Friday, December 31, 2010

8 comments Doesn't Anyone Care About the Feelings of New York?

There is something really important that has gotten lost in the rejection of the Knicks and Yankees by LeBron James and Cliff Lee, and it is not the fact that JemeHill is still talking about LeBron James' decision to go to Miami six months after he made the decision. What's important is what this means for New York as a whole? Why don't these players want to come to New York on the biggest stage possible to get constantly critiqued and criticized by a reactionary media with their unreal expectations and constantly changing and never-ending criticisms?

It can't be possible that a player just doesn't want to play for the Knicks and Yankees, that's not possible at all, but their rejection of the city of New York means something is wrong with the city of New York or the players themselves. Fortunately, JemeHill gets to the bottom of this issue. She can't seem to fathom the idea that all other MLB and NBA cities in the bidding for James and Lee were also spurned. It's all about New York to her. If she could fathom it, she would only care by wondering what the other cities in MLB and the NBA being spurned meant for New York.

The day the New York Knicks officially announced they signed Amare Stoudemire to a $100 million contract, Knicks owner James Dolan characterized playing in New York City this way:

"We have to overpay players to get them come play for a team owned by me. Really, we've tried other options and I am so incompetent I can't seem to make the other options work."

"It takes courage to play where the lights shine the brightest," he said. "It takes leadership and character and competence to step up and say, 'I'll go first.' And it takes great skill to succeed in the No. 1 market."

In all other markets it takes zero skill and zero leadership to play. Pitching in Philadelphia? Piece of cake. Do they even have newspapers there? Probably not. There's no pressure on Cliff Lee to perform in Philadelphia, certainly not.

I'm not assaulting Lee's character or other intangibles, but it's hardly a secret that being a marquee player in New York City is just as challenging as it is rewarding.

It's also hardly a secret that being a marquee player in Philadelphia is also just as challenging as it is rewarding. It is not a secret that playing in Miami and being a marquee player is just as challenging as it is rewarding, especially when you open yourself up to criticism like LeBron James has done. I guess JemeHill thinks Miami is a small farming town located somewhere below the southern-most point of the United States, which to her is Pennsylvania. Yes, New York City is the biggest stage because it is the media capital of the United States, but there are other cities where there is pressure to perform well. Players not going to New York isn't a sign they don't want to face pressure.

It seems as though there is no longer an ironclad rule in sports that if athletes want to prove their mettle, they go to New York.

Morals in this country are eroding rapidly! I blame Obama!

Notice how JemeHill thinks it is a bad thing that athletes don't go to New York "to prove their mettle." She also probably thinks the Yankees should not be able to buy all of their players and there should be a salary cap in baseball. She wants all players to go to New York, but also wants the Yankees to quit getting all the best free agents.

Here's a brief list of free agents who have chosen New York over the last 2 years...just to show that not only is JemeHill dumb for thinking New York is the only place a player can prove their mettle, but she is also wrong. New York still becomes home to a good amount of talented free agents.

C.C. Sabathia
A.J. Burnett
Mark Teixeira
Raymond Felton
Amare Stoudemire
Jason Bay
Antrel Rolle
LaDainian Tomlinson
Jim Leonhard
Keith Bullock

This doesn't include a list of players who re-signed to play in New York and continue the effort to show their mettle on the largest stage. I won't list them but provided they are fairly large. Great players are still choosing New York, but it isn't a bad thing for sports if they weren't.

So what happened to that New York City mystique?

OMG! Panic! Where has the media-built mystique of playing in New York gone to?

"Our Plan B is patience," Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters during a conference call Tuesday.

Screw patience. There need to be moves made RIGHT NOW. These needs to be quick, knee-jerk moves the team will regret down the road. Nobody gives a shit about actual progress, but the illusion of progress is all JemeHill wants.

The sports fan in me would have loved to see Lee take on the psychological challenge of leading the Yankees to a World Series,

The sports fan in JemeHill doesn't want to watch Cliff Lee go against the Yankees in the playoffs again for the third straight year? I guess a World Series between the Phillies and Yankees isn't classified as "sports" in her mind.

particularly because it would have meant battling a reloaded Red Sox team,

Notice the tag I have that says, "ESPN thinsk there are only two teams in MLB?" I didn't create that tag for this post. It's an ongoing issue I find with ESPN's coverage of baseball. Any move that does harm to the only and most important rivalry in sports is seen as a bad thing. If it were up to JemeHill all available free agents would have to decide between playing for the Yankees or the Red Sox.

(Even though it does feel like that's the choice right now anyway)

I hope JemeHill knows the Yankees are still going to play a reloaded Red Sox team. These two teams will play quite a few games against each other this year. It is so irritating as a fan of sports to hear a sportswriter dismayed that Cliff Lee didn't do anything to further enhance the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. It's not like Cliff Lee went to North Dakota to play baseball. He went to Philadelphia, which by all accounts appears to be a rather large city, not to mention a team that has made the World Series two of the last three years...but it is not New York so JemeHill is contractually obligated by ESPN to hate the move.

I would also argue very few things have done positive things for the NBA lately than LeBron playing for the Heat with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. It gave many NBA fans an enemy to cheer against and has led to high ratings for Heat games against their rivals. Of course JemeHill doesn't care about what is good for the NBA, she cares that New York was rejected by LeBron. That's all that matters to her for some reason. Even those who live in New York and are Knicks fans may not understand her point of view.

but the realist in me understands that the psyche of today's professional athlete is centered on minimizing the possibility of failure.

Yes, because in a rotation with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, there will be no focus on the performance of Cliff Lee in the mining town of Philadelphia, where there isn't a newspaper reporter in sight.

Certainly no athlete of any generation liked to fail, but athletes have so much exposure now that failure comes with a harsher stigma that smart athletes want to avoid.

Which is why LeBron James teamed up with Wade and Bosh to create an even larger stigma and focus on himself than if he had chosen any other team in free agency...including New York. If anything, James opened himself up to MORE criticism by choosing the Heat over the Knicks. If JemeHill thinks James is avoiding exposure to failure in Miami she isn't paying attention at all.

A star doesn't just fail a city today. He fails the world. He doesn't just fail at Yankee Stadium and in the New York tabloids. He fails on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Failures have become as memorable and lasting as successes.

I don't know if JemeHill is stupid or what, but Cliff Lee has joined a rotation that is being called "the best ever" and LeBron James was predicted to win 70+ games in Miami this year. How is this avoiding failure or staying away from unreal expectations?

Not every athlete is equipped or wants to be a savior.

Does avoiding that pressure make someone such as Lee a less dynamic player?

Because being the 2nd best pitcher on the Phillies is so much different from being the 2nd best pitcher on the Yankees. Lee is hiding from the world by signing with the Phillies and essentially guaranteeing the Phillies will be predicted to be in the World Series by 75% of baseball experts. A team being predicted to go to the World Series contains no pressure for Lee, I am sure.

It is idiocy, in fact it is journalistic malpractice, to say LeBron James and Cliff Lee avoided pressure in choosing the Heat and Phillies respectively. It's very, very, very not true.

Kevin Garnett spent 12 seasons in Minnesota trying to build the Timberwolves into a championship team, and ultimately, he became a Celtic because he grew sick of trying to learn from losing.

Garnett, who won an NBA title with the Celtics in his first season with the team, admitted after James chose Miami that he wished he had left Minnesota sooner.

This is something JemeHill constantly does. She either creates a false argument to prove as incorrect or she completely misses the point of something intentionally/unintentionally in order to prove her point.

Kevin Garnett didn't leave Minnesota because the spotlight wasn't enough, he left because the team was terrible. Cliff Lee and LeBron James didn't go from great teams to bad teams, so there is no lesson to be learned from his situation. It wasn't an issue of being out of the spotlight for Garnett, it was the issue of being on a team going nowhere.

"Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can't get youth back," Garnett said. "I can honestly say that if I could go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I'd have done it a little sooner."

What the hell does loyalty have to do with this discussion? Neither Lee or James re-signed with the teams they were on the season before. Try to convince a Cleveland Cavs fan that LeBron James was too loyal. I'd like to see that.

What Lee is required to do in Philly is magnitudes easier than what he'd have been expected to do in New York, where he and CC Sabathia would have anchored the staff and, win or lose, had every pitch scrutinized and second-guessed on TV, on radio, in print, online and at the corner bodega.

I bet there will be no second-guessing in Philadelphia...is that really want JemeHill believes? Has she ever paid attention to the Philadelphia media? This is just idiocy.

Shouldering the fate and fortune of an entire franchise and city has become an overrated experience for extraordinary talents like Lee, LeBron and even Alex Rodriguez, who ironically came to New York in 2004 for the same reason Lee and LeBron avoided New York.

I don't know if this is ironic or not. We may need a check on the definition of "irony."

I don't knock either Lee or LeBron for their choices, and they certainly aren't the only star athletes to say no to New York. After the 1992 season, Greg Maddux did the same thing, choosing the Atlanta Braves over pinstripes.

True. Maddux managed to avoid the spotlight by being considered one of the greatest pitchers of all-time and playing in three World Series in Atlanta. Boy, if he could do that decision over he would go to New York where the challenge of winning a title was greater and he would have become more of a household name. Whatever happened to Greg Maddux after he left the Cubs in 1992?

