Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2 comments Ira Winderman Says Instead of Blowing Up the Celtics, Why Not Trade a Bunch of Players?

Let's talk trades. The Boston Celtics are struggling (sort of...they are still in line for a playoff spot and the Knicks are struggling just as much) and they have a bunch of old players on their roster. This isn't something we didn't know going into this year. At some point, changes will have to be made. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are free agents after this year, so some major changes are coming. The question remains whether the Celtics should stay put or try to rebuild the team on the fly by trading Paul Pierce, Garnett, Allen or even Rajon Rondo (not likely).

Ira Winderman of NBC Sports believes the Boston Celtics shouldn't blow up the team, they should just trade 40% of the starters currently on the team. I'm not sure there is a difference. He wants to trade Garnett and Allen, but doesn't think this is blowing up the Celtics roster. I think trading away two of the four best players on the roster isn't too different from blowing up the team entirely. He believes the Celtics should not trade Pierce, yet because Garnett and Allen are free agents after this year, Pierce and his contract is probably the best one to trade if the Celtics really want to rebuild on the fly. What is weird is Winderman thinks the Celtics should use the Mavericks model in order to ensure success at rebuilding on the fly. It is weird because the Mavericks model was implemented this year and hasn't been shown to work effectively yet.

So I'm not sure the Celtics should model a non-rebuilding, non-blowing up of the team (while two trading important players) based on a unproven plan. Not to mention dangling Pierce in a trade doesn't mean you have to trade him. Personally, I think the Celtics shouldn't trade any of their best four players unless they get a trade offer they can't refuse.

In June, no sooner were the Heat defeated by the Mavericks in the NBA finals than the debate ensued about breaking up the Big Three.

This wasn't serious talk. It wasn't talk because the Big Three were getting old or were ineffective. The talk began because the issue was cap room for the Heat and the media needs to further controversial topics to fill columns and the airwaves. I don't recall these talks about breaking up Wade, James and Bosh as ever being serious.

Amid success in Dwyane Wade's absence in recent days, the volume has intensified on that one.

To the right of the column is an NBCSports podcast entitled "Are LeBron and the Heat better off without Wade?" Is Ira Winderman reporting on a story NBC Sports has helped create? To me, this discussion is the result of short-term, potentially non-sustainable success without Wade and a self-created media story. The media starts a discussion and then breathlessly reports on it. Basically, it is ESPN's entire reporting style.

In L.A., months after being blown out in the second round by the Mavericks, and little more than a season removed from consecutive titles, the Lakers first attempted to rip it apart in a bid for Chris Paul, then sold off Lamar Odom for pennies on the dollar to Dallas.

The Lakers sold Odom because he was unhappy and wanted a trade after finding out he was part of the failed Chris Paul trade discussions. I'm not sure this trade was of the Lakers choosing. Odom wanted out and the Lakers were looking to clear cap space in order to lure Dwight Howard to the Lakers. Notice who the Lakers traded Odom to. The Dallas Mavericks. So Winderman is essentially saying the Mavericks have a plan to take a step back to cut cap space for the future, while also being the beneficiary of a team cutting cap space for the future and taking on larger, non-expiring salaries.

And now the Celtics, a team that advanced to the 2010 NBA finals and might have made it back in 2011 with an ambulatory center, are threatening a core meltdown.

Uh ... um ... patience, anyone?

And what follows is Winderman saying the Celtics should trade Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. I guess patience isn't the best move after all.

First, step back and consider whether we even would be debating the Celtics had Kendrick Perkins not been dealt to the Thunder last season (or at least had Jeff Green not been detected with a season-ending heart condition in the wake of the lockout).

Yes, we would. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen would still be a year older and Jeff Green really isn't anything more than a borderline starter or key guy coming off the bench. A healthy Jeff Green would help and I still don't like the Perkins trade, but Perkins/Green's presence on the roster would not change much. The core problem with the Celtics, at least in my mind, which is their age and lack of bench depth would still be present with Kendrick Perkins on the roster. I think many people have turned Perkins into a cure-all player who in reality was important to the Celtics current roster, but doesn't necessarily have as much value once the needed roster changes happen. Perkins is a great fit for the Celtics when they have a defensive-minded, shot blocking power forward. It's a great role for him. He isn't a scorer and he isn't going to be any more than a team's fifth best starter.

For as ugly as it has gotten for Boston at the start this season, it would not nearly be as ugly if Perkins were there to ease the inside burden on Kevin Garnett, or if Green's versatility was in place to alleviate the scoring load on Paul Pierce or Ray Allen.

Of course, but that's why you have backups. The Celtics have half-assed backing up their center and wing positions over the past couple of years and so they are paying for it this year. Sure, they haven't had a ton of cap room,. A lack of cap room probably somewhat affected their chances at getting better players, but it left them in a position where they had to hurt one position (center) in order to reinforce another position (the backup wing spot) last season. Hence the Perkins-Green trade.

With Perkins or Green, we wouldn't be here, at this intersection of allowing it to play out and blowing it apart.

Yes, we would. Garnett and Allen would still be free agents and neither Perkins or Green are cornerstone franchise pieces. They are guys who fit a role well, but they need good players around them to fill that role.

Why deal Perkins, when a mega-bucks contract decision would have had to have been made with Green, anyway?

This is irrelevant, even if it is a good point. I don't think the Celtics should have traded Perkins last season either. The issue the Celtics are facing is whether to ride this team out with Garnett and Allen as potential free agents or try to get value for them now and hurt the team in the short-term. Pierce is also out there as trade bait because you never know what kind of offer you may get for him. Trading Garnett and Allen would be giving up on a #1-#4 playoff spot and essentially giving up on the year...no matter what Ira Winderman tells us.

Why lock Doc Rivers into a new, long-term deal if there was even an iota of a thought about rebuilding?

Because the Celtics ownership thinks he is a good coach?

And why continually dangle Rajon Rondo while he remains the lone youthful component that could be utilized as a foundation for rebuilding?

Again, to see what return could be had for Rondo. The same reason Pierce is being dangled. These are two valuable players with non-expiring contracts. If Chris Paul could have been had for Rondo, isn't that a trade worth making?

This is the NBA, where the last time the Celtics blew it up they went eight seasons, starting in 1994, with just one playoff victory. Not one series victory, but winning one playoff game over an eight-year span.

And why did the Celtics have to blow it up at that point and failed? Because they held on too long with their veteran players instead of trading them on the fly. Because their best young player died of a heart condition. So if this is an analogous situation, and Rondo doesn't have a heart condition, then perhaps learning from history would say trading key players while still getting value is the best move.

What is so funny is Winderman and I are arguing to the same conclusion. He says the Celtics shouldn't blow it up, which I agree with at this point, but he is arguing this based on also stating the Celtics should trade Garnett and Allen. I count this as blowing up the Celtics. So he is essentially advocating the 2011-2012 Celtics do the exact thing the Celtics should have done prior to 1994, but did not do. Winderman is using the Celtics failure to not blow up the roster prior to 1994 as reasoning for why they shouldn't blow up the team during 11-12. Yet, the 1994 season is a perfect reason why the Celtics should blow up the roster (meaning trade two of the best four players is "blowing the roster up," no matter what Ira Winderman says) this year.

The counterargument, the one being mulled these days by Ainge, is that the step back does not have to be one off a cliff, if it is taken with the proper foresight, that the NBA's new collective-bargaining agreement rewards teams who build cap stashes.

On the surface, that appears to be the approach being taken by Mark Cuban in Dallas, who despite winning the 2011 championship allowed Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson to walk in the offseason without compensation.

This approach has not been proven to work yet. Let's remember this. The Mavericks could use a tall center who can block shots and play defense. You know, like Tyson Chandler.

What is even more interesting is Winderman uses the Mavericks as a potential destination for Kevin Garnett. So while trading for Odom and Garnett by the Mavericks, and the trading of Garnett by the Celtics, would the Mavericks and Celtics really be using similar rebuilding philosophies?

But there is a difference here, a significant difference from the nuclear winter being forecast in Boston:

Cuban's plan centers on reloading — perhaps with Deron Williams, perhaps with Dwight Howard — with Dirk Nowitzki still in place.

The equivalent in Boston would be doing the same with Pierce.

There is also one other significant difference. Dirk is still at the top of his game, while Pierce seems to be declining in some ways. I'm not saying the Celtics shouldn't build around Pierce, but seeing what he can return on a trade makes sense for the Celtics, while building around Dirk makes sense for the Mavericks.

Nowitzki is 33; Pierce is 34. Dirk was MVP of the Finals last season; Pierce in 2008. Yes, Pierce's numbers have come down in recent seasons, but he still is a go-to scorer, a player capable of creating needed baskets in a league where such players simply have not come free other than during Pat Riley's one-time score in July 2010.

But for how much longer will Pierce be this guy? He is shooting 42% right now and may not be that go-to guy for much longer. I am not advocating the Celtics trade Pierce, but what if the Celtics manage to get a good haul for him? There's no harm in at least seeing what the market is like. This would never happen, but what if the Hornets offered (after February 12th of course) Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon for Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley? You just never know what trade opportunity may be available to improve the team in the long-term.

