Tuesday, May 31, 2011

6 comments Grading Mel Kiper's 2004 NFL Draft Grades

Back in December I reviewed Mel Kiper's 2001 NFL Draft grades. It got rave reviews and even inspired an anonymous commenter to gush the following over what I had written,

"youre the biggest idiot i've ever read. nice website, moron"
After much deliberation, we have decided we will NOT use that quote as our mission statement for this blog, but I did personally decide I will have to do another NFL Draft re-grade. I have already done the 2001 draft with Mel Kiper and the 2007 draft with Dr. Z. For fear of having some sense of organization to this process, I figured I would go ahead and review Mel Kiper's 2004 NFL Draft grades.

It is harder to get Mel Kiper's grades since ESPN tends to hide them behind the Insider content. After all, paid-for content is best set up for things like NFL Draft grades since they contain very little fact, rely only on opinion and are generally very inaccurate even two years later. This type of inaccurate and unreliable content should NEVER be free. So here is Mel's draft grades, let's see how he did. At least this time he varies his grades a little and doesn't give the same grade to teams over and over.

Arizona Cardinals: B

Larry Fitzgerald obviously is a great pick and Karlos Dansby is a nice fit for their system as a pure pass rusher. Darnell Dockett is a first-round talent if he stays focused, while Alex Stepanovich is a backup type on the offensive line and Antonio Smith could turn out to be a nice fifth-rounder.

I am quick to criticize, but Mel Kiper seems to have gotten this draft exactly correct. In fact, the criticism I would have is he should bump this grade up to an "A." The Cardinals had seven picks and got four starters out of those picks.

Atlanta Falcons: A

DeAngelo Hall is a potential shutdown corner and a dynamic punt returner, and I like where the Falcons were able to get Michael Jenkins and Matt Schaub. Jenkins gives Michael Vick another big target and Schaub is a nice insurance policy should Vick get injured scrambling around.

I don't know about an "A" for this draft. The Falcons got Hall, who played well for them but didn't really make an impact, Jenkins was a bit of a disappointment where he was drafted, and Demorrio Williams did play well for a period as well. So they got decent players, but not players who made an impact. An "A" for this draft is a bit high, though the choice of Matt Schaub did turn into two 2nd round picks, one of which was Justin Blalock. Overall, Mel's first two grades weren't bad.

Baltimore Ravens: B

Dwan Edwards and Roderick Green will be perfect for the Ravens' 3-4 system,

They did a perfect job of not making an impact at all really with the Ravens.

and Devard Darling has good size and athletic ability at wide receiver.

Good size? Check. Athletic ability? Check. Actual production at the wide receiver position? Not so much.

and Baltimore got the most of its other late round picks.

Whatever this means, Clarence Moore and Brian Rimpf made a very small impact on the Ravens team. Considering the Ravens got so very little out of this draft, I would say a "B" is a bit too high. How about a "D-" being more appropriate?

Buffalo Bills: C+

Lee Evans will be a big help to the offense with his speed at receiver, and it was a bold move to take J.P. Losman at quarterback.

I'm not exactly sure why taking J.P. Losman was a bold move since he was taken at #22 and was a second-round projected quarterback. Maybe the move up to get him was bold since the Bills traded a second-round pick and their first-round pick the next year (which turned into Marcus Spears) to get him.

Tim Anderson was a good pick in the third round but Tim Euhus is limited as a tight end.

Euhus is "limited as a tight end?" At what position would he not be limited at? I'm just wondering about the syntax of this sentence since Euhus was drafted as a tight end. Possibly he would be better at another position?

I think a "C+" is too kind for this draft in retrospect. There are only two players out of the Bills' draft I can even remember and one of them was J.P. Losman, who didn't perform up to expectations in the NFL.

Carolina Panthers: C+

Chris Gamble is a raw corner but could become a great player,
Which is something a team would certainly hope for a player they select in the first round. Unless it is Tim Euhus of course. He's limited at the position he was drafted to play.

and I like where they got Keary Colbert and Travelle Wharton.

This worked out well, except for the fact Keary Colbert wasn't a good football player. Wharton is now a starter for Carolina.

Drew Carter can stay on the shelf for a year and recover from injury.

Why would Carter want to recover from injury when he can play in June minicamps and blow the same knee out again? Carter blew his knee out and had surgery approximately 42 times in his NFL careers.

So far I have covered 5 teams and Mel has given two C+'s, two B's, and an A. If form holds these will be the only grades he hands out. Whoops, did I just spoil the next grade?

Chicago Bears: A

Tommie Harris and Tank Johnson are ideal for Lovie Smith's defense, while Bernard Berrian gives them a guy with nice return skills.

Yet again, Mel Kiper in his extreme happiness and positivity (does it seem like he was very positive writing these grades to you? It does to me) got this draft right. I don't know if an "A" was the right grade, but it is pretty close. Tank Johnson was a troublemaker, but he was talented and Tommie Harris had a huge impact on the Bears defense.

Nathan Vasher could contribute as a fourth defensive back

Or he could end up being a starter shortly into the season. You know, whatever.

Cincinnati Bengals: A

I was a little critical of their selection of Chris Perry, but the Bengals will get a nice second option to go behind Rudi Johnson.

What do you know? Another "A" grade! It's almost like Kiper's grades follow a trend of some sort.

I like how Mel says he was critical of the selection of Chris Perry, which was the Bengals first round selection, but then says he will make a good backup behind Rudi Johnson. I'm confused. So does Mel like the selection or not? Is he critical of the selection or does he like the selection? Isn't it possible he wants it both ways? So he's fine with the Bengals drafting (even at the time) what amounted to a backup running back in the first round?

Kieran Ratliff is a big-play corner while Madieu Williams made sense at the safety spot.

Mel's possible "make sense" criteria for Williams:

1. Is the athlete alive and breathing?
2. Does the athlete play the safety position?

I guess it makes sense to draft a living human being who has played safety in college to play safety in the NFL.

Stacy Andrews is a project at tackle who could pay dividends in two years.

Good call. This happened.

I like what Marvin Lewis did to help his defense.

I like how Mel Kiper gave the Bengals draft an "A" when he didn't like their first round pick that didn't fit a need at the time. I also like how he didn't mention Robert Geathers, who was drafted in the fourth round and became a productive player. It's a bit optimistic and overly-positive to give a draft where the person grading doesn't like the first round pick that team made.

Cleveland Browns: B

Kellen Winslow is ideal for the offense of the Browns and will give Jeff Garcia a nice target over the middle, while Sean Jones and Luke McCown were nice value picks.

The only NFL players that came from this draft were these three players. I wouldn't say this draft deserves a "B" in retrospect. Since Mel seems only capable of giving an "A," "B," or "C+," as a grade, the the grade I would give this draft, a "C" or "C-" probably isn't possible for him.

Monday, May 30, 2011

16 comments On Dirk...

I’ve never really been much of a fan of Dirk Nowitzki. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t take me very long to identify that he was a singular offensive force. I used to think him and Tracy McGrady were the only two players who could become completely unstoppable offensively. The new version of this is that him and Carmelo (as articulated by Charles Barkley) are the only two “unguardable” players in the NBA; Carmelo being a bigger, stronger, more refined but less elegant T-Mac. Nowitzki’s incredible shooting stroke, wide variety of shots and manoeuvres from 10-21 feet, ability to get to any spot on the floor and of course, his height, made him a weapon unlike any other.

But “weapon” is a backhanded compliment in the NBA. You don’t call Kobe Bryant a “weapon”. You don’t call Tim Duncan a “weapon”, nor Shaquille O’Neal or Dwyane Wade. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the NBA Finals is really a place for a select club of perhaps 4-5 guys at any one time that can actually drive a team to a championship. To gain entry you simply had to do it – no amount of talk, numbers, or highlights could compensate. Dwyane Wade needed to put himself out of commission for three years by throwing himself at Maverick defenders one hundred times in order to gain entry. This was a key factor in what made The Decision so appalling. It seemed so obvious that LeBron James was the best player on the planet, and yet, year after year, he not only could not enter the club, but didn’t seem to be particularly close. Increasingly it became a worrying trend, sort of thrilling – “is it possible for the best basketball player on the planet to not be able to win a championship?” It’s what allowed the ludicrous assertion that Kobe Bryant was better to gain traction and become oddly appealing. By joining Dwyane Wade, LeBron dodged the question entirely and everyone felt cheated out of the most intriguing storyline in the NBA – not only couldn’t LeBron do it, he didn’t give a shit either.