The real issue isn't who is saying no to New York but who is saying yes.

Yes, the city of New York should be concerned about this. With widespread and readily available media coverage of an elite player now an almost certainty no matter where he plays, how will sportswriters like JemeHill convince players the only place to get noticed is New York?

Lately, the only athlete who has been begging to come to New York is Carmelo Anthony. And before Anthony's back-channel pleas, the biggest free agent the Knicks had landed in some time was Stoudemire.

To JemeHill this isn't an indication of what players think about the Knicks or James Dolan, but an indication players don't want to carry a franchise on their back. Let's just ignore how dysfunctional the Knicks have been so JemeHill can prove a point.

Stoudemire and Anthony are terrific players. Stoudemire is having a marvelous season and has so far proved to be a good investment, returning the Knicks to basketball relevance. But both are also questionable leaders.

As seen by Anthony leading Syracuse to a National Championship as a freshman. That is questionable leadership at its best.

Is New York City still a desirable destination for bona fide, complete superstars such as Sabathia? Or is it now the preferred locale for wannabe, flawed or over-the-hill superstars such as Eli Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson?

Eli Manning was directly out of college when he went to New York. He also did not choose to play for the Giants, he just didn't want to play for the Chargers. That's just a minor detail of course when talking about the Giants as a "desirable destination" for Manning...the fact he wasn't anything but a rookie when he was traded to the Giants and he didn't exactly choose them more than he didn't want to choose San Diego.

Or even worse, is it for those who have no problem accepting failure?

Ooooooooooo...what a deep thought! Here's a deeper thought, maybe there are more attractive cities that also have a large media presence for players to choose when they are a free agent? Nah, that would never happen.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

7 comments NFL Picks Week 17

I realized that I forgot to post my record for the season last week, in case you were wondering how illegitimate my picks are. My record is as follows:

Last Week: 10-6
Overall: 124-120-6

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-3.5) over Oakland Raiders

All indications point towards Todd Haley playing Matt Cassel for the entire game against Oakland. If he plays, I'll take the Chiefs at home (7-0 thus far). More importantly, how has Tom Cable's name evaded the annual coaching change rumors? It's not as if Cable has led the Raiders anywhere over the past few seasons. Only three theories can explain this phenomenon.

1) Al Davis is a deranged owner who still belives its 1975.
2) Al Davis also beats women and thus empathizes with Tom Cable.
3) All of the above.

I'll take #3.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-3.5) over Miami Dolphins

Tom Brady is only slated to play two quarters, but my faith remains for one simple reason: Brady and the Pats do not want to lose their home winning streak. Sparano may have the motivation of coaching for his job and the rest of the Dolphins may be auditioning for other teams, but the streak is always greater.

Before the game, the Pats should show/play every preseason quote proclaiming Chad Henne the next Dan Marino. It's funny how one season changes everything.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-10) over Tennessee Titans

It's remarkable how the chips continually fall into place for Peyton. The Jaguars had every chance to clinch the division and eliminate the Colts but could not. I do not expect the Colts to let slip an opportunity to clinch another playoff birth when the only thing in their way is Jeff Fisher. No matter who Tennessee hires as their coach for next season, the 2011 Titans will go one of two ways. On the one hand, the Titans Bud Adams/the next head coach's combined love of Vince Young could once again propel the Titans back into contention. Without a doubt, they have the offensive weapons to at least guarantee a wild card birth. On the other, an anti-Vince head coach would gut the roster, forcing the Titans to undergo a Saint Louis-like rebuilding process. Because Bud Adams' infatuation with Young is too powerful, I believe scenario one will emerge. But back to Bud Adams. His love of Vince reminds me of a grandfather playing with his rambunctious five-year-old grandson. Because this kid has all the energy that grandpa does not, he lives vicariously through him. For those of you keeping score at home, grandpa equals Bud Adams.

HOUSTON TEXANS (+2.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars - MJD - Garrard + Todd Bouman = Houston Texans victory.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+5.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS

Mike Tomlin by himself is slowly destroying Bill Cowher's legacy. Already matching Cowher's Super Bowl total, he has made the Steelers a perennial Super Bowl contender as Cowher did. In Cowher's 15 seasons, he led the Steelers to two Super Bowl berths and six AFC Championship games. As impressive as these totals sound, they have a little too much Donvoan McNabb-like stench to them. For all his regular season success, he could only get over the hump once as an underdog Wild Card team.

Do not take this as an attack on Cowher's career. Simply that he left the door open for another coach to swoop in and make a bigger mark on the Steelers franchise. If Tomlin only ends up with one Super Bowl title, it's hard to imagine his legacy as greater than Cowher's. But if he gets even one more, his similar regular season success combined with greater playoff prominence will vault him above the famed spit-flying Steeler legend.

Cincinnati Bengals (+9.5) over BALTIMORE RAVENS

Only because I doubt Baltimore will care about this game.

2011 prediction: Carson Palmer is not a starting NFL QB next season. Once Marvin Lewis departs, the new coach will evaluate his current roster and realize that an aging, average QB in Palmer will not lead the Bengals to the promise land. The only choice, then, is to rebuild. Feel free to call me out when this prediction turns out to be completely wrong.

DETROIT LIONS (-3) over Minnesota Vikings

It's not often that a QB manages to juke two defenders so badly that they run into each other. I'll chalk up Michael Vick's unimpressive performance to mere chance. The constant blitz strategy that the Vikings employed was the same one as the Giants. The only difference was that Vick never managed to run around or through it as he did in the 4th quarter against the Giants.

Detroit's recent surge has me believing more and more that they will be next year's surprise Wild Card team. Most of their losses this season have been close. Turn two of those 4th quarter collapses into victories and they're sitting at .500 without their star QB for most of the season. Jim Schwartz has them going in the right direction.

New York Giants (-4) over WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Is anyone else pissed that Shanahan's move to Rex has worked out well? Where is karma when it's most needed?

Chicago Bears (+10) over GREEN BAY PACKERS

It seems that Vegas is unaware of Chicago's intention to play all their starters. The rivalry factor can never be ignored. Also, what kind of Giants fan would I be if I picked the Packers? I can't have conflicting motives here.

Dallas Cowboys (+6.5) over PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Phili's on a short week, Vick is ailing, Philly has the #3 seed all but locked up (meaning they won't get the #2) and Jason Garrett is coaching for his future with the Cowboys. As one Cowboys accurately described to me, "Jones better hire Garrett instead of a mid 50's coach holding onto past glory." Meaning, please don't hire Jeff Fisher, Bill Cowher (I know he's technically out of the running, but you never know) or John Fox. Garrett is young, invigorated and the perfect man to whip the Cowboys plethora of individual egos into a collective unit. Everyone knows that the team's demeanor starts with the head coach. Who better to instill a "team" idea than Jason Garrett, a man who hates the media and attention more than Bill Belichick?

NEW YORK JETS (-1) over Buffalo Bills

It appears that Mark Sanchez will play despite his injured shoulder. While I'm not one to openly support either resting starters or playing to win, I think this is the one situation where Rex's win-all-the-time attitude can be detrimental to the team. When everyone is healthy, you might as well play them (although I completely understand sitting them). But to play your injured, franchise QB when the other playoff QB options are Brunell and Clemens is too risky. I understand the impulse to have positive momentum going into the playoffs, but no momentum can overcome a Mark Sanchez torn labrum.

ATLANTA FALCONS (-14.5) over Carolina Panthers

Even without any semblance of a running game, New Orleans defeated Atlanta. But a bigger issue arose in this game which continues to bother me each week in the NFL: coaches punting when losing late in the game.

Facing 4th and 6 at their own 43 with 2:52 left, Atlanta chose to punt (they had all 3 timeouts). Mike Smith's decision indicated that he trusted his defense to stop Drew Brees from getting 10 yards in three plays as opposed to his offense gaining six yards in one play. On the surface, this seems like a logical conclusion. But consider the opposite scenario: Atlanta goes for it. Obviously, then, there are two outcomes. If, as is entirely possible, Atlanta does not convert, New Orleans takes over on the Atlanta 43. Because time is of the essence, one first down essentially seals the game. Therefore, even if Atlanta punts, New Orleans can end the game with a first down. If Atlanta manages to stop New Orleans, at best they are attempting a 50-yard field goal. Even though it is no longer a field goal game, Atlanta has over two minutes to win the game with a TD. However, if New Orleans has a 4th and 1 at the 34, they would most likely go for it to seal the game. A stop on 4th dow, gives Atlanta the ball back with plenty of time remaining and only a 3 point deficit. If New Orleans converts, the game is over and it is irrelevant where New Orleans had the ball in the first place.

My point, ultimately, is that teams are too conservative at the end of the game. Punting may be safe and conventional, but it does not give your team the best opportunity to win.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-8) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

While Mike Smith's conservative play cost Atlanta, Sean Payton's aggressiveness sealed the win. Despite the proclamations of the MNF announcers, Payton had Brees throw the ball to win the game. If your QB is at all competent, you can tell him to only throw if the completion is guaranteed. Otherwise, take the sack or run out of the pocket and slide. Hopefully more coaches follow Payton's example.

