Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughts on the Free Agent "Chaos"

According to sources, ESPN's Adam Schefter has not slept since the lockout began.
Things have been absolutely chaotic with the delayed opening of NFL free agency (I feel obligated to say that since every talking head on ESPN has pointed that out at least 7 times).  Here are a few of my observations on a few of the key events from Thursday.
1. If Nnamdi Asomugha does land with the Jets, no one will disagree that the team will possess the best cornerback duo in the league.  Is it possible that they could be the most talented and dynamic tandem in NFL History?  The NFL Network attempted to identify the best tandems in the history of the league back in 2009.  Where do you think this super-tandem would rank?

2.  The Dallas Cowboys were very busy shedding salary on Thursday, officially releasing Marion Barber, Roy Williams, Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis (among others).  Many have interpreted these moves as a sign that “Jason Garrett is now in charge!”  The truth is, those players don’t deserve their contracts and would have been cut by the majority of teams around the league.  But if people get fired up by this story, go for it.  The truth is and always will be, it’s Jerry’s team.

3.  Staying on the Cowboys, it has been pointed out by a variety of writers that, though the Cowboys have done an admirable job clearing cap space this season, they will be sitting on $20.9 million of dead money in 2012.  They better win now. Yikes.

4. The Washington Redskins threw $27.5 million at Stephen Bowen when no one else would.  My gut tells me that’s way too much.  But I guess the Redskins know what they are doing with defensive linemen.  They did just spend over $25 million on a fifth round pick in 2013.

5. Something just doesn’t feel right with the Patriots.  Maybe I will be proven wrong over time, but it sure feels like the Pats are panicking in an attempt to match the Jets talent.  Randy Moss was a calculated risk with talent.  Ocho-Cinco is a sideshow clown and Albert Haynesworth has done nothing to indicate that he enjoys the game of football.

6. The Seahawks are strange.  They are kind of like that gothic kid in high school.  No one quite understands what they are thinking, but it’s difficult not to be intrigued from a distance simply because of their odd behavior.  Apparently Robert Gallery is their answer at left guard.  That is really all I want to say about that.

7. If I were an Arizona Cardinals fan, the whole Kevin Kolb experiment would scare the hell out of me.  Career numbers thus far: 19 games, 60.8% completion rate, 11 TD, 14 INT, QB rating of 73.2.

No, those numbers don’t tell the whole story.  The value is in his potential.  But that’s a dangerous word to use when committing $63 million over 5 years.  Read Mike Florio's thoughts on the deal.
Feel free to disagree with me.  70% of the time, I am about 62% right.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Ivy League 'Gets It'

Year after year, the Ivy League produces some of the top prospects in America and around the globe.  The eight-team conference, established in 1954, includes perennial powerhouses Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Brown University. 

No, we aren’t talking about sports.  We are talking about some of the most highly decorated and prestigious universities in the world. 

Each of the last four US Presidents attended an Ivy League School.  The faculty and alumni of Columbia University alone have captured 96 different Noble Prizes.  And US News ranks the Harvard Medical School as the no. 1 research medical school in the nation.

So when the Ivy League boldly sets a precedent and establishes new health guidelines, I listen.  Even when talking about sports.

The New York Times first reported the Ivy League’s plans to limit full contact practices for the upcoming 2011 football season.  The aim is to reduce the number of opportunities for student athletes to sustain head injuries. Below are a few of the key rule changes.

  • Teams will be allowed a maximum of two full-contact practices per week during the season. 
  • In the off-season, the number of contact-free practices will be increased from three to four.
  • During preseason two-a-days, only one full-contact session will be allowed daily.
These changes will collectively reduce the number of contact practices by 42 percent compared to the current NCAA limits.

The numbers are simply too staggering for the rest of the NCAA to ignore.  If the NCAA as a governing body is unimpressed, major conferences should take the lead and implement similar strategies to protect their student athletes.

If Charles Barkley offered you advice on your golf swing, you would simply ignore it.  He has zero credibility in that area.  However, if Jack Nicklaus, the greatest golfer who ever lived, offered a helpful hint to fix your slice, you would do exactly what he says.

It’s not a perfect plan, but the sport’s brightest have chimed in.  They’ve got my attention.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Distance Makes the Heart Grow...Fonder?

After the Dallas Mavericks captured their first NBA Championship in franchise history, the celebration lasted over a month.