Then consider the state of the Eastern Conference. Considering Charlotte, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto and New Jersey already have reservations at the lottery, it essentially would come down to beating out Milwaukee for the eighth seed. Even at Boston's current depths, that seems not only doable, but likely.

In fact, it would be achievable even in the midst of Ainge's restructuring, but not demolishing.

I think there is too much panic over the Celtics current state of affairs and regardless of how Winderman spins this, trading Garnett/Allen and accepting a #7 or #8 seed is giving up on this current year. I also like how trading Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett is seen as "restructuring." Trading 40% of your starters seems like a demolishing of sorts to me.

What would make sense is dangling the expiring contracts of Allen and Garnett to contenders who could ship back either prospects or else similar expiring contracts and draft picks.

This does make sense. As does dangling Pierce or Rondo to see what they could return. There is a deep NBA Draft coming up, so if Pierce could net a first round pick and a quality player why not look into that too? The mistake a lot of teams make while rebuilding on the fly is half-assing it. Trying to rebuild while also stay competitive, but not wanting to trade too many good players or listen to offers for certain players. I don't think the Celtics are doing that, which is why Pierce/Rondo have been on the table.

Allen to Chicago in a package for Omer Asik would be a win-win for each side, the Bulls getting a better-than-Rip Hamilton sidekick for Derrick Rose, while the Celtics get a taste of the future in the middle.

The issue with this trade is it would have to be Omer Asik and a combination of other players for Allen. If the Bulls traded Asik they would also have to throw in other guys to make the trade work and the Bulls don't have expiring contracts. So the Celtics wouldn't really be gaining cap room in the long-term, which I think is their intent. I'm not sure if these teams match up very well. Not to mention, why would the Celtics trade Allen to the team they may face in the first round of the NBA Playoffs?

As for Garnett, the $21 million salary is massive, but Cuban, of all people, has the pieces to potentially concoct something in return.

How would this trade be made without hurting the Mavericks though? They have expiring contracts in Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, but this would weaken the Mavericks this year without these two players. Terry and Kidd's expiring contracts are also of value to the Mavericks, as well as the Celtics. The players the Celtics would get in return would not have expiring contracts, which wouldn't help them build around Paul Pierce. If the Mavericks and Celtics have similar goals to clear cap space, maybe they aren't the best partners in a trade.

With Rondo and Pierce, Boston still would measure up ahead of the Bucks, and therefore still measure up for a playoff spot.

Trading Garnett and Allen would be blowing the Celtics up in some ways. The Celtics would be a lesser team and it would big roster upheaval. They have valuable contracts because they are expiring and can give the Celtics room to sign players in the offseason. Pierce and Rondo have expensive contracts that aren't expiring after this year, so I can see how the urge to dangle them would be there.

For now, Ainge needs to take a deep breath before blowing up anything in Boston.

And then after taking this deep breath Winderman thinks Ainge should trade the Celtics best perimeter shooter and rebounder.

With a subtle touch, the playoffs — as well as rapid regeneration — remain not only plausible but eminently possible.

This can happen by trading Pierce to a contender and then using the cap space from Garnett and Allen's expiring contracts to rebuild the team. I don't think the Celtics should make a move necessarily, but trading Allen and Garnett would be blowing up the team in essence. It would be conceding the Celtics are playing for a lower playoff spot. Trading these two players is anything but subtle.

Monday, January 30, 2012

11 comments Gregg Easterbrook is Constantly Thinks of More Efficient and Inexplicable Ways to Lose a Football Game

After last week's shocking revelation that "The Dark Knight Rises" is going to heavily sway the upcoming election (I bet that's why Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary too! Voters had seen the "TDKR" and thought Bane worked for Mitt Romney) because a character in the movie is named Bane, just like Bain Capital, Gregg has come back this week to say this year's Super Bowl isn't just another boring sequel. Of course, it really isn't a sequel at all because the majority of the players on both teams didn't participate in the 2007 Super Bowl. Gregg doesn't care about details when he is the one making a claim, because he simply wants us to believe what he is writing is the truth.

Don't worry, TMQ isn't all movie and sequel talk this week. Gregg will have criticism of the Ravens and 49ers for daring to lose the AFC and NFC Championship Games, which I know is all we tune into TMQ to read, especially since Gregg's criticism can be so off-the-wall. As usual, Gregg only mentions a player's draft position when it is convenient for him to do so and there is a lot of boring talk about space and time.

"The Matrix Reloaded," "Superman IV," "Red, White and Blonde," "Oceans Twelve," "Die Hard with a Vengeance,"

Really "Superman III" was the bad sequel since the previous two movies were so good. "Superman III" was the let down movie and "Superman IV: The Quest for Cash" never happened. To be honest, until the end I enjoyed "Die Hard with a Vengeance." I'm a sucker for the "Die Hard" franchise though.

The Giants-Patriots Super Bowl rematch is likely to be a fabulous sequel. Pace "The Naked Gun," TMQ has dubbed this rematch Super Bowl XLII: 2½.

Incredibly clever. Much like calling a column about the NFL "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" when the column comes out on Tuesday.

The cast would include two classic Hollywood leading men, Tom Brady and Eli Manning. Gisele Bundchen would play the damsel in distress, while Danny Woodhead would be the comic relief.

Actually, Rob Gronkowski would be the comic relief. He seems like a funny guy. Not to mention, Eli Manning isn't a classic Hollywood leading man. I'm not even sure why I'm arguing about this.

In the 2007 season, the New England Patriots beat the New York Giants during the regular season, then lost to them in the Super Bowl. This season, the Giants beat the Patriots during the regular season, suggesting New England will win the Super Bowl.

Yes, if this pattern we have discerned from one year of sample data holds true then I'm not even sure why the Super Bowl is being played this year. This could suggest the Patriots will win the Super Bowl. There is a 50% chance of this occurring. Maybe, and I am just speculating here, there isn't a pattern and the team that plays the best in the Super Bowl will win the Super Bowl.

Sunday's NFC title game, pitting Eli Manning versus Alex Smith, was the second in NFL annals in which each starting quarterback had been the No. 1 overall draft choice. The first, Denver versus Jersey/B in 1998, pitted John Elway versus Vinny Testaverde. Elway's Broncos won, then went on to take the Lombardi Trophy. This suggests the Giants will win the Super Bowl.

Gregg Easterbrook gets paid handsomely to come to these type of conclusions.

Since the two teams met in Super Bowl XVII, the Giants are 4-1 in the postseason while the Patriots are 2-3.

Not really. Let's nitpick. When using the word "since" it means AFTER that event happened. For example, "Since I got shot in the face, I have trouble chewing without pain," or "Since Gregg Easterbrook has started writing TMQ, the American economy has gone in the toilet and I don't think this is a coincidence." Putting the word "since" before the sentence indicates what happened AFTER said event occurred.

So the Patriots are actually 2-2 in the postseason since then. The Giants are 3-1 since that Super Bowl victory. When using the word "since" in front of a specific event it doesn't include the actual event itself. Gregg, if you recall, tends to struggle with the idea of time and how it relates to events. He believes Spygate actually started after the Patriots were punished for Spygate, which is so non-sensical I can't even fathom how a person in their right mind could believe this.

Madonna, who will be the halftime act, was born before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and for that matter before President Barack Obama.

And it is quite obvious when looking at Madonna that she is older than Obama and Goodell. I would say she has lost what looks she had, but to indicate they are lost would be to indicate her looks could eventually be found. We are past that point.

Both Harbaugh brothers lost on the final snap; change one play in each game, and both are winners.

Change one play in each AFC Divisional Game and the Harbaugh brothers both would never have made it to the AFC/NFC Championship Game. If Alex Smith had thrown an interception a the end of the Saints game instead of a touchdown to Vernon Davis and if Jacoby Jones had not dropped that punt return then it is possible the Texans and Saints would have advanced to the AFC/NFC Championship Game. This is one of the most annoying trends in sportswriting, the "if we could change one play" scenario. You could use this "what if" scenario to dramatically change many situations, so it really has no meaning to the reader in terms of providing interesting information.

Neither publicly criticized the players who erred.

I can't think of a single coach that would have thrown a player under the bus like that. Not even Rex Ryan would have come out after the game and said Cundiff/Williams lost the game for the team.

In this year of offensive stat-a-rama, the title games' final scores were 23-20 and 20-17, while no team exceeded 400 yards of offense.

Remember Gregg has told us offense is exploding and teams that win games with defense are on the decline. He's been preaching this all year.

Three of the four title-round teams -- Baltimore, New England and San Francisco -- played much of their games with two tight ends on the field, with Patriots and Forty Niners' tight ends accounting for more than half their team's passing yards.

Three of the four title-round teams also had quarterbacks drafted in the first round and each team's best defensive player was drafted in the first round (Patrick Willis/Justin Smith, Jerod Mayo/Vince Wilfork, Ray Lewis/Haloti Ngata, Jason Pierre-Paul). Just a note for when Gregg starts talking in the future about how highly-drafted glory boy first round picks are underachievers who are lazy.