Still, LeBron’s situation was immeasurably stronger than Dirk’s. After all, Dirk was following an established trail. Any player in the awkward position between this club of just a handful of centrepieces and the Chris Bosh/Ray Allen zone of being an excellent situational player transforms increasingly into Gollum. They were gradually forced into “the compromise” phase of their careers, where they had tried, and failed, to be “The Guy” on a championship team. After a certain period of time, they moved desperately to a location where they either had one of the Masters of the Universe already, or there were so many of these second and third tier guys that they could form one of these “superteams” to overcome all obstacles. Barkley was 35 when he joined Hakeem in 1996-1997. Drexler was 33 when he joined the Rockets two seasons prior. Kevin Garnett moved to Boston at 31 in 2007, however coming straight out of high school, he had been in the league for 12 years. The ageless Malone was, well…aging, when, at 41, he joined the Lakers. Payton was 37 when he joined Miami’s bench in 2006. No action was required for the fortunate David Robinson in 1999, 33, when Tim Duncan fell into the Spurs lap. In each case, the pattern was clear; the player, along with his team, had peaked some 3-6 years prior (in Payton’s case, 10 years) and both had gradually yet unequivocally declined since that point. From Finals, to Conference Finals, to Conference Semi-Finals, things were clearly doomed with each player’s original team and were they to stay, the player themselves.

Only two players in this stratum of players have grimly held on to the bitter end; Dirk and Nash. In both cases, fans have looked in bewilderment as they march on in clearly hopeless situations. Dallas met the criteria perfectly. Finalists in 2006 with Dirk’s peak, the 67 win first round exit the following year, followed by unremarkable early round losses each following year. What possible reason was there to think improvement was in store as Dirk moved deeper and deeper into his thirties? Dirk seemed impervious to the cries from the sidelines for the preservation of his legacy. Last offseason, the craziest in NBA history, he quietly re-upped for four years with the Mavericks, presumably sealing his titleless fate, leaving a permanent stain on his career (however silly it may seem) in the eyes of many.

The contrast with LeBron could not be more stark from this perspective. LeBron, in his prime, some eight years younger than Dirk, had given up on the 66 and 61 win, first seed in an okish conference, Cavaliers. Dirk, with his 11 straight futile 50+ win seasons, constantly emasculated by the Spurs, and then spectacularly knocked off by the as yet unproven Wade in the Finals on a seemingly miracle trip on the one time he was able to muscle past them. No one personified “quick fix” more than LeBron James, bailing on the city that loved him more than any city loved any player since Jordan in Chicago, despite 8 million a year pay cut and perpetual first seeds, for the chance to play with an established member of the club, not remotely interested in proving himself. No one personified persistence in the face of innumerable odds and futile circumstances more than Dirk (save perhaps the aforementioned Nash), a modern day basketball Sisyphus. It’s this matter/anti-matter quality that gives the Finals a unique flavour.

Expanding on that is the team around Nowitzki. It has been covered extensively, but it is a team dripping with regret and desperation. Coming up short again and again in ever more heartbreaking fashion. Kidd participated in a pair of farcical finals series, winning just two games, with meaningless Eastern Conference Titles as a kind of ironic punctuation point on the whole exercise. Shawn Marion was part of the slow death of the Phoenix Suns, a team that got everyone excited and were thwarted time and time again, no matter what variation of the seven seconds or less theme they tried. The trade to Miami, a failed attempt to revamp the Suns from bottom up, signalled the end of their title ambitions and was one of the most depressing trades made in recent times. Stojakovic was Donaghy’d in 2002. Terry has been Dirk’s deputy in these wilderness years, and felt the pain of 2006 as deeply as anyone. There could be no more fitting star to put in the middle of this team than Dirk.

As improbable as this run has been, when Dallas were certified, lose in the first two rounds specialists, it is clearly and unequivocally the last. The last time I can remember a team playing in a Finals where it was obvious to all that it would be the last was the 1998 Chicago Bulls…and they had the consolation of knowing they had won five titles already. Even Garnett and co. last year harboured legitimate hopes of a return trip. For Dallas, there really is no tomorrow. Kidd has already gone far beyond any other legitimate starting point guard in modern times at 38. Stojakovic has averaged about 12 points, shooting 40% in the last three years, and is in the process of stringing together his final relevant streak of basketball, tapping the very last reserves. Tyson Chandler is a walking injury who’s rebounding has dropped 30% since 2008. Brendan Haywood turns 33 by the start of next season. Terry will be 34. And they all will be coming off a 100+ game season. They may miss the playoffs, the degree they have laid it all out here…and they are capped out.

This is the landscape of these Finals for Dirk. They have been ignored much of the year, and ignored is the word. It wasn’t even that they have been written off or dismissed, they simply didn’t merit consideration at all, everyone had the book on the Mavs – they will lose, what possible reason did we have to imagine them being better than 2006? And the truth is, on paper, it’s impossible to make the argument that they are. This run has been founded on ruthless determination to win. It’s exactly the sort of sports journalism bullshit I revile, and dismiss and roll my eyes at, but this time? It absolutely is. The Lakers sweep was the meeting of two teams on extreme ends of the “caring about this” spectrum. One had grown full and fat on championships, the other was just tenacious in the extreme. Gradually, the Mavs have forced the world to take them increasingly seriously, and as that process has taken place, the pressure on Dirk has been turned up substantially and really, rather suddenly. After all, there was no real pressure in round one; it was assumed they’d lose. And in round two, obviously they would lose to the Lakers. Even after winning game one, it was a given L.A. would respond in game two. But after winning those first two games, suddenly everyone was watching, waiting for the Mavs to fold. The pressure Dallas has been under the past seven games has been more than at any time in the Dirk era, as the real possibility this could actually happen came into focus. Effectively this was a game seven of his entire career, extended over an entire playoffs. And as the microscope has zoomed in closer and closer, what has happened to Dirk? He’s gotten exponentially better. Each passing game the legend has grown.

And it’s all predicated purely on how much he wants it. A level of desire that can only be reached through more than a decade of disappointment, of rebuke, of despondency, despair and finally, irrelevance and mockery. It’s that well that Nowitzki has tapped into, in one of the most profound “no one believed in us, in me” stories in recent sports history. Say what you want, but there’s no way LeBron can have the first inkling of what it feels like to be considered irrelevant, to be mocked, to be ignored. He all but has his own TV station, and basically has a golden statue of him on the desk of Sportscenter. That is another sense Dirk is the anti-LeBron, the matter/anti-matter thing again. LeBron can’t possibly want this as bad as Dirk does, I’m not sure any player has ever wanted to win a championship more.

It’s why I think Dallas will beat this monstrosity of a team in seven games.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

0 comments BotB Podcast #17

As you listen, you may notice that I thought it was the 15th podcast. Turns out we're better at churning these out than we thought. Anyway, this week's discussion covers the NBA Finals, Buster Posey's broken leg, Kevin McHale, tweeting during games and the Scottie Pippen question: Is LeBron better than MJ?

More importantly, there's new fade out music! I'm not really sure why I changed it up, but it's just feeling like that kind of day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

2 comments Buzz Bissinger Really Doubts Sugar Ray Leonard Was Sexually Abused

One of the biggest things that irritate me when it comes to sportswriting are the double standards. There are plenty of things "real" sportswriters get away with writing that would cause these same sportswriters to go into a hissy fit, much like Buzz Bissinger actually did when discussing blogs on "Costas Now" a couple years ago, and talk about how blogs and "illegitimate" journalism is ruining their profession. Sugar Ray Leonard revealed recently he was sexually abused by a trainer. Buzz Bissinger has written a column basically calling this bullshit. If a blogger or online sports magazine without the journalistic credibility of Buzz did this, Buzz would flip out, just like he did a few years ago on HBO when talking about blogs.

Since it is Buzz writing the column, it's perfectly fine of course. He's a professional sportswriter who has legitimate questions, much like when he wrote a column about the NBA, essentially calling everyone racist, and then admitted IN THE COLUMN he didn't care about the topic nor did he research it. If he is one of the people holding the flag for traditional sports journalism, it is doomed forever.

Let's get to Buzz calling bullshit on Sugar Ray Leonard about being sexually molested. Now imagine this was written by Deadspin and think how Buzz would respond to the accusation Sugar Ray is lying, especially since he makes it clear he KNOWS Sugar Ray Leonard.

The New York Times published an eye-popping story yesterday. Sugar Ray Leonard, the last boxer to hold the world in his hands with his speed and stamina and charisma, is about to publish a book in which he claims he was sexually abused as a teenager.

These claims are obviously bullshit to Buzz Bissinger. The reason I THINK Buzz calls bullshit on this will be quite clear to you in a minute.

The book, The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring, is not slated for publication by Viking until next month. But the Times’ Harvey Araton got a copy. Quoting at length from the book, he relates that Leonard was intimidated into having oral sex with an Olympic coach before the 1976 Summer Olympics.

To Buzz, this is a desperate grab for attention from Leonard. Forget that Leonard has no history of seeking attention-grabbing behavior from the public by making outrageous claims. That's unimportant to Buzz.