SAINT LOUIS RAMS (-3) over Seattle Seahawks

Because I refuse to believe that an under .500 team can or will make playoffs. That and Pete Carroll's continued success (at USC and Seattle. Although this year wouldn't be successful had the NFC West not resembled Division II football.) for some reason infuriates me more than I can describe.

Arizona Cardinals (+6) over SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Firing Mike Singletary one game before the end of the season is like canceling a terrible TV show one week before the season finale. Yes, the show will not run for another season and has proven that it cannot do the job, but at least give it the dignity of allowing its storyline to finish. It's not as if firing Singletary will turn around their season: it's already over. Jed York's attempt at swift and decisive actions seems childish. Can the coach after the season. You're not saving any face by pulling his pants down a week early.

DENVER BRONCOS (+3) over San Diego Chargers

TIM TEBOW HOME FACTOR! TIM TEBOW HOME FACTOR! I said it last week and I'll say it again. Tebow is a lovable QB (if he's your QB). Fans are pumped to cheer for him, and not QB is more amped to receive praise than Tebow. If there's any QB that will be spurred on by home support over the next five years, it's Tebow. Plus the Broncos are a home underdog. That usually bodes well for gamblers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

13 comments Oh Dan Shaughnessy, Even When You Aren't Irritating You Still Are

It has been pointed out to me a few times that I don't focus on Dan Shaughnessy quite as much as I possible should. Apparently, there is an entire blog dedicated to Shaughnessy's writings, so it makes me feel good to know someone is watching him. That takes dedication. I need a Shaughnessy fix in my life, so today, Dan reveals his Hall of Fame ballot which (spoiler alert) isn't incredibly terrible, but then he insists on typing more after he's listed who he voted for to make the Hall of Fame. That's when it gets somewhat dicey for me.

The Hall of Fame ballot goes in the mail today with check marks next to the names of Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar, and Jack Morris.

Kind of a light ballot, no? I'm all about exclusivity in choosing who makes the Hall of Fame, but with Tim Raines, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, and Jeff Bagwell on the ballot I think a three person ballot is kind of light.

At least Shaughnessy doesn't vote for Jack Morris over Bert Blyleven. I'm pretty sure I have covered this before, but Blyleven is superior to Morris in nearly every aspect...but if Blyleven is considered a borderline candidate (as it seems he is based on the previous year's voting), then Jack Morris should be a solid "no" to be in the Hall of Fame.

Here's a fun exercise that shows how far from being a Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Morris truly was.

We won’t know who’s in until January, but this year’s ballot has some new challenges because the Steroid Boys are stepping forward in large numbers.

We've already voted the "Greenies" and "Spitball" Boys into the Hall of Fame without an apparent concern so there are occasions when I fail to see the reason Steroid Boys shouldn't get a hard look at entrance too.

The Hall has a problem and it’s going to get worse every year.

Some voters don't vote using a consistent criteria for selection to the Hall of Fame?

Baseball scribes are asked to weigh off-the-field stuff such as “character’’ and “contributions to the game,’’ and this clause puts us in the uncomfortable position of measuring moral fiber.

This clause is not new. It's been in place since the Hall of Fame has been in place. Ty Cobb must have been seen as a great guy because seems to have passed the "character" and "contributions to the game" criteria with flying colors. Also, I'm not sure these are specific off-the-field questions discussed in the clause, but they are more questions dealing with how the player played the game of baseball, especially the whole "contributions to the game" thing. Some of the older guys may not hold up too well looking at the "character" issue. If Babe Ruth played in 2010, there's a good chance he is a really horny, more American and more talented Matt Stairs.

(dodges things thrown at him by Yankees fans due to my cheap joke)

I'm not saying Ruth doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, he absolutely does considering he is one of the greatest hitters of all-time, but in 2010 if Babe Ruth repeated his off-the-field antics from the 1920's of visiting whore houses and just generally being a screw-up (off the field) I wonder if the "morality clause" Dan Shaughnessy just mentioned would be widely discussed? He should be in the Hall of Fame, but the lack of media coverage and hush-hush relationship between players and writers in the early days of baseball is more preferable to Ruth's legacy than it would be today. Today his antics would cause him to be great tabloid fodder.

As far as being Matt Stairs, Ruth didn't play against elite competition since minorities weren't allowed to play and he was by all accounts slightly overweight. It's just funny to think of him as a more talented Matt Stairs is basically what I am saying.

Is this what fans want? I’m not so sure. Writers never have been able to vote for Pete Rose because baseball put the Gamblin’ Man on its permanently ineligible list, but I’m pretty sure the fans want him in there.

Yeah, but the Hall of Fame isn't for fans. It's for writers who want to show that they will not pay attention to new statistical ways to analyze players and so writers can take out long-held grudges against players or help get a player they like an elite honor.

Last year Andre Dawson was the only player voted in by the scribes. Dawson was a fine player but a tad boring.

I'm surprised the writers ignored the "super-exciting public speaker" clause for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame by voting in Andre Dawson. No, the writers had to go and base his election on his baseball prowess. Assholes.

Future induction ceremonies are going to be awkward when nice players are enshrined while folks such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds perhaps remain on the outside looking in.

As opposed to the lack of awkwardness in a Hall of Fame speech by a well-known or suspected steroid user? That won't be awkward at all.

I also like how Dan Shaughnessy seems to assume steroid users aren't nice people. If you have been in any way linked to steroids you are not only a cheater but also a person who is beyond redemption in all facets of your life.

Where is the line as we cherrypick our way through the proven cheaters and guys who merely look suspicious?

That's my point. You can't. Voters have to make a decision one way or another.

I’ve been a Blyleven guy for years (just as I stayed with a deserving Luis Tiant right up until he was tossed from contention after 15 years). Blyleven ranks fifth on the all-time strikeout list and he pitched in an era when it was tougher to strike guys out than it is today. He pitched for a lot of bad teams, but he still won 287 games and compiled an ERA of 3.31. He threw 60 shutouts and had 16 seasons of 200 innings. He pitched well in the postseason and won two World Series. He’s in.

I don't jump for joy when seeing all of the criteria Dan used to back up Blyleven's Hall of Fame admittance, but I also can't argue with the result he comes to. Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame and anyone who argues differently is a moron...or a zealot.

I was going to cover the Jon Heyman screed against Blyleven but Rich Lederer did it much better than I probably would have so follow that link, read, and enjoy.

Alomar also should be enshrined. He missed by only eight votes in his first year of eligibility and should go over the top this time. His exclusion was kind of a joke (maybe it was that spitting at the umpire episode). He was a switch-hitting second baseman, a career .300 hitter with 210 homers, 10 Gold Gloves, and 12 consecutive All-Star appearances.

Alomar should be in. Let's just stop with the "All-Star appearances" criteria forever please. It may mean a player was good during his time or it may mean he was popular during his time.

Morris is a tougher vote. He’s not going to make it. His 3.90 ERA is high.

That and most of his candidacy is based on first hand accounts that are MUCH more accurate than statistics. We all know the human memory is flawless when events are recalled over time. For example, I thought John Smoltz pitched 9 innings in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series until a few years ago. It turns out my memory ain't so good and I wouldn't doubt if the memory of sportswriters don't become somewhat embellished over time as well.

The silly stat shut-ins don’t like him.

Like Shaughnessy's colleague, Peter Abraham?

Morris is more of a “you had to be there’’ candidate.

Or what I call a "bullshit" candidate. Those who support can dream up all this wonderful bullshit that they remember Morris doing that supports his candidacy, rather than basing it on the statistics he accumulated.

I was at the 1991 World Series when he won Game 7, 1-0, in 10 innings.

Holy shit! No way! I watched that game on television. Based on that game, Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame? What about Gene Larkin? That fly ball to win the game was so clutch. He should be in the Hall of Fame too.

Anecdotal evidence is the food that feeds the Jack Morris candidacy...well, that and cherry picking statistics that are supposed to mean something. My favorite Morris-related statistical related argument is, "but Jack Morris was the winningest pitcher in the 1980's! That means something!"

So the period of 1978-1988 doesn't mean as much as the period of 1980-1989? I would love to see reasoning for why one ten year period is more important and meaningful than another.

"Brandon Webb should be in the Hall of Fame! He led the majors in wins during the period of 2007-2008!"

Curt Schilling fans should promote Morris. It will help the Big Lug when he makes it to the ballot.

Because the entire goal of Jack Morris's candidacy should be to ensure another pitcher eventually gets in the Hall of Fame. Lower the bar so a pitcher that Dan Shaughnessy wants to vote for gets in the Hall of Fame!

Now let’s get to the folks who won’t get votes on this ballot.
Start with McGwire, who hit 583 homers, but never has gotten 25 percent of the vote. Big Mac finally ’fessed up to using performance-enhancers after years of “not talking about the past’’, but it won’t be enough to boost his candidacy. He’s viewed as a one-skill guy who enhanced that skill with banned substances.
McGwire is viewed this way not universally...but by Dan Shaughnessy. I do like the idea of using one's own personal opinion as if it were the opinion of a large group of others.