Stats of the Championship Round No. 4: Alex Smith is 14-4 with Jim Harbaugh as his head coach and 19-13 under all other San Francisco head coaches.

Sad to hear ESPN can't afford editors. Maybe they should cut Skip Bayless' salary to get Gregg an editor. Either way, I am showing Alex Smith was 19-31 under other 49ers head coaches.

Stats of the Championship Round No. 6: Tom Brady, at 16-5 in the postseason, tied Joe Montana for most-ever playoff wins.


Why didn't Baltimore call time? The Ravens had a timeout, and with most teams, a kicker who isn't ready has the green light to call timeout, just as a quarterback who isn't ready calls time.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a kicker call timeout when he isn't requested to do so by his coach.

reader Adam Barnhart of Chevy Chase, Md., notes the Ravens have a special teams coordinator -- not a coach, a coordinator -- plus an assistant special teams coach, a "kicking consultant" and a head coach who was himself a special teams coach. Barnhart asks, "How is it none of them knew to call a timeout to give the kicking team enough time to get set before the biggest Ravens down of the season?"

These people probably knew to call a timeout, but Jim Harbaugh most likely would like to be the one to call the timeout. Generally, and I am just generalizing, head coaches don't like it when their staff just starts calling a timeout and he (as the head coach) had not planned on calling one.

Sour Play of the Championship Round: It would be easy to call Kyle Williams of San Francisco the sour player of the title games -- he badly muffed a punt in regulation, all but handing Jersey/A a free touchdown,

Williams didn't even make an attempt to field the punt. The football hit Williams' leg and the Giants recovered. Not sure I would consider no attempt to field a punt as a muff.

But Williams was a last-minute replacement for regular San Francisco punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. Williams had returned only four punts all season. Bad as his errors were, the real error was by the coaching staff. Knowing they were fielding an inexperienced punt returner in a high-pressure situation, San Francisco coaches could have told William to fair-catch every kick.

As I said in MMQB, fielding the kick wasn't the issue for Williams. He didn't get out of the way of one kick and on the second kick he fumbled the ball when it was knocked out of his hand by a defender. Fair catching every kick would have been a good strategy in retrospect, but a head coach has to have faith in his guys to take care of the football. Yes, Williams was a replacement for highly-drafted, highly paid glory boy Ted Ginn, but he also had returned 74 punts while at Arizona State. There is no reason he should not have been trusted to return punts and forced to fair catch every single punt for the 49ers.

This is, fundamentally, a coaching error. The Niners have a full-time special teams coach, Brad Seely, who carries the glorified title of special teams coordinator. Seely, not Williams, should be the one Niners faithful are gnashing their teeth about.

Of course. Why would Kyle Williams be at fault for allowing a bouncing punt to hit his leg and later for fumbling the football? It's the coach's fault he had faith in Kyle Williams, who did have punt return experience, to not turn the ball over twice. How dare Jim Harbaugh use his positive coaching technique (callback to last week's TMQ) to trust Williams to take care of the football while returning punts.

The play was sweet for Moore, an undrafted free agent who has only three career starts, was at one point fourth on New England's depth chart and was waived by the Patriots on Dec. 10, 2011. Now he's likely to start in the Super Bowl --

I don't know if Sterling Moore is "likely" to start in the Super Bowl. It seems the Patriots have Ihedigbo and Chung starting at safety. Maybe Moore will after the AFC Championship Game, but I've seen him as the backup on every depth chart I've seen.

Just to prove it was no fluke, San Francisco punted again on fourth-and-1 in overtime. This time the spot was the Niners' own 31. Sure, going for it would be risky.

"Risky?" This play would be "risky?" If this play fails the 49ers are essentially handing the game to the Giants when the 49ers defense is playing spectacularly. There would be no reason to go for it in this instance. Zero. None. (looks in the dictionary) Zilch. Naught. Null. Nada. (looks in the dictionary again) Zip. The 49ers defense had absolutely stuffed the Giants offense at this point. This would have been an incredibly, incredibly questionable coaching decision. Even if the 49ers were 80% sure they could get the first down, the 49ers defense had stuffed the Giants offense, so there was no need to take the risk.

I find it amazing Gregg Easterbrook blames the 49ers coaching staff for Kyle Williams' special teams mistakes but manages to think going for it on fourth-and-1 in overtime on your own 31 yard line is a brilliant coaching move. Gregg would be the worst NFL head coach. Knowing how the 49ers defense was playing, choosing to punt in this situation is inexcusable.

Remember earlier in the column when Gregg said Kyle Williams handed the Giants a touchdown by letting a punt hit him? The 49ers could have easily handed the game to the Giants by going for it on fourth-and-1 in this situation.

But you are averaging 5.4 yards per rush, it's overtime of a championship game, don't passively punt back to the other guys!

This may be the best example of Gregg Easterbrook's inability to understand football strategy. Regardless if the 49ers are averaging 54 yards per rush, if they don't get one yard, the Giants are in field goal range. It's overtime of a championship game. Don't sell your defense out like this when they are playing exceptionally well. What a stupid move this would have been if the 49ers had followed Gregg's advice.

The fourth-and-1 punt in overtime was the last time San Francisco snapped the ball.

Because of a fumble. Because of a fumble. BECAUSE OF A FUMBLE! The 49ers defense stopped the Giants and forced the Giants to punt. The 49ers didn't lose the game because they punted in this situation, they lost because Kyle Williams fumbled the ball on the punt return. It wasn't bad strategy to punt the ball on fourth-and-1 because the 49ers defense stopped the Giants and were getting the ball back. In fact, the punt worked out because the 49ers defense stopped the Giants and were getting the ball back.

In the Republican debate just before the South Carolina primary, John King of CNN addressed the candidates as "Governor Romney," "Senator Santorum," "Speaker Gingrich" and "Congressman Paul." Only Paul actually holds the post connected to the title.

This is much like people will call past presidents "President Clinton" or "President Bush." Many times if a person has held a high position in political office a person will call that person by that title, even after leaving office. There are so many other things to pay attention to during a debate, I'm not even sure why Gregg focused on this.

The basic rule is that if there are many persons in a category then a former official keeps his or her title when being addressed, while if there is only one of someone, the former person to hold that job does not keep the title.

Since there are many governors and senators, "Governor Romney" and "Senator Santorum" are correct terms of address. But there is only one Speaker of the House, so Gingrich should not be addressed as "Speaker Gingrich."

I'm just surprised John King wasn't executed on the spot for this egregious violation of social ethics.

Thus addressing Next Gingrich as "Speaker Gingrich" is improper and disrespectful to the sitting speaker, John Boehner. As a former member of the House of Representatives, Newt should be addressed as "Congressman Gingrich."

Nothing makes boring political debates even more boring than a dissertation on what official title each candidate for political office should be used. I wouldn't be surprised if 50% of Gregg's readers skip over this portion of TMQ.

Though Jim Harbaugh was known at Stanford, and is known at San Francisco, for good play design, a poor play design hurt the Niners. Forty Niners leading 14-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, they faced third-and-1 on the Jersey/A 46. San Francisco simply ran a power rush with extra linemen on the field without misdirection. Run stuffed, followed by a punt. Had the Squared Sevens converted here the outcome might have been different. The play design could not have been more bland.

Perhaps this is why the 49ers didn't go for it on fourth-and-1 in their own territory? They knew they had failed to get short yardage earlier in the game and remembered the Giants had stopped the Falcons during the Wild Card weekend on several fourth-and-1's in that game. How dare the 49ers learn from other team's mistakes and not torpedo their chances to go to the Super Bowl by going for it on fourth down in overtime of the NFC Championship Game.

Pierre-Paul is an obvious candidate for the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back NFL MVP, as is the undrafted Victor Cruz.

What's interesting is out of the 10 players who have received this award, 5 of these players were first round draft picks.

Officials ruled that because Bradshaw's forward progress stopped before the ball came out, Jersey/A retained possession. By a rules quirk, the call could not be reviewed.

Ryan Grant of Green Bay was wrapped up by one tackler and then hit by a second tackler at the Packers 45. As he was driven backward to the 44, he lost the ball. Zebra ruled this a fumble, awarding possession to the Giants: the game-icing touchdown followed a moment later. The plays aren't identical but are awfully similar. Why was one a fumble and the other not a fumble?

Because the whistle had blown the play dead on one play prior to the ball being fumbled and on the other play the whistle had blown after the ball was fumbled. That's about it.

Then Gregg quotes the NFL league headquarters as to why one play was whistled dead and the other was not. So I'm not sure why he even asked the question or seemed confused since he seems to have the answer already.

Reader Glen Weinstein of Bedford, Mass., reports, "I just bought some Poland Spring water whose label boasts, 'Smaller Cap = Less Plastic. This is part of our ongoing effort to reduce our impact on the environment.' Then in tiny type: 'Warning: Cap is a small part and poses a choking hazard, particularly for children.' So we want to protect the environment more than we want to protect children."

