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2009 MLB Preview: #1 New York Yankees

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Offseason Movement: To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Bronx Bombers went out and threw gobs of money at top free agents after missing the postseason last year. They signed the biggest bat on the market in 1B Mark Teixeira, then added the two best arms in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The Yanks also added 1B/OF Nick Swisher via a trade with the White Sox, but they might ship him elsewhere since he’s drawing attention from clubs like the Pirates, Nationals and Braves. With Xavier Nady being penciled in at right fielder, Swisher might become expendable.

Top Prospect: Jesus Montero, C/1B
The 19-year old Montero is being groomed as a catcher but could make the move to one of the corner infield spots if he doesn’t clean up his footwork behind the dish. Said to have excellent strength and raw power, Montero could emerge as a future All-Star. He has a great arm and that’s why the Bombers envision him as a future catcher but regardless of his eventual position, Montero will be given the opportunity to play in the big leagues as long as he continues to work on his plate discipline and patience at the plate.

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“Friday Night Lights” gets two-season pickup!

It’s probably uncouth to use an exclamation point in the title of a blog post, but I don’t really care. DirecTV and NBC came to terms on an agreement that will give “Friday Night Lights” two 13-episode seasons.

DirecTV will get the first window on the episodes, to run commercial-free as the marquee property on its 101 Network channel, which is rapidly adding new and library product with appeal to TV aficionados from Hollywood’s majors (Daily Variety, March 23). This season, DirecTV ran the 13 episodes comprising “FNL’s” third season in the fall, while NBC’s run began in January.

Although the show has a loyal core aud, “FNL” has had a hard time drawing a broadcast net-sized aud. But the license fee NBC receives from DirecTV makes it financially feasible for the Peacock to continue with the show, which lends an aura of quality to the net’s sked at a time when NBC is struggling to rebuild its roster of scripted series.

It’s understood that DirecTV’s license fee covers just under half of “FNL’s” weekly production budget of a little more than $2 million per hour, which is modest by broadcast net standards.

I’ve been a die-hard “FNL” fan from the beginning and I figured that the show would probably be canceled after this season, but the ratings (while not strong for broadcast television) haven’t sunk below 3.8 million all season. It may not be huge, but the “FNL” fan base is loyal.

I was a little suspicious of this DirecTV/NBC relationship, but now it’s given one of my favorite shows a three-season extension. I also prefer the 13-episode season because, generally speaking, the shorter the season, the tighter the storylines.

No regrets.

Stafford won’t talk to shrink, so 49ers don’t want him

The 49ers are apparently concerned with quarterback prospect Matthew Stafford because he won’t open up to a psychologist about his parent’s divorce.

Matthew StaffordA report in the San Francisco Chronicle suggests Stafford was uncomfortable answering questions at the NFL combine last month from a team psychologist regarding his parents’ divorce.

Niners head coach Mike Singletary told KNBR (680 AM) in San Francisco this week that “if you’re going to look at drafting a guy in the first round, and you’re going to pay him millions of dollars, and asking him about a divorce about his parents, if that’s going to be an issue, uhhh, then you know what, maybe he doesn’t belong here.”

Stafford, a potential first-round draft pick, told the Detroit Free Press that the psychologist presumed Stafford had “unfinished business” about his parents’ split in high school.

I guess Singletary has a point in that, if a team is going to pay a prospect millions of dollars in the NFL, then it has a right to know as much about the player as possible. But this is a bit absurd. Stafford is only 21 years old – he’s still a kid. Him not wanting to open up to a stranger about a painful topic doesn’t mean he’s a bad egg or that he has psychological problems. It just means that he’d like to handle the manner in his own way and that doesn’t involve talking to a shrink.

Considering Singletary pulled his pants down in front of his team to make a point during a halftime speech last year, maybe he should be the one seeing a psychologist and not Stafford.

Ping pong player does over-the-top victory dance

Be sure to check out the score at the end…

2009 MLB Preview: #2 Boston Red Sox

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Offseason Movement: The Red Sox made a slew of moves this offseason, including signing free agent starters John Smoltz and Brad Penny, as well as adding outfielders Rocco Baldelli and Brad Wilkerson. Boston also added pitchers Takashi Saito, Junichi Tazawa, Billy Traber, Ramon Ramirez, Miguel Gonzalez and Randor Bierd.

Top Prospect: Lars Anderson, 1B
Anderson was considered a top talent in 2006, but slipped to the 18th round of the 2006 MLB Draft because teams were worried about whether or not they could sign him. The lefty first basemen can hit for average and power, and has an excellent feel for the strike zone. He was named Minor League Offensive Player of the Year for the Red Sox in 2008 after clubbing 18 home runs and driving in 80 runs while hitting over .300. After spending most of the year in Single-A, Anderson has a while to go before he makes his MLB debut – especially considering the Red Sox are never out of contention these days. But he’ll be a name to keep an eye on down the road.

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