Blog Entry

National League West Preview

Posted on: February 12, 2008 3:11 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2008 8:44 pm
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Here is my National League West Preview for the 2008 season.


Arizona Diamondbacks
2007 Record: 90-72, 1st Place in the NL West, Lost to Colorado in NLCS
2008 Prediction: 90-72, 2nd Place in the NL West, NL Wild Card Winner

Key Additions:
Key Losses:
The Projected Lineup
  1. CF Chris Young
  2. 2B Orlando Hudson
  3. LF Eric Byrnes
  4. 3B Chad Tracy/Mark Reynolds
  5. 1B Conor Jackson
  6. SS Stephen Drew
  7. RF Justin Upton
  8. C Chris Snyder
  9. (pitcher)
Despite having one of the worst offenses in the National League last season, the Diamondbacks still managed to lead the league in wins. While each of their young players should progress this season, the team will once again be relying on their arms to carry them. There are still many questions that linger with the Diamondbacks offense. Chris Young has shown he has plenty of pop at the top of the order, but he'll need to sacrifice some of that in order to hit for average. A leadoff hitter with an on base percentage under .300 just won't cut it. In addition, it remains to be seen just how fast Stephen Drew and Justin Upton will progress. Meanwhile, the team will once again be relying on Eric Byrnes to carry the offense in the middle of the order. Speaking of Byrnes, can he still steal 50 bases in 2008? Or was his 2007 season just an anomaly? Mark Reynolds and Chad Tracy should be platoon partners at third base with Tracy hitting against right handed pitchers, and Reynolds batting against lefties. However, if the Diamondbacks feel they need to add an impact player at the deadline, look for one of these two players to be used as trade bait.


The Diamondbacks offense in 2008 will be depending on improvement from Stephen Drew, Chris Young, and Justin Upton.


The Bench
The Diamondbacks has improved a lot now with the addition of Chris Burke. Burke's versatility allows Diamondbacks manager, Bob Melvin, to have plenty of in game options as Burke can play all three outfield positions in addition to the middle infield. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks first pinch hit option could be Mark Reynolds or Chad Tracy (depending on who is in the lineup that day). As for Augie Ojeda, Jeff Salazar, and Miguel Montero, they will contribute more as late inning defensive replacements than they will with the bat.


Chris Burke, Jeff Salazar, and Mark Reynolds will be counted on in some big spots.


The Starting Rotation
  1. RHP Brandon Webb
  2. RHP Dan Haren
  3. LHP Randy Johnson
  4. LHP Doug Davis
  5. RHP Micah Owings
The Diamondbacks acquisition of Dan Haren was exactly what the team needed. With Haren, it gives the Diamondbacks at least two quality young starters at the top of the rotation. While Haren is more likely not the ace that he pitched like in the first half of 2007 for Oakland, he should log plenty of innings for the Diamondbacks and be a formidable number two starter. Meanwhile, anything the Diamondbacks can get out of Randy Johnson will be a bonus. While Johnson looked great last season, his constant injury problems make him unreliable at this point. Doug Davis and Micah Owings both had era's under the league average last season and the D-backs will need similar production in order to guarantee a return to October baseball. Regardless, as things stand now, the Diamondbacks have one of the best rotations in the National League and should remain competitive because of it.


Brandon Webb and newly acquired Dan Haren give the Diamondbacks a solid 1-2 punch at the front of the rotation.


The Bullpen
The biggest change this season in the bullpen for the Diamondbacks was that Jose Valverde was sent to Houston for Chad Qualls and Chris Burke. With Valvderde gone, the closer duties will turn over to Brandon Lyon, with 8th inning duties going to Tony Pena. Qualls will pitch in the 7th. The last couple of spots that are listed here are still up for grabs. Doug Slaten is coming off of injury and may not be ready for opening. If not, that means the D-Backs will start the season without a lefty in their bullpen. Meanwhile, Billy Buckner, who the team got from Kansas City via trade, should compete with Dustin Nippert and Edgar Gonzalez for the last spot.


Pitcher Tony Pena will be counted on more now with Jose Valverde gone.