The alternative would be to sell bottled water without caps on them, which may make it difficult to transport and purchase the water in grocery stores. Poland Spring water doesn't want to protect the environment more than children, they are just protecting themselves from litigation if a child gets a hold of the bottle cap.

Complaining about this is like driving a car that is good for the environment, perhaps a Prius, and then noting the owner's manual says children should be buckled in a car seat in the backseat...and then noting the car manufacturer cares more about the environment than ensuring a child doesn't die in a car accident.

TMQ believes football games often are decided by "hidden plays," plays that never make highlight reels but stop or sustain drives.

BotB believes if you judge what plays are important from the highlight reels than you are a huge idiot. Highlight reels aren't supposed to show every important play, but show...wait for it...the highlights of the game. So a play isn't hidden simply because it doesn't show up on the highlight reels.

New England leading 23-20, Baltimore reached third-and-3 on the Pats' 30-yard line with four minutes remaining...Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco handed off to running back Ray Rice on a draw. On the play, Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda pulled left, and probably was supposed to trap defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. Instead Yanda missed Wilfork -- in fact air-blocked, not making contact with anyone. Rice lost three yards, pushing the Ravens back out of field-goal range on a cold day.

This was an incredibly important play. There is no way this play was hidden. In fact, this was play was so important I had read several criticisms of the play call by Cam Cameron on this specific play as it relates to the outcome of the game. So no, this play wasn't hidden in the least.

But there's a constant sense of unfulfilled promise about the Ravens: All those Pro Bowlers, high draft choices and big contracts, yet they keep missing the Super Bowl.

It's always a fun contradiction with Gregg Easterbrook. He tells us all the time that first round draft choices are highly-paid glory boys who don't want to work, but then he criticizes a team for having a bunch of highly drafted players and not making the Super Bowl. Gregg also indicates he thinks teams tank in order to get a better draft pick and says this is a good strategy. It's like Gregg doesn't even believe his own bullshit that highly drafted players underperform and he knows if a team has high draft choices they should succeed because they are better players.

Logan Mankins is an obvious candidate for the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back NFL MVP, as is Wilfork, who had a tremendous day versus the Ravens.

(coughs) Both first round draft choices.

Next Week: The coveted "longest award in sports" Entertainment and Sports Programming Network's Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back National Football League Most Valuable Player.

I can't wait. Next to Gregg's undrafted All-Star list, I think the Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP is my least favorite award of the year.

Friday, January 27, 2012

5 comments So What To Do about Peyton Manning?

Many of you have probably read the insightful interview Peyton Manning did with Bob Kravitz recently and noticed that Peyton didn't seem that happy with the Colts personnel moves, the mood around the Colts organization or with the Colts in general. Not surprising. Peyton doesn't like change because he sees the Colts as his team and doesn't like any uncertainty that would cause him to think the Colts aren't "his" team. Firing Bill Polian and getting rid of a head coach Peyton Manning liked isn't a way to endear Manning to stick around. I think this interview was the beginning of the end of Manning with the Colts organization, unless something I am not able to predict changes. So I figured I would go line-by-line through the interview and then predict where Manning ends up if/when he gets traded. At this point, it is way too early to predict where Manning may go if he even leaves, but what it is just too much fun speculating.

I originally started writing this post earlier this week thinking we would have a few weeks before any further information on Manning would be known. I figured the Colts would read the interview and think about what Manning had to say for a few weeks. I was wrong. Lo and behold, Jim Irsay came out and said Manning sounded like a politician. So I think it is safe to say, Manning probably isn't sticking around in Indy. It just doesn't look like Manning will be with the Colts in two months, but a lot has happened regarding the Colts and Manning from two months back. So pretty much anything can happen I guess.

Back in November, I took a look at Andrew Luck. It's irks me how dated that post looks right now. Not because I think the writing was terrible, but because of how quickly things change in the NFL. I had Miami and the Broncos on the list of teams that could land Luck. The Dolphins turned their season around and the Broncos made the damn playoffs and won a playoff game. I floated the idea of the Colts passing over Luck in that post, which obviously isn't going to happen at this point, but my bigger point was that I can't see Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck co-existing. I still don't see those two co-existing very well and I think Peyton's interview manages to back this thinking up in some ways.

There had been a little fan fiction going around the sportswriting universe earlier in the NFL season that Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck could co-exist and Manning would "mentor" Luck. I'm not sure any sportswriters came out and said that Luck and Manning would be best friends, but there was general thinking out there the two could co-exist. I thought this was a crock of shit, but took the wrong point of view in analyzing this situation. I took the point of view that Luck wouldn't go to the Colts because the Colts would be loyal to Manning. I never thought that Manning would force a trade or want out, which he hasn't done yet, but at some point soon the Colts will have to make a decision to pick up Manning's option, trade Manning before the March deadline or let him go as a free agent. For fear of quoting myself from the post, here is what I said back in November,

I have no doubt Manning will be back on the field for the Colts and I can't think of any circumstances right now that would cause the Colts to trade him when they draft Andrew Luck. So knowing Manning will be on the roster, do you really think he is going to spend the last few years of his Hall of Fame career "mentoring" Andrew Luck, a guy who is by all accounts very NFL-ready? Or do you think Manning will want to try and win one last Super Bowl and not give a shit about Luck being mentored?

I see the Colts drafting Luck and ending up with a Favre-Rodgers situation (which turned out fine for the Packers, granted), except the Aaron Rodgers (Luck) in this situation probably wouldn't want to sit the bench for more than one year. Peyton Manning may be perfectly willing to "mentor" Andrew Luck, but given his stranglehold on the Colts offense and it is clear Manning likes having this power, I don't know if he would be willing to be a placeholder/teacher for a few years.

So I was wrong in thinking Manning would have the upper hand in this situation and Luck would be the guy who didn't end up on the Colts team next year. I couldn't foresee a situation where the Colts traded Manning because I thought Bill Polian would be around, so I was wrong about that. I think it is clear the Colts are drafting Andrew Luck at #1 overall and Manning will end up being the guy whose roster spot is in question. I think it is clear (at least when reading between the lines, which I acknowledge can be dangerous) from the Kravitz interview that Manning isn't necessarily happy with the direction the Colts are going. So he could very well be the one gone and any earlier thoughts about Manning willing to "mentor" Luck is fan fiction perpetuated by people that so desperately wants to see Manning groom his replacement in order to write stories about it.

A lot of Manning's frustration in this article is about the direction of the Colts in terms of front office moves, but I would submit some of his frustration lies in the Colts willingness to move on with or without him. Drafting Andrew Luck is one of the first steps in this process. Manning sees the Colts organization getting rid of Polian and Caldwell and possibly looking for a fresh start. He knows a 36 year old quarterback coming off major neck surgery probably isn't a huge part of this fresh start. So while it isn't official that Manning may be gone in Indy, the odds are pretty good right now I think he's isn't playing for them in 2012.

(I'm going to be doing a lot of translating what I think Manning actually means. Just a note, so I could interpret it wrong. If you think I do get it wrong, please tell me.)

He sounded comfortable. Which was strange for a man who wants to control every little detail in his life. Because he's at a point now where he's not in control -- of his health, of his future, of anything.

This is what I found to be interesting about those who thought, or even suggested, Luck and Manning could co-exist (the number of people who believed this in September is much less than those that believe this now). Manning wants to control everything. He is the Colts offense. He isn't going to want another quarterback looking over his shoulder nor will he want to be teaching a younger quarterback to replace him. Manning considers himself to be the offensive coordinator and the head coach of the offense. Do we really believe if the Colts start making changes he hasn't approved or ask him to "mentor" Luck, which would take away from Manning's game preparation in some ways, he would do it?

In a wide-ranging talk, the Indianapolis Colts future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback addressed a number of pressing topics, including his health, his sadness over the firings of several coaches, his minimal relationship with new general manager Ryan Grigson

For the record, Manning and Grigson finally met, briefly, last week when they ran across each other at the team's complex.

Awkward. He doesn't know Grigson and probably had no input in Grigson's hire.

"One thing he kind of, sort of told me, without really wanting to tell me, was that Irsay will be the guy I'm going to sit down and talk with,"

I'm going to do some reading between the lines. This tells me Manning feels like he is being left out of the loop in some ways like he hasn't been left out of the loop in a while. Manning refers to Grigson telling him something, but not wanting to actually tell him, meaning Grigson was holding back. He also calls Jim Irsay, "Irsay," which I am not sure is a lack of respect or possibly disdain that a non-football person will be making a football decision about Manning's future with the team. I think it is somewhat obvious Manning believes the GM should be talking to him, not the owner. I could be wrong.

"That's going to happen at some point, but we haven't had that conversation yet because we really don't need to have that conversation yet."

Basically, Manning is saying his $28 million bonus isn't due for another few weeks and Manning's health isn't in better focus, so there is no reason to talk about breaking up with each other quite yet. The breakup will happen, it just isn't time for "the talk."

