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Tag:AL East
Posted on: March 3, 2012 8:43 pm
 

Spring primer: Toronto Blue Jays



By Matt Snyder

The 2011 Blue Jays were 81-81, despite blowing an AL-worst 25 saves. So the task heading into the offseason for general manager Alex Anthopolous was pretty clear: Improve the bullpen. And he did, in trading for Sergio Santos and signing Francisco Cordero, among other upgrades. If the Blue Jays can knock off 10-15 of those blown saves and basically play similarly in every other aspect, they'll have a great shot at one of the two wild card spots. And the good news for the Jays is that they appear a bit better in other aspects than last season, like getting a full season from Brett Lawrie, to name one example.

Major additions: RHP Sergio Santos, RHP Francisco Cordero, LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Jason Frasor, OF Ben Francisco, IF Omar Vizquel
Major departures: C Jose Molina, RHP Frank Francisco, RHP Jon Rauch

Probable lineup
1. Yunel Escobar, SS
2. Kelly Johnson, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Adam Lind, 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Colby Rasmus, CF
8. Eric Thames, LF
9. J.P. Arencibia, C

Probable rotation
1. Ricky Romero
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Henderson Alvarez
4. Brett Cecil
5. Dustin McGowan

Kyle Drabek is also in the mix.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Sergio Santos
Set-up: Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen

Important bench players

OF Rajai Davis, OF Ben Francisco, OF Travis Snider, C Jeff Mathis, IF Omar Vizquel

Prospect to watch
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, one of the players who came over in the Roy Halladay trade, just turned 23 years old and is considered a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. He hit .311/.371/.542 with 21 homers in 114 Double-A games last season. And while Arencibia hit 23 bombs last season, he also had a paltry .219 batting average and .282 on-base percentage. He struck out 133 times while only walking 36. So it's entirely possible he struggles mightily and is replaced by d'Arnaud at some point this season. Or maybe the Jays trade one of them? We'll see, but keep your eye on d'Arnaud's progress. Many believe he's special.

Fantasy sleeper: Henderson Alvarez
"Alvarez wasn't considered a high-profile prospect at this time last year, so understandably, his 10 starts during a late-season trial weren't enough to put him on most Fantasy owners' radars. But consider just how impressive those 10 starts were. Better yet, consider how impressive his final eight were. He pitched at least six innings in each, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He also issued only six walks during that stretch. Six. In 53 innings. And this isn't some soft-tosser who took the league by surprise simply by throwing strikes, a la Zach Duke in 2005. Alvarez throws in the mid-90s. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff to go along with a good feel for the strike zone and has already tasted success in the heavy-hitting AL East." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Fantasy bust: J.P. Arencibia
"Arencibia was one of five catchers to hit 20-plus homers last year, and he did it as a rookie. But before visions of Mike Piazza start dancing in your heads, keep in mind he was especially old for a rookie, turning 25 before the start of the season. He's 26 now, which means he's already in the thick of his prime, which means what you see with him might be exactly what you get. And it's even worse than it looks. Arencibia hit only .219 in 2011, which is discouraging enough, but when you consider he got worse over the course of the season, hitting .199 over the final four months, you have to wonder if his excessive strikeout rate makes him a sitting duck against major-league pitching." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Optimistic outlook
Morrow has a huge breakout campaign, giving the Jays a potent 1-2 punch in the rotation. Alvarez blossoms into a good No. 3 while Drabek realizes his potential and has a huge second half. Lawrie enters stardom early and Rasmus reaches his potential, making the offense even more potent than before. Plus, the new back-end of the bullpen is dominant. That gets the Blue Jays into the 90s in victories and they win a wild card.

Pessimistic outlook
The Jays just didn't do enough to close the gap, as they still aren't good enough to finish ahead of any of the following, at the very least: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers or Angels. Instead, they're more on the same footing as the Royals and Indians. Thus, it's another fourth-place finish for the Blue Jays, who haven't made the playoffs since 1993.