Colorado Rockies
2007 Record: 90-73, 2nd Place in the NL West, Lost to Boston in World Series
2008 Projection: 79-83, 4th Place in the NL West

Key Additions:
Key Losses:
The Projected Lineup
  1. CF Willy Taveras
  2. 1B Todd Helton
  3. LF Matt Holliday
  4. 3B Garrett Atkins
  5. SS Troy Tulowitzki
  6. RF Brad Hawpe
  7. C Yorvit Torrealba
  8. 2B Marcus Giles
  9. (Pitcher)
As long as the Rockies continue to play at Coors Field, they will one of the best offensive teams in the National League. They are one of those teams that can still put up runs even if their best hitter is 0-4. The teams 2-6 hitters in the order are as good as it gets, but they will struggle to get much production from Taveras, Torrealba, and Giles. At least Torrealba is sound defensively. Giles still isn't a lock at the 2nd base position, but he's probably their best bet going forward. Manager Clint Hurdle has said that he would give Jayson Nix a chance to win the job in spring training, but Nix's minor league numbers don't impress me at all. Going into 2008, it will be interesting to see just how much of improvement/decline Troy Tulowitzki will have this season. Tulowitzki's 2007 numbers with the team essentially mirror those he put up in 2006 in AA. The Rockies did a great job by signing him to a long term deal early on. The same can't be said for Matt Holliday, who might become a free agent after the 2009 season.


The Rockies will once again be relying on Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday to lead them back to the postseason.


The Bench
Aside from Ryan Spilborghs, the rest of the Rockies bench is just mediocre. The Rockies signed players like Scott Podsednik and Matt Kata to come in and compete for reserve roles, but they would be worse off if they decided to carry them. Aside from Kata and Nix, the Rockies could also give Jeff Baker a look at the role. As for Podsednik, adding him to the bench would just take away at bats from Cory Sullivan and it would leave the Rockies without a centerfield replacement if Willy Taveras went down with another injury.

The Starting Rotation
  1. LHP Jeff Francis
  2. RHP Aaron Cook
  3. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
  4. RHP Jason Hirsh
  5. RHP Josh Towers/Kip Wells/ Mark Redman
The Rockies surprisingly had the best era in the 2nd half among National League teams a year ago. The pitching staff was what anchored this team into a playoff push in September. However, expecting them to repeat that performance, while playing half of their games at Coors Field seems unrealistic. Especially considering the fact that the bullpen weakened as well. Their should be a position battle for the 5th spot in the rotation as the Rockies seem unwilling to give the job to Franklin Morales to save his arm (instead, demoting him to the bullpen). Josh Towers, Kip Wells, and Mark Redman seem to be the frontrunners for the 5th spot.


Jeff Francis and Ubaldo Jimenez will dictate the Rockies success in 2008.

The Bullpen
If Franklin Morales does indeed join the bullpen, the Rockies will at least have one other lefty besides Brian Fuentes that they could use in a ballgame. Morales would fill the void left by Jeremy Affeldt, who left to sign with Cincinnati in the offseason. The Rockies brought in Luis Vizcaino this year to help set up for Corpas, but the fact that they gave him two years and paid him the same amount as LaTroy Hawkins makes this a risky deal. However, the Rockies one bright spot in the pen last season was the emergence of Manny Corpas as closer. Corpas should continue to improve this season and should be the anchor of the bullpen.


Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas hold the bullpen in check.



Los Angeles Dodgers
2007 Record: 82-80, 4th Place in the NL West
2008 Projection: 94-68, 1st Place in the NL West

Key Additions:
Key Losses:
  • Manager Grady Little
  • OF Luis Gonzalez
  • SP Randy Wolf
The Projected Lineup
  1. SS Rafael Furcal
  2. LF Juan Pierre
  3. C Russell Martin
  4. CF Andruw Jones
  5. 1B James Loney
  6. 2B Jeff Kent
  7. RF Matt Kemp
  8. 3B Nomar Garciaparra
  9. (pitcher)
After dealing with clubhouse issues for much of the 2007 season, the Dodgers fell out of contention quickly. However, new manager Joe Torre seems like the right man to right this ship and bring them back to October baseball. The 2008 Dodgers should be much improved from a season ago. The team has added Andruw Jones bat to the middle of their lineup and will be giving James Loney and Matt Kemp starting jobs to begin the season. The lineup has plenty of speed at the top with Furcal and Pierre and has a great mix of power and average from spots 3-8. While players like Jones and Nomar Garciaparra try to reverse their 2007 season, the team has plenty of fall back options including Andre Ethier and Andy LaRoche. Aside from the Rockies, the Dodgers should have the best lineup in the division.


