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Thanksgiving Notes

  • A little under three weeks ago, I wrote about the Chiefs' thousand-yard dash victory over the Colts and Peyton Manning, which is still the most exciting game of this NFL season. Ever curious about the Colts' offense and those post and post corner patterns Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne run with great success, I started a game of Madden 2004 a couple of days ago, which pitted Manning against the Cleveland Browns.

    Before I get into any details about the game (which I started on Tuesday and finished yesterday), it's important to note that I typically play five-minute quarters and run a West Coast-style (ball control) offense. The Chiefs' playbook and personnel is perfect for that strategy because Priest Holmes almost never fumbles, and there are several quick slants and hooks among the pass plays that are designed to pick up 10-15 yards at a time.

    After awhile, however, those short passes and five-yard runs can become monotonous, so I played as the Colts with the intent of seeing just how many points I could score. To do that, I boosted the quarter length up to 15 minutes and began my game of fun-and-gun offense. My goal? 100 points in 60 minutes of football.

    One of the first things I learned of was Marvin Harrison's god-like abilities in the game. He grabbed almost every pass I threw his way, and even made a circus catch for good measure. Find a way to split double coverage on a post pattern (which was highly successful)? He did it. Run well past the cornerback on an all-go play downfield? No problem, he did that too. Video game Marvin Harrison is probably what Michael Vick would play like as a wideout in real life. Needless to say, Harrison had a huge game, which I'll list later.

    Although I'd played as the Colts before, I never knew how accurate Manning's arm was because in the past. Indy's offensive line couldn't stop any sort of a blitz, and Manning was sacked over and over again. Anyway, to say that video game Peyton could throw the ball into a teacup would be an understatement. Although he got picked off a couple of times, he had an incredible game too.

    835 yards of offense later, I achieved my "goal," which I suppose is pretty pathetic to have when you're talking about a PS2 game. Peyton and Co. racked up 105 points on 15 touchdowns, although three of those scores were interceptions returned to the end zone. In case anybody cares about my little achievement, here are the stars of my 105-42 thrashing of Tim Couch and the Browns (who obviously had a field day against my defense as well):

    Peyton Manning: 128.9 Rating, 34-49, 733 yards, 5 TD
    Edgerinn James and Dominic Rhodes: 33 carries, 120 yards, 7 TD
    Marvin Harrison: 10 catches, 306 yards, 2 TD
    James: 9 catches, 112 yards
    Marcus Pollard: 4 catches, 74 yards
    Brandon Stokley: 4 catches, 134 yards, TD
    Reggie Wayne: 3 catches, 83 yards, 2 TD

    Basically, I had one of those exhibition games where everything went right, and I was damn proud of it. Or at least as proud as a 19-year-old can be about winning a fake football game before moving on with his Thanksgiving break. However, if the Colts win big today at Detroit, I'll be taking the credit for giving them good karma or good luck or something.

  • In what appears to be the first big trade of the winter, Pirates catcher Jason Kendall is likely headed to the A's in exchange for pitchers Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes. Billy Beane never ceases to amaze me with his player acquisition skills. The man's ability to identify top talent he can acquire cheaply is amazing. Even though Kendall's due to make $34 million over the next three seasons, Pittsburgh is likely going to pick up a large portion of that, with the remainder mostly being offset by the contracts of Rhodes and Redman.

    Kendall is still one of the better catchers in baseball, posting OPS+ figures of 115 and 110 the last two seasons and having the fourth-highest VORP in baseball among catchers last season (47.5). He hasn't been a good basestealer since 1999, but he still runs well for a catcher, and has walked more than he's struck out in every season except for 1997 and 2001. Throw in Kendall's age (30), and career .306/.387/.418 hitting line, and it's pretty unbelievable that he was available for two mid-level pitchers like Redman and Rhodes.

    Redman's departure likely means that Justin Duchscherer will have a really good chance of being Oakland's fifth starter or, if one of the Big Three is traded, their fourth starter with Joe Blanton bringing up the rear. Either way, the A's are going to have a very strong pitching staff once again. Assuming Beane doesn't move Hudson, Mulder, or Zito, here's what Oakland's rotation might look like in 2005, with their 2004 VORP totals:


    That's a damn good pitching staff. Few teams can boast a 37 VORP average for their five starting pitchers. The A's are going to be right there once again, and next year, I don't think they're going to miss the playoffs again.
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