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Posted on: March 3, 2012 6:19 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 6:29 pm
 

Injury roundup: Wright, Marcum, Gordon and more

By Matt Snyder

Mets third baseman David Wright was scratched from the lineup in an intrasquad game Saturday due to soreness in his left side. Per the Associated Press, he has stiffness near his ribcage, something he felt back on Monday. He has been limited in workouts this week, but it's nothing to worry about just yet.

"If it was a real game, obviously I would be playing," Wright said (Associated Press). "But they wanted to try to take it slow, especially this early in the spring."

The Mets are looking for Wright to play in their Grapefruit League opener Monday night.

Other minor injury news and updates from Saturday:

• Hopefully this doesn't become a daily thing, but we have another Carl Crawford update. The Red Sox left fielder had a setback Friday with swelling in his surgically repaired wrist, but Saturday he reiterated his goal is to be ready for opening day. He's taking anti-inflammatory medication and the swelling has already decreased. (BostonHerald.com)

Brewers starting pitcher Shaun Marcum threw Saturday and reportedly indicated he felt "much better." His shoulder soreness is going away and he's scheduled to pitch his first spring game March 10. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via Twitter)

Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon took a bad hop to the mouth Saturday. He received "several stitches to close a gash on his lip." (MLB.com)

• Remember Kiko Calero? CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports that Calero is "considering Bartolo Colon surgery as he weighs a comeback." Colon had surgery that placed fat and bone marrow stem cells into his elbow and shoulder, helping him get his career back on track with the Yankees last season. Calero, 37, last pitched in 2009 for the Marlins. He had a 1.95 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in 60 innings.

Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was one of several starting pitchers to go down with lower back stiffness early on in camp, but he threw from 105 feet Saturday and will back up to 120 feet Sunday. He will then hit the mound either Tuesday or Wednesday, as his back is feeling better. (CSNBayArea.com via Twitter)

• Mets outfielder Scott Hairston was removed from Saturday's intrasquad game with an apparent side injury. Remember, Hairston ended the 2011 season on the disabled list with a strained oblique. (ESPN New York)

• Giants reliever Dan Runzler has left camp and will fly to see Dr. James Andrews for an examination on his left shoulder and lat area. An MRI showed the left-handers' rotator cuff, but surgery hasn't been ruled out. It really doesn't sound good, as even a strained lat muscle would put Runzler out for around six weeks. (CSNBayArea.com)

Padres infielder Logan Forsythe fractured a sesamoid bone in his left foot Saturday and will be out for anywhere from two to eight weeks. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

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Posted on: March 3, 2012 2:48 pm
 

Ortiz, Gonzalez experiment could happen again

By Matt Snyder

The experiment lasted a mere 13 innings last season. Adrian Gonzalez made two starts and played 13 innings in right field for the Red Sox during interleague play, in order to get David Ortiz into the lineup at first base -- where he also appeared in just 13 innings.

At the time, both sluggers joked about their defensive "prowess" in the unfamiliar positions.

"I told [second baseman Dustin Pedroia], 'Anything up there [in the air] is yours ... and anything on the ground is yours, too,'" Ortiz said (via Danny Knobler's blog last season). "I just have to make sure I catch the balls they throw to me."

"[Pedroia] is going to have to cover first base and right field," Gonzalez said (Knobler blog).

Fast-forward to this spring, and new manager Bobby Valentine appears serious about getting the two more comfortable. In an exhibition game Saturday night, Ortiz will start at first. Sunday, Gonzalez is scheduled to workout in right.

“Right now, (Ortiz) is conditioned to do it,” Valentine said (BostonHerald.com). “If, in fact, during the interleague play, it’s determined that he should play in the field, I think he should have these reps on his resume so that he feels that he’s done it before this year and that he can do it again. This isn’t just to get his at-bats. This is because I’ve talked with him and Adrian and there might be a situation during the year where he’s going to be a first baseman.”

