Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Miami buried by Clay, Ball

Let’s start by stating the obvious. Wisconsin was much, much better than Miami, and the game was not nearly as close as the score indicated. Wisconsin easily could have won this game by 3-4 touchdowns, and in retrospect it is ridiculous that Miami was favored by so many pundits and by so many points. Untimely penalties, a few trick plays, a fluky interception, and a few punts on fourth and short in Miami territory kept it close, but Miami’s offense was completely unable to do anything against the Wisconsin defense, and the Wisconsin offense was efficient (as always) both running and passing.

Wisconsin outgained Miami 430-249, had 17 first downs to Miami’s 14, and averaged 4 ypc compared to a mere 2.7 for Miami. So why was the game close?

First, penalties. Miami was penalized only 3 times for 20 yards while Wisconsin was hit for 6 penalties and 60 yards, all of them in seemingly crucial situations. They generally did a good job overcoming these mistakes, but it definitely cost them a few first downs.

Turnovers likely cost the Badgers at least 10 points as Garrett Graham’s fumble probably cost them a touchdown, and Scott Tolzien’s bad-luck tipped interception probably cost at least a field goal.

But the main reason it was so close is that Miami was bad at offense, which allowed Brett Bielema to play conservatively. Several times he called on punter Brad Nortman to punt on 4th and short from inside Miami territory to pin the Hurricanes deep, and he succeeded every time. Had the Hurricanes shown any signs of being able to do anything offensively, I suspect the Badgers go for at least a few of these and, with the way they were running the ball, I suspect they make it, but in the end the excellent punting of Nortman made the strategy pay off. Since Nortman deserves to share player of the game honors (we’ll get to the other player of the game momentarily), let’s take a look at what can only be described as an outstanding day of punting.

Punt 1: 4th and 20 at WIS 33 Brad Nortman punt for 59 yards, downed at the MiaFl 8.

The first drive of the game for the Badgers stalled when Tolzien took a big sack on 3rd and 10 at the Wisconsin 33. The Canes had just gone up 7-0 on a trick play kick return, and had they started their second drive with any kind of field position, they may have been able to put Bucky behind by 2 scores, completely changing the game. Instead Nortman boomed a 59 yard punt to the Miami 8 yard line which was not returned. When Miami went 3 and out on the subsequent series, field position was flipped and Wisconsin was able to capitalize.

Punt 2: 4th and 7 at WIS 38 Brad Nortman punt for 46 yards, returned by Thearon Collier for 4 yards to the MiaFl 20.

Another good punt that landed inside the Miami 20. The subsequent drive would stall on the Wisconsin 34 yard line when Miami failed to convert on 4th and 4. If they start with slightly better field position they probably get points out of the drive.

Punt 3: 4th and 10 at WIS 40 Brad Nortman punt for 32 yards out-of-bounds.

Nortman’s only substandard punt of the night. He did, however, eliminate the possibility of a return.

Punt 4: 4th and 2 at MIA 36 Brad Nortman punt for 24 yards, downed at the Mia Fl 12.

Punting on 4th and 2 from the opponent’s 36 is generally a bad idea. You run a very high risk of the ball going into the end zone and netting only 15 or so yards, however, Nortman excelled in this situation all night and Miami continued to shoot themselves in the foot on offense. A 24 yard punt looks ugly on the stat sheet until you consider the context.

Punt 5: 4th and 2 at MIA 35 Brad Nortman punt for 34 yards, downed at the MiaFl 1.

Called on again to pin the Canes deep, Nortman hit his best punt of the night as it hit the turf and backed up, and finally proceeded to slowly bounce down to the Miami one yard line. The Canes would fumble on the second play of the ensuing drive, setting up a field goal for the Badgers.

The other player of the game was obviously Junior TE Lance Kendricks. Frequently in the shadow of the also excellent Garrett Graham, Kendricks showed NFL level skills in all facets of the game. He was explosive in the receiving game gaining 128 yards on 7 catches, much of it after contact. He also delivered several devastating blocks in the run game, including crushing blocks on both John Clay touchdown runs. With Graham graduating this year (and likely joining Badgers Owen Daniels and Travis Beckum in the NFL), TE still looks to be a position of strength going into 2010.

Big Ten Stereotyping

Finally, I would like to say a word about the coverage of this game. I know that announcers are, in general, always bad, but the focus on Miami in this game was over-the-top and I can’t help wondering if the recent production of the 30-for-30 documentary, “The U”, by ESPN had anything to do with it. At various points of the broadcast it sure seemed like they were talking about the old U, and not the team that was actually on the field.

Everything that happened in the game happened because of something Miami was doing. When they screwed up it was cold, or they weren’t in rhythm, or Jacory Harris was limping. Miami was “faster” and “more athletic” whereas Wisconsin was slower but more powerful. At no point did the announcers create the impression that Wisconsin was simply a better football team, which was the obvious conclusion. They frequently focused on the enormous size of the Wisconsin linemen while focusing on the speed, size, and athletic ability of the Miami QB and receivers. You would never know from watching this broadcast that the Miami offensive line averages 307.33 pounds per person whereas the Wisconsin offensive line averages 295.61 pounds per person (and all you have to do to figure this out is have access to and Excel, and even if you take out the centers for both teams, Miami still wins 312-302).

It’s pretty clear that the announcers and the production staff performed only the most cursory research before calling the game. Wisconsin was easily able to match up with the allegedly more athletic team on defense, suggesting that at least on defense, Wisconsin was extremely athletic and fast in their own right. And while Wisconsin did play a power style on offense, Miami linebackers were completely unable to stay with Wisconsin’s TEs in the passing game.

I know this happens every year. I remember it in the very first Rose Bowl that I saw Wisconsin win over UCLA, I just wish television coverage would improve at some point.

It was an impressive win, and hopefully it will get the Big Ten kick started on improving their bowl record.

Finally, I should mention that Nick Toon caught that long pass as he was heading out of bounds, and I’m shocked it wasn’t reviewed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pro Bowl Snub?

I don't particularly care about the Pro Bowl. I won't watch it and 30% of the guys who made it probably won't go, but how does Orakpo beat out Matthews?

The only edge Orakpo has is that he has 1/2 more sack than Clay. Matthews leads in tackles, assists, fumble recoveries, passes defended AND he has a touchdown.

I don't get it. The only logical explanation is that Pro Bowl voters are racist.

Monday, December 28, 2009

No Country For Brett Favre

It's entirely possible that the Vikings will come back and win this game, but as it stands right now they're looking terrible against a truly awful Bear team. It's cold here. Really cold. It's probably even colder by the lake. The fact is that Brett isn't a good cold weather QB anymore. As you get older, you get colder (if you're a guy). There's nothing that can be done about it, and I don't even really mean this as a criticism of Favre. It's just a fact.

It probably won't even matter as the Vikings will probably spend all of the playoffs indoors, I just thought I'd mention it, as you can really see it tonight. At least, so far.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Packers Fans And Steelers Fans Are Classy

Football Outsider Vince Verhei watched the game while trapped in a bar that was split between Packers fans and Steelers fans:

I'm typing this from a bar in Federal Way, Washington, that is inexplicably filled with a mix of rabid Steelers fans on one end and rabid Packers fans on the other. Alcohol is plentiful. If I am killed in the inevitable riot, well, it's been real.

He had no reason to be worried though:

At the end of this game, the Steelers fans celebrated, the Packers fans banged their fists on the table. Then they met in the middle of the bar for a line of handshakes and "good game," like it was the YMCA t-ball league. I swear that happened.

A Frustrating Loss, But Not That Bad

There are many alternate universe's where the Packers won that game yesterday. Where Charles Woodson and and Tramon Williams catch those balls. Where Brandon Chillar doesn't pop Hines Ward 7 yards off the line of scrimmage. Where both challenges go the Packers way. Where Cullen Jenkins holds on to Big Ben. Where the refs realize that that Steeler receiver who got popped in the back of his head fumbled the ball and that it was not an incomplete pass. Where Mason Crosby isn't a head case.

Anyway, the Packers are still in pretty good shape, even after a tough loss. The can probably take care of business by beating a Seattle Seahawk team that looks like it has given up. They still could get some help from the Redskins tonight. If you're going to lose, losing to a team that's not in your division on he road is probably the way to go.

That said, there were some worrying trends in this game. Mainly:

1. The way to beat the new "psycho" defensive lineup is apparently to run a circle route out of the backfield. Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall both torched the 1 DL lineup with this strategy.

2. If you max protect (or just have a giant doofus QB won't go down) you can create a one-on-one matchup with either Jarrett Bush or that Bell kid, and that ain't good.

3. Dom Capers defense appears much more adept at stopping the run than the pass, and we may really miss Al Harris going forward.

4. The reason Aaron Rodgers is targeting Jermichael Finley so much is because he doesn't drop passes. Hear that, every other receiver on the team?

5. This really is a game of inches. That Steeler FG nicked the inside of the upright. An Aaron Rodgers pass deep down the middle to Donald Lee nicked a LBs helmet just enough to make it a tough catch. The Jeremy Kapinos punt that actually nicked the top of the pylon, resulting in a touchback. There were a ton of close calls in this game.

At least it will be exciting, right?

Screw You, Eric Mangini

Dear Eric Mangini,

I, and many other fantasy football players had Jerome Harrison pegged as a sleeper this year. Our reasoning was as follows:

1. He's actually pretty good.

2. He's obviously better than Jamal Lewis and only a moron wouldn't see that.

3. He appears to be better than random RBs off the street.

Why you did not play him over Jamal Lewis will remain a mystery forever. When Jamal Lewis got hurt, you still didn't play him. What did he do to you? Did he sleep with your daughter or something? Or are you just an idiot.

Anyway, had you played Mr. Harrison a bit more, you may have won a few more games. You definitely would have allowed those of us who drafted Mr. Harrison to start him over one of their more mediocre RBs these past two weeks, which would have put us in the fantasy league Super Bowl. But since you're such a freaky weirdo about the guy, no one really had the confidence to stick him out there because you could have benched him at any moment. So screw you.

Get bent,


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Crooked in 2001, Crooked in 2009

From last night's Brew Hoop recap:

And once the game started on the floor? This one felt even more like it was in Los Angeles. But not because of the fans.

The game officials (Joe Forte, Marc Davis, Phil Robinson) didn't wear Kobe jerseys themselves, but from start to finish they favored the Lakers. They were bad enough to make some calls that went in Milwaukee's favor too, but even if the score was tied after 48 minutes, nothing really evened out tonight.

The Lakers got the 50/50 calls, sure, but they also got 60-40 calls, 100/0 calls.

Just not good. The worst at the Bradley Center this season, and I've only missed a couple.

There are myriad specific instances, like when Bogut felt the slap heard 'round press row. No call. Or when Kobe got that and-one call on Bogut to bring the Lakers within one in overtime. You remember, the one when he may have traveled, may have charged, and definitely didn't get fouled.

"I don't think it was a foul on Bogut, or whoever they called the foul on. But he's (Bryant) a great player and he's going to get the benefit of the doubt," Charlie Bell said.

Nobody thought it was a foul on Bogut, except the onlybody who matters.

To make matters worse, Los Angeles felt entitled to get calls, you could see that, and despite the foul disparity in their favor, they still griped; both Ron Artest and Lamar Odom picked up technicals for dissent, and at (at least) one point Bryant gave the official the stare-down all the way down the court.

That call on Bogut was absolutely terrible, and the kind of call that makes the NBA so much less credible than the other major sports. What? A star got a questionable call that kept his team in the game? You must be talking about the NBA.

Note also that Brandon Jennings (who is certainly unafraid of taking the ball inside) can't get to the line:

One day, I will probably sit my grandchildren on my lap and reminisce about the 2009-2010 Milwaukee Bucks free throw differential. I will tell them the tales about a young Brandon Jennings who could not earn a whistle in his favor. Jennings’ per minute free throw rate ranks the second lowest among the 150 players with his 29.8 percent usage rate; only the immortal Freeman Williams toed the line fewer than 4.2 times every 36 minutes with a such large share of his team’s offense. In other words, Brandon Jennings should enroll in some acting classes so he can toe the line more and truly live up to the Allen Iverson comparisons.