I happen to know Sugar Ray Leonard.

I know a lot of people. It doesn't mean I know every single secret they have.

I happen to know him well when it comes to the intimate details of his life. In 2007 and 2008, I spent hundreds of hours interviewing him for a screenplay that never came to fruition.

Here's the real reason Buzz has his panties in a wad over this allegation by Sugar Ray Leonard. Not shockingly, Buzz is pissed off because he is being a selfish douche. If Leonard had told Buzz Bissinger back in 2007 and 2008 he was sexually molested by his coach, it would have given this screenplay a much better chance of coming to fruition. Not only would Buzz has created some (forgive me) buzz around the screenplay, HE would be the guy who broke this story and he could potentially have a better shot at convincing a moron Hollywood executive to buy the screenplay due to these allegations.

Buzz is just mad he didn't break the story and he didn't get the chance to make money and receive fame from being the one who wrote the screenplay where these allegations surfaced. Buzz is jealous that Sugar Ray Leonard held back on him, which in Buzz's fucked up self-important head makes him feel Leonard is just making a grab for attention since that's EXACTLY what Buzz would have done had he been fortunate enough to be the one to write about these allegations.

The interviews were on tape and owned by the production company Redbird Cinema. In addition, Leonard had the contractual right to reject anything that he felt might not be appropriate. There was no reason for him to hold back, and he did not hold back.

Apparently he did hold back.

He went into great detail over all the positive aspects of his life—the triumphant victories over Roberto Duran and Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns and Marvin Hagler that made him world welterweight champion. But he spent just as much time on the bad—the abuse and terrorization of his first wife, Juanita; his disenfranchisement from his children; the copious intake of cocaine followed by the copious intake of alcohol; the distrust that developed over everyone, including his own brother, as he became convinced that they perceived him only as a money pit;

But he didn't mention the sexual abuse, which clearly means Sugar Ray Leonard has made these allegations up.

He was honest about his failings, and so brutal about them that it became wrenching.

When Buzz says "wrenching" he means "financially profitable."

The one incident he never mentioned was the sexual abuse.

It is so odd he didn't mention the time a coach tried to blow Sugar Ray Leonard in a car. You would think this would be the first thing that would come to Leonard's mind when talking about his life. It makes for great casual dinner conversation and doesn't sound permanently scarring at all.

I keep asking myself why yesterday, given his wincing candor about so much else. Did something happen with that coach?

(Buzz Bissinger) "So Sugar Ray, tell me a little bit about your life. (starts the tape recorder)"

(Sugar Ray Leonard) "Do you want me to start before or after one of my coaches watched me take a bath in Epsom salts?"

(Buzz Bissinger) "That must have been painful. How can I make money off thi---I mean, how did that make you feel?"

(Sugar Ray Leonard) "Not as bad as the time he blew me in his car!"

(Buzz gives Sugar Ray a fist bump and then laughs hysterically) "That must have been painful. I'm glad you told me."

(Sugar Ray Leonard) "Oh I am glad I told you as well. Being sexually molested is definitely not something the victim hates bringing up. There's absolutely no feelings of shame or embarrassment by having this happen to me. I'm like most people who have been sexually molested in that I don't blame myself at all."

(Buzz's daughter runs in the room) "Dad, I am sorry to interrupt...but I have something to tell you."

(Buzz Bissinger gets very angry at being interrupted and murders the family dog) "Honey, please remember to call me 'Mr. Bissinger,' not 'Dad.' What can I do for you?"

(Buzz's daughter) "I have something to tell you in private. Can you come with me please?"

(Buzz Bissinger) "I'm doing an interview right now. Anything you can tell me, you can tell Sugar Ray Leonard. I know him personally."

(Buzz's daughter) "Remember I told you I went out with that guy a few weeks ago and we got mugged...so that's why I came home with a bruise on my face? It is not true, he tried to sexually assault me. I feel like I need to tell the police, will you come with me to do it?"

(Buzz Bissinger getting very angry and red in the face) "Bullshit. You and I had lunch at McDonald's the yesterday and talked about how your classes were going. You even revealed you hated your Biology class and you just conveniently left this part about being (makes quotes in the air with his fingers) 'sexually assaulted' out? I know you very well. I doubt this happened, especially since you didn't bring it up at McDonald's when we were talking."

(Buzz's daughter) "It did happen. Why would I lie?"

(Buzz Bissinger stabbing a pencil through his own hand) "I don't know why you would lie. Stop it though. I've known you since you were born and I never heard anything about this before. Leave my sight you feeble woman (throws a chair through a window)!"

(Buzz's daughter starts leaving) "Yes Mr. Bissinger."

Something must have. But was it embellished for the sake of a book about to be published?

Because obviously if Sugar Ray didn't tell Buzz about this event, then it is clearly made up. The events Sugar Ray told Buzz were all truthful in an effort to sell a screenplay, but Buzz feels this allegation is a lie Sugar Ray is telling in order to sell books simply because he didn't let Buzz in on this secret a few years ago.

Maybe after 35 years as a journalist I am too cynical. But at his peak, nobody in sports knew how to market himself better than Sugar Ray Leonard. And the revelation, 18 days before publication, has set off a publicity bonanza.

So yet again, Buzz believes everything Sugar Ray told him while they were working on their screenplay was fact, and he wasn't lying in order to get the screenplay sold...but when Sugar Ray tells another writer salacious stories, they are lies.

Was he too embarrassed and ashamed to mention it to me? Perhaps.

Yeah, maybe. This tends to be the reaction by victims of sexual molestation, so this is entirely possible.

But Leonard told me things in terms of his own personal conduct equally shocking and personally shameful as the allegation of being sexually abused. Such as hitting Juanita while she was holding their child, who was just several months old. Or, in the last fight they had before she left, taking out a gun and threatening to shoot himself.

Buzz Bissinger is an asshole. He shows a complete lack of understanding how victims of sexual molestation feel. They tend to blame themselves for the situation and are ashamed for anyone to find out. Stories of violence against his wife is shame and conduct he could control and was responsible for perpetrating. Sexual molestation is a completely different type of shame.

I am not questioning the horror of sexual abuse. It is an unspeakable horror. But unfortunately, in this day and age of the celebrity book, it has become a virtual cliché, a marketing tool to sell something. Which only diminishes the impact on those who have actually suffered terribly at the hands of it.

Another virtual cliche is the writer who covers his ass by pretending to be sympathetic while accusing someone of lying about a serious crime (like sexual molestation) while questioning whether a person was actually a victim of the serious crime.

"It's not that I think Sugar Ray Leonard is lying, it is just his allegations against his coach reflect poorly on those who actually were sexually abused."

If Leonard wanted to open up about what happened, why not do it the way Rick Welts, the president and chief executive officer of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, did this week in publicly coming out as gay: no book to sell,

Maybe because Rich Welts didn't have a book being written about his life? I am sure if someone was writing Rick Welts' life story Welts would have mentioned he was gay and put it in the book. It is clear from the fact Sugar Ray Leonard was writing a screenplay, apparently partially based on his own life, that Sugar Ray Leonard has wanted to get his life-story out there in some larger fashion than a simple article in a newspaper. So it makes sense if there is a biography being written by him, this story would be included.

It was a true public service for other gay athletes confronted with homophobia in the locker room. Inserting the issue of sexual abuse into a book about to be published is a selling service.

And let's not forget the man writing these two sentences in 2007 and 2008 was trying to use Sugar Ray's history of violence and poor personal conduct to sell a screenplay. This is hypocrisy. It is fine for Buzz to use Sugar Ray's bad conduct and personal story to sell a screenplay, but when another writer does this it is just part of "a selling service."

There are two people who know what happened, Leonard and the coach in question. Any kind of corroboration seems to be impossible

Which really means jackshit. There is a "he-said, she-said" in many sexual molestation cases. It is not like a person who is sexually abusing a child would commit the crime on a Jumbo-Tron or in public. The fact there are only two people with knowledge of this occurence doesn't meant the allegations aren't true.

According to Araton’s story, nobody in Leonard’s inner circle was ever told anything.

Probably because Sugar Ray was embarrassed and wrongly blamed himself? This reasoning has a ton of merit.

Yet he is not named in the book despite the basic rule that the deceased cannot be libeled. Why would Leonard, given the vile act he writes about, remotely want to protect him?

What would naming the coach do? What would it do other than accuse a dead man and disturb his living, innocent family members with these allegations?

Leonard also writes that he actually gave the writer who assisted him, Michael Arkush, two versions of what happened. In the first, he says the coach stopped before anything physical took place. In the second version, Leonard went further to say that coach basically forced oral sex upon him.

Ah-ha! A contradiction!