James Loney and Matt Kemp bring a whole new energy to LA.

The Bench
GM Ned Colletti said that Andy LaRoche would get a chance to compete with Nomar Garciaparra for the starting job at third base, but I can't really see Joe Torre going with the youngster at the beginning of the season. Instead, it looks as if LaRoche will be delegated to bench duties. Him and Andre Ethier make the Dodgers bench one of the best in the National League. Ethier was bumped to the bench when the team signed Andruw Jones. Meanwhile, Tony Abreu makes for a good backup in the middle infield and the team recently signed Mark Sweeney to return as their main pinch hitter. Gary Bennett is a better defensive option than Mike Lieberthal was a year ago, but his playing time will be limited with Russell Martin as the starter.


The Dodgers Have the deepest bench in the National League.

The Starting Rotation
The Dodgers starting pitching isn't the best in the division, but their is no reason to suggest that it can't be competitive with other teams. Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, and Chad Billingsley all had era's better than league average last season. Outside of those three, the Dodgers have a few wild cards at the end of the rotation. The team signed Hiroki Kuroda from Japan, who was said to be a number four starter from Japan. Kuroda is known for his MLB fastball, but unlike many other Japanese pitchers, he lacks a good offspeed pitch to complement it. The same goes for Jason Schmidt, who the Dodgers signed for $16 million a year just a season ago. Schmidt will open the season as the Dodgers fifth starter if he's healthy, which would bump RHP Esteban Loaiza to the bullpen. Loaiza can be effective for the team at the end of the rotation, but his main problem these past few seasons has also been remaining healthy. If he has a strong spring, he might be a good candidate to be dealt. Meanwhile, the Dodgers still have Clayton Kershaw waiting in the minors and it might take a few injures before we see him.



The Bullpen
Takashi Saito has been one of the most underrated closers in the league. Last season, Saito posted an era of just 1.40, while netting 39 saves for the team. Both Jonathan Broxton and Joe Beimel give the Dodgers quality right handed and left handed set up options in the 7th and 8th innings. Scott Proctor should take the majority of the workload before that. Hong-Chi Kuo, Eric Stults, and Mike Myers will compete against each other to be the second lefty in LA's bullpen. Meanwhile, Yhency Brazoban is likely to start the season on the disabled list, so the Dodgers could call up Jonathan Meloan as they look for a temporary replacement.


The Dodger bullpen should be strong in the late innings.



San Diego Padres
2007 Record: 89-74, 3rd Place in the NL West
2008 Projection: 85-77, 3rd Place in the NL West

Key Additions:
Key Losses:
The Projected Lineup
  1. RF Brian Giles
  2. 2B Tadahito Iguchi
  3. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
  4. SS Khalil Greene
  5. CF Jim Edmonds
  6. 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
  7. C Josh Bard
  8. LF Scott Hairston
  9. (pitcher)
The Padres offense took a hit early in the offseason when they lost both Milton Bradley and Mike Cameron to free agency. However, GM Kevin Towers has done a decent job filling the hole. Towers landed Jim Edmonds from the Cardinals to replace Cameron in center and he also upgraded at second base by signing Tadahito Iguchi and letting Marcus Giles walk. Left field should be a position battle between Scott Hairston and Chase Headley, though it seems more likely that Headley will start the year in AAA. However, Hairston is still unproven and it remains to be seen just how well he'll succeed at an everyday role. After having a couple injuries since winning the rookie of the year award in 2004, the Padres finally saw Khalil Greene emerge last season which gave them an offensive boost. The Padres one weakness is that they lack speed on the basepaths and it remains to be seen if they'll even have it next year. It also doesn't help that the team plays half their games in PETCO Park.


Adrian Gonzalez and Brian Giles are the heart and sole of the Padres offense.