Manning didn't express anger about the firing of coach Jim Caldwell and so many assistant coaches as much as he expressed sadness, wistfulness even.

To me, the fact Manning was sad and wistful tells me even more that Manning doesn't anticipate coming back to the Colts...or he at least anticipates if he is back that things won't ever be the same. It's the end of an era for Manning. Anger expresses rage at what has been done, while sadness and wistfulness indicates to me a sense of resignation to what will eventually occur.

When Manning hasn't been rehabilitating, he has been calling other franchises and offering recommendations on behalf of the departed coaches.

Manning has probably also gauged those team's interest in trading for him. You know Manning dropped hints on the phone. It is clear with all of this change in action that Manning isn't comfortable. So while giving recommendations, Manning can also allow a team to know his potential availability.

Through some of Manning's (perhaps) whining and wistfulness he should be also realize how fortunate he is. Other quarterbacks have to deal with coaching changes and personnel changes more often than Manning has had to. So while I understand Manning's feelings, it is hard to have sympathy for a grown man who has had major stability in his professional life for so long in an industry with very little stability. At some point, there is change within every organization.

But when it's every day in a relationship business . . . with Bill (Polian), with Marvin (Harrison), Edge (Edgerrin James), guys who retire, get cut, traded or fired, it's just really hard.

"I just want to pay tribute to all those guys. It's unfortunate because so many of them have been such a big part of so many big wins here, and this is so . . . so . . . so sudden. Their keys didn't work the next day. There's no other way to do it? I don't know.

When you fire someone, there isn't another way of doing it. You can't give a player who is a free agent a key to the facilities and once a guy gets fired (Polian) he probably shouldn't have a key either. I also find it interesting Manning brought up Edgerrin James. That was five or six years ago when James left and it is clear Manning still isn't thrilled over it.

"I don't want to get into some kind of fan campaign with the owner, but I think it's well-documented that I want to play in the same place my whole career,"

Manning doesn't want to get into a fan campaign. Which is why he is doing an interview with an Indianapolis newspaper saying he wants to stay with the Indianapolis Colts.

As for Manning's health, he's not all the way back yet, but he's not going to put any percentages on his recovery, nor will he predict whether he'll be at full strength by early March, when a $28 million option bonus is due.

"All I know is, I'm still under contract to the Colts. I'm still the quarterback of the Colts. That's why I'm in the building every day trying to get healthy."

Again, Manning refers to not knowing much when he says, "All I know..." You get the feeling he really feels out of the loop and knows he probably isn't as in the Colts' future plans as much as he would like to be.

And when it's time to make an announcement one way or the other, Manning hopes he can do it on his terms.

"Hopefully," he said, "Sodapop Curtis doesn't tweet it before I can say anything."

Manning referred to Rob Lowe twice in the interview as "Sodapop Curtis," which really isn't an insult, but I also get the feeling he was using this term derisively. Manning was probably pretty irritated Lowe announced his "retirement" on Twitter. You've probably read a lot of the other quotes Manning had, but this interview was my first big indication that Manning believes he will either (a) be traded or (b) released prior to his $28 million bonus being due.

There is a new GM, new coach, new players and the Colts even have a successor to Manning in mind. You can sense a little bitterness in Manning's quotes, where I get the feeling he feels like he should have been consulted or warned in some fashion about the Colts upcoming personnel moves. I am not sure if we will see another Favre/Rodgers situation because you get the feeling Manning sees the writing on the wall and he isn't an asshole like Favre was. Either way, I get the feeling if Manning is kept around he won't react well to the Colts drafting Andrew Luck and seeing the Colts build a coaching staff and team around a quarterback that isn't Manning himself. Manning sees himself as the starter and this probably won't ever change.

Now for the fun part. Let's take a guess at where Manning ends up if/when he gets traded or released by the Colts. I'm assuming Manning will end up being healthy enough to play in 2012. We know Manning is going to want to be the starter no matter where he ends up. I think that's a given. I have a hard time figuring out where Manning could go. Still, I will try to figure out which team Mannings ends up playing for, while including the percent chance Manning ends up with that team in parenthesis.

Arizona (10%): Doubt it. Just traded for Kevin Kolb and signed him to a new contract. Still.....if the Cardinals think Kolb doesn't have a future maybe they make a move for Manning. We know Larry Fitzgerald would love it. One of the worst things a team can do is insist on compounding mistakes by not fixing them. If the Cardinals consider Kolb to be a mistake, would they consider getting rid of him and handing the team to Manning?

Atlanta (0%): Have Matty Icccccccccccccccce. No way.

Baltimore (13%): I don't want to see Joe Flacco cry, so I'm going with no, but I can't rule it out. Ravens fans probably would say I am full of shit and they may end up being right. This would definitely be an "out of the box" move by the Ravens if they aren't high on Flacco long-term and would like to avoid giving him a contract extension. It sounds crazy, but the Ravens have had an offense that holds them back at times (though that wasn't necessarily the case in the AFC Championship Game as much as other times) and could the Ravens look to upgrade to make another Super Bowl while their defense is still dominant.

Buffalo (5%): Just signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a new contract. The Bills probably wouldn't trade for Manning since they have quite a few other needs.

Carolina (0%): Have Cam Newton. No way.

Chicago (0%): They have Jay Cutler starting and he is going to have extra motivation to stay at the Bears' facility for extra preparation and film study since he will have a whiny baby and an even more whiny Kristin Cavialallairrri at home. Cutler will probably end up being an All-Pro QB in 2012. I can't imagine why he would want to go home to deal with all the whining, being constantly needy for attention and crying over every small thing...plus the newborn baby will make some noise too, of course.

Cincinnati (0%): Have Andy Dalton. No way.

Cleveland Browns (10%): Well, they have Colt McCoy, so basically they could use a starting quarterback. I could see them as a strong candidate if the Browns want to give McCoy another couple of years watching on the bench or want to draft a developmental quarterback later in the 2012 draft and then let Manning lead the team for a couple of years in the hopes their developmental quarterback is ready. This would be a good strategy because Manning wouldn't feel threatened because he knows he is the starter and he only has a few years left anyway, so if the Browns do still like McCoy they could keep him around. Still, I'm not sure I see the Browns going this route. It may just be easier (and less expensive) to draft their new starting quarterback in the 2012 draft.

Dallas (1%): I don't underestimate Jerry Jones ever. Still, I don't see this happening.

Denver (0%): Yeah, right. Not happening.

Detroit Lions (o%): Nope. Got Matthew Stafford.

Green Bay (0%): No way in Hell will this happen. I'm embarrassed I even included Green Bay on this list.

Houston (1%): Assuming Matt Schaub doesn't have a huge setback with his rehab there isn't any way this would happen. If Matt Schaub wasn't going to return from his injury, I think Houston would be a very intriguing place for Manning to end up. Regardless, it isn't happening.

Jacksonville (1%): I can only imagine Peyton Manning throwing to the Jags receivers. He would go insane and start doing the Dan Marino-like pointing at his receivers while berating them for running the wrong routes. I think Manning would veto this regardless, but I don't see Jacksonville making a run for him.

Kansas City (3%): Not likely at all. They have already done the "Acquire a Hall of Fame quarterback at the tail end of his career" thing with Joe Montana. It worked fairly well for them, but with Orton and Cassel on the roster I think we can rule this out. I believe the Chiefs will stick with Matt Cassel for the time being. Though I could see how they would be tempted.

Miami (4%): Not likely either. The Dolphins will probably look for a quarterback in the draft, rather than acquire Manning. If the Dolphins had a coach that wasn't in his first season, I could see them acquiring Manning. What I mean is new coaches generally like to bring in new quarterbacks they can build the team around and I'm not sure Manning fits the bill for Joe Philbin. Philbin will probably want a quarterback who is a placeholder for a year or two until the Dolphins draft another quarterback or bring in his own guy to play quarterback.

Minnesota Vikings (0%): The Vikings seem to like Christian Ponder. I know the Vikings got burned with McNabb and Favre sticking around for another year after he took them to the NFC Championship Game. I am going with a very confident "no."

New England (0%): No.

New Orleans (0%): Double no.

New York Giants (0%): Triple no.

New York Jets (15%): The Jets are a popular choice. It makes sense in that many believe Mark Sanchez is holding the team back and the Jets have never been around of making big acquisitions. Perhaps the reputation of the Jets plays into this more than it should, but it seems the Jets need leadership in the locker room and need their quarterback to take more ownership of the offense. Plus, can't you see the media salivating over a Manning-Brady matchup twice a year? Manning would seemingly be a short-term upgrade for the Jets and Rex Ryan has job security, but he also needs to make the playoffs and win games to keep this job security. I can see the Jets going for it.

Oakland Raiders (0%): Not unless the Raiders want to use the rest of their 2012 and 2013 draft picks to acquire Manning. Not that the Colts would ask for all those picks in a trade, but I have a feeling the Raiders would offer all of those picks anyway.