Or maybe just learn to stare as hard as Kobe.

The NBA - The Professional Wrestling of the sporting world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Juan Pierre’s Magical Spell of Idiocy

What the hell? Really? You know, in the Harry Potter books there’s a guy named Gilderoy Lockhart. He’s the “Defense Against the Dark Arts” teacher one year. Everyone thinks he’s a great adventurer who has found treasure and killed dragons. In actuality he just claims to do all of these things and casts a spell on anyone who finds out about his fraud that causes them to forget everything. I think Juan Pierre may have developed this magical ability. How else to explain this:

Last time he played in Chicago, Juan Pierre left with a fortune, signing for $44 million over five years with the Dodgers.

Yes, the Dodger front office is crazy stupid sometimes, we know that, but…

This time -- on the South Side not the North -- Pierre will try to overcome his reputation as being overpaid and under-talented.

As I see it, there are two points to this equation. The first is that Pierre is “overpaid.” This we know from the first sentence of this column. The second is that he is under-talented. This we know from the fact that he is a low-OBP leadoff man with no power who makes a ton of outs and gets caught stealing at too high of a percentage. And who can’t play a credible center field anymore. So to disprove this reputation will probably require some amnesia-dust or forget-me-hex or something. Maybe a secret room in the bowels of The Cell where White Sox employees cut out old Tribune box scores and pastes in new ones that turn Juan Pierre into a great power hitter who walks all the time a la 1984. Something like that.

His time away did little but make Pierre rich and clearly money could not buy him happiness.

Well boo-frickin-hoo.

So he was overjoyed Tuesday when the White Sox traded two minor league pitchers to be named later to make him what could be the final piece of the puzzle for 2010.

That puzzle is a reproduction of an obscure Picasso painting in which a cubist baseball player is depicted grounding out, getting caught stealing, and not being able to throw the ball all the way in to the infield all in that particularly single-dimension cubist way. It’s actually pretty rare. Picasso allegedly created as an experiment in the Cubist potential for depicting motion in multiple perspectives, and because he needed to pay off a huge bar tab. Maybe they can sell it to make up for the money they’ll lose when they don’t make the playoffs because of Juan Pierre.

Exactly what does the trade mean for the Sox? Let's take a look:

This must be the part where they explain that giving up prospects for Juan Pierre is insanity, as is hitting him in the leadoff spot, and building a speedy team in a power hitter’s park. Man am I looking forward to…

--No more Scott Podsednik. One of the heroes from the 2005 World Series championship and an unexpected catalyst in his second go-round in 2009 is now history, a victim of his own demands.

I will admit that ditching Pods is a victory, and that his demands were insane. I also might point out, however, that he won’t actually get what he demands, that he may end up being cheaper than even the subsidized Juan Pierre, and he wouldn’t cost any prospects.

Podsednik, 34 in March, hit .304 with 30 stolen bases in 43 attempts last season. Pierre, 32, hit .308 with 30 steals in 42 tries.,

There is one meaningful stat in that sentence. Pierre is in fact two years younger than Pods. That said guys whose value is tied up in their speed tend to be bad whether they’re 32 or 34.

"It really isn't about apples and apples because I don't know if we were ever close to signing Scott," general manager Ken Williams said.

The Sox will pay Pierre $3 million in 2010 and $5 million in 2011 (the Dodgers will pay for their mistake by adding $10.5 million). They weren't willing to give Podsednik a multiyear deal, even though he would have come cheaper.

The silly thing about this article is that they’re comparing Pierre to a player who actually is probably worse, but they’re both bad players. Juan actually had a nice little season last year, putting up an OBP of .365, but the 4 years before that he was in the .320s, which is closer to the “real” Juan Pierre. They should compare him to some actual leadoff men. And for what it’s worth, Pods is pretty much the same guy. His OBP has been around .320 forever until last year when he had a career year. Both of these players are bad players coming off of career years who are unlikely to repeat those years. It’s like everyone somehow magically forgot that these guys are lousy. Hmmm….

Truth is, Pierre has proven to be a better leadoff hitter

AHHHH!!! I knew it! This guy is insane. The forgetting spell has worked! He must not know about Juan’s OBP and…

(despite a .348 on-base percentage, he rarely strikes out),

It’s worse than I thought. This poor guy hasn’t lost his memory. He’s lost the ability to read stats generated after 2004 by a then 26 year old Pierre. Otherwise he would see that Pierre’s OBP is closer to .335 over the past 5 seasons, which is artificially inflated by a big outlier last year which again, is unlikely to repeat itself. He also doesn’t realize that when leading off there are no people on base, and so putting the ball in play for an out is NO DIFFERENT than striking out.

a far better bunter,

The last refuge of a desperate sportswriter. It’s nice to know how to bunt, but unless you’re a national league pitcher, it is probably the least valuable skill you can have as a baseball player. Especially when you play in the NL, and the pitcher hits in front of you, and will therefore almost never be on base, and will therefore, almost never need sacrificing.

a much better baserunner,

Scott Podsednik is a terrible baserunner. However, this is still like claiming that my 1994 LeCar has sturdier cup holders than your 89 Dodge Omni. Both players are thrown out too often on the basepaths.

a slightly better outfielder and certainly a better fit for manager Ozzie Guillen, who became an admirer as a coach when both were with the world champion Marlins in 2003, when Pierre stole a career-high and NL-best 65 bases.

He was also caught stealing a league-high 20 times, making his success rate about 76%, which is right around the break-even point. What I find strange about this is that Ozzie Guillen won a World Series behind a power lineup, not behind a speed lineup. By being impressed with Pierre he’s going away from what made him a winner.

This is what Williams said about Pierre's value that he never said about Podsednik: "I love the guy's work ethic, his intensity; he adds a lot more than what he does on the field (although) what he does on the field is pretty special."

Everything in this sentence is true about me as well, and if the White Sox would like to sign me to a 2-year, $8-million contract to poorly patrol their outfield and make a lot of outs, I'm game. And we’re both “special” on the field too.

You know, all of a sudden I feel an upswell in the magical particles in the air, much like how Qui-Gon Jinn can tell how many force bacteria live inside Anakin Skywalker. It’s almost as if…

--No more Jim Thome?

Oh, he’s not going to…

That's likely because Guillen would rather pass around the DH spot than have the same player there every day,

It’s getting stupider, can you feel it? It’s almost here…

especially one that clogs up the bases.

YES! YES! IT’S ALMOST 2010 AND WE’RE STILL SAYING IT! UNBELIEVEABLE! Dave van Dyck, congratulations, you probably have said the phrase “clog up the bases” in a serious fashion for the final time of the decade. I think we should make some sort of pronouncement or at least bestow you with some kind of moron hat, maybe with a statue of Dusty Baker perched stoically atop? Well, at least it can’t get any stupider. This is the epitome of stupid baseball writing. We’ve got Juan Pierre, Jim Thome clogging the bases, what more could you ask for?

And Williams says he won't "do anything that conflicts with what my manager wants."

So would Guillen be completely satisfied with his team the way it is now, with extras Mark Kotsay and Andruw Jones getting plenty of playing time in a DH/outfield/first base rotation?

Wow. Jim Thome is old, however, until he became a pinch hitter for the Dodgers last year, Thome put up an .864 OPS, which is very similar to the .847 and .865 marks he put up the two years prior. Unless he hits a sudden major decline (which is certainly possible as the guy is 39 years old), it is reasonable to expect more of the same (as he has been old for awhile now). Andruw Jones hasn’t sniffed an .800 OPS since his last two probably steroidy seasons with the Braves in 2005 and 2006. Kotsay hasn’t sniffed an .800 OPS since 2004. And it’s not like these guys are spring chickens either. But at least the White Sox will improve their defense at DH. Oh, wait…

"Absolutely, yes," Guillen said in a conference call. "It's a more athletic ballclub and can do a lot of things. I'm very excited because it's going to be fun. You will see a different ballclub. I was looking for a challenge, looking to see how good I can be."

Screw hitting. Who needs hitting from your DH? What does DH stand for again? Designated...uhm..Helper Monkey? That's probably it. Designated Helper Money. Why not DHM though...?

--A different lineup. Guillen said either Gordon Beckham or Alexei Ramirez will bat second, although he prefers Beckham in an RBI role in the middle of the order.

Alexei and his .326 OBP will fit right in to the beginning of this lineup. Good luck with those RBIs, Gordon Beckham!

As for the outfield alignment, Pierre will play left, Alex Rios center and Carlos Quentin right. And Pierre expects to play every day after sitting for much of his first two years in L.A., or as he calls it, in the "witness protection program."

How dare the Dodgers bury their light-hitting, poor fielding fourth outfielder behind Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier! Those guys are terrible. I mean, sure Manny doubled Juan's VORP in the same number of PAs, and sure those 3 outfielder were the team’s 3 most valuable offensive players, and sure they all play better defense than juan does, (well, maybe not Manny), but where do they get off?

"I had two years (of rest), so my legs have been saved up," he said. "If it's up to me, I'd like to be out there 162 games."

It’s true. I’ve been resting my arms for like 15 years and I just went out and dead-lifted 800 pounds.

From 2003-2007, Pierre played in 162 games each season. That includes 2006 with the Cubs.

--A future that could suffer. Williams is always in a win-now mode, so if minor league pitcher John Ely really is included in the deal, it could affect the pitching staff down the line.

Ely, 23, was 14-2 with a 2.82 earned-run average at Double-A Birmingham. He was a third-round pick in 2007.

Yeah, but you should always risk your future for a highly replaceable, old, bad leadoff hitter. Everyone knows that. Ely’s top PECOTA comp is Edinson Volquez, by the way.

--A media-savvy player. Pierre's one season in Chicago left him open for criticism, despite the Cubs making the playoffs. And his three years in L.A. were, well, they were tough.

"Those three years made me strong as an individual," he said. "Me and the fans came a long way. I didn't hit for power, I didn't have an arm. I've been criticized so much the last few years, I guess I'm prepared for the Chicago media again, that's for sure.

Note that those criticisms are all true.

"There's not too much more that can be said about me that hasn't been. But I'm quite sure some other thing will float up."

This article is certainly a floater, if you know what I mean. Juan Pierre Amnesia continues to plague the country. If you see anyone who you think may be infected, please, back away slowly, turn, and run as fast as you can, because that person is insane.

Bill Simmons on the 2001 Bucks

I think the reason that I'm not an NBA fan, (and frankly, sort of a deranged conspiracy theorist*) is this series:

10. If crooked NBA playoff series were heavyweight boxers, then the 2002 Western finals (Lakers-Kings) was George Foreman and the 2001 Eastern finals (Bucks-Sixers) was Earnie Shavers. Translation: People remember only George, but Earnie was almost as memorable. To briefly recap, Philly's wins in Games 1 and 4 swung on a controversial lane violation and two egregious no-calls. The Sixers finished with advantages of 186-120 in free throws, 12-3 in technicals and 5-0 in flagrant fouls. Glenn Robinson, one of Milwaukee's top-two scorers, didn't even attempt a free throw until Game 5. Bucks coach George Karl and star Ray Allen were fined a combined $85,000 after the series for claiming the NBA rigged it. In that game, Milwaukee's best big man, Scott Williams, was charged with a flagrant foul but not thrown out, only to be suspended, improbably, for Game 7.

The defining game: When Philly stole a must-win Game 4 in Milwaukee despite an atrocious performance from Iverson (10-for-32 shooting), helped by a 2-to-1 free-throw advantage and a host of late calls. How one-sided was it? When an official called a harmless touch foul to send Sam Cassell to the line with two seconds left and the Bucks trailing by seven (maybe the all-time we-need-to-pad-the-free-throw-stats-so-they-don't-seem-so-lopsided-afterward call), the subsequent sarcastic standing ovation nearly morphed into the first-ever sarcastic riot. And this was Milwaukee, the most easygoing city in the country! Nobody remembers this. The real loser was Allen, who exploded for 190 points in the series, including a record nine threepointers in do-or-die Game 6. Nobody remembers this, either. Even I didn't remember it. Crap.