These really aren't two completely different versions. The second version is where Sugar Ray essentially talks about the one thing he had not been able to talk about publicly over his entire life. So the first version can be explained by the fact this isn't a story Sugar Ray was comfortable telling so he stopped before the embarrassing part.

At a minimum, Leonard should release the coach’s name.

What would this do? How would this prove the allegations or real or not? It wouldn't, it would just provide more chum for the shark-frenzy media to tear apart. Releasing the coach's name would serve the no purpose and really could not determine whether the allegations are true or not, since the coach is dead and couldn't corroborate. Nothing would be proven, so what good would giving the coach's name do?

I asked him to do that in an email I sent him yesterday. I know he received it, and he chose not to respond.

I wonder why?

Perhaps the problem is with the growing nature of celebrity books, in which hideously scarred childhoods and teenage years have become a requirement. The latest was Massachusetts senator Scott Brown’s autobiography, Against All Odds. He too said he suffered sexual abuse.


Leonard is also motivated to sell books as he fights to come back into the limelight after his last boxing match 14 years ago (his recent appearance on Dancing With the Stars didn’t quite turn the corner for him). He wants his book to sell. All authors want their books to sell. And sensation sells.

Even if Leonard wants the book to sell and revealed the sexual abuse in order to get the book to sell, this still doesn't mean Leonard is lying.

According to the Times story, Leonard writes that he had terrible flashbacks of the incident and believes that what happened, along with the volatile relationship between his mother and father growing up in Maryland, helped contribute to his later problems with cocaine and then alcohol and domestic abuse. But based on what Leonard told me, it was another traumatic experience entirely that began his descent.

While training to defend his title against Roger Stafford in Buffalo, he saw a floating spot in his left eye. He was examined by a world-renowned specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who determined that he had suffered a partially detached retina. Leonard had no real choice but to retire at 26, and it was then that the descent into booze and coke began, even though he did rise again to defeat Marvin Hagler in 1987 after only one fight in five years.

So there can only be one reason for Sugar Ray's descent into alcohol, domestic abuse and cocaine? There's no way there can be two reasons? Buzz is pretty small-minded if he thinks a combination of having to retire early and the sexual abuse could not have both contributed to his decline.

The recounting of sexual abuse in the car with the coach did catch me off guard. Maybe it was the shock that bothered me—a man I thought I knew I never entirely did know.

I think it was jealously at this revelation coming out while working on a project with another writer that wasn't Buzz Bissinger.

This article is either the height of cynicism or Buzz Bissinger just being an asshole.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

0 comments Clutch Players in the Playoffs

Did you know that oysters are aphrodisiacs? Maybe you didn’t, but you probably weren’t surprised when I told you. When you eat them, there’s that little extra kick that rattles around your body. It’s that same inexplicable, know-it-when-you-see it quality that defines NBA megastars. There are plenty of superstars, don’t get me wrong. Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard and Deron Willams immediately come to mind. Yet they seem to occupy a different, slightly lesser dimension of greatness that merely agrees instead of supersedes. That is, they fulfill our expectations from the onset. Nothing less, nothing more. A grilled chicken sandwich, of sorts. It’s going to be good, maybe great, but it’s not going to unequivocally bewilder and amaze your taste buds. When these players step on the court, we don’t hold our breath for the spectacular because we already know they’re spectacular.

That next level, the one that Dirk, LeBron and Kobe occupy, flirts with the unknown. We know they’re spectacular, but we can’t help but wonder and anticipate. They accomplish the unfathomable. Kevin Durant is waiting to join this group. As I wrote the other day, it’s not a question of his natural ability.

Instead, he’s grappling with Westbrook for the right to progress to that final echelon. On the remaining playoff teams, there’s no question that Dirk, LeBron and Rose will be the ones to put the nail in the coffin. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the stats. Of these five end game closers, (LeBron, Dirk, Rose, Westbrook and Durant. We’re ignoring Wade because he does not have enough attempts), here’s how their true shooting percentage in clutch situations breaks down during the 2011 playoffs:

(clutch situation = 5 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, five point game or less):

Player A: 47 points, 19 FGA, 26 FTA, 77.20 TS%

Player B: 37 points, 25 FGA, 11 FTA, 62.00 TS%

Player C: 30 points, 21 FGA, 13 FTA, 56.14 TS%

Player D: 39 points, 31 FGA, 9 FTA, 55.78 TS%

Player E: 25 points, 31 FGA, 13 FTA, 34.04 TS%

Can you identify who is who? The two-horse race for most clutch player left in the playoffs isn’t as close as people actually think. With a whopping 78.48 TS%, Dirk has established himself as the preeminent finisher. As deadly as Dirk’s jumper is, it’s his free throws that are doing the main damage. With double the output of the next closest competitor, teams clearly can’t keep him off the line.

So who’s in second (Player B)? You might be surprised, but it’s actually Kevin Durant at 63.85%. Despite being limited to 21 FGA, Durant has succeeded when given the opportunity. But that’s exactly the point. Coming in at an awful 33.01 TS%, Westbrook has attempted two more free throws and six more field goals than Durant. Is it just me or is something backwards here? To take the next step, Durant needs to demand the ball in every late game situation. What do you think Kobe would do if Phil Jackson drew up a last second shot for Pau Gasol? Slap the clipboard out of his hand? Knock over Phil’s throne on the bench? Call him a word that might lead to the inevitable $100,000 fine? What about if Mike Brown drew up a play for Ron Artest? I don’t even want to think about the carnage, half-hearted apology and incessant media debate.

In 4th place, LeBron’s 55.78 TS% is actually slightly lower than his 59.4% output during the regular season. Although some of this can be attributed to the tough Boston and Chicago defense he has faced, let’s not forget that LeBron’s late game shot selection is often less than stellar. How many times have we seen him pull-up early in the shot clock during the waning moments for a knife-in-the-heart three? Sure, he’s hit a few in the playoffs, but he misses a lot as well.

All I can say about Derrick Rose’s 3rd place and 56.14% is wow (in a positive sense). Despite the ungodly amount of attention he receives, especially throughout the stretch run of the 4th quarter, he’s stepped up to the plate. Okay, so maybe he missed some contested step-backs against LeBron last night, but give the man a break. He has everyone and his mother focused on him. And thanks to Kyle Korver, he has to waste defensive energy on Dwyane Wade.

So what do we take away from this? You should have given more touches to Durant, Westbrook. Go get the ball from Westrbook, Durant. Stop taking ill-advised shots early in the shot clock, LeBron. Demand that the front office trades for any functioning NBA 2-guard, D-Rose. And Dirk, you probably deserve the NBA title already.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

9 comments MMQB Review: Don't Make Peter King Get His Followers to Bankrupt Hertz! Edition

There may be a lockout, with no end in sight, but Peter King is still writing his MMQB...with no end in sight. Yes, there may be no NFL games on the horizon, but this doesn't mean Peter King has stopped writing his weekly NFL column. Even if there is no NFL news, it doesn't matter. MMQB really wasn't about the NFL anyway. It was about interviews with players, Peter's complaints about traveling, Peter's observations about the world and it was a forum for Peter to take his frustrations out on corporations who have drawn his ire. So MMQB is essentially just without the player interviews and quotes at this point, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The last time I swung a golf club was a year ago, at the 2010 Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Celebrity Golf Classic, in which, I'm sure, I was the worst golfer on the famed Stadium Course at Sawgrass.

In an alternate world where Peter King is a good golfer and someone else is a terrible golfer, Good Golfer Peter King would use this space to complain the terrible golfer shouldn't be on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass and should probably work on his/her game at a different place. Because we live in this world and Peter King is (as he reports) a terrible golfer, it is fine for him to play on a nice course and be terrible at golf...because he doesn't have Good Golfer Peter King criticizing him.

If everyone remembers the last time I covered MMQB, Peter stated he was going to try to keep the lockout talk to a minimum. Naturally, he lead off his next two MMQBs with tidbits about the lockout. When Peter says he isn't going to do something, immediately look for him to do that one thing.

'' We're headed for a period of nuclear winter for the next four or five weeks. There's no pressure on either side to move. There hasn't been any pressure since the March 11 deadline, which, not so coincidentally, is the last time either side made any sort of tangible move in the talks. That's 73 days without any real progress.

A part of me hopes the NFL stays locked out for two more months and then when the league and the players finally decide they should get a deal done, few people show up to the games and ratings plummet. The realistic part of me knows this won't happen at all. I would be first in line to go to NFL games and watch the games on television. The NFL and the player's union will probably agree on a deal, probably the same one they could have agreed to back in early April if both sides weren't too busy posturing, on August 31st and the season will start after that and the public (including myself) will be happy and forget all the anger we have at this stupid lockout. Right now though, I have frustration at no agreement having been reached and very little negotiating actually taking place.