Philadelphia Eagles (1%): I know the Eagles just signed Mike Vick to a huge deal, but I give it 1% in case the Eagles and Andy Reid want to take a huge step towards "improving" the team (I put "improving" in parenthesis because I don't know if Manning would be an improvement) to save his job. Still, I think it won't happen. Eagles fans are probably laughing at me for putting it at 1% since it probably isn't financially feasible anyway.

Pittsburgh (0%): No chance.

San Diego (0%): No chance.

Seattle (2%): The only reason I put the Seahawks at 2% is if Pete Carroll seems to believe he will miss out on any franchise quarterbacks in the upcoming draft and doesn't want to go with Tarvaris Jackson in the upcoming year. I don't see Manning going to the Seahawks, but if Carroll sees a chance to win a few games in his third year and have his first winning season in Seattle, maybe he takes a chance on acquiring Manning. As much as we recall Carroll's playoff victory over the Saints, we have to remember he is 14-18 as the head coach for the Seahawks. A winning season would be nice and it doesn't look like winning games in the NFC West is getting any easier.

San Francisco (0%): Regardless of what you think about Alex Smith, even if he isn't re-signed I can see Colin Kaepernick getting a chance at the starting job. Of course, Smith will be re-signed.

St. Louis (1%): I don't see the Rams making a run at Peyton Manning necessarily for a couple reasons. First, they do have Sam Bradford under contract. Second, if they were getting a new quarterback it would be in the upcoming draft. Still, there is a chance Jeff Fisher will want to start over with a new quarterback and Bradford may have trade value. There's very little chance Fisher pursues Manning, but the option is open I would guess.

Tampa Bay (3%): Depending on what Greg Schiano thinks about his development there is a chance Josh Freeman won't be in favor with him and Schiano will want veteran leadership for this young team. Still, I doubt Manning ends up in Tampa Bay. The Bucs will probably just stick with Freeman, which I think is more likely. I put Tampa Bay at 3% since it is such a young, talented team and I think Manning would work well with them.

Tennessee Titans (0%): Nah. The Titans seem happy with Locker and Hasselbeck at this point.

Washington Redskins (30%): I know, I know. It is a stereotype. The stereotype is Daniel Snyder always wants to make quick fixes and will go after the best free agent or player out there in an effort to get this quick fix. Stereotypes are grounded in reality though and the reality is signing or trading for Peyton Manning is something I can see the the Redskins doing. I have a hard time believing Mike Shanahan will waste any more of his genius working with John Beck or Rex Grossman and is going to want to reinforce his reputation by attaching his star to another Hall of Fame quarterback. Not to mention, the Redskins could very easily miss out on the best quarterbacks drafting in the #6 spot of the NFL Draft. This just fits. Shanahan needs to win games and remind everyone what an offensive genius he is when he has a Hall of Fame quarterback and Daniel Snyder doesn't mind spending the money or taking the risk on Manning.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

4 comments Murray Chass Has Thoughts About Hall of Fame Voting, as Long as it Doesn't Interrupt Dinner

We all know how much I love Murray Chass. I use the word "love" sarcastically, of course. He's close-minded and set in his ways. There's nothing I love less from a sportswriter than that. He also has a bizarre bro-mance with Fay Vincent, to the point he quotes Vincent religiously in his non-blog posts. Anyway, because the world hates me, Murray Chass has a vote for the Hall of Fame and he talks a little bit on his non-blog about Bud Selig (who he hates), Jack Morris (who he loves) and Hall of Fame voting (which he loves doing, as long as it leaves time for dinner).

This column wasn’t going to be about Bud Selig so that’s all I will say about him. Well, one more thing.

Bud Selig took over as acting commissioner once Fay Vincent was forced out. Murray Chass considers the forcing out of Vincent as one of the great tragedies of modern life, up there with the assassination of JFK, World War II, famine in Africa, war in the Middle East, the advent of the Internet age which led to the people who read newspaper columns to actually be able to give feedback and the cancellation of "Party Down" and "Arrested Development" while Ashton Kutcher and Rob Schneider are still free to smirk their way into viewer's hearts.

(Maybe that last one is just me)

After the owners forced Fay Vincent to resign in 1992, Selig became acting or interim commissioner because he was chairman of the executive council. Selig, however, denied that he was acting or interim. He also denied repeatedly that he was interested in being the commissioner.

It's a good thing this happened twenty years ago and Murray has let this drop.

He accepted the job in 1998, and now he will accept a new term instead of retiring. He is nothing if not consistent.

Yeah, Selig lied by saying he was retiring and now he isn't retiring. He lied, everyone knew he wasn't retiring, but the owners wanted him back so that has to mean something in the long run.

I want to write about the terrific, unexpected increase in Jack Morris’ vote total, but there’s another aspect of the writers’ vote that cries out for attention.

I would take out the word "terrific" because I don't know if I consider this terrific. Morris is still a borderline Hall of Fame candidate to me and any player that we aren't sure is one of the greatest players in MLB history shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame in my opinion. Morris was really good, but not dominant during his career.

Six players received no votes at all: Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan, Terry Mulholland, Phil Nevin, Ruben Sierra and Tony Womack.

Why were they on the ballot?

Because they met the criteria to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. I don't think he deserves to get in the Hall of Fame, but I can't believe Ruben Sierra didn't get one Hall of Fame vote. I'm not saying Sierra deserved a Hall of Fame vote, and it probably is a good sign the voters are actually thinking about their votes, but I am surprised Sierra's early career statistics didn't sway a voter into giving him one vote.

Did the writers honestly believe Lopez and Young belong in the Hall of Fame? If so, how did those writers last long enough covering baseball – 10 years – to qualify as voters?

Murray Chass is really going to question the validity of a Hall of Fame voter's ballot? As you will see later, Murray doesn't seem to take his Hall of Fame voting too seriously.

The writers get enough criticism for voting for legitimate candidates or not voting for players fans think belong in the Hall of Fame without incurring criticism for voting for players with career records like Lopez and Young.

Here is the major issue I see...which player is a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame and who is not? Is Tim Salmon (he received 5 votes) more of a legitimate candidate than Lopez or Young? I am sure some people don't think Mark McGwire is a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame because he used PEDs. Maybe I'm picking nits, but I don't think Larry Walker is a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate and yet he appears on the ballot with 131 votes.

This is the way the system works. A screening committee of six members of the Baseball Writers Association receives a list of players eligible for the first time and nominates those they think should be placed on the ballot. Any player who is named by two or more of the six writers goes on the ballot, joining players who had been on the ballot in previous years.

Obviously, the screening committee would rather a player go on the ballot and then get zero votes then have "screen-out" a player who may end up getting a significant amount of votes during the actual Hall of Fame voting.

Considering that players need 75 percent of the votes to be elected to the Hall, I would think that newly eligible players should need at least 50 percent of the screening committee votes to get on the ballot.

My response is, what does it matter? Why does it matter that six players got zero votes? Who has it hurt to have these players on the ballot and then they ended up getting no votes? Six writers is a pretty small sample size and I could see a candidate not getting three votes to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot when that candidate could be a "legitimate" Hall of Fame candidate. I don't see as how it matters really. Better safe than sorry. Murray's beloved Jack Morris had a small vote total 13 years ago when he was originally on the ballot. I'm not saying Morris could have gotten left off the ballot by the nominating committee, but the committee would rather be safe than sorry. So I see why only two votes by the nominating committee are required.

I asked O’Connell if players might be embarrassed by being on the ballot but getting only one vote or no votes.

Say what you want about Murray Chass, but he does not have his pulse on what makes athletes tick. Why would a player be embarrassed by having his name on the Hall of Fame ballot, but not get any votes?

On the contrary, he said, players are flattered simply by having their names on the ballot.

Exactly. Sportswriters aren't the only ones who get off on seeing their name in print.

At this stage of his ballot history, Morris wants more than a piece of memorabilia. The pitcher has gone through 13 elections, and this year came closer than ever, falling 48 votes short with 66.7 percent of the vote.

I can only assume Morris' dramatic increase in vote total this year was the result of the Hall of Fame voters' drug use. If PED users aren't eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame, then the BBWA voters shouldn't be allowed to use drugs and vote for Hall of Fame players.

Such a high percentage has always meant subsequent election, but Morris has only two years left on the writers’ ballot, and each year could present built-in problems for the pitcher.

Oh no! What if more qualified candidates come along and cause Morris not to receive an honor he may not deserve to receive anyway? The horror!

So basically, players who are actually qualified to be in the Hall of Fame may come along and cause Morris' vote total to reduce? Isn't that how it is supposed to be? Those who actually deserve to be in the Hall of Fame earn induction, while those who don't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame don't receive induction? Or did I miss something and borderline players are supposed to be receive election because they have been on the ballot longer?

In two years, two certain first-timers will be on the ballot, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. It’s unlikely that writers would vote for those two pitchers and Morris, though they could consider that it would be Morris’ last year on the ballot.

Why wouldn't the writers vote for Morris if he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Is there a "no more than 2 pitchers on one ballot" rule I'm not aware of?