By the way, whenever I whine about this (especially to Philly friends) I am always told that the Bucks wouldn't have stood a chance in the finals anyway. This is simply not true. The Bucks swept the top 4 teams in the Western conference that season including the Lakers. The Bucks were uniquely built to stop Shaq as they could just throw defensively adept (Ervin Johnson), and fouling adept(Joel Przybilla) at Shaq without any tangible effect on their offense. The Lakers didn't have an answer for the Allen/Cassell/Robinson trio defensively (no one did) and the Bucks would have, at the very least, put up a better showing than the Sixers.

The NBA can go fuck itself. I'll probably be mad about this series forever. (By the way, I went to every single playoff home game in 2001.)

*At least until the Tim Donaghy thing. Now I'm just correct.

The NCAA: Still Evil

The NCAA is the rare organization that seems to get increasingly evil the more I think about them. Read this article in the Huffington Post about their latest crusade against student athletes.

I understand the sentiment involved in not allowing student-athletes to make money. It’s stupid and evil and wrong, but I at least understand the madness that makes people think this way. The ban on agents, lawyers and advisors is madness of a different sort. Here the NCAA is not just seeking to financially exploit players, but also to keep them as ignorant as possible about their options.

What is the point of this? Why can’t student athletes receive professional advice (unless, of course, the giver of that advice is barred from actually sitting in on 3rd party talks, which is pointless)? Here are some facts (or at least opinions which nearly everyone agrees with).

1. 18-21 year old kids are not the best decision makers, and are, in general, especially ill-equipped to think long term. I’m not saying this is true of every college student, but it is true more often than it is not.

2. Most students are not faced with the potential to make millions of dollars right out of college. Top-flight student-athletes are. Moreover, their prime earning years will occur in their early youth. Not having professionals assist you in this situation is ridiculous.

Moreover, financial planning for an athlete can take different forms than it can for the average person. Take Tim Tebow, for instance. Most scouts seem to agree that he isn’t much of an NFL prospect at quarterback, but according to everything I hear, he insists on playing there, at least for now.

What if Tim Tebow had an agent since he graduated from high school? If his long term goal is to have a long, prosperous NFL career, would an agent have advised him to gain experience as a fullback or TE? That may sound insane as playing quarterback for Florida (as one of the best college QBs ever) is probably a big deal to you, but it’s not going to pay his bills long term. It is in Florida's best interest to have Tebow at quarterback, but is it really in Tebow's best interest?

There are probably a lot of QBs who just don’t have the arm or the decision-making skills to play quarterback in the NFL who could benefit from someone telling them to play WR, even if they really want to play QB.

There are probably other examples in other sports. (Baseball, in particular. If you’re a middling prospect at 3rd base, but you have a nice fastball and you’re left-handed, maybe a position switch is in order. Of course, I get the sense that baseball is better about this because of the existence of the minors. Football has no minors.)

The Poor Running Back

Finally, as we learn more about football’s effects on the body, the NCAA’s ban on player compensation looks increasingly insane. Even if you think the famous Football Outsider “curse of 370” is overstated, it’s pretty clear that running backs can’t take as much wear and tear as some other positions, and that every time they are tackled in college, they are potentially losing money. Moreover, every time some kid suffers a concussion in college, he is costing himself money as well as his future health.

Football is dangerous. As athletes continue to get bigger and faster it gets more dangerous, and as we learn more we’re finally starting to understand just how dangerous it is. The average NFL player plays just 3.52 seasons and loses two to three years off his life expectancy for every season played, and we’re asking college kids to forgo compensation and advice for that.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the NCAA wants to keep its money while keeping its golden goose in the dark about just how long it’s going to be able to keep laying those eggs. They remain evil.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Going To The Ground

A clarification from the league:

The timing of when contact was made by Bears CB Charles Tillman was the determining factor.

"The key is that the receiver was contacted by the defender before he got both feet down so he is therefore considered to be going to the ground and has to hold on to the ball throughout the whole process," the spokesman said.

This still doesn't really answer the question of how long it takes after contact before the receiver is no longer "going to the ground" if he, you know, doesn't go to the ground.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mike Rivera should throttle Doug Melvin

Doug Melvin ruined any shot Mike Rivera had at a MLB career. It turns out, he also did it for a completely bullshit made up reason.

The last two years all we have been told my Melvin is that Kendall needs to get the starts because familiarity with the pitching staff is more important than being a competent baseball player. This offseason shows he doesn't buy that for one second. The Brewers will have significant turnover in their staff, however it's also looking like at least three starters will be back and depending on how the starters cycle through the season we could see more. Yet Melvin decided it was prudent to go into 2010 without a single catcher returning catcher. Experience and making the pitcher "comfortable" apparently are no longer in vogue.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think Zaun is an upgrade over Rivera and I would like to see one of the kids (whichever has a better Winter/Spring) win the starting spot. However, I am not a fan of utter bullshit, especially when used to cover up a massive contractual blunder that you are far too proud to admit was a mistake.

Speaking of mistakes...the Brewers can afford $2.1 million dollars for Craig Counsell but couldn't shell out $1 million for Branyan last year? Really? Man, with that two million plus what Melvin gave Hawkins I imagine the Brewers could have actually signed a major league baseball player. I know Counsell was effective last year. Chances he sniffs that productivity this year? I'll be stunned if he puts up 75% of what he did last year.

(I do like Randy Wolf though, kind of)

Things the Bears are bad at.

1.Talent evaluation.

Living in Chicago, you hear certain refrains about the Bears. Most of it is meaningless pabulum, but one stuck with me; Jay Cutler swore up and down all season that the frequently inactive Devin Aromashodu (or “The Stinky Beatnik” as I like to call him) was their best receiver. He never got to play because:

a. There’s now too much money invested in the ruined Devin Hester.

b. Earl Bennett went to the same school as Jay Cutler, and hey, apparently that counts for something, and

c. Johnny Knox had a few good games.

d. Oh, and you can’t have too many Devins. It’s bad karma.

Anyway, this guy’s been sitting all year (with another receiver named Juaquin Iglesias who is apparently the bees’ knees as well) and as it turns out, he probably is their best receiver. Huh. From cutting Thomas Jones for Cedric Benson, to cutting Cedric Benson for Matt Forte, to drafting Garrett Wolfe, the Bears are a non-stop thrill-ride of talent evaluation suckitude.

2. Trading.

I don’t think the Bears have a first or second round pick until 2084. This is due to the Jay Cutler trade, which was certainly defensible, and the Gaines Adams trade, which isn’t. Making it less defensible still is the fact that the Bears have a terrible offensive line, and rebuilding lines through free agency is really hard.

3. Challenging calls.

In the game on Sunday Greg Jennings lost a touchdown on the new “going to the ground” rule. I find this rule annoying, but I understand the rule and know how to apply the rule. The refs explained the rule as it applied to the Jennings situation, and we all moved on.

Fast forward a few quarters to throw over the middle from Cutler to TE Greg Olsen. Olsen was not able to maintain possession when going to the ground, and because of the earlier Jennings play, this should have been fresh in everyone’s mind. The Bear coaching staff should have dropped a few cuss words, figured out a new play and moved on. Instead the following sequence occurred according to some hidden microphones I have on the Bear sideline.

Jay Cutler – Shit, we’re running out of time to get the next play off, and I don’t have the play yet, and Greg isn’t in the huddle yet, and Ron Turner is staring at the Jumbotron for some reason. Fuck! Time Out.

Lovie Smith – Ron, let’s get the play in a bit quicker next time.

Ron Turner – Let’s challenge it! Greg wants us to challenge it. I think it was a catch. Greg thinks it was a catch. We’re all in agreement.

Lovie Smith – Didn’t the refs say something earlier about “going to the ground” or something like that? What’s that mean again?

Ron Turner – Probably some night club or something.

Bear replay booth guy – Uhm, you really don’t want to challenge this.

Ron Turner – Nuts to that. The ground can’t cause a fumble right?

Lovie – I don’t think this really applies to…

Turner – Throw It!

Lovie – If you’re sure Ron. (Throws flag).

Refs – What are you challenging? Really? Uhm, OK. You know you already used a timeout, right?

(Tells other refs. They all snicker.)

Jay Cutler – Fuck.

4. Counting.

The Bears had 4 false starts in the serene tranquility of their partially empty home stadium.

5. Falling in love.

Tommie Harris was the best player on the Bears when they made the Super Bowl a few years ago. Tommie Harris then suffered a leg injury and has been playing with one leg ever since. But the Bears love Tommie Harris, and the idea of Tommie Harris, so they keep him around and assume he is awesome. They also overspend on local players like Northern Illinois RB Garrett Wolfe, who was a 3rd round pick of the Bears even though he wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. The Cubs do this too with guys like Jeff Samarjdasl;htkh;. They also had their hearts broken by Mike Brown, Rex Grossman and many others who they stuck with for just a little too long.

6. Building a stadium.

As we’ve mentioned many times before, the Bears play in some kind of space toilet. They did such a poor job that Soldier Field was stripped of its landmark status.

7. Writing songs.

“The Superbowl Shuffle” is high comedy of the unintentional variety, and ages more hilariously all the time. “Bear Down” is insipid, relying on a terrible pun for its inspiration. Not as bad as “Go Cubs Go”, but still terrible.

8. Drafting healthy players.

The Bears attempted to address their offensive line by draft LT Chris Williams in the 2008 NFL draft with the 14th overall pick. Unfortunately, Williams had a herniated disc in his back and missed his entire rookie season. He has spent this season playing mostly out of position, however when moved to left tackle has played more poorly than the elderly Orlando Pace.

9. The Peter Principle.

The Peter Principle states that players/employees will be promoted until they are too incompetent to perform their job. For instance, say you have a guy who is the best kick/punt returner in NFL history in his first year. If you took some of his return responsibility away and tried to make him into a WR, which ended up making him worse at both jobs, that would be an example of the Peter Principle in action.

Another example would be taking a great pass-rushing specialist named Mark Anderson and turning him into an every-down player, which would allow him to be exploited in run defense and too tired in pass defense. Hypothetically, of course.

10. Stopping slow RBs from running 62 yards untouched into the end zone.

It was a nice run by Ryan, but really, when was the last time you saw Ryan run that far?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Congrats To The Phoenix

I am not surprised that UW-GB managed to beat Wisconsin. Even in their down years they're always a plucky little team, and they're off to a 9-2 start this year so far.

What I am surprised about is that they managed to put up 88 points! Duke only scored 69 against Wisconsin, and while this game did go into overtime, the Phoenix's regulation score was still impressive in its own right.

I know Dick Bennett has been gone for a long time now, but this is still surprising. The strategy employed by most mid major schools to compete with big schools is to limit possessions and keep scoring down. Beating a team like Wisconsin by outgunning them is very impressive.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cincinnati v. Pitt

That was one of the most entertaining games I have ever seen. Big East football is so terribly good.

I hope they make the BCS Championship. This hilarity needs more exposure.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wisconsin Defeats Evil

Wins Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

What is it about Duke players that makes them so consistently unlikeable? I mean, isn’t Kyle Singler just annoying to look at? Doesn’t he make you want to knee him in the groin? Duke always has a guy like that.

Beating Duke is really fun. Trevon Hughes played an excellent game. He was effective when penetrating and drained his jumpers. Jonathan Leuer has come a long way from being the tall guy who could drain threes once in a while. He’s now a legitimate low-post threat, and his versatility makes him genuinely difficult to match up with. It’s kind of amazing that they won despite a complete chuck-fest from Bohannon, but the big guys got enough easy dunks to make up for it, and Hughes was just on fire. (Nankivil, by the way, is an excellent passer out of the post. He had 5 assists in the game, and I think all 5 led to easy baskets. He played great.)