I don't expect anything to happen until the three-judge appeals panel rules whether the NFL can continue to lock out the players, and by all accounts, that decision won't come until late June, at the earliest.

Can we get a judge to rule the two sides have until June 15 to come to an agreement? Would that be possible? We all know the NFL season is going to start in some form or fashion at some point, can't an agreement be reached now? I really feel like both sides could come to an agreement, but they feel better that they fought for what they wanted more strenuously if they let it drag on and on.

I respect Ray Lewis, and I also do not travel in his circles.

(whispers) Peter means to say that he is a white person while Ray Lewis is not white.

I don't know who has told Lewis the crime rate by the general populace in America is going to go up if there's no pro football this fall, but someone has, and he's buying it. Lewis told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN: "If we don't have a season, watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up,'' he said. When SalPal asked why, Lewis said: "There's nothing else to do.''

Perhaps this is part of the problem with both sides. NFL fans do enjoy football and really want to see football. They can't imagine people would have something else to do besides watch the NFL. Perhaps both the owners and the players really don't think there is anything else to do during the Fall if there isn't football on, and therefore, because their huge egos tell them this they think there is no way a person could used to not watching football. It's very egotistical reasoning. People have other things they can do rather than watch football.

I want the NFL season to start, but here's what I will do without an NFL season. Instead of doing all the things I need to do on the weekend BEFORE my favorite team plays, I will just do those things at my leisure and perhaps build the weekend around college football. I want the NFL, but what kind of egotistical asshole thinks people are going to be wandering the streets like zombies with nothing to do without the NFL? Sure, many people will miss it, but the time will be replaced somehow.

It's a nice headline, but I'm not buying it. I suppose it could happen, but unless we get burglars and thieves saying they did it because the NFL wasn't on TV on fall Sundays this year, I'm not buying what Lewis is selling.

As well you shouldn't. I find it hard to believe a person who is bored and wants to commit crimes doesn't commit crimes Monday through Saturday because of the anticipation for Sunday. Does crime escalate the week between the NFC and AFC Championship games and the Super Bowl? There's no football games that week.

Ray Lewis has left the park with this statement. People love to watch NFL football. Believe it or not, their lives nor their livelihood won't be changed incredibly if the NFL season doesn't start on time. They will be temporarily saddened, but will find a way to fill the void. Those people who chose to commit crimes may end up committing more crimes during the time they would normally watch football, but I don't know if I see people turning to a life of crime without the NFL. You know whose lives and livelihood will be changed? The owner's and player's lives.

I'm prejudiced, obviously, because I had a good working relationship with Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports Group, who parted company with his new bosses at Comcast, stunningly, last Thursday. He was a very good boss. A unique boss.

A lofty boss. A boss of nobility and ideals. A man's whose name slightly does sound like the word "aerosol."

Now, not everyone is going to have the same memories as I have, because bosses in billion-dollar businesses have to be, well, bosses sometimes. I think what made him good -- and what will make him good again -- is his curiosity. Everything interested him. So I thought I'd ask a few people who knew him well in the business in the past few years for an observation or two about what made Ebersol good.

That sounds great! I would love for a significant amount of space in MMQB to be dedicated to nuzzling the ass of a wealthy ex-NBC executive. I bet there is someone who had something negative to say! I would bet I would be wrong! Ebersol was just so great! Here are some quotes to prove it:

Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner: "Dick had this attitude that not a lot of people in the TV business have. It was, 'If we float all boats, it's good for everyone.' That's why you would see on the Thursday night kickoff game to start the season NBC plugging the FOX and CBS games the following Sunday.

Dick did always love plugging things.

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis quarterback: "The thing I always felt about Dick was he was all in.

Dick loves being all-in. We all knew that about him.

Also, why is Peyton Manning commenting on Dick Ebersol? Doesn't he have something better to do?

"The other thing about those production meetings: He'd have great gadgets for us every time. You know, flip video cameras, iPods, whatever. It got to the point where we [players] wondered,' What's Dick going to have for us this week?

Maybe I am confused. So Dick Ebersol gave the players gifts in the production meetings? I feel like this should violate something somewhere. Can you imagine the shit ESPN would get if it was found out one of their executives bought the Patriots diamond watches? Maybe I am misunderstanding this sentence.

John Madden, former Sunday night game analyst:

"I remember on one of our road trips, we're staying in the same hotel as the Boston Celtics. You look at the marquee at the hotel and it says, 'NBC, film session, 9 a.m.,' and 'Boston Celtics, film session, 10 a.m.' Doc Rivers is such a good friend of everyone. He told us, 'If you guys want to come over and watch with us, come on in.' So I'm all excited about that -- breaking down film with the Boston Celtics!

They most likely promised John Madden there would be snacks available. Then "BOOM!" John Madden was there in a flash.

Dick goes over a little bit early, and I go over there around 10, and there's one player in there -- that Big Baby guy.

John Madden was actually talking about Kevin Garnett, not Glen Davis.

They got all this food,

I told you they enticed John Madden with food.

"This isn't the last you'll hear of Dick Ebersol,'' Madden said.

Hopefully this is the last I hear of him in MMQB.

Remember Ken Dorsey?

That mediocre Miami Hurricanes QB who was surrounded by an incredible amount of talent and tricked everyone into thinking he was a quality quarterback? I think I remember him.

Interesting that he just finished eight days working with the first pick in the draft, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and they'll be back at it again today in Bradenton, Fla.

(Ken Dorsey) "Here's what you do Cam. You find a way to get the best players at each position on your team to play with you. Then, you play quarterback. It's that easy."

(Cam Newton) "Am I getting paid for this?"

(Ken Dorsey) "Not yet."

(Cam Newton leaves the field)

Newton was able to get a Carolina playbook, with Panthers offensive coordinator Chudzinski's encyclopedic offense, to take with him during the lockout. Dorsey spent last week instructing Newton in the finer points of the offense, in addition to telling him the expectations and coaching methods of Chudzinski.

(Cam Newton) "What's this line on either side of the offensive linemen?"

(Ken Dorsey) "Those are your two wide receivers."

(Cam Newton) "Wow, there are TWO wide receivers on each pass pattern in the NFL? This is going to be a big transition for me. Can we practice the quarterback draw play again? Do you think Coach Chud will be able to run this play for me 65% of the time?"

It sounds smart and valuable. Compared to the other highly drafted quarterbacks, Newton ought to be as advanced as he can be when the lockout ends. How important will that be?

I don't know, Peter. Generally it is important for you quarterback to know the offense.

We'll see, because there's going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on the Panthers to play Newton early.

Not really. The Panthers could always put Jimmy Clausen back there, lower the fans expectations a bit, then put Cam Newton in the game. I don't know if anyone expects Newton to be ready to start at the beginning of the year.

You really need to read this story.

Let's skip this part.

Saw longtime and well-respected football writer Vito Stellino's Twitter take on the curbing of offseason programs due to the lockout this spring. I liked it well enough that I asked the former Steeler glory-days beat man, now with the Florida Times-Union covering the Jaguars, to expand his thoughts for MMQB. Here they are:

Is it going to make any difference that the lockout is wiping out the NFL's offseason program?

Eagles coach Andy Reid recently said the less practice time a team has (because of the lockout), "the worse the product. We don't do those minicamps, those OTAs, and all those sessions just for the heck of it. There is a reason why we have those things ... We try to get the utmost out of it.''

Reid may not realize -- he's only been coaching in the NFL since 1992 -- that the real reason for these things is Parkinson's Law. Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

They have these things because the players make so much money that they don't work in the offseason and are available to practice.

Yes, this is true. Also, the Eagles have a new defensive coordinator this season so the fact the players aren't available to be in minicamps could slow up his ability to integrate what new wrinkles he wants to incorporate into the defense. So it may be nice for him to be able to do this. Minicamps aren't the most crucial part of playing football, but I think they have value in that they keep the players engaged and help to integrate new players on the team faster.

As recently as the 1970s, there were no offseason workouts. Teams had one minicamp an offseason. Tony Dungy even worked in a Pittsburgh bank after he signed as an undrafted free agent in 1977.

Some NFL players have taken jobs during this lockout. I don't get the point. It's better for a player to take another job than to focus on the one job he does have?

And Terry Bradshaw used to talk about not picking up a ball in the offseason.

Clearly not picking up a ball in the offseason is what led him to his great ability to have an incredible team around him that made him look a lot better than he actually was.

What this guy doesn't seem to understand is there wasn't free agency in Terry Bradshaw's playing days. Players move from team-to-team more often, so it becomes more important for these new players to be integrated into the team earlier than Training Camp.

And maybe the players were more refreshed after having an offseason away from the game. All these offseason workouts may just wear down their bodies.

Perhaps. Maybe the players would get out of shape in the offseason if there weren't offseason workouts? Maybe no one noticed this in Terry Bradshaw's time because every team had players come into games slightly out of shape. Maybe if one team didn't have offseason workouts and the players became lazy and out of shape everyone would probably notice this.