So it doesn't sound like Valentine is pushing for this to be a full-time situation during interleague play, but it's definitely on the table again.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 8:20 pm
 

Injury roundup: Lee, Freeman, Crawford and more

By Matt Snyder

As happens every single spring, the minor little injuries are starting to pop up all over the place. It's bound to happen when guys first start hitting the field after a long offseason, especially with older players like 35-year-old Carlos Lee.

Lee, the Astros' first baseman, has already been scratched from Saturday's lineup due to a mild right hamstring strain. (Ultimate Astros)

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman had his kneecap briefly dislocated earlier this week, but he had an encouraging jog Friday.

"I feel great," Freeman said (MLB.com). "Hopefully, they will let me start hitting [in batting practice] again tomorrow or Sunday."

Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford is aiming for an opening day return from his offseason wrist surgery -- which he had in the middle of January -- but he had a small setback Friday. There was some inflammation in his wrist and he didn't end up taking any swings.

"I'm always concerned when there's a setback. I don't know how bad it is. But according to the doctor it doesn't look that bad," Crawford said (Boston.com). "I was feeling real good, too. I wasn't expecting this."

• Sticking with the Red Sox, closer Andrew Bailey has been limited with a lat strain, but he's "inching closer" to pitching in a spring game, after a 20-pitch bullpen session Thursday. (BostonHerald.com)

Mark Trumbo of the Angels is making progress in his recovery from a stress fracture in his right foot, to the point that he's been able to get into "more intense" workouts at third base -- where he's attempting to transition.

"We haven't been able to find out [how well he can play third], because he looks fine in some of the baby steps, but his hurdle is going to come when the game comes to full speed, [when the] ball off the bat becomes full speed," manager Mike Scioscia said (MLB.com). "We haven't been able to get close to that because of trying to fit in his rehab. He's done as much as he can, outside of the things that we're going to need him to do to evaluate him. Although those things are encouraging, the test for him is going to be much deeper as he moves on to see if he's going to be a Major League third baseman."

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley isn't necessarily injured, but after the past few seasons, the Phillies are bringing him along slowly this spring to make sure he's fine come opening day.

"It might be a little while before I play him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said (Philly.com). "I want him to keep doing his regular workouts. Right now, I'm in no hurry to play him as long as we can have him ready when the season starts. We just want him to feel good about where he's at with his practice and hitting."

• The Rays have several smallish updates. Evan Longoria will return to likely action Monday from his bruised hand. Phenom pitcher Matt Moore doesn't have lower abdominal discomfort any longer. Designated hitter Luke Scott and outfielder Sam Fuld will be delayed before appearing in any spring games. Scott had shoulder surgery last season, so it's just the club taking it slow. Fuld is in a similar situation of patience, as he had an injury in the tendon of his right wrist late last season. (MLB.com)

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 6:31 pm
 

Fielding Bible projections for 2012 released



By Matt Snyder


Highly-respected defensive analysts John Dewan and Ben Jedlovec have released their Fielding Bible projections for the 2012 Major League Baseball season, with the Tampa Bay Rays being projected as the best defense in the majors and the Miami Marlins proejected to have the worst.

The system used in the Fielding Bible is "defensive runs saved," which doesn't only factor in errors, it also uses range and player placement to determine how many runs a defense either saves pitchers or costs them. Clubs with a positive score are said to have defensively saved pitchers runs while those with a negative score have cost their pitching stuff some runs.

Last season, the Rays were the best in the majors with a +85 score. That's quite a feat, saving 85 runs for your pitching staff. On the flip side, the Marlins checked in with a -75, which is flat-out atrocious.

This season, the projections have the Rays saving 42 runs and the Marlins at a -30.

The top five projected defenses for 2012, in order, in the projections: Rays, Mariners, Reds, Rangers and Angels.