"Cole Hamels isn't a good pitcher. He's viewed as a guy who is just good enough to win games but not good enough to win games against good teams."

This brings us to Palmeiro. He’d be a lock if he hadn’t wagged his finger at Congress, said, “I have never taken steroids,’’ then tested positive. Palmeiro’s never going to recover from that.

As we will find out in the case of Jeff Bagwell, the fact Palmeiro got caught lying doesn't really affect Shaughnessy's point of view at all. The mere suspicion of wrongdoing on Palmeiro's part would have caused Shaughnessy to not vote for Palmeiro. So Palmeiro just had to be linked to steroids in some fashion, or even suspected, and then Dan takes him off this Hall of Fame ballot.

Fred McGriff is another story. He hit 493 homers. There’s no hint of cheating. But he goes down as another less-than-dynamic talent who owes much of his résumé to longevity.

Well, that and his career OPS of 0.886 and his OPS+ of 134. Here I thought longevity and continued excellence was criteria that helped players be seen as the best in their field over a period of time. I guess not.

"The only reason McGriff got to 493 home runs is because he performed at a high level for an extended period of time. If he hadn't hit 20+ home runs in 15 of his 19 seasons he wouldn't even be seen as a viable Hall of Fame candidate."

McGriff is a mere .284 career hitter.

Mickey Mantle is a mere .298 career hitter.

Jim Thome is a .278 career hitter and has played for 20 seasons now. Is that going to be held against him? Were does the line between great hitter over a long period of time and "statistics accumulator" begin?

McGriff also had a career .377 on-base percentage and a career .509 slugging percentage. I'm not saying he should be in, but to discount his candidacy because he had a long career where he played well for most of the time isn't fair. A long productive career could be a sign a player was among the best players of his generation. Isn't longevity part of the Hall of Fame decision process?

I’m also just saying no to Larry Walker, Kevin Brown, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, and Edgar Martinez (Career DH Edgar’s got a particularly vocal lobby of folks who’ve never been out of the house).

The whole joke about bloggers "never being out of the house" or being shut-ins is not even funny now. It just sounds bitter. Edgar Martinez should not be in the Hall of Fame. I haven't been outside in nearly three years and I believe Martinez should not be in the Hall of Fame.

It's better we don't get the reasoning for these omissions from Dan...mostly likely they would just irritate me. If Barry Larkin played for the Mets, Braves, Yankees, or Red Sox he would be in the Hall of Fame. I don't doubt this is true. Unfortunately, he played in Cincinnati and doesn't get the credit he deserves.

Finally, what do we do with Jeff Bagwell? He’s a career .297 hitter with 449 homers. He was an MVP. He won a Gold Glove. He had six straight seasons of 30 homers, 100 RBIs, and 100 runs.

(Using Shaughnessy logic) Yeah, but Bagwell did all of that over 15 seasons. He had six straight seasons of 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and 100 runs because he played more than six straight seasons. If he had played only 4 seasons in the majors, he never could have done this.

But like a lot of players who will follow him to the ballot, he was a guy who made you wonder.

So Palmeiro lies about using steroids, tests positive and he is out of the Hall of Fame. Bagwell never tests positive, but he makes you "wonder," and he is out of the Hall of Fame. I think every player who played from the mid-90's to the mid-2000's makes us wonder. Speculation isn't fact.

If you care about “character,’’ snubbing guys who tested positive (Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, and Manny Ramirez) is easy.

What happens to Sammy Sosa, Pudge Rodriguez, and other players who made you raise your eyebrows?

I'm pretty sure Sosa tested positive for a PED and was caught using a corked bat. He should be up there with Palmeiro, Rodriguez and Ramirez. As far as Pudge Rodriguez goes, he played in the majors too long for Dan Shaughnessy. He was great over a long period of time, so he just accumulated those statistics. Induction will be denied.

Voting for the Hall of Fame is a great honor. Too bad it’s become almost impossible to stay consistent.

It's really not. Here's a quick guidebook to staying consistent:

1. Decide upon guidelines for judging whether players should make the Hall of Fame or not.

2. Decide if you will let accused/suspected PED users in the Hall of Fame. If you will not vote for accused/suspected PED users, take their names off your own personal ballot.

3. Compare your guidelines to viable candidates while staying consistent to your guidelines (I'm talking to you Jon Heyman).

4. Use your criteria to vote for candidates.

5. If you still are having trouble figuring out who should be in the Hall of Fame, wait for Jon Hey man to release his ballot and then vote for all the players he didn't vote for. That should ensure a fair and accurate selection process on your part.

I’d better put extra stamps on the envelope. The ballot gets heavier every year.

I notice that Dan Shaughnessy didn't really back up his voting for Jack Morris other than saying, "you had to be there." That seems to be the entire basis for his Hall of Fame candidacy. What's funny is that there are even people who were "there" who still don't vote for Jack Morris.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

7 comments I Hate Terrible Bowl Games

On a typical night, I peruse the usual channels (ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, ABC, TNT) in search of a mildly entertaining college or professional game, assuming one of my teams is not playing. In the summer, a meaningless baseball game is usually the winner since the WNBA does not peak my interest, despite Diana Taurasi's recently exposed steroid use. Actually, I'm not sure if it was steroids. But because Women's basketball is about as satisfying as a Bill Belichick press conference, I don't even care enough to check. Anyway, back to the point I was trying to make. Now that college basketball, football, the NHL and NBA are in mid-season form (i.e. I'll watch select games because the beginning-of-the-season hype has died and my interest will only reemerge towards the end of the season/playoffs), college football in particular has the opportunity to pounce. We're talking Brad Pitt on Angelina Jolie, Rome on the Mediterranean pouncing. But they do not. They spread out their Bowl games over a month, lessening interest in college football and turning fans away.

Of these previously mentioned sports, only college football matters mid-season. It is the only sport in which a win or loss will continue or destroy a team's season. A playoff system would obviously clear up the issue, but this path has been explored at length. Since eliminating Bowl games is ultimately out of the question, maybe a little rearranging is not.

On Sunday night, the headline on ESPN.com was about the FIU vs. Toledo Little Caesar's Bowl (I know Sunday Night Football would normally be there had the game been played). This, in itself, is a problem for sports junkies. No one cares about FIU or Toledo unless a specific rooting interest exists. In fact, no one really cares about any Bowl game before January 1st. But the geniuses of college football arranged the Bowl schedule like this. As you'll notice, the Bowl season begins with one game a day, then morphs into two, then to three by the time January 1st rolls around. But should we not have the opposite schedule? The less well known teams usually compete in the less well known bowl games. So shouldn't these games be packed together, with the better games separated on different days?

Besides the obvious flaws in the BCS and current bowl game system, college football fails at the most crucial aspect of promoting a sport: maintaining interest. In the NFL, every game has an increasing importance, ultimately leading to the most important game, the Super Bowl. College football, despite its flawed system, perpetuates the same idea. With each successive week, the games carry greater weight. There's a reason why "Lost" and "24" became cult television shows (of which I am a part). Each week built on the next, culminating in a satisfying ending (in the case of Lost, I thought the ending was great. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority in that) or a completely wrap-it-up/tie-up-all-loose-ends ending. The BCS has the same opportunity. The meaningless bowl games can be simply scrunched into one week. And by meaningless, I mean the first 28 games. Four games a day with the first starting at 12:00 P.M. EST, the second at 3:00, the third at 6:00 and the final one at 9:00. This way, there's no overlap and fans do not have to wait to satisfy their college football thirst.

Some would say that the prolonged delay between the important bowl games and regular season builds up interest. In reality, it kills it. The two weeks between the conference championship and the Super Bowl are just long enough to heighten suspense. College football, on the other hand, uses a less effective technique. It's like comparing the effectiveness of Phil Jackson vs. Vinny Del Negro. After the regular season ended, the Oregon/Auburn/TCU chatter was at its peak. Everyone could not wait until the bowl season. But now, the interest is nowhere to be found. Instead, mid-season NBA and college basketball have taken over, transferring everyone's interest away from college football. Once the bowl games roll around, true fans will refocus their interest because they're true fans. No matter what the college football does, these guys will never disappear. But the casual fan is more likely to step away from college football and not return. The chatter dies, and so does the interest. (Saying this feels a little Gregg Easterbrookesque, but my personal experience has proven this to me countless times. But it's also entirely possible that my personal experiences does not represent the millions of other examples. So even if you think I'm off here, at least you can differentiate me from Gregg.) The college football national championship game could be a semi-national holiday as the Super Bowl is. But it's not (it happening on a Monday does not help.)

In week two of the bowl games, Monday would have the two biggest non-BCS games (biggest by program/interest, not bowl game reputation). The rest of the week, leading up to the culmination on Saturday (the National Championship game) would happen on individual days.

The point of this, ultimately, is the title of this post. I hate terrible bowl games. Most people hate the Little Caesar's Bowl and the like as well. So let's get through them as quickly as possible and get to the games that matter.