The Bench
Aside from Michael Barrett, the Padres could have one of the weakest benches in the National League. Some of the reasons for this is in part due to the team likley keeping both Matt Antonelli and Chase Headley in AAA to begin the season. Craig Stansberry is probably the best backup infielder the team could use, though management could also decide to go with rule 5 selection Callix Crabbe or Oscar Robles at the position. Jeff DaVanon picked the right team to sign with as he'll likely be the Padres fourth outfielder with Jody Gerut (a name that hasn't surfaced in years) competing for the 5th outfielder spot. I still think the Padres would be wise to sign a player like Shawn Green and let him platoon with Scott Hairston. Hairston has trouble hitting right handed pitching, something in which Green has done with ease throughout his career. Meanwhile, Green prefers playing on the west coast and could come cheap.

Michael Barrett and Tony Clark are the best two hitters off the Padres bench.

The Starting Rotation
  1. RHP Jake Peavy
  2. RHP Chris Young
  3. RHP Greg Maddux
  4. LHP Randy Wolf
  5. RHP Justin Germano/Mark Prior
The best news Padres fans heard this offseason came when Jake Peavy signed a three year extension with the team that could keep him on the team through 2013. With Peavy leading the way, young right hander Chris Young following suit, and veteran Greg Maddux providing quality support, the Padres once again will be one of the best pitching teams in the National League. At the back end, the team brought in both Randy Wolf and Mark Prior this offseason, but it remains to be seen just how much they will be able to contribute. Both players have had recent troubles with injuries.


Jake Peavy and Chris Young are the best 1-2 combo in the NL West.

The Bullpen

The Padres had the best bullpen era of any team in the National League by half a run last season and nothing changes as they enter 2008. The threesome of Merideth, Bell, and Hoffman in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings is as good as it gets. Meanwhile, the Padres have some solid relievers in Cameron, Thatcher, Guevara, and Hensley. The Padres traded up in the rule 5 draft to grab Guevara, who is a screwball specialist. Meanwhile, if any of these players gets hurt, the Padres have plenty of depth in the minors including Wilfredo Ledezma and Enrique Gonzalez. Justin Germano could also be moved to the pen if Mark Prior joins the starting rotation.


Heath Bell and Trevor Hoffman anchor this strong bullpen.


San Francisco Giants
2007 Record: 71-91, Last Place in the NL West
2008 Projection: 67-95, Last Place in the NL West

Key Additions:
Key Losses:
The Projected Lineup
  1. LF Dave Roberts
  2. SS Omar Vizquel
  3. RF Randy Winn
  4. CF Aaron Rowand
  5. C Bengie Molina
  6. 2B Ray Durham
  7. 1B Dan Ortmeier
  8. 3B Kevin Frandsen
  9. (pitcher)
Where to begin? Anytime you have Randy Winn, Aaron Rowand, and Bengie Molina as your 3-4-5 hitters in the lineup, you know your team is in trouble. The Giants are a complete mess this season. After finally departing with Barry Bonds, one must question that decision after GM Brian Sabean replaced him with Aaron Rowand. Rowand has always been a mediocre centerfielder and Sabean wrote a huge paycheck based on one solid season playing in one of the NL's friendliest hitters parks. He is the furthest thing from the franchise player the Giants needed. The Giants would have been much better off going after Alex Rodriguez (which they had the money to do so) or even Andruw Jones. Other than the Rowand signing, Sabean has remained complacent with his last place team from a year ago. The team has no farm system to speak of. The one farm system player that should be in the Giants lineup this season, Nat Schierholz, is getting blocked by Dave Roberts. The Giants need to try to unload these old contracts by the trade deadline and truly rebuild.


Giants GM Brian Sabean thinks Aaron Rowand is the answer.

The Bench
Among the reserves, Schierholz has the best potential and should be in the Giants starting outfield. Meanwhile, Rajai Davis, who the Giants got in return for Matt Morris at the deadline last year, gives the team some speed of the bench. Justin Leone hasn't really been on a big league roster since 2004, but he is the team's best backup option for now. That may change if the Giants somehow acquire Joe Crede from the White Sox, forcing Kevin Frandsen back to the bench. Aurilia is the team's most versatile backup, but will also be given the chance to beat out Dan Ortmeier for the starting job at first base. Meanwhile, Guillermo Rodriguez has beaten out Eliezer Alfonso as the Giants backup catcher due to his superior defense.