The bottom five, listed from 26-30: Orioles, Cubs, Mets, Twins and Marlins.

The Phillies made the highest leap from last year's score to this year's projection, going from a -59 ('11 score) to +6. Losing Raul Ibanez from left field helps, as does having a full season of Hunter Pence and someone other than Ryan Howard manning first base for a few months, the press release for the Fielding Bible noted.

Other teams with projections showing a big improvement from last season were the Mariners, Rangers, Yankees and A's (though the A's are still projected in the negative).

The clubs expected to take the biggest hit defensively are the Astros (going from 12th ranked to 25th) and Dodgers (11th to 24th). Losing Pence and Michael Bourn for the first half of the season has to be a major part of the Astros slide. The Tigers -- with Miguel Cabrera shifting to third base -- Brewers, Padres and Rockies are also projected to fall down the Fielding Bible standings.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 3:56 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 9:32 pm
 

2012 MLB top prospects



By Matt Snyder


We at CBSSports.com don't have a scouting guru, but prospect rankings are incredibly popular among fans these days, so we aren't about to neglect covering the preseason rankings. So this post will contain the consensus top 60 prospects from the baseball world. I've gone through and averaged out the rankings from the five major outlets that do them.

Why 60? Well, the outlets usually rank 100 (Baseball Prospectus does 101), but after around 50 there's nothing close to a consensus. It's a muddled mess of disagreement. There were 147 players mentioned between the five top 100 (or 101) lists and once you get north of a certain handful of can't-miss prospects, the rankings are all over the place. Even in the top 60 below, you've got someone like Wily Peralta from the Brewers' system. He was ranked 39th by ESPN.com and 94th by Baseball Prospectus. Hak-Ju Lee of the Rays was ranked 12th, 20th, 44th, 46th and 67th, respectively, by the five outlets.

One thing they do agree upon? The top three prospects in baseball are Matt Moore, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Of course, they don't agree on the order.

The five rankings sets we used:

- Baseball Prospectus (Kevin Goldstein)
- ESPN.com (Keith Law)
- MLB.com (Jonathan Mayo)
- Baseball America (staff vote)
- Scout.com on FoxSports.com (Frankie Piliere)

So here are the consensus top 60 prospects in baseball, according to these five published outlets. Notes of other things that might interest will follow the chart.