Monday, December 27, 2010

6 comments Gregg Easterbrook Gives Out Christmas Gifts; Unfortunately Not Writing TMQ Wasn't One of Them

This week, because he has run out of things to "fix" Gregg Easterbrook gives out Christmas gifts to each NFL team. We should enjoy this while we can because next week he is writing his annual "Unwanted players" list, which always serves to annoy me because Gregg hasn't grasped the drawbacks of the salary cap era in the NFL. He thinks players who are cut for salary cap reasons are "unwanted" by their team.

Enough getting ahead of myself, let's see what Gregg has put under the Christmas tree.

Ho ho ho! Here's what TMQ has asked Santa to leave each NFL team under its tree for Christmas morning:

No long introduction and a novelty idea for a column must mean Gregg had some sort of writer's block this week.

Arizona -- A time machine to return to 2008.

The Cardinals won a playoff game last year after winning their division. So the time machine would go to 2009 when Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin still played in Arizona.

Atlanta -- An identity. The Falcons are on a blazing 15-2 run, yet are known for what, exactly?

The media tends to give teams their identities, so this really isn't the Falcons fault the sports media hasn't latched on to something in order to hype the Falcons up.

Buffalo -- A complete set of jerseys from the 1990s Super Bowl run. It's no coincidence the Bills have not made the playoffs since switching to the league's ugliest uniforms.

Yes, it is a coincidence.

Carolina -- Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive backs, kickers and coaches. That's all the Panthers need.

Like I'm not going to jump on this one...

I know Gregg is trying to be cute, but the Panthers really need running backs? I think most teams would love to have Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Goodson. Same thing goes for the linebackers. I'm pretty sure there are teams that would enjoy having Jon Beason, Thomas Davis, and Dan Connor/James Anderson. I'm not a homer, there's still talent there.

During a 2-13 season I am not in the mood to joke. This is all very deadly serious.

Dallas -- A much larger state than Texas, to create room for Jerry Jones' ego.

My gift to Gregg Easterbrook -- an original joke that isn't from the mid-90's and hasn't been repeated in some form constantly.

Minnesota -- Brett Favre plays until eligible for membership in AARP.

That's a gift and not a curse?

Tampa -- A 2011 schedule consisting entirely of losing teams.

I think every team wants that. Still...HILARIOUS!

Washington -- Anyone chosen from the D.C. phone book at random to replace Dan Snyder as owner.

Gregg Easterbrook as the owner. Make it happen! I would love to see this.

Jackson is electrifying. But when he broke into the clear for the touchdown that would make this the first NFL game won by a punt return on the final play, he began waving the ball in the air at the G-Men 30-yard line even though he had already lost a fumble earlier in the quarter. Stop showboating!

DeSean Jackson lost a fumble earlier in the game when he was hit by a defender. He wasn't around a defender at that point. Maybe he shouldn't showboat but it was a great comeback by the Eagles and he deserved to celebrate it a little bit.

Ahead 31-10 with eight minutes remaining against the top big-play combination the NFL -- Michael Vick and Jackson -- if the Giants had gone to backed-off shell coverage and forced the Nesharim to nickel-and-dime their way down the field, the clock would have run out on any comeback. Instead, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell ordered furious blitzing, and coach Tom Coughlin did not overrule him.

Here's the thing I hate about Gregg Easterbrook. I like that he is predictable but I hate that he will ALWAYS criticize NFL coaches based on the outcome of their decisions. He has no firm beliefs, he only believes a team should have done the opposite of what they did if it failed.

From last week's TMQ:

The Texans seemed finished when trailing the Ravens, a power-defense team, by 21-0 just before halftime. Results of the next five Houston possessions: touchdown, field goal, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, the last including a deuce conversion with 21 seconds in regulation to force overtime. The Texans staged fourth-quarter touchdown drives of 99 and 95 yards, and without big plays: Houston's longest fourth-quarter gain was 23 yards. In the fourth quarter, the Nevermores rushed three or four, didn't blitz, kept their safeties deep: the Texans endlessly completed intermediate outs and comebacks.

Last week a team in a similar situation as the Giants were was criticized by Gregg for not blitzing enough during the game. This week Gregg believes the Giants shouldn't have blitzed at all, even though last week in a similar situation he thought the Ravens should blitz. Everything he writes is contradictory at some point like this. This isn't a minor contradiction, but is a big one. What does he believe would have been the right move? Besides anything that works of course.

Calling blitzes when protecting a late lead was like sending Vick an engraved invitation to make big plays rather than forcing him to nickel-and-dime: "Dear Mr. Vick, please do us the honor of sprinting toward our end zone."

I wish someone at ESPN would fire Gregg Easterbrook. He brings up great points sometimes but his criticism of NFL teams and coaches is misinformed at best and outright hypocrisy at its worst. Anyone can write an NFL column criticizing that a team should have done the opposite of what they did do. All it requires is constantly changing your beliefs based on the outcome of what that team did.

A team went for it on fourth and didn't get it? They didn't use enough motion.

A team went for it on fourth down, used motion, and didn't get it? The motion was too complicated or the running back dove straight ahead, which he shouldn't do...unless it works.

A team loses a big lead and they blitzed? They shouldn't have blitzed and given the other team a chance to win.

A team loses a big lead and didn't blitz? They should have blitzed to put pressure on the other team.

Then the punt. The reason no one had ever won an NFL game on a final-play punt return is that when teams must punt on the final play of a half, they punt out of bounds. But this wasn't necessarily the final play; 12 seconds remained as the Giants lined up at their 29. It's hard to punt for both distance and direction. If it were easy, every punter would always punt long and out of bounds.

Oh my God. Make it stop.

Matt Dodge was trying for a long, out-of-bounds punt and botched it. As he waited in punt formation for officials to signal the ready-to-play, Dodge heard the referee announce he was putting 2 seconds back on the clock and knew that meant the kick had to have some distance.

Gregg Easterbrook: Professional Psychic.

The Flying Elvii have gone an NFL-record six games without a turnover -- very sweet -- and lead the league with a plus-20 turnover margin. In a league in which megabucks stars wave the rock around asking for turnovers, the Patriots protect the football. This must have something to do with their no-name, egoless offense. Big-ego players with big contracts, such as Roy Williams of Dallas, commit careless fumbles because they figure they will never be benched no matter what. The undrafted free agents of the New England offense know they must perform to stay on the field. So they protect the football.

Let's look at the Patriots no-name, egoless offense...

Tom Brady: not a no-name in any fashion. Probable MVP for 2010.
Deion Branch: Super Bowl MVP
Wes Welker: Pro Bowl wide receiver
Alge Crumpler: 2nd round pick and one of the best tight ends in the 2000's.
Sebastian Vollmer: 2nd round pick
Matt Light: 2nd round pick
Logan Mankins: held out of training camp this year (no ego there) and was a 1st round pick.

Yes, there are undrafted free agents and players that were drafted high on the Patriots offense but calling the offense egoless and no-name is just incorrect.

One of the drops came on a New England possession that ended with a touchdown. No matter how well the Patriots play, their luck on turnovers is bound to change at some point.

So Gregg Easterbrook compliments the Patriots on not turning the ball over and then says the lack of turnovers is due to having luck. This is pretty typical of Gregg.

Pittsburgh and Denver both surrendered safeties in close fourth-quarter situations. The Steelers were attempting a slow-developing sweep from their end zone. Don't sweep from your end zone! Journeyman left tackle Jonathan Scott whiffed on a block, lunging at Jason Taylor and missing him.

Gregg goes all out complimenting undrafted free agents when they do good. When they don't perform so well they are called a "journeyman." Scott has played in the NFL since 2006, has been on three teams and was drafted in the 5th round, so I am not exactly sure if the word "journeyman" fits him well. I'm guessing when Gregg talks about his "unwanted" players he will fail to mention how Jonathan Scott was unwanted because that would ruin his fantasy that all unwanted, lowly drafted players work really hard and are successful in the NFL.

The Flying Elvii rushed three; Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga, a first-round pick this year who recently cashed a huge bonus check,

He cashed that bonus check on the Thursday before the game. Gregg checked Bulaga's back account and that's how he knew this information. Bulaga wanted to make sure he cashed the bonus check before he intentionally didn't block during the game on Sunday.

With star tight end Antonio Gates out injured, Vincent Jackson was San Diego's best threat in the red zone. San Francisco rushed three, while San Diego kept six back to block -- meaning eight defenders available to guard four receivers. Yet Jackson, running a slot-arrow, a standard goal-line pass route, was covered by 34-year-old linebacker Takeo Spikes -- no defensive back was in sight -- as he caught a seemingly effortless touchdown pass that turned the contest into a walkover. This from a team whose coach is supposedly a defensive mastermind.

I don't recall ever hearing anything about Mike Singletary being a defensive mastermind.

With defending champion New Orleans leading 7-0, the Ravens faced third-and-10 at the 34-yard line of the visiting Saints. The tastefully named Gregg Williams, defensive coordinator of the Saints, calls too many blitzes.

These are the same blitzes that won the Saints the Super Bowl last year. Nevermind that though, Gregg Williams calls too many blitzes...and it's destroying the Saints ability to win games. The Saints would have WAY more than 10 wins right now if Williams didn't blitz all the time. They would have somewhere near 19 wins at this point in the season without him.

