s 9-5 loss to a mediocre SEMO team. Scherzer, meanwhile, has done his best Mark Prior/Kerry Wood impersonation: pitching well in between a variety of injuries.

See also: The top 10 basketball team with All-American candidates Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson miss the NCAA tournament; the top 25 football team with Heisman candidate Brad Smith fails to make a bowl game; the top 10 basketball team with All-American Kareem Rush stumbles into the tournament with a No. 12 seed.

If Mizzou is the front-runner for a top-flight recruit, he WILL change his mind.

Ty Morrison was the No. 1 Juco recruit in the country. Somehow Quin Snyder convinced him to come to Mizzou. Now that we have a real coach, Morrison wants find “a really good situation.” What?

See also: Brandon Rush (brother of the aforementioned Kareem), Tyler Hansborough (in-state product and lifelong Tiger fan)

If there is an important personnel decision to made, the athletic department WILL handle it poorly.

I am personally thrilled with the Mike Anderson hire… but as usual, the AD managed to screw it up. First, there was the embarrassing resignation/firing scandal. Then Alden waited far too long to make a hire. Then, when it looked like we were finally ready to begin a new era, the Curators called a last-minute meeting that delayed to whole process and accomplished nothing. Brilliant!

See also: the forced resignation of Norm Stewart, the firing of Larry Smith

No matter how badly the revenue sports perform, a non-revenue sport WILL accomplish something great to keep Alden looking good.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of my former classmate Ben Askren and the women’s volleyball team. It’s a nice change of pace to attend a Tiger sporting and see a winning attitude and a team that actually works hard. But every year we have an event like Askren’s national title or the volleyball team’s Elite Eight run that makes it very difficult to justify firing Alden.

See also: Derrick Peterson’s national title, Christian Cantwell’s international success, occasional runs by the women’s basketball team to the NCAA tourney.

Gary Pinkle WILL struggle against against mediocre teams from kansas, but win a big game or two late in the season to make fans forget that his team has underachieved.

It happens every year and it is happening right now. Tiger fans are building up a false sense of optimism because of Mizzou’s remarkable Independence Bowl victory. Our selective memory allows us to conveniently forget losing to kU for the third year in a row and blowing yet another lead to a BAD Kansas State team. But we beat Nebraska last year, Tiger fans exclaim! No, Brad Smith beat Nebraska last year. I think Chase Daniel is a good QB, but the supporting cast is not up to par and he is not the kind of gamebreaker that Brad was. I’m afraid we are in for a rude awakening this fall.

See also: Mizzou beats Nebraska in 2003 after getting slaughtered by kU the week before, Mizzou knocks Iowa State out of the 2004 Big XII Championship game in overtime after losing to kU

The basketball team WILL inexplicably win a couple big games in the middle of the season, tricking Mizzou fans into believing that it has finally turned the corner.

We all swore it wouldn’t happen this year. We knew this team was bad and we knew it was a lame duck season for Quin. After the Tigers lost their opening game of the season to Sam Houston State and suffered the worst loss in Braggin’ Rights history at the hands of Illinois, our suspicions were proven correct. Then they ran off four straight wins, including their Big XII opener. We raised a collective eyebrow. Then they shocked Oklahoma in Norman and we moved to the edge of our seats. Then they stunned kU with an amazing come from behind victory… and we were back. Foolish things were said: We might make the tourney! Quin might save his job! This team might be better than we thought! And then, they fell apart. When will we learn? Probably never.

See also: Wins over Gonzaga and Oklahoma in 2004-05, wins over Indiana and Oklahoma in 2003-04

Bottom line: We WILL be a second-tier athletic program until the problems are fixed… and that means we need change in the athletic department.

I hope to see the Tigers become a national athletic powerhouse in my lifetime. But many Mizzou fans seem to have a false sense of where Mizzou fits in the national consciousness. Our last national title in a major sport (baseball) was in 1954. We have zero Big XII titles. Zero Final Fours. Zero BCS bowls. It’s time to face the facts: We aren’t a bad athletic school, but we’re also not a great one – and we won’t be until there are significant changes in the athletic department administration. I hear a lot of Mizzou fans criticize the Big XII, saying the “Texas schools” pull too much weight in the conference. FYI: these four schools from Texas have combined to earn national titles in football, baseball, women’s basketball, track, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, and volleyball. They also account for the reigning Big XII Champions in nine of the 16 competition sports. Compare that with the accomplishments of schools like Mizzou, Iowa State or Kansas State and it’s easy to see why they have so sway. These same delusional Mizzou fans think we would be better off in the Big 10. Really? You think we will carry more clout than Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State? Give me a break.