Prospect Position Organization Average rank
Best rank
Worst rank
1. Matt Moore
LHP Rays 1.6 1 3
2. Bryce Harper
OF Nationals 2 1 3
3. Mike Trout
OF Angels 2.4 1 3
4. Jurickson Profar
SS Rangers 6.4 4 7
5. Shelby Miller
RHP Cardinals 6.8 5 10
6. Julio Teheran
RHP Braves 7.2 4 18
7. Manny Machado
SS Orioles 7.4 4 11
8. Jesus Montero
C Mariners 7.8 5 12
9. Gerrit Cole
RHP Pirates 10.4 9 12
10. Dylan Bundy
RHP Orioles 13.4 6 30
11. Jameson Taillon
RHP Pirates 13.6 8 16
12. Devin Mesoraco
C Reds 15 8 25
13. Trevor Bauer
RHP Diamondbacks 17.2 9 21
14. Jacob Turner
RHP Tigers 18.4 11 29
15. Wil Myers
OF Royals 19.2 13 28
16. Manny Banuelos
LHP Yankees 20.8 9 30
17. Miguel Sano
3B Twins 21 12 28
18. Travis d'Arnaud
C Blue Jays 21.4 6 43
19. Tyler Skaggs
LHP Diamondbacks 21.4 13 26
20. Danny Hultzen
LHP Mariners 23.2 13 36
21. Bubba Starling
OF Royals 25 15 41
22. Nolan Arenado
3B Rockies 25.8 18 42
23. Carlos Martinez
RHP Cardinals 26 19 32
24. Archie Bradley
RHP Diamondbacks 28 19 38
25. Anthony Rendon
3B Nationals 29.2 17 56
26. Drew Pomeranz
LHP Rockies 29.6 14 45
27. Taijuan Walker
RHP Mariners 30.6 14 77
28. Jarrod Parker
RHP A's 31.6 23 52
29. Zack Wheeler
RHP Mets 34.8 27 53
30. Arodys Vizcaino
RHP Braves 35 14 64
31. Francisco Lindor
SS Indians 36.2 17 60
32. Hak-Ju Lee
SS Rays 37.8 12 67
33. Matt Harvey RHP Mets 41.6 26 54
34. Martin Perez
LHP Rangers 44.4 20 UR
35. Michael Choice
OF A's 45 16 80
36. Gary Brown
OF Giants 45.8 18 68
37. Christian Yelich
OF Marlins 46.6 34 75
38. Brett Jackson
OF Cubs 46.8 32 89
39. Jonathan Singleton
1B Astros 47.6 34 75
40. Billy Hamilton
SS Reds 47.8 23 70
41. Mike Montgomery
LHP Royals 48.6 23 UR
42. Jean Segura
SS Angels 49 22 69
43. Anthony Rizzo
1B Cubs 49 36 77
44. Jake Marisnick OF Blue Jays 50 29 67
45. Jarred Cosart
RHP Astros 52.8 25 78
46. Mike Olt
3B Rangers 54 43 75
47. Anthony Gose
OF Blue Jays 54 39 70
48. Xander Bogaerts
SS Red Sox 54.2 33 76
49. Nick Castellanos
3B Tigers 55 37 73
50. Zach Lee RHP Dodgers 55.8 41 72
51. Dellin Betances
RHP Yankees 56 28 83
52. Gary Sanchez
C Yankees 56.2 42 81
53. Wily Peralta
RHP Brewers 56.8 39 94
54. Randall Delgado RHP Braves 56.8 42 98
55. George Springer
OF Astros 57.4 33 84
56. Jake Odorizzi
RHP Royals 57.8 47 71
57. Oscar Taveras
OF Cardinals 58.2 24 UR
58. Rymer Liriano
OF Padres 60.6 40 100
59. James Paxton
LHP Mariners 62.4 51 77
60. A.J. Cole
RHP A's 63.2 33 88

• If a player went unranked by any outlet, he received a value of 105 in the calculated average. More than one of those would easily be enough to knock a guy from the ranks, so everyone above with a "UR" next to his name in the "worst rank" category above was ranked by four of the five outlets.

• Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish was ranked fourth by Baseball America and ignored by all other outlets. I've got to believe the four outlets that didn't rank the Japanese phenom don't consider him a prospect. Which is weird, because most define "prospect" as someone who still has "rookie" eligibility. Darvish still does, but they have the right to rank whomever they wish.

Athletics' outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was ranked 20th by Goldstein and 14th by Baseball America while the other three outlets declined to rank him. My response to this would be similar to that of Darvish.

• Goldstein mentioned that he'd rank Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler 39th, so I actually plugged him in and bumped everyone else down one spot. After all, I fully expect Soler to be signed sometime this season. Still, Soler didn't make the top 60 above because no one else ranked him.

Nick Franklin (SS, Mariners) would have easily made the top 60 here, but Goldstein left him unranked.

Will Middlebrooks (3B, Red Sox) would have easily made the top 60 here, but Law left him unranked.

• The following players were ranked somewhere by all five outlets but didn't make the cut for the average top 60, listed in order of best average ranking: Yasmani Grandal (C, Padres), Casey Kelly (RHP, Padres), Trevor May (RHP, Phillies), Yonder Alonso (1B, Padres), Sonny Gray (RHP, A's), Starling Marte (OF, Pirates), Josh Bell (OF, Pirates), Javier Baez (SS, Cubs), Mason Williams (OF, Yankees), Jedd Gyorko (3B, Padres) and Addison Reed (RHP, White Sox).