But was the strange setting a reason for the Vikings to abandon basic football? Trailing 10-7, Minnesota punted on fourth-and-1 from midfield. TMQ wrote the words "season over" in his notebook. And yea, verily, the Vikings are now eliminated.

The Vikings season being over naturally had nothing to do with them being 5-8 prior to playing in this game.

Reader Sean Azarin-Burdine of San Francisco notes that Eastern Washington and Delaware, which will meet for the FCS title, were ranked third and fifth before the postseason -- meaning that, under a BCS-style system, they couldn't have played for the crown.

(Bengoodfella not saying anything...but thinking this speaks for itself because he agrees with Gregg)

My alma mater is/was the #1 ranked team in FCS, Appalachian State, and under the BCS system they would have made the championship game. Still, I prefer the playoff system because it makes teams earn the spot in the championship game by having to defeat the other good teams in FCS. Appalachian State lost at home to Villanova, they didn't deserve to make the championship game. That's what I like about a playoff system, teams play tough teams during the season, but still have to earn a shot in the championship game. I like this even when it sucks for my team.

As Tuesday Morning Quarterback noted of Shanahan this past summer, "His big seasons all came with John Elway: in his non-Elway years, Shanahan's results are pedestrian." Increasingly, it seems Shanahan gained a reputation as a top coach because he lucked into one of the best quarterbacks ever -- plus good players on the Broncs' mid-1990s rosters.

I've detailed my feelings on Mike Shanahan previously on this blog. I had some questions about whether Shanahan was as good of a coach as his reputation and authority in the Redskins organization seemed to indicate. I have thought Shanahan gets credit for things that he didn't necessarily do. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but Shanahan seems to believe his own press at this point. Big name coaches are overrated. That's one of the reasons I am suspect when it comes to Bill Cowher's ability to succeed in the NFL at his next coaching stop.

Ho Ho Ho: In the process of getting pounded into fine dust by the San Diego Chargers, the San Francisco 49ers -- who did a lot of boasting in the preseason,

Possibly I should be paying better attention but I don't remember very much of this boasting by the 49ers and I don't think I recall Mike Singletary calling himself a defensive mastermind.

Three snaps later, Alex Smith ran for what officials signaled was a touchdown, but San Diego challenged and the six points came off the board, too. Mike Singletary went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

Fortune favors the bold! Verily, the 49ers scored a touchdown...right?

High first-round draft choice guard Mike Iupati air-blocked -- he made contact with no one -- as undrafted Bolts defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo shot into the backfield to drop the runner for a loss, San Diego ball and zero points for San Francisco.

That's the kind of moment that makes TMQ love sports -- undrafted unknown gets the best of megabucks glory boy.

Even when one of the main principles that TMQ broadcasts proven to be incorrect, Gregg still finds a way to insert one of his other stupid principles into why the original principle failed. He's very irritating.

Twice, the megabucks San Francisco offensive line allowed rushers to come through untouched for sacks.

The 49ers gave up a sacks? They must be the first team in NFL history to have done this!

As Buffalo scored a touchdown at Miami to make the count Bills 6, Dolphins 0, the home team was called for a dead-ball personal foul. The penalty was walked off on the ensuing kickoff, allowing Buffalo to kick from its 45 and record a touchback. But a team receiving a dead-ball personal foul after a touchdown doesn't have to take the penalty on the kickoff; it can opt for the penalty on the PAT. That means half the distance from the 2 to the 1. True, on the kickoff, the penalty is worth 15 yards; on the try, worth 1 yard. But taking the penalty on the try means the offense needs just 1 yard for a two-point conversion.

Essentially, in this situation, the coach of the "offended team" is asked whether he thinks 15 yards of field position is as valuable as one point. Me? I'd take the penalty on the try and go for two. But if a coach does this and the attempt fails, he is blamed. If he takes the penalty on the kickoff, as expected, and the team loses, the players are blamed.

It is also possible the head coach of a team realizes that one point may not be worth as much as guaranteeing the other team has to start at their own 20 yard line. Considering the Bills ended up winning the game and the Dolphins have had some offensive problems of late it doesn't seem like a terrible strategy. Getting the two point conversion is great, but so is guaranteeing your opponent has to go 80 yards for a touchdown.

The Jaguars lead the league with 22 fourth-down attempts, and, at Indianapolis, they went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 39 on the first series of the third quarter. The result was a busted play -- fumbled pitch -- and a quick Colts touchdown in the other direction. But the idea was the right one.

For a guy who judges nearly every single football play on the outcome of that play, I find it interesting he is now focusing more on whether the Jaguars made the correct decision regardless of the outcome. It is funny when one of Gregg's basic football principles is proven incorrect, that teams should always go for it on fourth down, he all of a sudden is focused on whether it was the right decision regardless of outcome...even though he tends to judge a team's decision based solely on the outcome of the play.

After TMQ complained of the superficiality, disregard for academics and lack of integrity that have swallowed the Heisman Trophy, many readers, including Andrew Simon of Milwaukee, noted that the Gagliardi Trophy for best Division III football player not only considers linemen -- the 2009 winner was tackle Blaine Westemeyer of Augustana -- but also takes into account GPA and community service in assessing candidates. Last week, the 2010 award went to quarterback Eric Watt of Trine University in Angola, Ind.

TMQ also complains most of the major college awards for best player go to a quarterback, yet he doesn't seem to complain this major Division III college award went to a quarterback. If this winner were a Division I quarterback he would immediately complain quarterbacks get all the attention from major award voters.

Leading by 21 points with eight minutes remaining, the Jersey/A coaches were calling crazy all-out blitzes against Michael Vick, fairly begging him to make big plays.

As discussed earlier, the alternative is to not blitz and have Gregg criticize you for not bringing pressure on Mike Vick. As long as the Eagles came back, the Giants' strategy would not be smart according to Gregg.

Next Week: They were undrafted or waived or both -- yet, through hard work and determination, they have become among the NFL's best performers. Tuesday Morning Quarterback's annual All-Unwanted All-Pros. Plus, my Unwanted Player of the Year.

By far my least favorite TMQ of the year. It's not even a contest.

Friday, December 24, 2010

3 comments MMQB Review: It's A Christmas Miracle Edition

This week in MMQB Peter King tells us all what they do in the control room of the NBC studios and fills us in on the action from the weekend (he does this every week, I realize this isn't huge news). It's the same old Peter King, that's what we love about him. No matter what, he doesn't change how he writes, regardless of whether we would like for him to do so or not.

We yell a lot in the fifth-floor Rockefeller Center viewing room of NBC's Football Night in America.

"Taylor Swift turned 21 years old!" (high-fives Tony Dungy)

"Just a few more years until Dakota Fanning is legal!" (high-fives Rodney Harrison)

Oh, Rodney Harrison yells, often at big hits.

"What a great hit, that guy got his bell rung!" (then remembers he is supposed to be against big hits now because he changed his mind AFTER he retired about big hits)

Tony Dungy even yells a time or two per Sunday.

(Watching a commercial for a documentary on Mother Teresa) "I'm better than her! She's nowhere near as pious as I am! That uppity-bitch has got nothing on the Dung-man!"

(looks around the room hoping no one heard him)

I yell more than I ever did in a press box, where yelling is verboten.

"Where are my nachos at? I just had them here! Who the fuck ate my nachos? Show yourself or face the wrath of Peter King! I had three bags of nachos here just a few minutes ago! I will write about you in MMQB if I don't get my nachos back!"

(Peter then remembers he ate all three bags. He then begins staring at a complete stranger in an office building across the street for six hours and begins writing about how it is so weird this guy sat in his office for six hours just staring at his computer and talking on the phone, while ignoring the fact it is weird he is staring at this person for six hours)

The 49ers (5-9) could actually win the NFC West, and if they do, let us pray we finally see the league make a sensible rule of not guaranteeing a division winner a home playoff game. It's possible a 12-4 Saints team could travel to play a seven-win NFC West winner. Bah humbug.

Yes, because when I am spending my time praying one of the first thoughts in my mind is first and foremost how screwed up the NFL playoff system is. I agree with Peter about this issue, but I leave football-related prayer for more important things like Jimmy Clausen actually completing a difficult pass or Brett Favre retiring.

This drive ended with a sharp, short 13-yard TD strike to Jeremy Maclin ... 31-31, 1:16 left ... Giants stalled again. Fourth-and-17 at the Giant 29. Fourteen seconds to go. They'd have to punt. Back went Jackson. Coughlin told his rookie punter, Matt Dodge, that the kick had to go out of bounds. The most Philadelphia should be able to do, Coughlin thought, was run one final play. A huge longshot.

Punting out of bounds just seems like something that is really simple to do in this situation...apparently not.

And hiring Bill Cowher. I don't see it. Not really the Giants' style to break the bank for a coach most in the organization don't see as being altogether different from Coughlin.

But that was one hell of a loss for New York, the kind that could carry over to the next Biggest Game of the Year, Sunday at Green Bay.

