Monday, December 12, 2011

Week 14 Football Thoughts

1. How should New England fans feel about the Green Bay's run at perfection?

I am sure there are some Patriots fans rooting for the Packers to lose and therefore not do what Belichick and Brady failed to do seasons ago. I am not one of them. As far as I am concerned, if Green Bay goes 19-0, I will feel honored to have seen history. Would I rather New England have accomplished it first? Of course, but I am not going to hold that against Green Bay. The Patriots had their chance. If anything, I still feel cheated at the game plan and overconfidence that I feel lost Super Bowl XLII, and I think Patriots fans should respect the attempt at history by the Packers rather than bemoan it.

2. What should everyone think of Tim Tebow?

I will admit that he is not a good passer and that he might he ever be one. I will admit that he is not the only reason Denver has turned their season around. I will admit that the Broncos are not benefiting from divine intervention. However, he might be one of those rare athletes who makes the intangible as tangible as possible. Like Derek Jeter, his will to win seems both real and contagious. Yes, he will have to improve as a passer when defenses adjust, and he may not win at this rate going forward.

But at this point, I would put nothing past him.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

So Called Fab Five

Recently ESPN produced and featured a two hour documentary on the well known University of Michigan Basketball 1991 and 1992 teams that was nicknamed the Fab Five. The Fab Five was the heralded recruiting class of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. These five players started together for almost two years and lead the team to the NCAAA championship game in back to back years. The first season falling to the defending champion Duke Blue Devils and the second year falling to Duke’s fellow ACC heavy weight The University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

This documentary; while well produced and informative was a complete disgrace to college basketball and further illustrated some of the major problems within the sport. This show portrayed the team as a group of young men who changed college basketball for the better while grabbing the attention of the whole country.

These young men were trash talking, over hyped players who cared more about their so called image then about winning games. Rose, Jackson and King continuously made disparaging racial comments about fellow college players and repeatedly brought up the fact that they were not getting paid a portion of the rather large amount of money that their University brought in based off the basketball team. These players continued to emphasis that they felt like they were taken advantage of by the NCAA and that it was unfair that their families were still struggling while they were in college.

Their arrogance and attitude was disgraceful and disrespectful. They commented that they hated Duke and all that the university represented, and even worse they called all African American basketball players at schools like Duke Uncle Toms. The feelings of players like Rose is that schools like Duke do not recruit players like himself are because they don’t want inner city African Americans at the Universities. Those opinions are so off based and racially misguided. The reason they don’t get recruited to schools like Duke, Stanford, Northwestern, Indiana and Notre Dame is the fact that these players don’t have the work ethic off the court to meet the educational demands at these Universities.

The schools mentioned in the preceding paragraph have not been involved in the numerous recruiting scandals that have affected NCAA basketball. They put a much higher emphasis on players graduating, attending classes and making sure they are portraying an image for the basketball team that the entire university and its alumni and fans can be proud of.

Rose and Webber spent more time worrying about getting paid for playing basketball then actually finishing their education. Any argument that division one basketball and football players should be paid a portion of the revenue brought in by their teams is completely short sighted. These young men receive a free college education, room and board, books, health insurance, clothing and food. They also get to be on national TV, stay in some of the finest hotels in the country and often times travel across the country in private jets. These are all perks that 99% of college students never get to enjoy. Students who are just as strapped for time, in most cases don’t get a lot of the educational breaks of these athletes and end up spending the next 10-15 years of their lives repaying these exorbitant educational costs.

In the end the so called Fab Five will be remembered by true college basketball fans as an arrogant, disrespectful group of young men who took money to play the game and who helped bring recruiting scandals to the forefront.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Perfect Solution for Bud Selig

It is mere hours after the blown call by Jim Joyce that prevented history. Armando Galarraga nearly threw the third perfect game of the season and first in Tigers history. Some sportswriters and other commentators on the matter are calling for Commissioner Bud Selig to overrule the call on the field and give Galarraga his perfect game. Now, I love seeing baseball history as much as anyone. With that in mind, I offer some advice to the Commissioner.

Do not overturn the call.

Some will argue that changing the call is in the best interest of the game. I disagree. At this point, the calls are made on the field, and, until there is change implemented, that is how it should remain. Overruling the call on the field would set a dangerous precedent and create a mockery of the process. Though flawed, the system is the system.

Does Armando Galarraga deserve recognition for his achievement? Of course. Keep this in mind however. There are people who still remember Ernie Shore, who came in relief of an ejected Babe Ruth and got 27 straight outs. Harvey Haddix is well known for throwing 12 perfect innings before losing perfection, the no-hitter, and the game in the 13th. Something tells me people will remember Galarraga, the credit will just not be found in the record books.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Porcello's New Favorite Number: 163

How do I know this is his new favorite number? Well, I don't, but after today, it very well could be. Going into today's one game "playoff" with the Twins, Rick Porcello had a 14-9 record, with a 4.04 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 11 quality starts as a 20 year old rookie pitching for a division contender. These numbers have him in the mix for the American League Rookie of the Year award, contending Andrew Bailey (Oakland), Elvis Andrus (Texas), Gordon Beckham (Chicago) as well as others. Could the intangibles of pitching well in a tie breaking, division clinching, 163rd game, when there are no other games on the schedule to distract the voters, be enough to push him over the top? No other candidate for the award has a signature moment that comes to mind, but this would definitely be one for Porcello. As I write this, he is being taken out of the game with 2 outs in the sixth inning, a one run lead, and a runner on first. If the Tigers hold on, will it be enough? We will find out after the World Series.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The NBA's European Dream

It was announced the other day that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has reached an agreement to purchase the New Jersey Nets as well as contribute funding for the construction of a new arena in Brooklyn (as well as accompanying residential and commercial space). While I think this is a great deal for the NBA and international basketball, I can't help but wonder if this is going to reinforce David Stern's belief that the NBA could expand into Europe.