The past several years the voters have overwhelmingly rejected Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro for their use of performance-enhancing substances. Some voters, however, might have rejected them without the steroids link, believing their careers did not merit Hall of Fame election.

This is very doubtful. I think McGwire gets in without the steroids link. I find it hard to believe only 19.5% of voters think McGwire deserves induction in the Hall of Fame without the steroids link. Clearly, McGwire was rejected because of the steroids link.

Sosa and Piazza have never been convicted by testing or their own admission, but they may find it impossible to overcome the circumstantial evidence that has grown around them.

Just like with Jeff Bagwell, suspicion and circumstantial evidence shouldn't prevent a player from receiving votes for the Hall of Fame. Also, Sammy Sosa has tested positive for steroid use and he was caught using a corked bat. Sosa isn't in the same class as Piazza or Bagwell because he was caught.

I also want to add much of the "suspicion" around Mike Piazza comes from Murray Chass and his suspicion of Piazza's bacne.

If, on the other hand, writers vote for some or any of them, they may not want to add Morris to their ballot.

Honestly, I think Morris' numbers are going to be put in a negative light compared to Glavine and Maddux next year. Just compare their numbers side-by-side one day. You will see what a Hall of Fame pitcher looks like compared to a Hall of Very Good pitcher looks like.

When I voted for the first time, I submitted a full ballot, all 10 lines filled with names. By the time I voted a year later, I had reconsidered what I had done.

It does cause for a moment of reflection when you vote for 10 (what you perceive as) qualified candidates into the Hall of Fame. It's good of Murray to repent for this crime. You may ask yourself why Murray reconsidered filling in all 10 lines. Fortunately, Murray tells us. It's a doozy.

In voting for 10 players, I was saying in essence I wanted to see 10 players inducted into the Hall at the same time.

Very few things can get past Murray Chass. Brilliant deduction.

How foolish, I realized. Having 10 players enter the Hall at the same time would detract from the honor for each player.

Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn't. 10 players being elected into the Hall of Fame at one time could potentially dilute the honor of what being in the Hall of Fame represents. I'm not sure if 10 players were elected at one time these players would think it was less of an honor because the class was large. Unless these players didn't want to sit through an induction ceremony involving so many speeches and players...but of course who on Earth would complain about a long induction ceremony for such an important honor being bestowed on these players. Well, about that...

In addition, the induction ceremony would take forever and require a break for dinner.

It's good to see Murray takes his Hall of Fame voting seriously. A break for dinner? What is this the People's Choice Awards? (Hi-fives Fay Vincent)

"Sorry Jack Morris, I think you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because I couldn't vote for you this year because if more than 6 players were elected to the Hall of Fame in one year it would require a break for dinner. I neither have the time or the stomach to handle eating dinner during the Hall of Fame inductions. Not when my Crockpot makes such a delicious BBQ chicken meal and there is an 'NCIS' marathon on USA. Sorry about that and I hope you understand."

It appears Murray Chass' considerations when voting for Hall of Fame candidates go this way in order of importance:

1. What would Fay Vincent do?

2. Would voting for this player require a break for dinner at the induction ceremony?

3. What would Bud Selig do?

4. Does this player have any ties to PEDs, steroids, etc?

5. Have I heard this player's name used in the same sentence as "PED" or "steroid?"

6. How would this affect Jack Morris' induction?

7. If it does affect Jack Morris' induction, would voting for Morris cause there to be a break for dinner at the induction ceremony?

8. Would voting for this player piss off the "new-age statistics" crowd?

9. How many wins did this pitcher have in his career?

10. What was this player's batting average?


104. Based on this player's career statistics, does this player measure up as one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, thereby deserving induction into the Hall of Fame?

On subsequent ballots I placed an X next to three or four names at the most, sometimes only one or two.

Depending on how hungry Murray predicted he would be at the ceremony. One year Murray Chass actually didn't vote for anyone. It was during his famous "Starving January" during the winter of 1992 when he just couldn't seem to get full after eating his breakfast and lunch. Even snacking didn't help!

I have not voted for McGwire or Palmeiro and don’t expect to vote for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa or Piazza next December.

At least Murray is open-minded and hasn't already made his decision without seriously considering these player's candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Plus, if Murray voted for six people (seven, including Morris) it would require a break for dinner during the induction ceremony.

It really does stink to hear Murray not only has made up his mind about next year's Hall of Fame class, but would limit his ballot to a certain number of players to avoid having to sit through a long induction ceremony. It's sad to hear how non-seriously many of these Hall of Fame voters take the process. They want the honor of voting, but none of the responsibility of being open-minded and attending the actual ceremony that goes along with it.

I will vote for Morris.

Unless the ballot gets too big of course. That Crockpot at home will be calling.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

4 comments Nick Cafardo Wants Red Sox to Toughen Up, Grit it Out Toughly, and Then Grittily Toughen Themselves Up for a Tough Year

I probably should assume this column is a joke. No self-respecting writer would write the word "tough" over and over when talking about a baseball team. That would be crazy wouldn't it? No self-respecting writer would simply say the Red Sox should just toughen up and in his column about toughness completely ignore other less-relevant variables such as the team hitting or pitching the baseball well. Because no self-respecting writer who takes himself seriously would do this and obviously the idea toughness is all a team needs has got to be addressed, Nick Cafardo takes this burden upon himself. Grittily and tough-like. That's what this column is.

No, it isn’t football or hockey, or boxing for that matter, but toughness matters in baseball.

Grit matters too! Don't forget grit! Toughness matters more than pitching or hitting ability. Why did the Rangers lose the World Series for the second straight year? They weren't as tough as the Cardinals. The Cardinals were as tough as nails. As tough as a steak from Golden Corral. Tougher than an angry black bear protecting her young.

(I just tried to write like Rick Reilly. Seriously...anyone can write like Rick Reilly does. What I just wrote is exactly how he writes and I just did it for free. What does Reilly have no other writer has? When did smugness become a marketable trait for a writer and allows him to demand millions of dollars in compensation?)

The toughness to get through injuries.

Sure you needed Tommy John surgery, John Lackey, but you should have toughed it out like Adam Wainwright on the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals did. Wait, he didn't tough it out? Well I'm sure the rest of the Cardinals roster toughed and gritted out some major injuries in order to win the World Series that Red Sox players were too wimpy to get through. After all, the Cardinals had Nick Punto on the roster. It doesn't get much grittier than him.

The toughness to play in this market. The toughness to go the extra mile when you’re dog-tired.

I always enjoy it when sportswriters call for a professional sports team to be tougher. It's easy to ask the local team to become tougher when the most hazardous injury you could incur while working at your sportswriting job is a papercut that just won't freaking heal. It always amuses me to read writers who think attending a sporting event with a head cold is "toughing it out" criticizing professional athletes for not being tough enough.

The toughness to perservere and make sure that slumps don’t prolong themselves.

Really slumps that tend to perservere have very little to do with toughness. If Cafardo can explain why one player slumps and another player does not then he probably wouldn't be making a living as a sportswriter right now. He would be working for a major league baseball team. I would also like to add the Red Sox pitching was their downfall last year, not any prolonged slump by a batter. So unless Cafardo thought the Red Sox pitching wasn't tough enough, and that's why the staff had a bad September (which I think he actually believes), this point of perservering through slumps is irrelevant.

Some of that toughness left the Red Sox when Jonathan Papelbon signed a lucrative four-year deal with the Philllies.

I can't believe the Phillies paid $1.4 million additional each year in Papelbon's contract specifically for toughness. Sure, he is a great closer and his ability to celebrate after closing a game out was well worth the $900,000 per year that was set aside in Papelbon's contract. I do think the Phillies way overpaid Papelbon's market value toughness. Especially since Papelbon's toughness has decreased from a 91 in 2008 to a 82 last year. The Phillies are probably really glad to have Papelbon's toughness and to a much lesser extent his ability to pitch well.

The good news is that they got some of it back when Ben Cherington signed Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey.

Need to see the true faces of toughness? Look no further than here and here. Who cares how these guys pitch? They are going to be so damn tough on the mound, the opposing batters may not even swing at a pitch because they are cowering in fear at the toughness being displayed by these two relief pitchers. After all, look at how much these two pitcher's toughness helped the Astros and A's when it came to winning games last year.

The tradeoff of utility guys - Nick Punto for Jed Lowrie - was a 180 for the Red Sox.

Punto's career batting line: .249/.325/.327 and he is 33 years old.

Lowrie's career batting line: .252/.324/.382 and he is 27 years old.

I'm not sure how I see this move is a 180. It seems like Punto is a less powerful, slightly older version of Lowrie. What am I missing?

Punto is as tough as nails and should fit well on this team.

That's right. Now I know what I am missing. Lowrie is a huge pussy, while Nick Punto isn't just as tough as nails, he actually eats nails and sometimes drywall, but only if it is necessary to prove his toughness.

One of his best friends is Kevin Youkilis, who shut it down last season after a sports hernia, sore hip, and back issues got the best of him.