I hope not, but that's a tough way to lose. I think it is interesting Peter King doesn't think the Giants would hire Cowher because he is too much like Tom Coughlin. Peter follows up on this in a minute by talking about a different team and Bill Cowher, but you'll see there's a thin line apparently between a team not wanting to hire a coach like their current one and being too cheap to hire Cowher.

We all know John Fox and his $6 million salary will be gone from Carolina at the end of the season. And the Panthers will look elsewhere for a coach. But it'll be a much less expensive coach. So scratch Cowher, who now splits his time between Raleigh and New York, because he won't be involved.

So the Panthers are too cheap to hire Cowher despite the fact he is similar to John Fox in that they were both defensive coaches, have a background with the Steelers and are generally viewed as player's coaches?

The Panthers won't hire a much less expensive coach because the Panthers don't want to pay for a less expensive coach, a less expensive coach will probably be chosen because a more expensive coach doesn't definitely lead to team success. Scratch Cowher off the list because no matter how much the media would love to frame the storyline of Bill Cowher playing so "close" to where he lives part-time (if you consider 180 miles "close"), he isn't coming to Carolina to coach and was never coming to Carolina to coach. This is a pure media creation because it "makes sense" to them. The media has even made mention of Marty Schottenheimer coaching here in Carolina...because he lives close to the area. When things "make sense" to the sports media, they start rumors.

Jerry Richardson doesn't believe coaches are worth that much money.

This isn't true. There have been three coaches in the history of the team. He gave two of them lucrative extensions and paid a lot of money to bring in George Seifert. The bottom line is that John Fox hasn't ever made back-to-back playoffs. I know there are other factors that go into him not having ever achieved this but that's the bottom line. Coaches who can't make back-to-back playoffs aren't worth $6 million per year to (Panthers owner) Jerry Richardson. He isn't being cheap, it is not that he doesn't think coaches are worth this much money, and this isn't a direct indication of his future feelings (money-wise) about head coaches. It is simply he doesn't want to give John Fox a raise from $6 million per year. It is easy as that. Richardson feels he can do better than Fox at a lower price. So the idea the Panthers are a cheap team overall is just not true. Again, rather than actually find this out it is easier to paint a team Peter doesn't follow closely as cheap.

Richardson and GM Marty Hurney are likely to look at the models of Mike Smith (Atlanta), Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh) and John Harbaugh (Baltimore) for their next man.

Those aren't bad models to follow...yet the Panthers are being framed by Peter King as being "cheap." I think a lot of teams wouldn't mind being seen as cheap if they could follow the model of the Ravens, Falcons and Steelers and be effective at it.

Tim Tebow knew he'd be a little nervous -- well, maybe a lot nervous -- Saturday night after going over his playsheet twice with Denver quarterback coach Ben (Brother of Josh) McDaniels. So he took an Ambien.

I don't believe Tim Tebow would even take an Aspirin. Clearly, this is not a factual statement. There's no way Tim would use a drug of any kind. Simply being around himself is a drug enough for Tebow.

I watched the Tebow highlights -- and a couple of lowlights -- in the 39-23 loss against Oakland, and this is what I saw in his performance (8 of 16, 138 yards, one touchdown, no picks; eight rushes for 78 yards and a touchdown):

I thought Denver did a great job of putting Tebow in a position to succeed and I thought Tebow did a good job at quarterback. Does this mean he will be an NFL starter? Eh...possibly not, but it was a good debut. What little I saw during the game pretty much backed up my opinion that Kyle Orton should be the starter when he is healthy.

His touchdown run -- from 40 yards out -- was odd. "A play was called that I hadn't repped,'' he said. (Strange that the Broncos would call a play, even on a long down-and-distance, that Tebow had never practiced.) The play was supposed to be a draw to Correll Buckhalter, but Tebow thought it was a quarterback draw. So he ran it -- and Buckhalter put a nice block on safety Tyvon Branch downfield, helping Tebow score.

These are the type of things I have questions about whether Tebow will be able to repeat when teams look at his tendencies and are able to gameplan for him.

But without McDaniels, and assuming Ben McDaniels is gone after the season when a new staff takes over, Tebow may have to adapt to a new style. He's still very much a work in progress.

Exactly. Tebow has a definite shot with his leadership abilities to be a great NFL quarterback, but it isn't quite his time right now. I still believe that to be true. If he gets a good quarterback coach who is willing to give him time, then he will have a chance to succeed in the NFL.

Shanahan told me McNabb, who was the number two quarterback Sunday, will be third in the final two games while he gives Grossman and -- he hopes -- John Beck a chance to show themselves. "Nothing Rex did today surprises me,'' Shanahan said. "And I think John Beck's got an excellent future. I'm looking at the long-term. I've got to look out for what's best for this team for the long-term, so I want to see what we have with Rex and John Beck. I feel like I know where I am with Donovan.''

I don't care what Rex Grossman did yesterday. His history shows that he isn't a viable NFL starter. Of course if the quarterback genius Mike Shanahan gets a hold of him he may just turn out to be super great. We all see what Shanahan did for McNabb this year. In my opinion, there is a term used for a team that is relying on Rex Grossman or John Beck to be their starter in the long-term future. Fucked. In the short term? Intermittently fucked.

Here's where they are with Grossman: In the previous four meetings with Dallas, Washington totaled 20 points. On Sunday, they scored 30. Progress, perhaps, but with a lot of pain.

The Redskins were down 20 points at one point, so it is not like Grossman was facing tough coverages during the game. It's not that Grossman can't throw the ball, it is his decision-making. He brought Washington back, and I give him credit for that, but I think Grossman is a great backup.

What really got my goat this year was when the list of 26 that we've got to whittle down to 15 finalists was disclosed, Ron Wolf's name wasn't on the list. That's ridiculous.

He's one of the best personnel evaluators ever, with the moxie to make some of the biggest decisions in recent NFL history. He landed in moribund Green Bay in 1991, hired Mike Holmgren as head coach, traded for Brett Favre, signed Reggie White in free agency when no one thought any player of consequence would come to a bad team in a tiny city, and piloted the team to two Super Bowl appearances in the '90s. He's personally responsible for making the Packers relevant again, and one of his former minions, Ted Thompson, lords over the team today -- and, taught guts by Wolf, had the stones to choose Aaron Rodgers over a waffling Favre in 2008.

I'm not against Ron Wolf's candidacy, but I am not sure how much of Ted Thompson's success we should attribute to Wolf. General Managers usually don't have "trees" and I think much of Thompson's success was on his own. I'm not sure if Wolf should be in the Hall of Fame or not, but I think one of the most irritating parts of the Hall of Fame process in nearly every sport is the insistence by some people that no "worthy" people be left out. The Hall of Fame is an exclusive place and when there is voting for an exclusive honor sometimes quality people tend to get left out.

Not fair. I think Ron Wolf deserves a bust between Wilson (Ralph) and Woodson (Rod) in the main hall of the Hall. The three options to fix the contributor dilemma:

1. Take one of the two Seniors slots and give it annually to a non-head coaching contributor to the game, which wouldn't mean a contributor wouldn't get in every year, but rather that one contributor's case would be heard every year.

2. Take one of the two Seniors slots every other year and give it annually to a contributor.

3. Take the two non-modern-era-candidate slots and make them fit for all other candidates -- seniors, scouts, etc.

I don't say this to dilute the Senior pool.

Yet every option that was presented by Peter ends up diluting the Senior pool. The Seniors slots are for people like Floyd Little who didn't seem to have very good numbers using today's measuring stick, but at the time was a quality football player. I don't think Peter King will have much success essentially taking spots away from these Seniors.

1. New England (12-2). One win -- either at Buffalo or home with Miami -- stands in the way of the Patriots clinching home-field through the AFC playoffs and not playing a meaningful game until Jan. 15-16.

Which begs the question, will Bill Belichick play his starters in these meaningless games? Especially after Welker busted his knee in a meaningless game against the Texans last year before the playoffs.

2. Atlanta (12-2).

What made Peter give Atlanta some respect I wonder? A victory over Seattle? Really? That victory over Seattle finally convinced Peter the Falcons were better than the Saints, while the Saints lost to a quality opponent in the Ravens and lost spots in the Fine Fifteen? Dartboards and a blindfold would be a better determinant of the Fine Fifteen.

14. New York Giants (9-5). Yeah, they're better than 14th in the NFL. But any team that gives up 28 points in eight minutes in what was essentially an NFC East title game ... sorry.

If the Giants were better than the 14th best team in the NFL wouldn't Peter rank them better than that? That is the point of a Fine Fifteen isn't it?

Goat of the Week

Matt Dodge, P, New York Giants.

On the dumbest play of a mind-bending loss, Dodge, with 14 seconds left in a 31-31 tie, punted the ball to the best return man in the game (sorry, Devin Hester, but DeSean Jackson's taken over) instead of angling the ball out of bounds. Jackson ran it back for that touchdown. Now, instead of being in the driver's seat for a first-round bye and playing the divisional round game at home, the Giants will have to struggle to be the sixth seed, which will necessitate an all-road journey to the Super Bowl ... if they even make the playoffs.

We all know there is no way a Tom Coughlin-coached team could win three games on the road and then make and win the Super Bowl. That could never happen.

g. Marcedes Lewis. What hands!