Did the product suffer because of the lack of offseason workouts? You can argue the players are bigger, faster and stronger today and it is a more sophisticated game. But was it any better for the fans?

I would argue it is better for the fans. I am pretty sure the attendance, television ratings and overall popularity show that fans really, really, really enjoy the NFL. So yes, it is better for the fans today, or at least the fans seem to enjoy the NFL more than they did back in "the good old days."

Remember in the 1970s, two Super Bowls in four years pitted Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach.

Remember, this has absolutely nothing to fucking do with offseason workouts. The last two Super Bowls pitted Manning v. Brees and Rodgers v. Roethlisberger...which also has nothing to do with offseason workouts.

Not to mention, the overall popularity of the NFL isn't decided or measured based on the skill level of the two quarterbacks that end up going against each other in the Super Bowl. It's not like the NFL sucks if two teams with average or above-average quarterbacks make the Super Bowl.

Yes, the offseason workouts -- combined with free agency and cable TV -- have kept the NFL in the news all year round and helped make the game more popular than ever. And that has meant football writers don't have to cover things like golf the way they used to. I know you can't live in the past, but I would debate the game isn't any better for the fans. Too bad Andy Reid was only a teenager in the 1970s. He would understand the NFL did just fine without OTAs and offseason programs.

The NFL may do fine without OTAs and offseason programs. I'm not sure I would doubt this is true. I would say if some teams did OTAs and other teams did not, the teams that did the OTAs may be more successful during the upcoming season. These offseason workouts make sure the players are still engaged with the team and aren't letting themselves go during the offseason. The offseason programs and OTAs are a way of evaluating players and letting the team develop some chemistry by limiting the time away from the game and the team.

"It would have forever severed the players of the NFL from a fair share of the revenue.''
-- NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, to Brian McGovern and Maurice Jones-Drew on their Sirius XM NFL Radio show, on the last offer owners made to players, March 11.

Well, I guess. But it's hard to imagine the NFL offer -- $161 million per year per team in salary and benefits in year four of the proposal with no backside if the NFL's revenue estimates were higher than projected (when the players wanted $161 million per year per team PLUS backside revenue) -- was so monumentally, impossibly difficult to bridge. It's why I maintain that the difference between the two sides is not so great that some real negotiations couldn't bridge the gap.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like either side is dedicated to doing some real negotiations. It's rather annoying.

Peter also displays the fact he seems to side with the owners when refuting this statement made by DeMaurice Smith. There was no backside in year four of the proposal if the NFL's revenues were higher than projected, but what are the odds the owners would admit to revenues being higher than projected? These are the same owners who are claiming they don't make enough money as it is now. The players want that backside revenue guaranteed because they (possibly rightly) know they won't see that money if it isn't guaranteed.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week I

Oh yes, this is Travel Note of the Week I...because there are two things that pissed Peter off this week.

Hertz Should Be Ashamed of Itself Dept.:

I rented a full-sized Hertz vehicle for my two-day trip to North Carolina and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Awards. Two days, $44 a day. Drove the car 169 miles. The tank read 5/8ths when I pulled into the Charlotte Douglas International Airport's Hertz lot at 5:35 a.m. Tuesday.

"Did you fill the tank with gas?'' the courteous check-in gal asked.

"No, sorry,'' I said.

She noted the mileage and handed me the receipt.

The receipt for charges of $249.31.2

The gas for driving less than a half-tank cost more ($89.40) than renting the car for two days, minus taxes ($88). Hertz charged $8.99 per gallon for refueling. That seems fair (he said sarcastically).

Yes, Hertz is charging WAY too much for gas. It's ridiculous to charge $8.99 for refueling. Still, Peter is a guy who travels a lot, as seen by the fact he bitches and whines every week in MMQB about things that happen when he travels. Peter should know to fill the car back up with gas before turning it in. If he had done this, he could have completely avoided the charge at $8.99 per gallon for refueling. So while Peter has a point about the price, he can't bitch because he made the decision not to fill the car back up with gas.

Three-eighths of a tank of gas for $89.40? If that's not price-gouging, I don't know what is.

I am not sure this is exactly price gouging. Peter could have purchased a cheaper, comparable product on the way to turn the rental car in and he chose not to. So he had options and he chose not to take those options, so I am not sure this is exactly price gouging. There weren't really limited options nor was Peter in a situation where the only gas he could purchase was at the $8.99 rate. He could have filled up his car for half of the price and chose not to. Yes, Hertz charges a lot for gas, but as a veteran traveler Peter King should know to put gas in the car himself so he can avoid the excessive charge. I don't know if I would count this as price gouging.

For example, if I am thirsty and I pass up gas stations that offer a 32 oz soda for $0.99 and then choose to go to Applebee's and purchase a drink, should I really be bitching they charge me $1.99 for a glass of soda? I had comparable options and chose not to take them. That's not exactly price gouging.

Hip To Be Square Dept.:

I will never get used to a person at 9:58 a.m. -- as happened Sunday in the row in front of me on a Boston-to-Washington United flight -- saying to the flight attendant with the beverage cart coming down the aisle: "Two Stolis on the rocks. No water.'' And then, by 10:13, both of the little vodka bottles, and the plastic cup, empty but for the ice. Vodka shots are something I can't do at 11 at night, never mind when Cheerios should be on the tray table.

As we all know, if a person doesn't live their life the exact same way Peter King lives his life, that makes them weird. Maybe this person was afraid of flying and required a few drinks to relax them before the plane gets too far in the air? Maybe this person had another reason for wanting a drink. Still, Peter lives to sit in judgment. He seems to essentially stare down people in public while they go about their lives, like he does to people on trains he rides on. What's really weird is that Peter will pay attention and take notes on what other people are doing while traveling. He should mind his own business and find something to do, rather than stare at what other people drink or do while traveling.

5. I think some clarity is in order for Hall of Fame Weekend in August. It's happening. Regardless of the state of the labor situation, the 2011 class will be inducted on Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. in Canton. Can't wait to see Ed and Steve Sabol and their extended family and friends that weekend. Promises to be an emotional and memorable weekend.

It is a big weekend for Peter King as well. Peter was responsible for advocating Ed Sabol be inducted into the Hall of Fame and somehow got enough members in the room to vote for him. As we have discussed prior, Sabol did have an impact on the NFL, but I don't know if there was a reason to put him in the Hall of Fame when there are eligible and worthy NFL players who could have made it instead. Of course, Peter will insist up and down he doesn't have as much pull among Hall of Fame voters as many people, Jason Whitlock included, seem to think. I believe the fact Ed Sabol made the Hall of Fame proves otherwise.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. To those who hate interleague play in baseball: I respectfully disagree.

In your face, haters!

The biggest complaint is from those who have no desire to see Houston-Toronto, Detroit-Pittsburgh, etc. Fine. You're in Toronto. Instead of getting three with the Astros, you'd get -- let's say -- three more with Kansas City, Oakland or Seattle. Whoopee!

"Fine, let me make up a fake scenario to prove my point where I pick three of the worst draws in Major League Baseball and then say that's who your team would face instead of the Astros."

What if Toronto would get three more games with a team that was a bigger draw? Peter can't seem to fathom that would happen. I don't hate interleague baseball, I hate much of Peter's reasoning for defending interleague baseball.

There are some ho-hum matchups, but there's also the Cubs at Fenway for the first time in 93 years,

See, interleague baseball is good because it allows the Red Sox to have an interesting matchup. That's really what interleague play is about anyway. This is some great "Bill Simmons" like reasoning here. Interleague play isn't bad because it provides a good and interesting matchup for Peter's favorite team.

(Red Sox fan) "We're so fucking cursed."

(Cubs fan) "No, we're fucking cursed."

(Second Red Sox fan) "Everyone should feel so badly for us. We are so cursed and so many bad things have happened to us."

(Second Cubs fan) "No way, we had a curse put on us because of a billygoat. Remember Steve Bartman? We are so cursed forever! Everyone should have sympathy for us. Why don't more people feel bad for us because we have it so bad?"

If these interleague games happened in 2003 I am not sure I could have survived being in the crowd. It would have been like two fan bases whining at each other the entire game, completely ignoring the fact a game is being played. Needless to say, Dan Shaughnessy would write a book about it as well.

the Yanks at Wrigley Field, the good fans of Cincinnati getting a chance to see Jose Bautista in their little bandbox,

I know the entire city of Cincinnati is lining up to see Jose Bautista.

Albert Pujols taking his shot at an equally homer-friendly Camden Yards, Roy Halladay's return to Toronto,

(Bengoodfella falling asleep)

the Red Sox throwing the fans of the woebegone Pirates a three-game weekend series.