The Big Ten looked to be in good shape to take the Challenge after Illinois’s spectacular comeback at Clemson, but disappointing losses by Minnesota and Michigan (to Miami and Boston College) made the Badger upset a must if the conference was to finally win the tournament. Kudos to the Big Ten for finally picking up a victory.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Getting BillHall'd

It's like getting keelhauled, except a bit worse.

I think "BillHall'd" should be descriptive of signing someone who was valuable when they cost nothing and had a career year, but who you know is actually shitty and who you should trade to a sucker.

For instance:

The Packers really got BillHall'd with that Ryan Grant deal.

Or the soon to be:

I think the Brewers are about to get BillHall'd on Casey McGehee.

Quick Football Notes

1. Jeff Triplette is so terrible at refereeing that I’m not even going to double-check the spelling of his name. His transgressions are obvious, and in this game in particular, I wondered just how much his participation mucked things up.

Wasn’t this game bizarre? I don’t know what I learned about the Packers in this game. I don’t really think they played much better than in any of their recent losses (except maybe on special teams). Offensively they were probably worse. Yet they won. Against a pretty good team. And Tripplete is there with his wacky penalties at strange, important times, allowing extra challenges, making nonsensical explanations. I think Triplet completely mucks up the game, and no new information can be learned about a team if Triplett is involved. For purposes of future analysis, I’m just ignoring this one.

2. Tripllette owes Al Harris an apology. Of course, the Jeff Tripelette apology list is pretty long.

3. Bill Belichick made the correct call when he went for it on 4th down at his own 30 yard line. It didn’t work, but sometimes the right call doesn’t work. He gave his team the best chance to win. It went against conventional wisdom, but conventional wisdom in this case is wrong. More here.

4. Brandon Jennings is apparently awesome. Not a football note, but warrants a mention.

5. I have less confidence in Mason Crosby than in any Packer kicker I can remember.

6. What’s the deal with Greg Jennings? Did we all overrate him? Is this a consequence of the bad offensive line? Has he actually been OK without me noticing? He hasn’t had an impressive game for a long time now.

7. The Pack has to win their next two games v. San Fran and then at Detroit. They play 3 out of their last 4 on the road against some pretty good teams.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lost Yardage, Lost Opportunity

From Mike Tanier:

The Packers have allowed a league-high 225 yards on 37 sacks this season. The NFL mean is this year 118 lost yards. The Packers have therefore lost 107 more sack yards than the average team.

The Packers have committed a league-high 62 penalties for 509 yards, the second highest total in the NFL (the Ravens are first). The NFL mean this season is 410 lost penalty yards. The Packers have therefore lost 99 more penalty yards than the average team.

The Packers allow 13.4 yards per punt return. The NFL mean is 8.45 yards per return. That means the Packers lose 4.95 more yards of field position on punts than the average team. Spread across 22 punts, that’s 108 more yards of lost yardage.

Add up the sacks, penalties, and punt returns, and the Packers have given up 314 more "hidden yards" than the average team. Prorate for the season and that comes to 628 yards: the contribution of a good slot receiver, or a pass-catching tight end. Or about a game and a half of total offense. That's what the Packers are handing opponents.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Last Play of “Major League.”

I like the last play in “Major League” quite a bit.

The last play is a tough spot for a sports movie. The big home run is too cliché, as is the big strikeout. Football generally resorts to some mix of crazy laterals (the hook and ladder in “Varsity Blues”, the Annexation of Puerto Rico in “Little Giants”, etc.), or improbably long field goals (the flubber-aided kick in the old-school “Son of Flubber”, “Gus”). Other sports feature the ridiculous (any movie about figure skating or diving), the implausible (The Scout), or a Teen Wolf (Teen Wolf, Teen Wolf 2, How I Met Your Mother). Basketball has the “last second shot”. (Hoosiers, Blue Chips, Teen Wolf again. By the way, the last second dunk by Shaq in Blue Chips is awesome. First of all, you shouldn’t dunk when the clock is running down, because if the ball is still in your hand when the buzzer goes off, it’s no good. Second, if you re-watch Blue Chips you will notice that the dunk takes place in slow motion while the clock runs in real time, almost costing Western the game.)

The last play in Major League is exciting without being cliché, and just plausible enough to remain grounded in reality. (What is not plausible is the Indians’ lineup which apparently has a washed up catcher on an AL team hitting second instead of buried in the 9 hole. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Indians lineup makes no sense at all, but we’ll leave that for another post where we have some time to watch the game more closely.)

Anyway, Willy Hayes is supposed to be one of the fastest guys in the AL, so it’s entirely plausible the he could score from second on a bunt with a big enough head start, especially considering that Yankee first-baseman Clu Haywood does not look to be a “defense first” player. As the AL triple crown leader that year, he’s on the team for his offense. In fact you can really question the Yanks for not DHing Haywood in this game, though perhaps he is more skilled than he appears.

The scouting report on catcher Jake Taylor would indicate a slow player with bad knees, and with two outs a bunt would be supremely unlikely. As such, the third baseman would be playing back, giving Taylor a decent shot to beat it out. (Quick question: Is “The Duke” a lefty or a righty? If he’s falling off towards first base this is an even better idea.) Calling his shot was just icing on the cake for Taylor.

Would a manager call this play? Probably not, but keep in mind that at some point in the 2009 playoffs Derek Jeter tried to bunt with two strikes on him with no one out, so anything is possible. And what if you had, say, Jason Kendall up there in this situation? Sure he might get a hit, but pulling something like this might cross your mind as “not a bad idea.”

The play itself is has all sorts of drama and excitement. The Yankee 3rd baseman makes a great barehanded play on the ball just barely missing a hustling Taylor. (It is the third baseman, right?) Ironically, if Taylor isn’t such a slow player he might just put it in his pocket and hold Hayes at third, or possibly even get him in a rundown. Hayes gets a great jump, and when the bunt draws in the 3rd baseman it removes any need for Hayes to slow up when rounding third, as he has been taken out of the play. The throw from Haywood to home is strong and on target.

Hayes’ slide always bugged me. He has to go outside to avoid the catcher and just catches the plate with the outside of his trail leg, narrowly avoiding a tag, but had he take a more direct route to the plate he would have easily beaten the throw. Still it creates an excellent moment of drama at home. All in all, on this play we have:

1. A stolen base. (Note: I wish they had a better shot of this, because it looks like a really close play. Hayes may have been out.)

2. A “hit and run.”

3. Not one, but two bang/bang plays (1st and home) which lead to dramatic call from both the umpire and from Harry Doyle.

4. A stellar defensive play from the Yankee third baseman.

5. A pitcher intentionally throwing at the batter.

6. A totally unexpected game-winning play with a great call from the booth.

7. We avoid the standard home run or strikeout and we avoid the supernatural.*

It may not be the smartest play ever designed, but the Major League writers did a great job with their conclusion. Too bad about Major League 2.

*Yes, they did both a HR and a dramatic strikeout earlier in the game.

How Good Are The Bucks?

Of all of the sports I care about, pro basketball is at or near the bottom. That said, the Bucks have a way of managing to draw me in almost every year, for at least a week or two. It's about that time.

I've watched them once so far (against the Bulls) and they looked OK, but I've heard good things, and they currently sit at 4-2. (By the way, most other teams in the NBA have played 9 games, and the Bucks have only played 6? What the hell is that?) I thought it would take them like a month to win 4 games. I'm pretty sure that Bill Simmons picked them to win 16 games all year.

So, are they actually good? Is Brandon Jennings actually a star? (He matched Carmelo Anthony last night, point for point.) Will a good PG make Andrew Bogut into someone who may actually be worthy of #1 pick status? Do they actually have a talented supporting cast in Mbah a Moute (defensive stopper), Ilyasova (athletic big man who can drain a 3 and grab a board), and Warrick (I don't know, but he always shows up in the stat line)?

Will Redd blend in when he returns, making them even better? Should I learn who Carlos Delfino is?

Or are they just going to go to shit like they seem to do every year?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Winter of our discontent

Brewers fans (well, most of us) are going to be in for a long, long winter if early returns are any indication.

First, the Brewers passed on a fantastic young pitcher for a track and field standout. Now, Ken Rosenthal is confirming our worst fears:

The Brewers badly need starting pitching. They bid $100 million for left-hander CC Sabathia last winter. But they do not expect to be a serious player for righty John Lackey, the top free agent available this offseason.

Lackey, Brewers officials believe, would prefer to go to a larger market. The Brewers almost certainly would not make the best offer, and Lackey might only use their proposal to persuade other clubs to bid higher.

The Brewers' most pressing decision involves whether to exercise the $6.5 million option on right-hander Braden Looper or pay him a $1 million buyout. They are likely to pursue mid-rotation starters such as left-handers Doug Davis and Jarrod Washburn.


Here are the guys I want Melvin to target. I'm not putting a ton of thought into this, and neither should you. At this point, it's sort of difficult to guess what kind of market there will be, and where the numbers will fall. Some of these guys will end up with valuations that don't make sense. If there is someone you really really want the Brewers to sign, write him down. Then find a guy who is about 60% as good as that guy and hope the Mustache pays him too much to play for Milwaukee. You're less likely to be disappointed.

ESK's 2010 Brewer Free Agent Wish List:

Russell Branyan - obvious. McGehee will pull a Hall and even if he doesn't Branyan is instantly the best right fielder on the team

Mark DeRosa - hopefully the AL stint diminished his value where he makes sense as a third middle infielder. If not, pass.

Melvin Mora - Cheap pinch hitter? Has to be very very cheap, and only in the event Doug still hates the Muscle

Jason Bay - yeah...fucking....right

Matt Holliday - see Jason's nice to want things

Vladimir Guerrero - put him in right, trade Corey Hart

Matt Stairs - because he's better than most of the Brewers outfielders

Justin Duchscherer - too expensive most likely

John Lackey - not going to happen

Brett Myers - Instant, he's an asshole...and only 29.

Cha Seung Baek - eh...we need pitching and there is a lot of shitty pitching...he is a bit less so, plus, imagine Uecker calling his games!

Chad Bradford - bullpen arm...real name Chadwick. Terrible year after awesome year.

Horacio Ramirez - lefty bullpen arm

None of these names excite me, aside from the obvious Branyan. The guys who I think would be an excellent fit are guys I know Melvin won't go after, where as the rest are crappy hole fillers.

My last, and most important signing the Brewers could make this winter: Kim Ng.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Terrible Game

The Journal's Greg Bedard tweeted after the game that:

I'm not joking: Packers could have won that game if they didn't throw one pass.

I think there's some truth to that. The Bucs needed a lot of help to beat the Packers, and the Packers obliged. Keep the ball on the ground a bit more against the 30th ranked rushing defense, and you probably cut down on some of the Bucs opportunities.

That said, it's getting pretty hard to argue that the Packers are even a mediocre team. The offensive line continues to be terrible (although the Tauscher/Barbre differential was made very clear in this game. Once Tauscher left everything went to shit). Aaron Rodgers continues to be the only QB in recent memory who elicits cries of "Throw the ball!" from the stands. The pass rush is spotty at best, and requires extra rushers to really be effective. Ryan Grant had success, but in general he's terrible.

And special teams. I don't think I've ever seen a punt blocked as much as that punt was blocked. And every returner suddenly becomes Devin Hester (the old un-ruined version) against the Packer special teams. Tampa never had to travel very far to score.

The Packers are going to have a hard time making the playoffs. This was the easy half of their schedule and they could only muster 4-4. They have 2 consecutive games at home, and then go on the road for 4 of their last 6. They don't exactly play a murderer's row down the stretch, but there are no more Rams or Browns. (Well, there are the Lions, but that's it. And they're not even pushovers anymore.)

That game was infuriating. They should have won, but did not because they're stupid.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Trim the Mustache

Wow. If reports out of Boston are correct, and the Red Sox were willing to deal Michael Bowden for JJ Hardy, Doug Melvin should be run out of town today (actually he should have been run out of town the minute he turned that deal down).