Peter King. Athlete!

h. Lance Moore! What feet!

Really? Peter's going to keep doing this?

i. Armenti Edwards, inactive. Good thing the Panthers traded the 33rd pick in the 2011 draft for that guy.

First off, it is ARMANTI Edwards, so this criticism is a huge fail in the very beginning. It is hard to find criticism of a player worthwhile when the writer doesn't find it worthwhile to spell the player's name correctly.

If he is going to criticize Edwards and the Panthers wouldn't you think he would check into this one just a little bit? Putting criticism of a player/team in a national column would seem to require an actual knowledge of why that player was inactive. He seemed to have some sort of flu bug that was going around, so that's why he was inactive, because he was sick. It would have been simple for Peter King to find this out and not infer it is due to a lack of talent on Edwards' part.

Right now, it looks like a busted pick, but John Fox refuses to play Edwards because he believes in only activating 3-4 wide receivers every Sunday and Edwards has the least experience of any of the receivers in front of him, so he is inactive. He is a victim of a numbers game. Next year if Edwards sucks then I will be glad to say it was a busted pick.

3. I think I have one hope for the postseason -- that a 12-win wild card team in the NFC plays its first playoff game at a seven-win NFC West champion. Maybe then we'll realize the absurdity of guaranteeing a division winner a home playoff game. A division winner deserves a playoff spot for sure. But the playoff seedings should be based solely on record.

I agree with Peter King on this issue. I think the team with the most wins during the regular season should get the home playoff game. If both teams have the same amount of wins then the team that won their division should get the home game.

I know it isn't the same thing but I don't remember a huge amount of outrage when an 11 win Falcons team coming out of a strong NFC South had to go on the road to play a 9-7 Cardinals team out of a weak NFC West during the 2008 playoffs. Sure, the Cardinals went on to play in the Super Bowl, but no one knew they would do that at the time. I don't recall the outrage at that point and based on records, the Falcons had a clear claim to a home game in 2008.

At the league meetings in Fort Worth the other day, Giants president John Mara, a member of the Competition Committee, said a proposal to seed the playoffs on record only would likely be considered in the offseason, "but I don't hold out much hope it'll change.'' I applaud Mara for swimming against the tide and saying: "If you win 10 or 11, you shouldn't go on the road to face a team that wins seven or eight.''

Well, as part of a team in the NFC East John Mara has a stake in whether this rule gets changed or not because his Giants team could easily be one of the teams getting screwed over for a home game in the playoffs. The Giants are a good team in a difficult division. If this were an NFC West owner wanting to do this then I would be more impressed.

a. What is it about the human brain that allows you to hear a song for the first time in, oh, 20 years, and after five or six seconds, know every word to the song? Or is it just my brain that does this? Had the car radio on Sirius 60s on 6, and the first few bars of a song I used to love in sixth grade, "Spooky,'' comes on. And right away, I blurt out with the music, "In the cool of the evening when everything is getting' kinda groovy, I call you up and ask you if you'd like to go with me and see a movie ... '' I wish some smart brain student could tell me how that happens -- and then how I cannot remember a factoid from last week's NFL games.

Great. I'm glad our NFL expert can't remember what happened in last week's NFL games. That's heartening to hear. I'll have to remember Peter's admitting that he can't remember what happened in the NFL last week. I guess that would explain why he thinks we want to hear anything at all about Brett Favre. He can't remember we hate Favre.

h. So proud of my niece, South Windsor (Conn.) High violinist Laila King, after seeing her in the school's 2010 Winter Orchestra Concert Thursday night. What beautiful music. Laila's the daughter of my brother who died last summer, and as the family sat with Caroline during the concert, all I could think of was how proud her dad would have been to see her on stage, as a sophomore with mostly older kids, playing such sweet music. Great job, Laila.

i. As if Laila King reads "Monday Morning Quarterback.''

As if any of the people Peter gives a shout-out to in MMQB actually read it. I'm pretty sure Peter criticizes or compliments inanimate objects in MMQB sometimes. So he would have to cut down a lot of his shout-outs if a prerequisite for giving a shout-out is if the person actually read MMQB.

So here's more on the legend of Joe Webb, the aforementioned 199th pick in the 2010 draft, who gets his first NFL start tonight, against the Bears, on the Monday Night Football stage.

Hell no! Not if Brett Favre had anything to do with it. It doesn't matter to Favre that Webb's entire family was watching his debut on Monday Night Football, Favre pronounced himself out and then later decided that the pain of not being in the spotlight was greater than the pain of whatever injury he believes he has this week. Brett Favre will NOT give up the spotlight!

He said the best advice he got about tonight was the simplest, from Brett Favre. Just be you. Just play the way you play.

"Oh, and don't expect to start on Monday Night Football because I will rip that dream away from you."

What a difference a few hours makes. In the morning, Peter's hero, Brett Favre wasn't starting and then he did start against Chicago and he banged his little head, so he may be out this week (cue dramatic music). $100 says Favre starts again next week. Actually, I wouldn't doubt if the Vikings rule Favre as inactive for the game on Sunday and then he starts anyway. The NFL probably wouldn't do anything about it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

8 comments An Early Christmas Wish List

If change is progress, then it is my most sincere hope that progress can be had in the world of sports. I'm not asking for major changes, as I do quite often. Just a few things that Santa could and should make happen.

1. Abolish AP Player of the Year in College Football. We already have the Heisman. ESPN is wasting one of its headline stories on this when I could be reading something more newsworthy.

2. Get off Rex Ryan's back for the foot fetish video (which he did not even deny). And no, I do not have a foot fetish. The reason why I care is that it makes me think about Rex Ryan and his sex life. Don't believe me? When I say to you, "don't think about Penguins," what's the first thing you think about? That's what I thought.

3. Have Ohio State and Boise State play each other for a spot in the Big 10. If Boise wins, they move into the Big 10 and Ohio State into the WAC (it sort of works geographically). If they lose, everything remains the same.

4. Have someone smack Phil Jackson. He doesn't like working on Christmas? When you make that kind of money, you have no right to make such a comment. If he cleaned toilets, maybe I'd be more forgiving.

5. Add more playoff teams to the MLB. And just because it would be funny, have a one game, win or go home system for every round.

6. Add a 16 man, non-post players 1-on-1 contest to the NBA All-Star Weekend (Although a Shaq vs. Dwight Howard matchup would be interesting). Kobe vs. LeBron would settle a lot of office debates.

7. Force Rashard Lewis to shave his goatee. He is not an Egyptian pharaoh.

8. Force all general managers to publicly explain every trade they make. Who wouldn't want Isiah Thomas to explain in-depth every move he made during his tenure as Knicks GM? Or what about David Kahn? There are a lot of dumb moves out there in need of explanation.

9. Ban Bill Simmons from Twitter. I really do enjoy his column, but his latest tweet (as of when I'm writing this) was "14 straight, 22-4 overall + all 4 losses were winnable games in the last minute. Ladies and gentleman, the 2011 Boston Celtics!!!" and then, "Check that: 23-4 overall. And with no Perkins, no Delonte, no Jermaine's corpse and (lately) no Rondo. Once again, your 2011 Boston Celtics!" Thanks for that, Bill.

10. Have Tom Brady and Peyton Manning switch teams for 3 years (you need multiple years to develop some sort of rapport with the team and familiarity with the offense) so we can finally settle the debate of who's better. There's really no other way to do it that I can think of.

11. Find a way for every illegal TV website to broadcast in HD. If you're not in front of a TV during an important game, this one is crucial.

12. Disallow recent former players from analyzing sports on ESPN. Or at least require them to pass an English language test beforehand.

13. Institute a rookie salary scale in the NFL. JaMarcus Russell should not have a dollar to his name. Okay, well, maybe more than nothing. But not millions.

14. Invite every sports fan to an NHL arena for free. If they do not enjoy watching hockey live, they are not sports fans.

15. Have the 5 best players of the UConn Women's Basketball team (all players who participated in the streak are eligible) play a game to 11 against a terrible division I Men's team. Not a team from the big six conferences, but someone from the Big South or something. Kinda curious how that would play out.

16. Broadcast the MLB draft on TV with potential 1st round picks invited to some grand location. Who wouldn't want a Mel Kiper type on ESPN explaining whom exactly his team is drafting? Let's be honest: no one really knows anything about MLB draft picks until they reach the Big Leagues.

17. Film Hard Knocks with every NFL team every single season. Well, at least more than one team. One show for five weeks is simply not enough behind-the-scenes access. And it's not like HBO will refuse the monetary gain.

18. Require Paul Pierce to be clean shaven. The whole "I can't grow any facial hair except for random tufts so I'll wear them proudly" look simply does not work. He's holding onto his scraps like a bald guy.

19. Have the 2nd and 3rd man (the non play-by-play guys) of the ESPN Monday Night Football TV Broadcast be chosen by vote each season. Any current ESPN on-air employee would be eligible. Maybe Tony Kornheiser would still have a job. Or what if, Hannah Storm and Tony Kornheiser got voted in together? The possibilities are endless.

20. The Giants win the Super Bowl. Okay, that might be a little biased.