• For the complete lists of each, please note I linked to them in the introduction above. Just click on it and go (of course, ESPN.com and Baseball Prospectus are pay sites, so you can't see those for free). Those guys all focus on scouting throughout the year as their primary job, so they know more than you and I on this front.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:39 am
 

Former top pick arrested on drug charges

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The sad story of Brien Taylor took another turn on Thursday, as the former top overall pick was arrested on charges of cocaine trafficking, according to the Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C.

Taylor was the No. 1 pick in the 1991 draft by the Yankees and with agent Scott Boras, signed a $1.55 million contract, a record at the time.

Two years later, Taylor suffered a torn labrum in his throwing arm while defending his brother in a fight and was never the same. He was released by the Yankees after the 1998 season and then pitched in the minor-league systems of the Mariners and Indians before retiring in 2000. The left-hander was the second No. 1 overall pick to never play in the big leagues. The first was Steve Chilcott in 1966.

According to the Daily News, the 40-year-old Taylor was arrested after local police had purchased a "large quantity of cocaine and crack cocaine" from Taylor over the course of several months. He's charged with two counts each of trafficking in cocaine by possession, trafficking in cocaine by sell, trafficking in cocaine by deliver, trafficking in cocaine by manufacture, trafficking in cocaine by transport and felony maintaining a vehicle. He is also charged with one count each of possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver cocaine and sell and deliver cocaine. He was placed in the Carteret County Jail under a $275,000 bond.

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:13 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 5:40 pm
 

Yankees aim to get payroll under $189M by '14



By Matt Snyder


The New York Yankees are going to be doing a little tightening of the belt. Thursday, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told reporters that the "goal" is to have the payroll below $189 million before the 2014 season. That's not an arbitrary placement or year and monetary figure, either, as baseball's new collective bargaining agreement has set the luxury tax threshold at $189 million and it goes into effect starting in 2014. Also, goal may not be the correct word here.

"I'm looking at it as a goal, but my goals are normally considered requirements," Steinbrenner said (Associated Press). "Is it a requirement with baseball that we be at 189? No, it's not a requirement. But that is going to be the luxury-tax threshold, and that's where I want to be."

The Yankees were hit with a $13.9 million luxury tax last season.

The Yankees are heading for opening day with a payroll of around $210 million this season, according to Steinbrenner. Here's what the opening day payrolls have looked like since 2004, the last time the Yankees weren't over $189 million, via Baseball Prospectus' Cot's Contracts:

2004: $184,193,950
2005: $208,306,817
2006: $194,663,079
2007: $189,639,045
2008: $209,081,577
2009: $201,449,189
2010: $213,359,389
2011: $207,047,964

Steinbrenner sounds like he wants to -- at least mildly -- shift focus, too.

"I'm a finance geek. I guess I always have been. That's my background," he said (MLB.com). "Budgets matter, and balance sheets matter. I just feel that if you do well on the player development side and you have a good farm system, you don't need a $220 million payroll. You don't. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent."

It's going to be interesting to see how they squeeze down under the threshold, because Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez are due to make over $70 million combined in 2014. Derek Jeter has an $8 million player option, too. You also have to assume Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson are going to command huge paydays (both have club options in 2013 but are free agents after that). Brett Gardner and David Robertson will be in their final year of arbitration while Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda are also still under club control. Otherwise, the roster will have to be filled out from the farm system, trades or free agency.

The Yankees do have some promising young prospects like pitchers Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos.

"We'll see how these young kids perform towards the end of this year and into next year," Steinbrenner said (AP). "The young kids are going to play a big part of being able to lower this payroll. I am going to need some of these young pitchers to step up."

Still, the bottom line is we might be seeing a lot more offseasons like this one -- where the Yankees take a backseat on the huge free agent signings.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com