The Starting Rotation
  1. LHP Barry Zito
  2. RHP Matt Cain
  3. RHP Tim Lincecum
  4. LHP Noah Lowry
  5. LHP Jonathan Sanchez
The Giants are wasting away the years in which they have quality starting pitching because they can't seem to put together an offense that will win ballgames. While Barry Zito struggled in his transition to the National League last season, I think you can expect him to return to form in 2008. Meanwhile, Matt Cain was the league's best 16 loss pitcher as he posted an era of just 3.65 a season ago. Noah Lowry is coming off a great season last year and Jonathan Sanchez will make a decent 5th starter to round out the rotation. However, these pitchers aren't going to win games if the Giants don't add an impact bat. It's a shame.


It's going to be a long season for Giants pitchers without having any offensive support.

The Bullpen

The Giants bullpen is just average. Brian Wilson will be the third closer the Giants have had in the past year. Brad Hennessey should do a decent job of setting up, but outside of that, the only player that can be counted on is Kevin Correia. Steve Kline is coming off one of his worst seasons in years while Walker, Messenger, and Chulk are just average. Unless the Giants have the lead going into the 9th, I wouldn't be assured of any victory with this bullpen.
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Comments

Since: Jun 7, 2007
Posted on: February 19, 2008 4:16 pm
 

National League West Preview

#1 ColFan.... I want to respond to your post but it appears it is far too biased for me to logically debate it... What do you mean you have to include sweeps vs the Mets and Yankees? include them in what? As far as the Rox having improved this offseason... how? they looked to me to be the only team in their division that did not improve...  LA 12 games back? Is that a joke>? I want to hear you out, but that would be like having you take me seriously when I say the A's will win the pennant... It just doesn't even seem like a reasonable prayer at this point.



Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: February 19, 2008 12:15 am
 

National League West Preview

the only thing i disagree with is the rockies below .500????? they will be in the 3 horse race for the west at the end of the year. and 2nd in the west gets wild cardThe only thing I truly agree with in that statement is that the 2nd place team in the west will land the wild card.

As far as the Rockies go, the team has got a good group of young players to build around, but I'd be very surprised if they came anywhere close to the division again this year. Several other teams in the league have improved, including two in division rivals (Los Angeles and Arizona). The D-Backs added Dan Haren. The Dodgers added Andruw Jones and are getting their young stars more at bats. The Padres still have the best bullpen in the majors. What have the Rockies done to improve?......Nothing. They've lost Kaz Matsui, LaTroy Hawkins, and Jeremy Affeldt and replaced them with worse options.

The offense can't get much better than it was a year ago, and neither can the pitching. The fact that they had the lowest era in the national league in the 2nd half was a fluke. That just doesn't happen when playing in that park. As I said before, I'd be very surprised if the Rockies produce much over .500 in a much improved National League.



Since: Feb 6, 2008
Posted on: February 18, 2008 3:53 pm
 

National League West Preview

yea you cant count on streaks like that mut the rox had a TERRIBLE april and may but still managed to stay 8 games back at the break.

Plus you have to include there regular season sweeps vs the yankees and mets as well as 2 of 3 from the braves and boston. they were not a fluke and thay only got better this season

it will end like this

1. ARIZONA

2. ROCKIES 2.5 games back

3. PADRES 5 games back

4. LA 12 games back

5. the weak giants at 25 games back




Since: Jun 7, 2007
Posted on: February 18, 2008 3:19 pm
 

National League West Preview

the only thing i disagree with is the rockies below .500????? they will be in the 3 horse race for the west at the end of the year. and 2nd in the west gets wild card

I doubt it... and even if they were in a 3 horse race in the NLW, it is more likely the 3rd horse is the Pad-Squad... The Rockies had a fantastic stretch to finish the year last year, but runs like those can not be predicted, based on the fact that the year has not started... momentum can't be taken into consideration... IMO on paper, the D-Backs and the Dodgers stand alone...

Fantastic work BP, and while I have the D-backs over the Dodgers, I can see why you put everyone where you did...




Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: February 18, 2008 2:13 pm
 

National League West Preview

Chad Tracy still hasn't started running as of the last update a few days agoThe Arizona Republic reported last friday that he should be cleared to start running this week. As for him taking time away from Reynolds and Jackson, that is the prime reason I think he could be a candidate to be traded at the deadline. Tracy should be a starter, yet the D-backs already have fits at those positions that are cheaper.

As for the Dodgers being picked to win the West, that is a reasonable pick, but it will be a lot harder for them if they give over 1000 plate appearances to Pierre and Nomar combined.We'll see. Pierre and Garciaparra combine for 1000 last season and the Dodgers only finished 8 games back. And that's with Loney and Kemp not being with the team all season (which they were giving those at bats to Wilson Betemit). I don't believe Garciaparra will be as bad as he was a year ago. His previous numbers suggest that he's a better player than that. While the Dodgers would be better off going with LaRoche and Ethier starting, them winning it with Pierre and Garciaparra isn't out of the question.

On a side note: The Los Angeles Daily news suggested that Ethier will enter camp higher on the depth chart than Pierre....I don't really buy it, considering the cost of Pierre's contract, but it is something to watch and see if the report is true.



Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: February 18, 2008 1:56 pm
 

National League West Preview

Randy will bat 2nd, Rowand 3rd, and there will be an acquisition before ST is over to fill the 4 hole(probably Crede, and he's no clean up hitter).I know.....But I can't put in a trade that has yet to happen. In addition, with regards to Frandsen, everything I've read suggest that if the Giants land a third basemen, it will be an open competition at 2nd base between him and Durham. And since Durham is making $7.5 million this season, I think they will give him a long look before going to Frandsen.




Since: Feb 6, 2008
Posted on: February 18, 2008 12:04 pm
 

National League West Preview

the only thing i disagree with is the rockies below .500????? they will be in the 3 horse race for the west at the end of the year. and 2nd in the west gets wild card



Since: Aug 11, 2006
Posted on: February 14, 2008 5:13 pm
 

National League West Preview

Terrific work BP. 

No nits to pick....just a couple of fill in points for the  D Backs

Chad Tracy still hasn't started running as of the last update a few days ago, but he was taking grounders and swinging a bat. The current thinking is he will start the year on the DL, but should be ready by April 15-22.  Depending on how he looks in the field, and how much range and mobility he has,  he could be taking time from  either of Reynolds or Jackson.   If either one of those guys slumps badly to start the season, look for Tracy's initial at bats to come at that players expense. Between 1b-3b and corner infielder pinch hit opportunites there are roughly 1400 Plate Appearances.  I'd guess Jackson and Reynolds each get around 500 and Tracy around 350.  They probably won't try to play Tracy on back to back days the first month he is back, so I would not expect to see him on back to back days until some time in late May.

For the D backs bench...don't forget Micah Owings.  He will be used as a pinch hitter, and may even get an occasional start at first base or DH during the season.  I project Owings to get about 80 PA's from his pitching starts, and another 40-60 PA's from PH and spot start duty.

For the D Backs Bullpen, I'll be pretty surprised if Medders earns a spot.  Latest word is that Slaten is throwing off a mound already, so I think he'll be ready unless he has a setback.   Keep an eye out for guys like Max Scherzer, (who will almost certainly make his major league debut this year) as well as  Leo Rosales , Emiliano Fruto,  Jailen Peguero , Juan Guitierrez, and Billy Murphy if they need a lefty.   Any or all of these guys will be called upon at some point in the season to give some innings, and they all have pretty good stuff, so one of them could stick.  Josh Byrnes has really gathered quite a collection of underrated arms. The bullpen should do well in the war of attrition that is the 162 game season.

As for the rotation, if RJ has issues with his back, look for Edgar Gonzalez and Yusmeiro Petit to be the guys called upon to fill in.


As for the Dodgers being picked to win the West, that is a reasonable pick, but it will be a lot harder for them if they give over 1000 plate appearances to Pierre and Nomar combined.  I hope they do though. 


ihateorange1
Since: Jan 6, 2008
Posted on: February 14, 2008 1:08 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator




Since: Dec 14, 2007
Posted on: February 14, 2008 7:24 am
 

National League West Preview

TigersMAN: After reviewing his blog you are right. BP you hit the nail on the head.



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