As much as I would love to see further expansion of the League itself and think that having European Division would be a great accomplishment, I just don't think it is feasible for a number of reasons, such as the extra travel incurred by the players and potential economic factors (exchange rates and tax issues). However, those are all solvable. One major issue just does not have a solution, at least that I can see.

That issue is a natural competitive imbalance. Even in a League with a salary cap, rookie wage scaling, and a draft, this will be unavoidable. Here's why:

1. Right now, highly regarded rookies are subject to a rookie wage scale. Euroleague teams are not subject to this constraint and can offer a better contract, financially, to an NBA draft pick (which is why Ricky Rubio is with is with FC Barcelona instead of the Minnesota Timberwolves). There will inevitably some rookies who will say to themselves, "If the London NBA team is offering me X dollars, but Real Madrid is offering me more than X dollars, I should go play for Real Madrid since either way I will be playing in Europe." NBA teams will still retain the rights to the drafted player, and after 3 years, the player will no longer be subject to the rookie scale, but even then, the NBA team can still be outbid by a Euroleague team.

2. Canada-based teams, and even some teams based in remote areas of the United States like Minnesota, have trouble recruiting players to come play for them. Why would any American-born star free agent who generates enough demand ever go play for a Europe-based team? Granted, some Europe-based teams might have an advantage in being able to recruit European-born players (could a Berlin based team sign Dirk Nowitzki away from Dallas?), but the edge will still be held by US teams.

3. Players who do not want to play for Europe-based teams will inevitably find ways to prevent trades to or force trades from those teams, either by threatening to retire or just not reporting, and will eventually even further limit the ability of Europe-based teams to acquire talent. This already happens with Canada-based teams (Steve Francis and Alonzo Mourning are well known examples).

4. In order to acquire talent that Europe-based teams need to compete, these team will likely have to overpay free agents to play for them. This leads to inefficiently built teams, because the premiums paid to entice players is less money under the salary cap to pay other players.

How can a team that is at a disadvantage in acquiring players via the draft, free agency, or trades unless use their resources inefficiently compete? I just don't see any way this is avoidable. The solution to establishing an NBA presence in Europe will take a much grander proposition than Commissioner Stern's. I think he has been an excellent commissioner and has expanded the NBA brand further than anyone could have dreamed, but I don't see this dream, in it's current form, coming to fruition.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Putting Jeter, and the man he passes, in context

Congratulations to Derek Jeter on tying and passing (which is inevitable) of Lou Gehrig's Yankee hit record. Any time you break a record for an organization which has been around as long as the
Yankees have, it is quite an accomplishment. The thing that amazes me though is not what the record is, but who held it. Think about it...the New York Yankees. Over 100 years of history, including 26 world championship seasons. This is the organization that employed, among others:

Babe Ruth for 15 seasons
Yogi Berra for 18 seasons
Mickey Mantle for 18 seasons
Don Mattingly for 14 seasons
Bernie Williams for 16 seasons

All of those players were very good, if not great, hitters. Yet the record holder, before Jeter passes him, is Lou Gehrig. As everyone knows, the Iron Horse's career (and life) was cut short by ALS. Despite that, he was such a tremendous hitter that he accumulated more hits than all of the aforementioned players despite his career essentially ending at age 35.

It just seems to me that because of the premature end to his career, he would not be among the first people one would guess held the career hit mark for such a storied franchise. One comparison I can think of is the Red Sox single season home run record, which was set by David Ortiz in 2006. His 54 home run season was only the second season of 50 or more home runs in franchise history. The first, a season of 50 home runs exactly, was not accomplished by Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, or Jim Rice, or Manny Ramirez, who are the names most people would first guess. The owner of that 50 home run season, and the previous record holder for the franchise, was Jimmie Foxx.

Jeter's accomplishment is a credit to him, and he is a great player. To me though, the more amazing thing that should not go unnoticed is the extent of Lou Gehrig's greatness and prowess as a hitter.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer?

Since his retirement blog recently, many sportswriters have voiced their opinion about Schilling's Hall of Fame candidacy.  Naturally, I want to throw out my thoughts.  Here they are:

1.  Honestly, to me, Schilling's career does not pass my "sniff" test.  When I hear his name, my brain does not scream "Hall of Famer."  That does not mean he is not one though.

2.  He had only 216 wins.  So what?  He won nearly 60% of his decisions and was definitely a better pitcher than some of those ahead of him on the all-time wins list.

3.  He struck out 3,116 batters, the 15th highest total of all-time.  For someone who did not quite "get it" right away, that is pretty impressive.

4.  He struck out 8.60 batters and walked 1.96 batters per 9 innings.  His K/BB ratio of 4.38 is the best mark in the modern era.  He had a rare combination of power and control, without which we would not be having this discussion.

5.  He had three second place finishes in the Cy Young voting as well as a fourth place finish, but only had seven seasons with 30 or more starts.  When healthy, he was obviously one of the best pitchers in the game.  At the same time, he was only healthy enough to make 30 starts those seven times.

6.  He won three World Series Championships, one other National League pennant, and NLCS MVP and a World Series MVP.  His postseason record was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.  I personally do not weight postseason results as much in baseball as I do in other sports, but this is nonetheless the mark of a dominant pitcher.

I used to think Jim Rice was the ultimate borderline case for Hall of Fame consideration.  Schilling may replace him.  However, if I had to vote right now, I would vote "Yes."