The Red Sox being kind enough, out of the goodness of their hearts, to come to Pittsburgh and bring some real joy to them. Not only do the Pirates get to play a team from the American League AT HOME, we all know the American League is clearly superior to the National League, but they get a chance FIRSTHAND to see actual Red Sox fans. It's going to probably the highlight of the calendar year for the entire city of Pittsburgh when the Red Sox dedicate some time to taking their great team and fans to the city of Pittsburgh.

Interleague play's a no-brainer. It's different. It's fun.

Drinking two vodka tonics on a plane is different and fun as well. Peter doesn't seem to like this kind of fun though.

c. Really fun to be in Fenway Park Friday night for the Cubs' first trip to the park since the 1918 World Series, when Babe Ruth roamed the land for the BoSox. Sat behind four Cub fans out in right field, and in front of two others who'd never been to Fenway and were Cub season-ticket holders. All very interested in Fenway, all seeming down-in-the-mouth about their Cubbies ... and all quite polite. Pleasure to have you in the house, Chicago.

Oh, and your welcome for the privilege of playing in Fenway Park AND getting to sit near Peter King.

f. Am I the only person in the United States who never watched Oprah?

Yes. This doesn't make you special though, so don't feel special.

k. Coffeenerdness: What a tremendously pleasant airport you have, Jacksonville. Two Starbucks about 10 gates apart too. Nice job.

Congratulations concrete, inanimate object. You have done well!

Great job of providing us with oxygen plants. You really carry a burden few could take on.

Sidewalks...why don't we ever have enough time to thank you?

Where would we be without your ladders? A heck of a lot closer to the ground, that's for sure!

l. Beernerdness: I've got a good bar for the craft-beer-nerd crowd. (And don't you dare call Blue Moon a craft beer on Twitter, which I made the unforgivable mistake of doing the other day. The craft-beer-nerd crowd jumped through the Twitterverse, into my laptop and right down my throat, indignant that Blue Moon's no craft beer; it's brewed by that evil empire out at Coors. Sheesh.)

Sheesh. How dare you craft-beer-nerds jump down Peter's throat and try to point out his factual incorrectness?

Can't Peter just continue to write something and not have someone point out he is wrong?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

15 comments The Durant/Westbrook Power Struggle

Way back when, Macedonian generals returned home from battle to a heap of lavish praise and gifts. As long as their aggression brought back the fruitful spoils of devastation, all was forgiven. That is Russell Westbrook. If he were an historical figure, I’d assume he’d be Alexander The Great (If you take anything away from this, remember that Alexander was Macedonian, not Greek). Capable of conquering in a flash, but ultimately renounced and rebuked by future schoolteachers everywhere. “Be humble,” they would say. “Live within your means. Don’t overextend yourself.” But we are the masses, and we don’t listen to the wise words of a few. When we hit the street courts to emulate our favorite players, we don’t take a charge and scream “Big Baby!” Instead we chuck a fadeaway from the elbow, clinging to ephemeral hope while teetering on the precipice of utter disappointment. But then the shot goes in, and calamity turns to jubilation. Poor shot selection turns into greatness.

For three and a half quarters, this is Russell Westbrook. He meanders through the game, aimlessly fulfilling his every desire on a whim. For three and a half quarters, we indulge ourselves in the best part of Westrbook’s game. His blazing speed and unabashed invasion of the paint remind us of the beauty that basketball can be. There’s something alluring about a smooth crossover followed by a finger roll unperturbed by the rim. To the unenlightened, it’s merely large men gathered in a small space. But the basketball fan can extract meaning, and eloquence, and emotion, and a host of other seemingly unrelated adjectives. Westbrook is that answer. He’s at the heart of our desire.

The fourth quarter clock passes the six-minute mark. Possessions slow. Misses are that much more heart wrenching. A Nick Collison rebound causes Jeff Van Gundy to yelp in delight. But the beauty that we appreciate in Westbrook evolves from authoritative to transgressing. He is no longer conquering, but usurping. But only because Kevin Durant is a passive king. Just as we laud Westbrook for his confidence and ambition, we kneel at Durant and his storybook caricature. He’s dominant, yet unselfish. Industrious but respectful. Resourceful but loyal. Cruel on the hardwood, kind off of it. When it’s time to stamp down legacy, the greats momentarily reverse this trend. MJ and Kobe tap into something more. It is this same part of them that transcends basketball and pervades their general personalities. “I want to beat you, slaughter you, put you back together and hack you to pieces again.” But not only do they beat you, they let you know about it. And then step on you. And trash talk some more. And then they score another basket, jawing at their defender as he crawls back to the locker room. Durant may be a scoring champion with unparalleled levels of shot-making ability, but he’s missing that indefinable something else. That same something else we that we disparage if it’s not the last six minutes of the fourth quarter. I want to call it a killer instinct, but it’s not; everyone has the instinct to close out games. It’s just extra. Russell Westbrook has it, but is missing that elite basketball skill which Durant possesses.

This is how the God made the Thunder – unrelenting youthful enthusiasm, loose reigns to guide the stallions. Ultimately this protocol has led to a consistent yet scary narrative: build a big lead, don’t blow it at the end. During these playoffs, they have seen both sides of the coin. They have come back from huge deficits, riding the unpredictable wings of Westbrook and the hot hand of Durant. On a few occasions, they have finished off these comebacks. This is how narrative lives. It changes, transforms and evolves. When retold or reread, it is not the same. The miniscule changes throughout the chapters culminate with a slightly different ending. A missed free throw here, a made three there. That’s the difference with the Thunder. They never know whether a botched play in the 2nd quarter will impact the final result. The Mavericks, meanwhile, don’t worry. Dirk will swoop in to clean up the mistakes. Keep him within striking range and the storybook ending will write itself. Until Durant throws Westbrook off the throne that is rightfully his, the Thunder will just beneath the cusp.

Monday, May 23, 2011

2 comments Murray Chass and "Posey Time"

Last year, Murray Chass took Major League teams to task for how they manage their rookies and their payroll. He felt teams lack integrity by keeping players in the minors to where a team gets six years of service from players before free agency rather than five years of service by not calling that player up to the majors until (approximately) early June. While I do agree it is obvious why teams do this so some attempts to mask the reason outside of being financial rings false, these are the current rules in baseball. Until they are changed, obeying the rules as they are set up and agreed to by the players doesn't mean a team lacks integrity. Now almost one year later, Murray is following this up with more commentary on this issue and has given it a name, "Posey Time."

The Posey time of the baseball year is upon us. It’s almost time for teams to call up their good prospects whom they have left in the minor leagues to deprive them of the major league service time they will need to be eligible for salary arbitration and free agency.

I like how he uses the word "deprive" as if a player isn't going to get paid through the arbitration process. It may be unfair to the player for teams to keep that player down in the minors for a couple more months in order to look down the road long-term as to what that player can provide the team by getting six full seasons out of that player, but it also doesn't violate the rules set up by the union and the owners. This may change one day, but it hasn't yet.

I have named it Posey time because Buster Posey was the most significant player affected by the service manipulation but was brought to the majors in time to lead the San Francisco Giants to the World Series championship.

Apparently Murray Chass has completely forgot about the phenomenon last year that was Stephen Strasburg. Posey was the most significant player in retrospect, but at the time, Stephen Strasburg got called up on June 8, 2010 and was the biggest story. Strasburg was probably the most significant player last year affected by this "service manipulation."

Since we are looking in retrospect, how smart were the Nationals to keep Strasburg in the minors until June 8? He blew out his elbow last year after a few starts and had Tommy John surgery. He probably won't pitch again this year, so if they had brought him up after this season, he would be eligible for only three more years of service with the Nationals rather than having four seasons like he currently has.

In other words the rookie catcher helped the Giants win their gamble that served against his own best interests.

I realize this is anecdotal evidence, but let's review what happened after the Giants "deprived" Posey of his service time:

1. The Giants kept Buster Posey in the minor leagues to get one more year of service time out of him.

2. Murray Chass complained this lacked integrity because the Giants were hurting their team at the expense of winning more games over a two month span in order to have Posey for an additional year.

(Again, knowing it is not against the rules to do this...how is giving up 2 months with a prospect not on the team in exchange for an additional season with that prospect on the team a bad move?)

3. Murray Chass said Giants fans should be angry about this because it didn't allow their team to be successful.

4. The San Francisco Giants won the World Series.

5. The Giants have Posey for five seasons more (including this one), instead of four more seasons.

So keeping Posey in the minors worked out on all counts for the Giants last year.

When last season began, the Giants left Posey in the minors. He still had things to learn, they said. Most people, including the reporters who cover the Giants and should cover them with a healthy dose of skepticism, believed the Giants.

Any citation saying the Giants reporters believed the Giants? No? Fair enough. There isn't really a need to cite or provide proof for any statements made I guess.