A parade through downtown Dallas was culminated at the AAC by the singing of ‘We are the Champions’.  The team was featured on The Late Show with David Letterman, as well as The George Lopez Show.  And finally, the world-champions were showered with awards at the 2011 ESPYs, capturing the awards for ‘Best Team’, ‘Best Male Athlete’, ‘Best NBA player’, and ‘Best Coach’.


But now the players will inevitably go their separate ways.  JJ Barea has already made his much anticipated return to Puerto Rico.  3300 miles away, Tyson Chandler returned to his West coast home in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. And Caron Butler will venture back home to the Washington D.C. area, three time zones away.

While a typical offseason would have seen free agency begin on July 1, the likelihood of a long lockout threatens to push this date well into 2012.  Ignoring the potential terms of a new CBA, is it possible that a delayed free agency might damage the Mavs chances of retaining their key players for their title defense?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

Fresh off of the greatest season in franchise history, the Mavs were in a favorable position to keep the core of their team intact.  However, after a prolonged lockout, the magical feeling will fade.  The incredible memories will become more distant, and the strength of the always-important dollar may prevail.

Mark Cuban will open his pocket book wide to bring back the core of this Mavericks team, but even he will have his limitations.  Will Chandler, Barea, Butler and DeShawn Stevenson chase the highest payday?  Or will the fading memory of their month-long celebration win out?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Creative Ousting of Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt is a menace.

Baseball hates him. Dodger’s fans hate him.  The players surely hate him.  And hell, his estranged wife hates him despite her near million dollar allowance.

But for some mysterious reason, he still doesn’t get the message. 

Fans have in some shape boycotted games this season, as attendance has dropped by an incredible 7,153 fans per game, the largest drop in baseball.  But that has done little to deter the litigation-happy owner.

More needs to be done to force Frank’s hand.  So I came up with a few, well, creative solutions to get Frank out of town.  Here they are in no particular order.

1. Stop parking at Dodgers Stadium
$15 per car. 20,000 cars per game. 81 home dates.  That’s roughly $24.3 million for the season.  Frank relies on that cash to fund the team, his investments, and his wife.  Don’t boycott the games and give up on your favorite players; steal the easy money from Frank.

And how great a site would it be to arrive at the game to an empty parking lot?  That’s a statement.

Take public transportation: the bus, a cab, the train system. Do what it takes.

2.  Start a PR campaign…against FOX

FOX has reportedly offered McCourt and the Dodgers a $3 billion television deal that could potentially solidify the owners’ financial hold on the club. Though the deal has been rejected by Bud Selig and MLB, it remains the only viable option for Frank’s survival.

Remove FOX from the equation, and Frank will be forced to leave.

How you ask?  Attack FOX.  Send letters.  Make phone calls.  Start social networking campaigns.  If the fans turn on FOX, perhaps the deal would disappear.  No network station wants the stain of being hated by the second largest market in the nation.

3. Free t-shirt giveaway, Sponsored by ©

Attention corporate America, this idea could work wonders.  If you really want to make a name for yourself, sponsor your own non-Dodger sanctioned t-shirt giveaway.  Here are some samples I prepared on behalf of a few potential advertisers.

Now here are the proposed logistics.  Purchase roughly 30,000 t-shirts. Three hours before game time, start handing out these shirts to the first 30,000 fans with game tickets.  This would have to be done outside of Chavez Ravine, possibly a mile or so from the stadium.  Alternatively, a grass roots campaign could be carried out on-site, in the parking lot and near the gates (if ninjas are involved).

The crowd collectively would love it.  It’s great publicity, cost effective, and would garner a great deal of media attention.  You win; fans win.  And Frank looks like an ass.

Please someone, run with one of these ideas and send Frank back to the East coast where he belongs.  Make the Dodgers a proud franchise once again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jeter's Success Shines Light on Rose

It was an emotional moment in the Bronx on Saturday.  Derek Jeter emphatically delivered his 3,000th hit with a home run to deep left field as part of his 5-for-5 day at the plate. 

Magical.  Historic.  Overblown.  Call it what you want, but it helped fortify the legendary status of Jeter as an all-time great.

When the ball left the yard, 48,103 Yankee’s fans in attendance rejoiced.  But I…I had only one thought at that moment.  A seemingly illogical thought that no Yankees fan had the foresight to consider.

Pete Rose is amazing.

