March 31, 2011
It’s Opening Day today, and the folks here at Fathead couldn’t be more excited. The office is loaded with jersey-wearing fans, we’ve got nine TVs blasting baseball, and even the nerds on the tech team, normally indifferent when it comes to sports, are showing some excitement.
To commemorate the start of the season, we put up a Comerica Park Fathead mural (we’re based in metro Detroit, so most of us are Tigers fans). As a big baseball fan myself, I am of the opinion that these are the coolest Fatheads we’ve ever produced. And I think it’s safe to say that I am not alone, as the stadium murals have been pretty good sellers since we introduced them about a month ago.
Which are America’s favorite parks? If you judge based on our sales so far, you might be surprised at a few of them.
Top Selling Baseball Stadium Murals
1. Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)
2. Citizen’s Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies)
3. Yankee Stadium (NY Yankees)
4. Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs)
5. Target Field (Minnesota Twins)
6. Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals)
7. AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants)
8. Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati Reds)
9. Citi Field (NY Mets)
10. Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers)
March 29, 2011
In just two days, the Major League Baseball season will begin with games that may or may not be played, depending on snow. If it seems like it was just a couple months ago that the World Series was finishing up in cold weather, it was. So who will be representing the American League in the Fall/Winter Classic in 2011?
The Orioles may finally be headed in the right direction. The O’s hired Buck Showalter to be the manager in the middle of last season and he immediately turned the team around. He led them to a 34-23 finish in 2010. Baltimore has added some quality veterans in the offseason which should provide some leadership for a young team. They should be better but it won’t be enough to win the toughest division in baseball.
The Red Sox won 89 games and missed the playoffs in 2010. They have a star-studded roster and will be in the playoff hunt all season. The additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez have the Red Sox as the favorite to win the division and the World Series.
The Yankees’ success in 2011 will depend on the health of their older stars like Jeter and A-Rod and the questions in the pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Riveria are as good as it gets, but questions surround the rest of the staff. Cliff Lee is back in Philadelphiaand Andy Pettitte is retired so the Yankees will have to rely on guys like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova. And if that doesn’t work out, they can always afford to make a deal.
The defending A.L. East champs look quite a bit different in 2011. Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano and Matt Garza are out. Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are in. If Manny being Manny happens at the plate and not off the field, the Rays will be right in the mix with Boston and New York.
One thing is for sure. The Blue Jays will be the best team in Canada. They led the majors in home runs in 2010 and won 85 games. They may have been good enough to contend in another division, but not the A.L. East. No team would benefit more from realignment than Toronto.
The White Sox aren’t the superstars of the Yankees or Red Sox but they are solid at every position. What they can get from Jake Peavy will go a long way towards determining how they finish in the Central. The addition of Adam Dunn at DH will be a boost to the lineup as well.
They were bad in 2010. The roster hasn’t changed much. They are going to be bad in 2011. The misery continues for Cleveland fans.
The Tigers won 81 games last year. The additions of Joaquin Benoit, Victor Martinez and Brad Pennyoutweigh the losses of Jeremy Bonderman and Johnny Damon. If Miguel Cabrera can leave his off the field problems off the field and be the monster in the middle of that lineup, Detroit could steal the division title.
If you are a Kansas City fan, help is on the way. Next year. The Royals have the best farm system in the majors and should start getting reinforcements in the near future. They will be much better in the next couple years, but will struggle in 2011.
Minnesota won the A.L. Central in 2010 without Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan. If both players can come back healthy, the Twins will likely defend that title.
The Angels were a disappointment in 2010. They were also a disappointment in the offseason. They failed to sign any of the big free agents they wanted. They have been passed in the West and haven’t done anything about it.
The A’s have a strong young pitching staff. They play in a winnable division. The question is can they score? Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui will help. Will it be enough?
Seattle lost 101 times in 2010. They will be better. They almost have to be better. They have some great players like Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. They have some young prospects with potential. But they will still finish last in the West.
Texas won the A.L. West and went to the World Series in 2010. They can score. And they added Adrian Beltre at third. Cliff Lee is gone and Michael Young has asked for a trade. If the Rangers can keep Young happy and Brandon Webb can get healthy, they have the horses to defend their division title.
March 28, 2011
The Final Four is here and March Madness is coming to an end. This year’s tournament has proved to be just as unpredictable as the regular season. Sure, the way the UConn Huskies were playing, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to see them end up in Houston. But Virginia Commonwealth? Butler? Kentucky? This looks almost more like an NIT Final Four than an NCAA Tournament Final Four. We might as well throw in Jimmy Chitwood and the Hickory Hoosiers.
Let’s start with UConn – the Huskies won five consecutive games in the Big East tournament on their way to the Final Four. They were playing their best ball over the past month and because of that, were a trendy pick to get this far. Personally, I didn’t see it. The Big East is a brutal tournament, and Connecticut played those five games in five days. After a tough regular season, even with one of the best basketball players in the nation in Kemba Walker, I figured they’d tire at some point. It hasn’t happened yet, though, and coach Jim Calhoun showed why he’s a Hall of Fame coach. UConn isn’t only in the Final Four again; they also may be the odds on favorites to win.