Youkilis is as tough as they come, and his presence in the lineup should ramp up the team’s toughness meter quite a bit.

On a much lesser note, I bet Kevin Youkilis will also be good at playing the game of baseball, which may also help the Red Sox become a better team. I know actually being good at baseball is always secondary to toughness, but let's not overlook the awesome combination of toughness and actually being good at the game of baseball Youkilis brings to the Red Sox.

We know about Dustin Pedroia’s toughness and willingness to play through anything.

We also know Pedroia hit .307/.387/.484 with 21 home runs, 37 doubles, and 26 stolen bases. Who cares about that though? Look at his toughness!

Adrian Gonzalez has a quiet toughness about him. You think his shoulder wasn’t hurting the second half of the season when his production was way down?

I wouldn't know if Gonzalez's shoulder was hurting him because he is so quietly tough that he wouldn't tell us if his shoulder hurt or not.

Marco Scutaro might be the toughest guy on the team. This guy will play through anything. Know why?

Because you are using hyperbole to make this contention up?

Does a strained oblique count as "anything?" It must not because Scutaro certainly didn't play through a strained oblique last year. I feel like while over-hyperbolizing Scutaro's toughness, his stint on the disabled list from 2011 needs to be mentioned in regard to Scutaro's toughness and how he will "play through anything."

Because he has never taken his career for granted.

Gritty, gutsy, hustling, scrappy.

Part of that toughness, that dirt-dog mentality, is giving 100 percent effort.

Get rid of those lazy players like J.D. Drew. He takes his career for granted every single day. He doesn't have a dirt-dog mentality, he has a velcro-cat mentality! Fucking asshole.

We know some big guys feel they’re so slow that they wouldn’t beat out a grounder even if an infielder bobbled the ball, so they tend to not bust it down the line.

These guys aren't grinders! They have no place on this scrappy, gritty Red Sox team apparently comprised entirely of the most hustling, ass-busting team of white guys ever to put their dirt-dog uniforms on, which they do in order to honor baseball by playing the game the way it should be played. Fuck you Carl Everett and Manny Ramirez, you buncha lazy, career-taking-for-granted jackasses! We need more hustling, gritty players. Where's Kevin Millar at when you need him? He hustled and gritted the 2004 Red Sox to a World Series victory. It wasn't the skill of that team which caused them to win the World Series. That was a bunch of dirt-dogs who would do anything to win games, including being really fucking good at baseball if that's what it absolutely came to.

But consequences for not running balls out? You bet. Valentine has a history of fining players for dogging it. He’ll make those rules very clear to his players in spring training.

If you went through the list of things wrong with last year's Red Sox team, (which wasn't a bad team by the way. It was a very good team) players not hustling and dogging it would probably be 8th or 9th on the list.

I wonder if one of the fines coming from Valentine for "dogging it" is that certain player has to read this column 100 times over and then write a 5 page report on what it means to him.

Is there anything worse than a player jogging to first on a routine grounder, and the infielder bobbles the ball but still throws out the lazy runner?

As long as we don't include all the other things that are worse than this, no, this is absolutely the worst. I sure wish I could recall more times this anecdotal event has occurred, but it sure sounds terrible. If teams had more gritty players and fewer me-first players who aren't tough...(pauses wistfully thinking about this) baseball, well no, the world as a whole would be a better place.

Don't you hate it when a team is in the lead for the AL Wild Card and that team's pitching completely falls apart during the month of September and eventually that team blows the AL Wild Card? That is a better and more accurate anecdote to describe why the Red Sox did not make the playoffs last year.

Or a batter hitting a popup but still getting thrown out when the infielder drops it because he didn’t run it out?

You mean we get TWO anecdotal examples in one column of incidences that occur on the baseball field maybe 2-3 times per year, yet is being treated as if it happens every game? How lucky are we? I will never take this column for granted.

How many times a year does a player get thrown out after not running out a popout that was dropped? The Red Sox didn't lose the Wild Card last year because a batter didn't hustle to first base, a batter didn't run out a popup or because starting pitchers drank beer and ate fried chicken in the clubhouse. The Red Sox lost the Wild Card because their pitching was terrible in September. So being super-duper really tough and gritty can only help as much as it also helps to have really good pitching and batting.

Maybe you don’t see these things very often, but you see them often enough.

Great point. If only the Red Sox batters had hustled more last year it could have made absolutely zero difference in the year-end result. Unless you are a part of the group that thinks Carl Crawford should have caught the fly ball that let in the winning run during the last game of the season. We all know Mike Greenwell would have caught that ball in the air and then hit a 6-run home run to win the game in the very next inning.

You really come to appreciate players like Pedroia, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter who run out every ball as hard as they can. They play the game right.

Do you know who doesn't play the game right? 6-year olds playing T-ball. Most everyone else older than 6-years old who play baseball understands the basic rules and plays the game "right." Now there are varying degrees of skill and ability each person playing the game of baseball possesses, but not playing the game of baseball with a high level of skill or not running hard isn't playing the game "wrong."

Pedroia doesn’t have blazing speed, but he can make the infielder rush the throw and at times beat out balls that other guys wouldn’t because they don’t run hard.

Pedroia also hits the ball very well and isn't a pitcher, so it wasn't his fault the Red Sox missed the playoffs last year. I just want to be clear about this since I take the idea from Cafardo about how "the Red Sox need to toughen up" as actually meaning "I'm going to make up a reason that doesn't have to do with pitching to use as to why the Red Sox missed the playoffs last year."

The Red Sox didn’t exactly train hard last spring.

It is always funny when sports columnists can point to reasons AFTER the season is over as to why the team didn't succeed. Where was this "the Red Sox didn't train hard in the spring" and "need to toughen up" columns back in early April?

Valentine wasn’t specific but he said he’s always run spring training the same way.

Hiding in the dugout with a disguise on?

Valentine is expected to have a meeting with Tim Bogar, his bench coach, who will run spring training, to make sure they’re on the same page. Bogar is likely to have a lot of ideas after the Terry Francona regime, but we’ll see if that meshes with Valentine.

Enough about all of this "ideas" and boring talk about how Valentine will run Spring Training. Let's get to the major issue we all want to know:

Are the Sox tough enough?

They need more dirt-dogs. I know that for sure. I always knew, and can finally reveal what I knew back then but didn't say it because I didn't want to say so that doesn't mean I am making it up, that Carl Crawford was never going to work out for the Red Sox. He's not a grinder. He's used to things being handed to him, just like the Red Sox handed $140 million to him last summer. Dustin Pedroia would have done pushups or run an entire marathon in order to receive this money, but Carl Crawford, who is not a hustler/grinder/scrappy little guy, just took the money smiled and went about his business not training hard during Spring Training.

They have a first baseman who wants to play every game.

Jacoby Ellsbury would prefer to play every 4th game, while John Lackey just wants to eat fried chicken in the clubhouse and nurse his "injured" elbow that required major surgery. The worst part is that asshole Jed Lowrie didn't want to play any games at all last year. Zero games. That's how many games he requested to participate in. He isn't tough enough.

They have a second baseman who never gives up on anything. The shortstop plays in pain. The third baseman is as intense as anyone in the game. The catcher (Jarrod Saltalamacchia) can take a beating. The left fielder plays hard. The center fielder shed his image of not being tough with a tremendous breakout season.

I hope Nick Cafardo knows every single one of these players, except the shortstop, were on the Red Sox team last year. So if Cafardo thinks all of these players are tough enough this upcoming year, they were also tough enough last year. Which brings me back to the whole issue of why the Red Sox didn't win the AL Wild Card last year and it most likely was the 5.84 ERA the Red Sox pitchers had in September. I'm just guessing at this being the cause of course. It very well could have been the overwhelmingly lack of toughness and absence of grit.

The pitching staff needs to reestablish its toughness after the shenanigans of last season.

"Reestablish its toughness." I think what Nick Cafardo really means is "pitch better so they give up less runs and give the Red Sox a better chance to win."

The September collapse shed a new light on the Sox. They need to come out and play as if everyone is fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster. They need to show the effort and the hunger of the Tampa Bay Rays.

OR the Red Sox could just not collapse in September, so the Rays never would have made the playoffs and we would be talking about how the Rays may not have the payroll resources to keep up with the Yankees and Red Sox. It's toughness though. That's the issue. Apparently the key to playing good baseball isn't skill, hard work, or any other variable that involves improving the player's skill set. It is toughness. Being tough and playing through injuries improves a player's skill set more than repetition or any other variable related to increasing a player's skill level ever could.

We need to see that grit that Valentine has talked about.

They have the players with that grit.

Grit or Grit(s)? I ask this because I'm getting pretty hungry right now.

I really hope this upcoming year Red Sox pitchers are caught eating grits and drinking beer in the clubhouse on their off day and then claim they were wanting to be one of the players Nick Cafardo was talking about who needed more grits. This would amuse me.

The 2012 season is a good time to show it. Collectively.

Or the Red Sox could just try to avoid another historic collapse by not pitching poorly during one month of the season. Either way works I guess.