Before you bash me for poor timing, take a look below at a snapshot of the two future Hall of Fame careers (a bit presumptuous).

A few things pop out from this data.  Yes, Pete Rose has played 7+ seasons more than Jeter.  Yes, Jeter holds a better career batting average than Rose.  Those points cannot be argued (or won’t be today).
And honestly, I was a bit surprised to discover that, through the age of 36, these two shared very similar numbers (Jeter: 194.27 hits/season, Rose: 197.73 hits/season).
But that is where the comparison ends.  The chart below displays the year-by-year hit totals for the two players.
2011 has been a dreadful campaign for Jeter, who has battled injury and the pressures of reaching 3,000.  His will certainly establish a new career low in hits.  But how can you blame a guy who is 37 and in his 17th major league season?  That’s what happens to old people…or at least it should.

But Pete Rose defied the laws of aging.  Not only did Rose collect 208 hits at the age of 38, he also accumulated 1,092 hits after hitting that golden age.  It wasn’t until the age of 42 that Rose had a sub-140 hit season as Jeter is on pace to do this season. 
Few actually project that Jeter has much left in the tank.  Others speculate that the Yankees themselves may give up on Jeter before he is ready to go.  In a article by Joe Sheehan, Jeter is projected to collect another 322 hits in his career, placing him at 3,330 for his career and 11th on the career list.
But the truth is, no matter if or where Jeter plays in the coming seasons, it will be impossible for the aging shortstop to keep pace with Rose.  That's no knock on Jeter's career, but a testament to the durability of the best hitting catcher in baseball history.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

For Clemens, the Verdict is Already In

The Roger Clemens saga is exhausting.  3 and-a-half years have passed since the 409-page Mitchell Report identified Clemens name 82 times, yet there is still no resolution. 

Accusations stemming from the Mitchell Report and various former players have been presented, yet Clemens has each time adamantly denied any illegal substance use.  In 2008, Congress stepped in to question the 11-time All-Star, but Clemens remained defiant, despite the threat of perjury charges.

Now, 12 jurors will be left to decide the fate of the “Rocket”.

Is former trainer Brian McNamee telling the truth, or can he even be trusted?  Did former teammate and friend Andy Pettitte really ‘misremember’ what happened, or is he the key voice that could destroy Clemens?

Reports place a potential jail sentence at 15-21 months if Clemens is convicted.

But what if he is found innocent of perjury against Congress?  Will the general public accept the opinion of the 12 hand-selected jury members?  Will the Hall of Fame open its doors to enshrine the seven-time Cy Young winner?  Will his 4,672 strikeouts and 354 wins outshine his perceived guilt?

The answer, unfortunately, is no.

No outcome can repair the damage done.  Fair or not, the public perception is that Clemens is a guilty man.  He has been pegged a liar and a desperate star who went too far to protect his legacy.

Though the government has placed the burden on the chosen 12, millions of others have already decided.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Russell Martin, Really?

UPDATE: Fans righted the ship in the final days of voting by pushing Alex Avila into the starting catchers role for the American League.

The MLB All-Star Game is meaningless. I will be the first to admit that. Even the league recognizes this after ending the 2002 classic in a thrilling 7-7 tie.

But the selections do matter. When players' careers are remembered and evaulated in retrospect, All-Star selections play a key role in their legacies. Fair or not, it serves as a metric to a players worth when compared to their peers.

That's why I am taking exception to a likely participant in this season's Midsummer Classic, Yankee's catcher and leading vote-getter Russell Martin. Look below at the statistics for three of the leading candidates to start behind the plate for the American League.

Alex Avila
Russell Martin
Victor Martinez

The data clearly shows that Martin's performance this season has been subpar in comparison with Martinez and Avila, who are both having exceptional seasons. Not only is Martin's average down, he also has the fewest runs batted in, despite playing for the leagues’ most potent offense.

10 other catchers in the American League have collected more hits than Martin this season, including the likes of Yorvit Torrealba (Rangers), Miguel Olivo (Mariners), and Jorge Posada (Yankees, DH/C). He has also surrendered the third most stolen bases in the AL (43).

I am not blaming Martin, nor will I criticize a system that allows fans to vote their favorite players into the game. I am blaming Yankee's fans, who are too ignorant to realize that the anchor of their defense is an average player in the midst of the worst season of his career.

If anything, Martin should be embarrassed by the selection. I would be.