According to a baseball source, the Sox had been engaging with the Brewers in on-and-off discussions involving Hardy since the trading deadline, roughly two weeks before Milwaukee sent the struggling shortstop to the minor leagues. Talks continued up until recently, when the Brewers agreed to send Hardy to the Twins for outfielder Carlos Gomez.

According to the same source, Milwaukee wanted either starter Clay Buchholz or reliever Daniel Bard for Hardy. The Sox were not willing to offer either pitcher. Milwaukee was not interested in righthander Michael Bowden, whom the Sox would have been willing to part with, and the Sox did not have a center field prospect who could match Gomez’s skill set.

I like to think that Massarotti was taking a dig at Melvin there when he said the Red Sox don't have anyone with Gomez's "skill set." Gomez's skill set is ideal for track and field, atrocious for Major League Baseball.

Melvin shoots for Bucholz or Daniel Bard. OK, that is asking a bit much for just JJ Hardy. Red Sox counter with excellent 22 year old prospect Micheal Bowden. He's been hit pretty hard in the majors in two brief stints (in the AL, in the East mind you) but has absolutely burned up the minors. 1.156 WHIP, 8.1 K/9 and a 3.1 K/BB ratio in 5 minor league seasons. The kid is good.

From Baseball Prospectus:
For the first six weeks of last season, Michael Bowden was the one pitcher known to man who could actually succeed in the pinball-machine atmosphere of Lancaster. From there, he went to Double-A, where he wasn't nearly as good. The mitigating factor is that Bowden was among the youngest starters in the Eastern League. There is still some work to be done, particularly on his changeup and his anything-but-ideal mechanics, but he's a future rotation piece.
A future rotation Boston. My God, he could be an ace in the NL Central.

Going into 2009, Micheal Bowden was number 9 overall in Jon Sickels' yearly pitching prospects. He had a bit of a rough year.
9) Michael Bowden, RHP, Boston Red Sox
4-6, 3.13 with an 88/47 K/BB in 126 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket, 106 hits. Got knocked around in brief major league trial. Component ratios slipped this year and his stock has dropped slightly.
So, his stock dropped slightly. Lets say that means 20 spots. He is still a top 30 pitching prospect in the minor leagues. Top 50 conservatively. Overall.

To me that puts him at least at the back end of the Brewers rotation this year, and at the very very least he is a bullpen arm working his way into a starters job in the future. He is 22 years old!

How do you pass up on Michael Bowden for Carlos Gomez? You have got to be absolutely kidding me. The best Brewers fans could have hoped for with Michael Bowden is a solidified rotation spot. The best we can hope for with Gomez is that the Brewers find his replacement quickly.


Friday, November 6, 2009

ESPN Plagiarizes Michael David Smith

Michael is a friend so I thought I'd spread the word about the Worldwide Leader completely copying and pasting his writing, and claiming it as their own. Read all about it here.

You can find Mike's writing at Fanhouse here, and his posts at PFT (in their original form and location) here.

Update: They now acknowledge the issue.

Though they don't explain it.

I hate, hate, hate this trade.

First of all, it is now obvious to everyone that the time to trade JJ Hardy was LAST off season. But Carlos Gomez? Really? That's the best you could do? I have a few Twins fans as friends and not a single one of them likes Carlos Gomez. Their scouting report would be something like, "A dumb player. Bad baserunner. Does not make good use of his speed. Tried to pull the ball too much when he hits, and bunts in inappropriate situation. The kind of prospect who sticks around on tools, but never develops in part because of those tools."

Let's meet our new crappy outfielder:

His career line in the majors is .246/.292/.346. That's awful. And it's not a small sample size, as he's played almost 2.5 full seasons.

In 2008 BP had this to say:

Pressed into duty when Moises Alou went down (didn't see that coming!), Gomez was more exciting than good. While Gomez is a high-ceiling prospect with a ton of talent and amazing speed, it was apparent that he wasn't ready for the big leagues. Worse, a strained hamstring and broken hand cost him the majority of the season at an age and stage that was crucial to his development. Between Alou's injuries and his own, Gomez lost a year of progress that should have been made in the minors.

We trade our former All-Star short stop and get this? I almost liked Carlos Gomez better when he was named Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Anyone have anything positive to say?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Favre: Full of drugs...and shit

PFT has the story:
Before the 2009 season began, we developed a distinct impression that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was trying to develop advance excuses for playing like, you know, someone who is 40.

Despite an obsession by most teams to keep injury information secret, Favre was openly talking about a partially torn rotator cuff, cracked ribs, and sore ankles.

So with arguably the most stressful game of his career only hours away, Favre tells ESPN's Ed Werder that the veteran quarterback "hasn't been feeling well and has been on antibiotics two of the last three weeks."

Favre also said he has felt "bad" as recently as Friday.

But the Vikings haven't disclosed on the injury report that Favre has any type of illness. Given that the Jets were nailed for hiding Favre's partially torn biceps tendon in 2008, we tend to think that if Favre were feeling sick, the Vikings would have disclosed it.

So, basically, Favre is saying, "If I stink today, it's only because I have swine flu, polio, and/or lupus."

Jump in a fire, Brent.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bad Baseball

Both WS games have been highly entertaining so far, but last night everyone suffered from a major case of terrible baseball.

1. Did everyone else in the world know when Pedro needed to be pulled? What are the odds that one of the only two guy who didn't manages the Phillies?

2. Derek Jeter bunting with 2 strikes, 2 men on and no one out in a World Series is the worst baseball play I have ever seen. Nice work Cap'n.

3. The umps screwed up twice in high leverage situations that could have cost either team the game, but we're used to that. What is getting me more upset is the basic calling of balls an strikes. Mariano Rivera struck out Ryan Howard last night on a called strike that was at least 5 inches off the plate. Only a half-blind idiot would have called that pitch a strike.

In the 8th inning of game one, Damaso Marte threw 5 pitches to Chase Utley. Utley did not swing at any of those 5 pitches, and was eventually called out on strikes on the 5th pitch. Fox Trax (Fox's version of Pitch F/X) showed all 5 pitches to be balls. (The 5th pitch was very close, however, at that point Utley should have already been standing on 1st base.) And really, the first 4 were not that close.

This is a problem with a solution. Pitch F/X can tell you almost instantaneously whether or not a ball was in the strike zone or not. Continuing to rely on umpires for this function is fucking Amish. It's ridiculous. We should at the very least offer hitters challenges, as they do in tennis. It would barely slow the game down at all. They could post the Pitch F/X replay up on the scoreboard and fans would love it. Umpires would hate it, but who cares? Maybe it would provide them with an incentive to not do such a shitty job.

I'd go a step further and have Pitch f/x call all of the balls and strikes. If you want to keep an umpire back there to make the "strike" signal and call plays at home plate, I'm fine with that, but there's no down side to turning this over to a computer.

Finally, if anyone tells me that they want umpires because they like "the human element" I will yell at this person very loudly. "The human element" is important in baseball, but it is provided by the players. The players are playing the game. They are supposed to provide all of the drama and heroics and whatnot. When an umpire introduces his own human element into the game, he diminishes the accomplishments of the players. Last night, Chase Utley's hustle was destroyed by an idiot who thought he was out. By arguing that you want to keep "the human element" you are arguing that you like mistakes. And no wonder.

If you have that opinion, you probably make a lot of them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ESPN Should Sue Deadspin

(Full disclosure: 2 years ago I wrote the Packer Season Preview for Deadpsin, in which I made a bunch of really bad predictions.)

Update: First read this, which includes this:

the Supreme Court ruled that in order for a public figure to recover for defamation they must be able to prove that the statement was made with "actual malice", i.e., a. a knowledge of falsity or b. a reckless disregard of whether it was true or false.

Yesterday Deadspin decided to publish a bunch of unsubstantiated rumors about the sexual practices of ESPN employees. This is not foreign territory for Deadspin, but when they’ve been sordid in the past they’ve at least done some vetting or sourcing, or hey, even some actual reporting. This was not the case yesterday, and frankly, their little series on ESPN was pretty despicable. In particular, they attacked a middle management type who does not appear in any public capacity for ESPN. Taking a shot at Eric Kuselias might be in bad taste, but at least he’s a public figure. Throwing around rumors about some poor woman in middle management is an entirely different matter.

Proving libel is difficult in America*, especially if the victim is a public figure (where you have to show that the offender knew that they were publishing false information), but in this case there is one non-public figure (I’m not going to write her name or a link. You can find it if you want, and I don’t need to make that any easier). Moreover, I think the public figures may even have a case based on this statement from AJ Daulerio:

“And since the tenuous connection between rumor and fact for accuracy's sake has been a little eroded here, well, it's probably about time to just unload the inbox of all the sordid rumors we've received over the years about various ESPN employees. Chances are, at this point, there's some truth to them.”

While this isn’t an admission that he knew this info was false, it’s pretty darn close. It at least shows that he did not care if it was true or not. In short, it looks like "reckless disregard" to me.

I suppose all of this dirt could be true, in which case Deadspin will remains safe, (despicable, but safe), and ESPN may not want to draw further attention to this situation. But this was a risky venture, and if any of it was false, AJ and Deadspin could be in deep trouble.

I certainly won’t be visiting Deadspin for awhile. I won’t say forever, as they may have Ken Tremendous and company back at some point, but I won’t be back soon.

AJ Daulerio should be ashamed of himself.

*I don’t do libel as part of my job, and the legal analysis here is based entirely on trying to remember law school, so take it with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

John Heyman Refuses To Vote For Prince Fielder Because of Manny Parra

You see, Prince wasn’t actually valuable:

“Milwaukee's Prince Fielder had a terrific statistical season (.299, 46 homers and 141 RBIs) and will likely make a vast majority of NL MVP ballots, but the "most valuable'' part of the equation is weighed heavily here, as I don't believe players on also-ran teams should win the award.”

A terrific statistical season. Not a terrific season, mind you. Just a terrific statistical season. Apparently he hit all of those HRs for show. He’s an artiste, this Fielder bloke. A true creative genius. We loved the shockwave. Sure, give the man a Tony, but the MVP? Feh. Let’s see him hit a few HRs that actually matter first. Like he did last year. Because they were in contention. Because their pitching was better. Which made Fielder more valuable even though his stats say he was less valuable. Or something.

Sure his statistics might be better this year, and he may have been responsible for the Brewers being in contention as long as they were, but…what was I saying again?

We’d better check out the rest of his ballot. Make sure he didn’t…

“2. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Spectacular talent could have won Comeback Player. Playoff failures don't count.”

Oooohhh no. He did. I know VORP isn’t everything but Troy is 7th in it. And I know that by all accounts Tulo plays some stellar defense, but really? Did you know that Tulo was caught stealing in over 1/3 of his stolen base attempts (20/31)? He’s a good player, but Hanley Ramirez’s offense was 20 runs better than Troy’s. I guess this isn’t the most ridiculous vote I’ve ever seen, but…

“4. Andre Ethier, Dodgers: Six walk-off hits led league.”

Let’s see…(scanning VORP top 20 for Andre Ethier’s name)

Hmmm. I can’t seem to find it. Matt Kemp is there at 12. Let’s expand it to 22, maybe he just barely missed the cut…nope, there’s Manny Ramirez though. Huh. Manny out-VORPED Ethier even though he had 250 fewer plate appearances and VORP is a counting stat.

Ah. There’s Andre, at 23. 3rd highest VORP in his outfield. But hey, he was super clutch, right, I mean…

Hardball Times Clutch Rating (Not perfect, but it’s what we’ve got):

Ethier – (-6.8)
Matt Kemp - (-2.3)
Manny Ramirez – (-2.2)

Oh. So he was only clutch in really high profile situations that everyone noticed, but not really in general. At all. And while good defensively (at least I think so, though his OOZ wasn’t as good as Kemp’s, whatever that means. I mean, I don’t always understand all these things, I just look them up on the internet to see which number is higher. Ethier has a higher RZR).

But the third best offensive outfielder in his outfield is the 4th best player in his league. This may be the most ridiculous vote I’ve seen.