This wouldn’t be a problem if Mizzou fans understood our place in the national athletic hierarchy. We could revel in upsets and rally behind our teams when they make a surprising tournament run. We could spend our time worrying about the type of people in our program, not how many wins they have. We could have a lot more fun – and be happier as fans. But as a whole, Mizzou fans don’t get it. They expect national titles, even though they have no reason to. Then, when the teams inevitably fall short, they get upset. They say people should be fired. They tear apart 19-year-old kids on the Internet. They say we are cursed. But maybe the only curse we have is a fan base with unreasonable expectations.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tiger Fan's Prediction Spectacular

You want rampant, uneducated, early speculation? You got it.

MLB Predictions:

AL East: New York Yankees – This team is too good to miss the playoffs

AL Central: Chicago White Sox – The defending champs are just as good, if not better

AL West: Oakland Athletics – The trendy pick this year… they’ll get this far

AL Wildcard: California (yeah, I’m old school) Angels – I think the Blue Jays and the Red Sox will cancel each other out in the AL East… and the Angels get to play the Mariners and Rangers all year

NL East: Atlanta Braves – Until someone else wins that division…

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals – They might clinch by the All-Star break

NL West: L.A. Dodgers – Someone has to win that division

NL Wildcard: N.Y. Mets – Surely they can live up to the hype sometime, right?

World Series: Cardinals over White Sox

Early Predictions: 2006 College Football Season

1. Ohio State – The Fiesta Bowl is a sign of things to come

2. West Virginia – Yes, the Big East doesn’t deserve an automatic BCS bid… but tell that to Georgia. By the way, the two best WVU players last season were freshmen

3. USC – They don’t rebuild, they reload

4. Notre Dame – Charlie Weis has now had a full year with the Irish. Look out.

5. Texas – They would be No. 1 if Vince Young was still in school.

6. LSU – Loaded with talent… can they bring it together?

7. Florida – Urban Meyer is always better in the second season… and that will need to continue for the Gators if they hope to match the accomplishments of the hoops team.

8. Cal – Don’t look for much defense, but the Bears sure can score.

9. Penn State – Never count out JoePa… who knew?

10. Oklahoma – Adrian Peterson is healthy. The rest of the Big XII will be in trouble if the Sooners figure out how to block.


Really Early Predictions: 2007 College Basketball Season

*Assuming everyone comes back

1. Florida – If all the underclassman come back, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt

2. Ohio State – They were a No. 2 seed before they brought in three All-Americans

3. North Carolina – Hansborough is a beast and Roy is bringing in a lot of talent around him

4. LSU – Again, this is assuming everyone comes back

5. Duke – Shockingly, Duke has reloaded with freshman stars

6. Arizona – Strong recruiting class

7. Memphis – Calipari has a solid young team who went further than most people thought in the tourney

8. kU – Unfortunately, the beakers don’t lose anyone from a team that shared the Big XII title last year. They’re all young and only going to get better. Ouch.

9. UCLA – Young talent will mix well with the team that made it all the way to finals.

10. George Mason – Why not?

Big XII Predictions


2. Texas – This assumes that everyone comes back

3. Texas A&M – Acie Law is a star in the making

4. Oklahoma State – Look for the Cowboys to have a bounce-back year

5. MissouriAnderson has the potential to make things exciting

6. Oklahoma – Sooners will struggle without their three best players… and their coach

7. Kansas State – Huggins could get them even further than this

8. Iowa State – McDermott is good… but his roster is not

9. Texas Tech – Bobby Knight has lost the magic

10. Nebraska – Barry Collier never had the magic

11. Colorado – They are losing 10 seniors… I don’t care how good Roby is.

12. Baylor – As bad as they are, they did beat us last year… by a lot…