Kentucky came out of the East region after taking out top seed Ohio State and No. 2 seed North Carolina. The fact that the Wildcats were almost upset in the opening round by 13-seed Princeton is the perfect example of just how crazy this tournament has been. Kentucky now gets the unenviable task of trying to slow down Walker’s Huskies. Sure, they’re led by a freshman in Brandon Knight, but we’ve seen before that first-year players are capable of carrying teams on their backs to win NCAA titles (see Carmelo Anthony and the 2002-03 Syracuse Orange).
On the other side of the bracket, there’s Virginia Commonwealth. After the selection committee chose VCU as a part of the field, lots of analysts, including ESPN’s Jay Bilas, had a field day telling the world just why they didn’t belong. And while their magical run is truly amazing, Bilas had this one right. Virginia Commonwealth’s improbable run doesn’t mean the selection committee did the right thing putting them in the tournament. Their tournament success should really be viewed independently of that selection. That said, they’ve definitely made the most of their opportunity and proved they have an excellent, well-coached team.
They’ll be facing the Butler Bulldogs, another surprise team. Butler reached the championship game last season, falling to Duke in the final seconds. Not many people gave them a chance to win even their first two games but after upsetting Pitt, Butler went even further in knocking off the Wisconsin Badgers and No. 2 seed Florida Gators. The Bulldogs not only have some quality players in Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, but they have experience on their side as much of the team’s roster was on last year’s squad, and they know what it takes to advance in the tournament.
So now what? What should we expect? Well, after going 0-fer in Final Four predictions at the start of the NCAAs, the only prediction I feel comfortable making is this: the madness we’ve seen in March is very likely to spill over into April, and I can’t wait.
March 25, 2011
I mentioned last week that we put together a Fathead NCAA Tournament bracket based completely on the March sales (so far) of the schools in the tournament. For every match-up, we selected the team with the higher Fathead sales for the month. I shared with you the Sweet Sixteen predicted through our model (click here for the article); I will now share our predictions for the next two rounds.
Our Elite Eight:
And our Final Four:
Any guess who was predicted as champion by our March sales? We will reveal next week. And now, the top ten Fathead sellers…
The top selling Fatheads of the last 7 days (Mar. 18 – Mar. 24):
1. Kobe Bryant
4. Derek Jeter
7. Derrick Rose
8. Kevin Durant
10. (tie) Peyton Manning
10. (tie) Clay Matthews
March 23, 2011
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Chad Ochocinco is trying out for Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC. Ochocinco has never shied away from publicity, and MLS needs all the publicity it can get, so the tryout itself can’t be looked at as anything but positive. The potential for controversy really comes down to the decision the team will have to make at the end of the tryout.
Maybe he’ll legitimately earn his way onto the team. There’s no denying that he, like so many pros in any sport, is an exceptional athlete. He’s faster, stronger, more agile, more fit, and has better hand-eye coordination than 99.99% of the athletes in this country (when you include amateurs), so there’s no doubt in my mind that he has an infinitely better chance of making the Sporting KC team than I or any of the guys on my softball team would have. But is freaky athleticism enough to secure a spot on a professional soccer team when you haven’t played organized soccer in a decade?
Michael Jordan was one of the greatest athletes the world has ever witnessed. But even “His Greatness” wasn’t able to successfully make the switch from basketball to baseball. Recently retired pitcher John Smoltz was one of the best hurlers in baseball of the past three decades. His outstanding skills, however, have not yet been enough to launch a second career in golf. Had either of them given the same time and focus to their “second” sports that they gave to their “first” sports, is it possible that Jordan would today be mentioned in the same breath as Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, and Ken Griffey, Jr., and that Smoltz would have spent the last two decades competing with the likes of Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods?
Multi-sport athletes are certainly not new. Jim Thorpe, who competed well before the time of anyone reading this, is a legend in baseball, football, basketball, and many track and field events. In more recent history, Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders put up very respectable baseball numbers while also playing professional football. But few have been able to truly excel at more than one professional sport. Even for the extremely gifted, it takes so much time and effort to compete at the highest level in one sport that there just aren’t enough hours in the day or energy in the body to be similarly elite at another game.
Did you know that Tom Brady was drafted by the Expos? Daunte Culpepper was drafted by the Yankees. John Elway played in both the Yankees’ and the Royals’ minor league system. Pat Riley was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, Danny Ainge played a few seasons for the Blue Jays, Tony Gwynn was drafted by the Clippers, Dan Marino was drafted by the Royals, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage played minor league ball for the Cardinals and Reds (Oh, yeah!). Each of these guys made a choice to concentrate on a single sport in an endeavor to excel, recognizing, I’m sure, that he couldn’t reach the level of greatness that he eventually reached if his efforts were divided between two sports.
Is it completely a matter of divided efforts, though? Or are some elite athletes just better suited for certain sports? Did Dan Marino turn down the opportunity to play baseball because it was clear to him that his skills gave him a much better shot at being a stand-out football player than a stand-out baseball player? A former college football playing buddy of mine often questions the choices he’s made. “For all I know,” he’ll say, “I could be the greatest pickle ball player, buffalo chip tosser, or Marco Poloist in the world, but I haven’t ever attempted any of them.” Maybe every elite athlete is built specifically for a certain game—athleticism can make him/her very good at many things, but only truly exceptional at one.
Whatever the case may be, the Ochocinco soccer tryout makes a great story. Can he achieve greatness in a second professional sport? I highly doubt it. But I marvel at his athleticism, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I can’t wait to watch the story unfold.