“NL LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Milton Bradley, Cubs: Alfonso Soriano (20 HRs, 55 RBIs, .241) and Geovany Soto (positive test for pot, .218 batting average) were dreadful, as well. But Bradley was asked to leave the team for the final two weeks. Tough to top that.”

Milton Bradley is a malcontent who lost all of his power for some reason, but here is a list of prominent Cub players who put up lower VORPS:

Milton – 9.1
Geo Soto – 3.2
Soriano – 2.2
Micah Hoffpauir - -.02
Mike Fontenot - -.20

Many pitchers did as well, though I don’t know how well Pitcher VORP compares to player VORP, so we’ll leave that out.

Let’s do OPS+ just for kicks:

Milton – 101 (Hey! Average!)
Soto – 81
Fontenot – 74
Theriot – 84
Soriano – 85
Hoffpauir – 85
Fox – 98

Sure, Milton wasn’t great, and I’m sure he wasn’t a clubhouse guy, but he was hardly the worst player on the Cubs, let alone the league.

Finally, this one just ticks me off:

“3. Ryan Howard, Phillies: May actually be underrated.”

There is no reasonable way to conclude that Ryan Howard is more valuable than Prince Fielder. There just isn’t. They’re both sub-standard defensively, and in this instance defense isn’t really worth considering, because Prince is so much more valuable than Howard that Howard would have to turn into Ozzie Smith to make up the difference.

Prince hit more HRs. Prince hit for a higher average. Prince had a higher OBP (.412 to .360, not even close). Prince had 35 more walks. Prince had a higher OPS+. Prince struck out 50 fewer times. Prince had a VORP of 70.3. Howard had a VORP of 47.7. (Chase Utley, by the way, had a VORP of 61.7, and plays a tougher position. Howard wasn’t even the most valuable player on his own team. Heyman has Utley at 9th). Prince did not turn into Jason Kendall against lefties (.292/.359/.584/.943 for Fielder, .207/.298/.356/.653 for Howard, .241/.331/.305/.636 for Jason Kendall, just so you know I’m not kidding,)

Prince did not become less valuable just because the Brewers replaced CC Sabathia with Braden fucking Looper. If anything he got MORE valuable. Without him, they’re not in contention at any point this season. The Brewers were in the race for a long time, largely because of Fielder. Holding individual baseball players accountable for a team's record is idiotic. It’s completely nonsensical. If you swapped Howard and Fielder at the beginning of the year, the Phillies would have won their division by even more, while the Brewers would have been eliminated earlier, seen lower attendance, and possibly traded off a bunch of the team at the deadline. This is because Fielder is a better, more valuable player than Howard.

That is what valuable means. If player A plays just well enough to make his team filled with awesome players good enough to get into the playoffs, while player B puts up better numbers but plays on a team that is so bad that it would have taken 93 HRs, 342 RBIs and a VORP of 884 to get them into the playoffs, player A is not more valuable than player B.

And Ryan Howard is NOT underrated. That’s right, I used all caps. People fawn over Ryan Howard like he’s Albert Pujols. One time, in 2006, sports writers voted for him like he was Albert Pujols even though he’s wayyyyy worse than Albert Pujols. Howard gets at least as much respect as he deserves, and probably a whole lot more.

Someone needs to take away Jon Heyman’s voting rights. Not just his MVP voting rights, his American Democracy voting rights too. If this is the level of thought you put into baseball, what are the odds you get life right?

Andre Ethier?...Good lord…

(H/T, BCB)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Someone Tell The Rockies That Ryan Howard Can't Hit Lefties.

Good lord. This isn't rocket science, it's baseball. Here's Joe Sheehan:

Ryan Howard is the best left-handed batter in baseball against right-handed pitching. There is no one better than him, no one. He hits for average (.319 in 2009, with a .339 BABIP) and power (.372 ISO, with an extra-base hit every six at-bats) and posts an acceptable walk rate (about one UIBB in ten PA) for a very good OBP of .395. The specifics have bounced around a bit from year to year, but his 2009 numbers against northpaws are a good match for his career numbers: .307/.409/.661, .338 BABIP, about a 10 percent UIBB rate. The only hitter you might prefer at the plate with a right-handed pitcher on the mound in Albert Pujols, although the 2009 version of Joe Mauer is in the discussion as well. Howard is simply a devastating force against righties, one of very best in memory at hitting them.

When a left-hander is pitching, Howard is a bad hitter. In 2009, he batted .207 with a .299 BABIP, striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances. He had an ISO of just .149 and inferior walk and extra-base hit rates. It was the worst full-season performance of his career against left-handers, but not that out of line with his 2007 and 2008 lines. (In 2006, Howard posted a .368 BABIP against lefties, which boosted his overall line against them to .279/.364/.558. That stands out as a fluke.) For the three-year period covering 763 plate appearances, Howard has batted .219/.308/.379. Whereas his comps are singular—Albert Pujols—when a righty is on the mound, it's a different story when a lefty pitches. In terms of his overall effectiveness against lefties, he hits a bit like Pedro Feliz and Cristian Guzman did this year, or Jack Wilson before his trade to the AL.

At around 7:45 p.m. Mountain Time last night, Jim Tracy needed one out to get his team a second win in the Division Series, to push them to a deciding fifth game. He had Albert Pujols, more or less, at the plate, and he had the option to turn Pujols into Pedro Feliz just by walking to the mound and tapping his left arm. With one move, he could have dramatically increased his team's chance of getting an out, winning the game, flying back to Philadelphia on the heels of a dramatic comeback victory.

And as we know, he didn't do it. Jim Tracy chose to face a batter with an 1100 OPS instead of one with a 700 OPS. That, more than anything else that happened, is why the Rockies lost.

Quick MLB Note

The officiating in the MLB playoffs so far has been embarrassing.

That is all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Prediction: A Wisconsin Win

I'm not sure why I think Wisconsin will be able to defeat Ohio State in Ohio when they are more than two-touchdown underdogs. Maybe I'm putting too much stock in Jim Tressel's lousy coaching. (After all, it's not like Bret Bielema is the greatest x's and o's guy either). Maybe it's because they're starting QB can't pass and ours can. (Even though a running QB can be enough to win in college). Maybe I think our balanced offense can score on their excellent defense.

The thought that keeps popping up (and has no basis in reality at all, really) is that OSU will not be ready for a Wisconsin team that can pass. I don't think they'll buy it until they see it, and by then it will be too late.

I'll probably be wrong. OSU may just overwhelm Wisconsin with superior talent. Happens all the time in the Big Ten. I just don't see it this time for some reason.

Wisconsin 17, OSU 10.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fun With TD

Or, The Myth Of Brett Favre's Heroic 2007 Comeback Victories

TD (in the comments here) thinks that Aaron Rodgers would not have been able to come from behind in a few games in 2007. Specifically the Eagles, Giants, Redskins, Broncos games. I beg to differ. Let’s take a look. (This was too long for a comment.)

Brett Favre v. Eagles, Week 1, 2007

23/42, 206 yards, 0 TDs, 1 pick.

Packers win the game on this play:

(1:09) 9-J.Ryan punts 29 yards to PHI 31, Center-60-R.Davis. 30-J.Reed MUFFS catch, RECOVERED by GB-24-J.Bush at PHI 31. 24-J.Bush to PHI 31 for no gain (87-B.Celek).

They then run 3 times to set up a Mason Crosby FG.

On the Drive before that with the game tied, Captain Comeback had the following thing happen to him:

(4:26) 4-B.Favre sacked at GB 43 for -9 yards (58-T.Cole). FUMBLES (58-T.Cole), RECOVERED by PHI-93-J.Kearse at GB 38. 93-J.Kearse to GB 38 for no gain (76-C.Clifton).

Now that's clutch right there.

Brett Favre v. Giants, Week 2, 2007

29/38, 3TDs 1 INT

This isn’t a come from behind victory. The Pack was up 14-13 entering the 4th quarter. As frequent commenter and Giants fan Jon will tell you, much of the Giant defense was hurt in this game and the late outpouring of offense by the Packers was unsurprising. The Giants also had 3 people take snaps at QB, and I assume Eli was dinged for part of it. A nice game from Favre, but against this Giant team, not all that impressive. If he’d done this against them the second time, that would have been pretty cool.

Favre v. Washington Redskins, Week 6, 2007

19/37, 0 TDs, 2 INTs

The Packers overcome a terrible game from Favre on this play in the Third Quarter:

(2:21) 89-S.Moss left end to GB 43 for no gain (99-C.Williams). FUMBLES (99-C.Williams), RECOVERED by GB-21-C.Woodson at GB 43. 21-C.Woodson for 57 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Charles would add a second fumble recovery later to ice the game. Favre would let the Skins back into the game several times, but ultimately Woodson saved the say.

Favre v. Broncos, Week 8, 2007

21/27, 331, 2 TDs, 0 INTs

Numbers in Regulation:

20/26, 249 Yards, 1 TD

Brett made a great 85 yard TD pass on the first play of overtime to nail down the win. Great! Heroic! Fantastic! Uhm, one question…why were they in overtime with only 13 points scored in regulation?

Perhaps it was clutch play like this in the 4th quarter:

• 1-10-GB 45 (15:00) 25-R.Grant left tackle to GB 49 for 4 yards (97-S.Rice; 55-D.Williams).
• 2-6-GB 49 (14:14) PENALTY on GB-4-B.Favre, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at GB 49 - No Play.
• 2-11-GB 44 (13:53) (Shotgun) 4-B.Favre pass short left to 25-R.Grant to DEN 48 for 8 yards (52-I.Gold; 32-D.Bly).
• 3-3-DEN 48 (13:15) (Shotgun) 4-B.Favre sacked at GB 46 for -6 yards. FUMBLES, and recovers at GB 46. 4-B.Favre to GB 46 for no gain (92-E.Dumervil).
• 4-9-GB 46 (12:46) 9-J.Ryan punts 54 yards to end zone, Center-60-R.Davis, Touchback.

It was, in fact Denver and Jay Cutler who marched the length of the field (starting from their own 7) on the last drive of regulation to tie the game at 13 on a late Elam FG, after a Packer drive stalled on a dropped pass from James Jones. I hate when that happens.

Aside from the 82 yard TD pass to Jennings in OT, and an earlier 79 yard pass to Jones, Favre was 19/25 for 170 yards, or under 10 yards per completion. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good game overall (you can't just discount those completions), it was just a very boom and bust game in which Favre did as much to lose the game as win it.

The Packers caught a lot of breaks that year and often won games in spite of, and not because of, their aged QB. I still maintain that given the same luck, Rodgers would have had basically the same season.

Morning after...not so bad

Offensive line is pathetic and while the 3-4 may be good in the long run, it's made Kampmann completely and utterly mediocre. He doesn't like the 3-4 and he plays like it. The dude needs to be traded in the offseason, hopefully teams will remember his dominance as a DE.

Woodson was in the paper politely bitching about Capers play calling. Again, 100% agree. How the Packers didn't get a single sack is beyond me. We were rushing three and the Queens were able to get wide open in the first half. Why not adjust in the second half and bring some God damn pressure from the edge? I know the safeties suck but is leaving them out there for 7.4 seconds really better than leaving them on an island?

If Aaron Rodgers had a mediocre offensive line he would be a top 5 QB. If he had a good offensive line he would be Drew Brees. The Packers skill players (outside of the safeties and RB) and elite. Finley is showing himself to be an insanely good draft pick and everyone knows how good Driver and Jennings are. Despite the absurd pressure last night Aaron Rodgers played excellently. One poor throw all night, pretty much. There wasn't a whole hell of a lot he could do on the fumble, and the safety he was trying to make a play down two scores knowing his defense was playing like shit.

All in all it wasn't as thoroughly a discouraging performance as I felt it was last night. No one expected the Packers to win, least of all me, and after getting thoroughly dominated the Packers were right there.

Weird how no one (I assume, since I'm not turning on ESPN ever and NFLN til Friday) is talking about how huge that Donald Lee dropped touchdown turned out to be.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Fix is In

This game is unwinnable. Tracker is right. NFL is the new NBA is the new WWE.