I see Murray still writes with the "old school" mentality the readers should just believe what he is writing is the truth, because he is a professional sportswriter and all. It is not like a sportswriter would mislead the public or anything.

As it turned out, Posey needed just enough time to learn those things that it cost him a year toward free agency.

The Giants recalled Posey May 29. Had they recalled him 11 days earlier, he would have finished the season with one year of major league service, leaving him five more seasons to be eligible to be a free agent. Now he needs six more seasons.

This is absolutely true. I can see how this would be seen as unfair to Buster Posey, but I have a feeling he will get a contract extension before those six seasons run out.

Not only did they extend their control of Posey for an extra year but they nevertheless also qualified for the playoffs by winning the division title despite his absence for the first two months.

This sounds like a great thing for every person, including the fans, except Buster Posey. Make no mistake, Buster Posey will be getting paid by the Giants sometime before the 2016 season ends. I see no reason why the Giants wouldn't buy out his arbitration years. So even Posey will end up not hating the deal he receives by waiting two more months to be called up to the majors.

Rob Manfred, the clubs’ chief labor executive, says that clubs are only doing what they have always had a right to do. “It has been a long-standing part of our agreement,” he said, discussing the Posey matter last summer, “that clubs have the right to determine when players are brought to the major leagues. It’s a pretty daunting task.”

The clubs, however, tend to make a farce of their task when they decide that their top prospects are ready to rise to the majors at about the same time, late May or early June. They have been so consistent and so obvious with their practice in recent years that they have pushed it onto the collective bargaining table.

As well it should be part of the new CBA. We all know teams are playing the system when they hold players back. Still, these are the rules agreed upon by both sides and I don't think playing by these rules and not hurting the Major League team is lacking integrity. As a fan, I would rather not have a prospect for two months knowing I will have that prospect for an additional full season. I will not feel bad for this prospect because if he is really a good player he will eventually get paid a lot more money than I will ever make.

“It will be interesting to see what happens,” Jed Hoyer, the San Diego general manager, said when he was asked about possible callups in the next few weeks. “You always get to see guys called up in June.”

Which, given the current rules, does make sense to lose two months in order to gain a full year. If a prospect hates his team for doing this, that's fine, he will have the option in a few years to screw the team over and become a free agent or go for a ton of money in salary arbitration. It just requires patience on the player's part.

The Padres themselves have two good-looking minor leaguers they acquired from Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, and some baseball people think they may be ready for promotion. But Hoyer said Casey Kelly, a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher, and Anthony Rizzo, a 21-year-old left-hand hitting first baseman, aren’t going anywhere.

“Both are performing very well where they are,” Hoyer said. “I’m not going to say never, but for the foreseeable future they have stuff to work on and I think they’re better off where they are.”

Oh no you don't, Jed Hoyer! Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo are two perfect players who have nothing left to prove or show at the current minor league level they are playing at. They are ready for the majors. That's just an excuse to screw these guys out of service time!

See, that's the problem with this situation. How do we know when a player is ready for the majors? Public opinion may be that a player is ready, but reality doesn't match what the public often thinks.

The Royals, whom Hoyer mentioned, are already loaded with rookies. The most recent rookie arrival is first baseman Eric Hosmer, who made his major league debut May 6, hit two home runs and drove in four runs at Yankee Stadium in helping Kansas City to two consecutive wins over the Yankees and was hitting .241 after his first eight games.

Clearly, this is definitive proof he was ready for the majors, as this huge sample size of 8 games attests. Remember when Jeff Francouer was called "The Natural" on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Then it turned out he wasn't "The Natural" and pitchers caught up on how to pitch him? Sure, it seemed like Francouer was ready for the majors for a few weeks, but who is to say if he had not played in the minors a little bit longer he would have learned to make adjustments on how pitchers who have pitched to him more than once approach him? Being ready for the majors isn't just about having great stats in the minors, but the ability to adjust to pitchers who have seen you more than once.

So while Eric Hosmer's start to the year is quite impressive and he seems to have a bright future, pitchers still have not adjusted to him.

Hosmer joined a corps of five rookie relief pitchers who have combined for a 2.18 earned run average in 64 relief appearances and 78 1/3 innings: left-hander Tim Collins and right-handers Aaron Crow, Jeremy Jeffress, Louis Coleman and Nate Adcock.

Do the Royals have room for three other rookies? Two are pitchers, 22-year-old left-handers Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery and a 22-year-old third baseman, Mike Moustakas, who was the second player picked in the 2007 draft. All three are at AAA Omaha of the Pacific Coast League.

The Royals probably do have room for another couple of rookies on the roster. Again, I am going to talk about finances, which is something apparently Murray Chass believes no team should think about in deciding whether to call a player up or not. Does it make sense to call 8 rookies up for a full season in the same year so their service time clocks are running on the same schedule? More specifically, do the Royals want (possibly) their top 3-4 players in 2013 all on pace to be eligible for arbitration or free agency in the same year? That just doesn't seem like smart planning. So while, Murray is arguing subtlety Moustakas should probably be called up by now, I don't know if the Royals want their two best hitting prospects (Hosmer is the other) on the same track in arbitration and free agency. Yes, even one year would make probably make a difference between these two players tracks to the majors.

As for Moustakas, Moore said he performed “very well” in Triple A last season (in 52 games) “and he’s doing well there now.” But, he added, Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles “are performing well for us.”

Fuck that! Moustakas is ready for the majors! He should be called up regardless of whether the Royals have room for him on the roster or not and regardless of whether the players currently playing the position are hitting well or not. In regard to what Moore said, Betemit is playing well and Aviles really isn't.

I get why the Royals are keeping Moustakas in the minors, it is in the best interests of the Royals in the long-term and short-term, which is what the General Manager is pretty much hired to make decisions based upon. The Royals aren't doing anything this year, there's no need to rush Moustakas to the majors and start his service time. It is not fair to the player, but it is also not against the rules.

A player in the minors, Moore added, needs two factors working in his favor to prompt a promotion. He has to be performing well, and he needs an opportunity. At the moment, Moore suggested, Moustakas lacks the opportunity.

This is my big beef with when (it will be a "when" not "if") this rule changes. How will it be decided a team needs to call up a player to the majors? Is MLB going to force a team to call up a player or will there be certain performance requirements that force a team to call up a player? Changing the current rules, which allow MLB teams to control personnel as they see fit, may be a good idea for some teams who want to limit the service time of players.

At what point does a team have to call up a player and what if the MLB team doesn't have an opening in that spot? What if the spot available is filled with a player that isn't performing well and the minor league player at the same position is performing well? Will that minor league player have to be called up by the major league team? There are many service time rules and certain players may be out of options to go to the minor leagues, so I worry that forcing teams to call up players will be taking personnel decisions out of the hands of teams. I don't think this should happen. There needs to be a solution, not mindless bitching about players being held down in order to prevent them from accruing service time.

In the matter of manipulating service time, Moore said, “Our mission is to put the best team on the field. We haven’t won. We think it’s important if we’re going to change the culture here, if players are ready and will give us the opportunity to win we want them out there. Hosmer is an upgrade. He helps us put the best team on the field. There is a business side, but we weren’t going to keep him down for another month or so.”

But it also doesn't make financial sense to call a group of young players up to the majors at the same time so they begin to accrue service time in the majors at the exact time. If 50% of the players end up playing well, a team like the Royals may not be able to afford to keep them around if they are eligible for arbitration all at the same time.

Among minor leaguers who could be promoted in the near future are...and a pair of Yankees’ prospects, left-handed reliever Manny Banuelos and Jesus Montero, a 21-year-old Venezuelan catcher, whose hitting could earn him a job as the designated hitter if the Yankees give up on their veteran catcher, Jorge Posada (.165 in 32 games), in that spot.

The Yankees are paying Posada $13 million dollars this year and he hasn't even played one game at catcher yet. So the Yankees have been getting by with other catchers on the roster. They could theoretically play Montero at that position, but the Yankees can't just give up on Posada...especially after the incident two weekends ago where Posada pulled himself from the lineup. Posada makes too much money to just give up on him. They have nowhere they can really put him and putting Montero at DH would take that spot away from the Yankees other older players who can DH.

Not to mention, despite what Murray seems to think, Montero may not be ready for the majors. Of course, in Murray's seemingly perfect world that wouldn't matter, the Yankees would HAVE to call up Montero.

I think the service time rules are unfair to players, but they are the rules and teams that use those rules to their financial advantage don't lack integrity. I wouldn't mind seeing the service time rules changed, but I don't know who or what will be the judge of exactly when a player is called up to the majors. That's my concern. I am not sure anyone has a good idea that allows a team to still make the personnel decisions they see fit and is also fair to the baseball player. I don't mind the system the way it is right now because of this.