Rodgers is the best QB on MNF Open Thread

Jack Parkman

For old times sakes, I figure we'll all have a lot to say during this one. Personally Favre doesn't scare me at all. If the Vikings win it will be thanks to AP and Jared Allen, not so much Favre. Although, no matter what happens ESPN will give it Favreite celebrity AARP rep the game ball.

I just wish the damn game would start already.

I Am Very Pessimistic

I am not high on the Packers' chances tonight. It's very difficult for me to envision a scenario where Jared Allen isn't in the backfield all night. It's also hard to envision Ryan Grant averaging more than about 1.2 yards per carry. I'll be fairly happy if Rodgers doesn't get hurt.

I don't think it's hopeless as there is always the possibility of a Favre meltdown, but I don't think he'll have to throw much.

Fortunately I'm usually wrong.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rob Neyer (Accidentally) Fisks Joe Morgan. Hilarity Ensues.

A big thank you to Jon for pointing this out.

You know how bullies will grab the arms of weaker kids and make them hit themselves in the head while asking “why are you hitting yourself?” over and over? That weak kid is ESPN, the head is, counterintuitively, Joe Morgan, the arm is Rob Neyer, and the bully is a group of very clever commenters.

First, from the JoeChat!

Joe Morgan

A lot of people didn't like the Wild Card when it was instituted, but I think the Wild Card has really helped baseball down the stretch each year. Without the Wild Card, we'd only have one race right now. I think the Wild Card is a great concept and in fact, I think we should expand the playoffs, if baseball is willing to shorten the season. All of the other leagues have expanded playoff formats and I think we should do the same.

Adam (Walla Walla, WA)

My Blue Jays have a 24 run differential yet are 11 games below .500. What gives?

Joe Morgan

It just tells you that the run differential doesn't mean anything. It doesn't. It's just a number. If you beat a team 11-1 today and you lose 1-0 the next day, you're run differential is 9, but you're at .500. Run differential is not the way to grade a team. If you look back over the last 5-6 years, you will find that run differential doesn't tell you nearly as much as total pitching stats and total offensive stats, BA with runners in scoring position, etc. It just tells you when they're good, they're really good and when they're bad, they're really bad.

Derek (Queens)

Simple question, Joe. Who gets your vote for AL MVP and why?

Joe Morgan

That is a very difficult question for me and I think we have to wait. If Joe Mauer has a big series against Detroit, then I would have to give him my vote. If he doesn't have a big series, then you have to start thinking about players like Mark Teixiera, Derek Jeter and my darkhorse guy that I give my props to is Kendry Morales in Anaheim. When Guerrero and Hunter were out, he provided the pop until they were back.

Steve (Middletown, CT)

Sabathia for Cy Young? He has more wins than Greinke.

Joe Morgan

I would vote for CC, but not so much for that reason. I would vote for him because when he came to the Yankees, he was under extreme pressure to do three things: 1) win games; 2) be the ace of the staff; 3) beat Boston. The only thing left to do is lead them in the playoffs, but the votes will be in before the playoffs. There have been a lot of guys that they brought to that staff to be the ace and haven't, guys like Randy Johnson. CC will have more innings pitched, Greinke may have better other numbers. But for me it's innings pitched and wins and losses. But you can not take away from what Greinke has done. I would not argue with anyone who votes for him.

Now, what do you think happens when Rob Neyer is asked about Joe Morgan’s answers without knowing he’s being asked about Joe Morgan’s answers? This happens:

Jay (PA)

Rob, a friend of mine said that CC should win Cy Young because he did the three things he was brought to NY to do: win games, be the ace, and beat Boston. Please explain to him what a ridiculous argument that is.

Rob Neyer

Gee, Jay. He's your friend, and he'd probably listen to you more than me. I'll just say that while those arguments make a good case for Sabathia having a wonderful season, I can't see how they push him past Greinke (or for that matter, King Felix).

Jerry (Chicago)

Rob, a friend of mine said Joe Mauer MUST have a big series against DET this week or he won't win the MVP. Is my friend as well as Jay (PA)'s friend insane or what?

Rob Neyer

It's just not true. Mauer's got all the buzz right now, and will win

Pete (Fl)

Rob, run differential is a meaningless stat. If a team wins one game 11 to 1 but then lose the next game 2-1, they have a run differential of 9 (which is good) but a .500 record (which isn't). I mean the fact that the top 4 teams in the AL in run differentials is NY, Boston, LAA and Texas yet Texas isn't in the playoffs just proves the point!

Rob Neyer

That fact doesn't prove any such thing, Pete. Next time you see me, I'll explain why.

Nice work everyone. You’re all heroes in my book.

NFL Power Rankings (based on my superficial non-statistical 3-week analysis)

Top 5

1. NY Giants – Their defense looks excellent again, and it’s tough to find a team more well-rounded on offense.

2. Baltimore Ravens – If their defense catches up to their offense, look out. With the Saints, one of the only two teams to score more than 100 points so far.

3. NY Jets – Mark Sanchez looks like a 5 year veteran.

4. New Orleans Saints – Will the offense hold up against the Jets and Giants in their next two games?

5. Cincinnati Bengals – A fluke away from being 3-0, the Bengals have looked like a real team for the first time in a long time.

Interesting fact: Did you know that the Denver Broncos have only given up 16 points total so far this year?

Bottom 5

1. Cleveland Browns – This is the team that I least want to watch on Sunday. Only the Rams have scored fewer points, and no one has given up more. A complete train wreck.

2. St. Louis Rams – They may be able to move up if Kyle Boller can hold on to the starting job, but that sentence alone illustrates just how bad they are.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Once the defense crumbled it was all over.

4. Oakland Raiders – JaMarcus Russell is the worst QB I’ve ever seen. Just because they beat KC does not make them better.

5. Washington Redskins – Losing to the Lions is inexcusable. If the Redskins play the Browns this year anyone exposed to said game will probably pass out from boredom, like in the Flash Forward show.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stop Running!

The Packers could really cut down on their protection problems if they would just cut down on the number of Ryan Grant 1 yard runs.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jay Mariotti, You Dirty Old Man

I understand how someone like Jay Mariotti could write this. Most of his day is taken up by whining about whiny baseball players, campaigning for (Cubs GM) to be fired, and yelling at Woody Paige. That said it would be nice if he watched a football game now and then, maybe perused the box scores in the USA Today, or even on the internet where he, you know, writes his column.

Anyway, he apparently does read US Weekly, which at least gives him some info on Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.

I am at a newsstand, staring at the cover of a gossip magazine.

So Jay is one of those guys who walks into the 7/11 and ogles the not-quite-nudie magazines. I just want to get to the back cooler to pick up my Starbucks Doubleshot Energy+Coffee, but no, Jay Mariotti is standing there, rudely blocking the fastest path and forcing me to detour down the cat food/deicer aisle. Just great…

On it is a photo of Jessica Simpson, lamenting the breakup of her relationship with Tony Romo and gushing that she wants him back.

Yeah right. Like you "read the article." Uh huh.

Except the cover refers to him simply as "Tony,'' which is absurd in that it assumes "Tony'' is a major figure in Americana when, in fact, he's an erratic and overhyped quarterback who might be benched before you can say Daisy Dukes.

I was walking down the streets of Ft. Worth the other day (I’m too cool for Dallas. Ft. Worth is underground. It’s dangerous. You fly into Dallas/Ft.Worth and everyone’s like “Hey, I’m in Dallas! Yee Haw!” But not me. I’m all about the wrong side of the tracks. By the way, does anyone know anything fun to do in Ft. Worth?)

Anyway, while I was walking the streets of Ft. Worth I heard a faint rumbling in the distance. AS I approached what I’m sure is a bustling downtown area it grew louder until it became a deafening, Phil Spector-esque wall of sound. The people were shouting in unison, trying to evoke, by sheer force of will, their football savior.
They shouted “We Want Kitna!”

Seldom do I agree with the knee-jerk opinions of retired athletes,

Sorry to be breaking in so often, but this is just a lie. Mariotti does this all the time. He’s nothing but knee jerk. He wants everyone fired. Hell, he even got himself fired by being all super knee-jerky. When you think Mariotti, you think jerk. And that’s halfway to knee jerk.

many of whom are bitter cusses plagued by Contract Envy, Media Envy and other jealousies centered around today's stars. But when it comes to First-Name-Basis Tony,

So now the “first name basis” thing is out of line? Dude, you were quoting Jessica Simpson. She is/was on a first name basis with Tony Romo. Do you expect her to call him Mr. Romo in interviews? If Jessica would have called him her Sweet Baboo would you have extrapolated from that that the entire nation is referring to Tony Romo as Sweet Baboo? Maybe you will redeem yourself with rigorous statistical analysis.

who continues to fluctuate wildly in his fourth season as an NFL starter while smoother operators such as Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco excel as sophomores,

Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan appear to be pretty good and I don’t want to take anything away from them, but are we really going to rely on two games for our basis of comparison? A lot can go right and wrong in two games. Romo had a great game against a bad Tampa team, and a bad game against what is probably a great Giant defense. Flacco has been good, but one of those good games was against the Chiefs (The other was San Diego). Ryan has played against Carolina and Miami. The Giants probably have the best defense out of the group, and it’s not surprising that a QB might struggle against them.

Besides that though:

Completion Percentage, career:

Romo – 63.1
Ryan – 62.0
Flacco – 60.4

Yards per attempt, career :

Romo – 8.1
Ryan – 7.8
Flacco – 7.0

Romo does have a higher interception percentage, but his touchdown percentage also blows the other two out of the water:

Romo – 6.2%
Ryan – 4.2%
Flacco – 3.8%

it's hard to disagree with the harsh assessments of Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman. Considering all are Hall of Famers who've won Super Bowl rings when Romo has yet to win a playoff game, they have the credibility necessary to criticize Romo's considerable underachievement in one of pro football's most scrutinized jobs, QB of the Dallas Cowboys. And as each periodically weighs in, I find myself nodding at just about every shot taken at Jessica's ex.

As for Emmitt Smith, I think Mariotti may have debacled this argument.

"I don't know why on God's Earth Tony Romo has been anointed a superstar in the National Football League," Dorsett said in a FOX Sports Radio interview. "Tony is very young in his career. Not to say you can't be young in your career and be a superstar because you've got one up there in Minnesota in Adrian Peterson.

“Romo is too young, except he’s not. Because of Adrian Peterson.”

“Also, there was this guy named Tony Dorsett who rushed for 1007 yards and a 4.8 YPC with 12 TDs in only 14 games (and only 4 starts) in his rookie year of 1977, followed by over 1700 yards from scrimmage in his next season.”

But the thing is this: You have a guy who hasn't done much, and quarterbacks in the NFL, most of them go through this growing curve.

I think central bankers relying on the “growing curve” may have caused the recession.

He hasn't gone through that growing curve, but he was anointed this great player all of a sudden. Now he's having to live up to that. And obviously Tony has some deficiencies ... I think the media has given him too much credit for doing nothing. He hasn't done anything really in the NFL to deserve all the recognition and visibility he's gotten so far."

OK, this simply isn’t true. First of all, I don’t think anyone puts Romo up there with Manning and Brady (and I would include Brees too, but what has he ever won? Huh? Tell me!) And second, Tony has been a pretty good QB. Here, look.

He’s also ranked 4th and 11th in DYAR the last two years. I still think the reason that people view Romo as anything but a good QB is his botched hold in the playoffs. Something that really isn’t a starting QB’s job.


Maybe it's as much a commentary on the sizzle of the Cowboys and their P.T. Barnum owner, Jerry Jones. But any perception of Romo as a marquee player, as the TV networks like to sell him, is woefully wrong. He can't win big games, whether it's a critical late-season contest, a playoff game -- he's 5-10 in December and January -- or a game such as the one Sunday night.

I still think this goes back to the botched hold, as previously mentioned. That hold happened after Romo led a drive from the Dallas 28 to the Seattle 2 yard line, and they were only kicking because a replay overturned what was previously ruled a first down by Jason Witten. The review of that game on ESPN contains this sentence:

“Romo was a big reason the Cowboys even made it this far, having turned their season around by winning five of his first six starts after replacing Drew Bledsoe and blossoming into a Pro Bowler.”

In his second playoff loss, the Cowboys fell to the Giants team that would eventually defeat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. Tough crowd.

A Week 2 meeting against the New York Giants was turned into a mega-event by Jones, who described it as "bigger than the Super Bowl'' because it was the opening regular-season game of his $1.2 billion, 73-acre colossus of a stadium. From the retractable walls that change from silver to blue (depending on the weather) to the 72-by-160-foot video board that hangs over the field like a high-tech cyclops, Jones rather ridiculously spoke of his new creation in orgasmic terms.

"I can't sleep at night,'' he said.

This leads to all sorts of bizarre questions about Jay Mariotti’s sex life which I think we should all just avoid. Agreed? Agreed. Good.

In other words, Jones wanted dearly to win the game and maximize his thrill.

Still no? Oh Ok. Are you sure? I have a good drug joke? Hutchence/Carradine?

No, I guess you’re right, I don’t want think about it either.

But Romo, who usually plays well in September,

Inspired by the fall colors, the cool breezes, and memories of times long since past…

Can we stop with the “he plays well during X” thing? It’s so very stupid. Maybe the Cowboys have just had better matchups early. Maybe it’s just random. Who knows? What it isn’t, is an arbitrary turn of the calendar. Tony Romo doesn’t wake up on October first having lost his ability to play football.

sabotaged his boss' dream with a dreadful performance -- 13 for 29, 127 yards, a 29.6 passer rating and three killer interceptions, all leading to Giants touchdowns in a 33-31 loss.

Yes, that’s bad.

It followed a strong outing by Romo in a Week 1 victory over Tampa Bay, against whom he threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns.

Wow, that’s pretty good.

This was supposed to be the year when he threaded together consistent games, grew up as a leader without any Terrell Owens distractions and took the Cowboys deep into the postseason. Instead, he already has planted a familiar seed that suggests he's doomed to a career of inconsistency. He lacks the dynamic efficiency and cool that has defined the greatest Dallas quarterbacks, Aikman and Roger Staubach.

I wasn’t really around for Staubach, but when I think Aikman, I think “maybe the greatest offensive line of all time” and “remember that one time when Jason Garrett played great behind said O-Line” and “it sure is easy to pass when Emmitt has you in 2nd and 4 all game.” But that’s just me. I guess. Also, everyone should keep in mind that leaders don’t throw interceptions. I hear Brett Favre was a great leader (the media told me!) and that guy never threw any interceptions.

"I think things happened so quickly for Tony -- in terms of obscurity to, all of a sudden, the national spotlight -- that he hasn't fully grasped what being the Cowboys quarterback is all about," Aikman said in the offseason.

Oh Troy. I know I sort of ripped on you above, but I actually think you’re a pretty solid Hall of Famer and appreciate that you try to bring smarter statistics to your broadcasts. So what gives? Is being the Cowboy quarterback like being a True Yankee? Does the Cowboy QB have to throw twice as far, uphill, while wearing stirrups?

Smith is challenging Romo to be a better leader, accusing him of not "demanding excellence'' from teammates. "I never saw him go snatch somebody up, and say, 'Hey, we can't win like this. We can't have guys jumping offsides. I can't have [a defender] coming at me unabated. Who is making the mistakes up front? Why aren't you picking this guy up? This is not going down this way. If you can't get your job done, get off the football field,' " he said.

Unlike Troy Aikman, who routinely yells at Starbucks baristas for a certain lack of professionalism. Does anyone think that Marion Barber would run harder if Tony Romo was more inspiring? Does DeMarcus Ware fall asleep in the corner after every practice?

Grouchy, old Cowboys, they are not. Having survived and thrived in the Dallas pressure cooker, they know what's required to win championships.

That’s right. You can’t beat a great offensive line, the all-time leading rusher in NFL history, Charles Haley, Deion Sanders in his prime…

No one is seeing a title aura in Romo,

Or, new age bullshit. That's good too. His helmet also violates several tenets of Feng Shui, and his horoscope indicates that stupid, angry scribes will unfairly denigrate his accomplishments.

who takes too many chances and doesn't manage a game as much as he mismanages it. Last year, he has 21 turnovers in 13 games.

Romo threw 26 TDs last year and threw 14 picks. He also fumbled a lot, which is bad. To be specific, he fumbled 13 times. However, he was also incredibly unlucky as his team only recovered 3 of those fumbles. Research (by Football Outsiders) has shown that while creating fumbles is a repeatable skill, recovering them is not, and that fumble recovery tends to regress to the mean. Romo put the ball on the ground too much last year, but he was also terribly unlucky.

This year, he's on the same pace. "There are some throws that you shouldn't attempt to make when you are playing certain teams," Aikman said this week. "We've seen him try and do that from time to time. When you play a team like the Giants, who match up pretty evenly talent wise, you have to be smart about those throws. Interceptions happen more in the playoffs and in bigger games in December. When the games are close, you have to be smart with the football and that has been a problem with Tony. I know the coaching staff is trying to eliminate those mistakes."

Tony Romo has problems, but he’s not exactly an interception machine. He’s always thrown more TDs than picks, and usually a lot more. In 2007 when he threw a career high 19 picks, he also threw a career high 36 TDs. Aikman’s advice is good, but there are many QBs who are far more careless with the ball than is Romo. And when a QB fumbles it’s often not the QBs fault, especially if he’s blindsided. In his glory years, how often did Troy Aikman get pressure from the blind side? Never?

Said Dorsett: "He's not going to be on top of his game week in and week out, because this game is a very fast-moving game and he makes some decisions sometimes -- he's like a gambler man, he takes chances and sometimes those things, he gets bit in the butt by that.''

This is true of every QB. Let’s just move on.

Their reactions are far more severe than his own. After every stumble -- nine times, he has had passer ratings of under 60 -- he flips his cap into backward mode and says he'll try better the next time. "I'm sorry that I wasn't able to play up to the level the rest of the other guys did," Romo said Sunday. "I have to get better at the mistakes I made and I will."

Brett Favre had a passer rating under sixty 55 times. Troy Aikman had a passer rating under sixty 39 times. It happens.

It's undeniable that Romo, as the Cowboys QB and by virtue of some strong performances in less-pressurized moments, has been anointed by the media before proving he deserves top billing. Remember, he emerged from obscurity, signing with Dallas as an undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois. Just as major college programs in the Midwest ignored him, so did every NFL front-office boss but Jones. Is it possible the scouts had it right in the beginning?

I really hate crap like this. First of all, if you are on a contending NFL football team, every game is pressure-filled. There are only 16 of them. Sure, some might be more important, but none are unimportant. Second, here Mariotti is making what I call the “Peyton Manning” error. The rub on Manning used to be that he couldn’t win the big game. The error is that once you get late in the season and into the playoffs every game is a big game, and unless you win the Super Bowl, every player on a contending team will, at some point, lose the big game. While it’s true that Romo has been less than stellar in the playoffs, and indeed, late in the season, he has won big games. And if not for the botched hold, he would have a last second game-winning playoff drive under his belt.

He was supposed to flourish under offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but Romo keeps making the same mistakes in the games that matter most. Since replacing Drew Bledsoe as the starter in 2006, he has been enabled by Jones, who sorely wants Romo to become a dominant player to validate his oft-doubted status as a talent evaluator. As always, Jones is dabbling in fantasy when reality says Romo might not be a better idea than Jon Kitna, the veteran who wisely was signed as a backup. To no one's surprise, he defended Romo on his radio show this week.

I feel bad for what I’m about to do, because Kitna is actually not a terrible QB, and by all accounts he’s a pretty good guy, but he’s not in Romo’s league in terms of talent or production. Kitna’s career completion percentage is 59.8%. He’s thrown almost as many picks (151) as TDs (152). His career rating is 76.6. He’s had a few good seasons in the past (1999, 2003) but also a ton of absolute stinkers (in 2001 he threw 12 TDs and 22 picks).

Romo is a 63.1% passer. He’s never been anywhere close to throwing as many picks as TDs in a season, and his career mark of 85 TDs/49 Picks is very good. Romo is good for 8.1 YPA, whereas Kitna comes in at 6.6. It’s embarrassing that I have to write this. Jay Mariotti should walk around with a bag over his head and a giant scarlet M on his lapel so that everyone knows he's a moron, for writing this. This guy used to write for a newspaper? For money?

"We have all the confidence in the world in Tony Romo," Jones said. "You'd like for him not to have a day like that, but when everybody is pointing fingers, when it didn't go good, then you want someone who can walk into that huddle in the next snap at practice, the next snap in the ballgame and walk out there and cut and shoot and play like they just won the Super Bowl. That's a great quarterback."

On cue, Romo's coaches and teammates also keep supporting him. "Tony's a fighter," coach Wade Phillips said. "He's going to keep after it."

Sounds like his teammates and coach like him. Almost like he’s some kind of leader or something…

"I know you guys don't see it from our perspective, but he takes a lot of things he does wrong very, very hard,'' center Andre Gurode told reporters. "I can't just imagine how he felt [Sunday] night when he went home. You see the guy [Monday], pat him on the back and say, 'Hey, we're going to correct our mistakes and get better.' ''

That smells like leadership to me…

"The bad thing is when we win, it's all the quarterback, and when we lose it's all the quarterback," cornerback Terence Newman said. "There's times he's played bad and we've picked him up, and there's times we've played bad and Tony's picked us up."

Wow, he really seems to have the locker room. Do you think Jay has now rambled on for so long that he forgot about the first part of this column?

To his credit, Romo often has bounced back from poor games to deliver solid performances the following week, which will be expected Monday night when the Cowboys host reeling Carolina. Last year, he answered a wretched game in Pittsburgh with a 113.8 passer rating in a win over the Giants. "[Quarterback] is certainly a physical position, and you've got to have the physical skills. But, at the end of the day, it's got to be someone that has a tough skin, that's got a high level of willpower,'' Jones said. "Someone that can say, 'Look, I didn't play well that play, that game,' and come back and play outstanding. The greatest of them all had many days as rough as Tony had Sunday.''

Sounds like a solid guy. A warrior, even. Shrugs off the bad, goes out there, yada blah bklsf;af…

But not nearly as many. This far into his career, Romo isn't nearly as accomplished as those with comparable years of NFL experience, including Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning.

I’m sick of dumping stats into this Gorgon of a column. You already know that going by stats Mariotti is wrong. You know that Roethlisberger is “accomplished” because the Pittsburgh defense is so awesome that they won him his first Super Bowl even though he put up the worst QB rating in Super Bowl history. They carried him a bit last year too.

You know that much the same is true of Eli Manning, though he has improved greatly in the last year and a half. Rivers probably has better numbers, but basically the same "accomplishments" as Romo. The fact is that Romo is, at the very least on par with these guys, and he’s better than at least a few of them.

No, the ups and downs of the Cowboys aren't all his fault, not as long as Jones stands by the overmatched Wade Phillips as his head coach and the defense -- zero sacks so far after amassing 59 last season -- gets pushed around as one of the league's worst. But in a quarterbacks league, Romo is a maddening case of having no idea what's coming from week to week, especially when Manning burns the Cowboys for 330 yards and two scores.

1. Blame defense for loss.
2. Hold Eli Manning’s monster day against Tony Romo, not against defense referenced in point one.
3. Follow rabbit down rabbit hole where this may make sense.

"It's frustrating," he said Wednesday. "I'm really disappointed in myself right now. I'm really not okay with my play right now." But not disappointed enough to stop wearing the damned backwards cap, I'm sure.

And get off the lawn! Rapscallions bringing their floozies around here with their caps and saggy pants. Consarnit.

In the final analysis, he has the look of a heartbreaker. Jessica Simpson knows that much.

Out of my way Mariotti. This isn’t a library. If you want to “read” the magazine, buy it. I need my Starbucks Doubleshot Energy+Coffee. And hey, maybe pick up one of these football magazines while you’re at it.