Futbol And Money

As I graze through the assemblage of sports channels on my cable provider, I run across lots of international soccer.  Recently, I saw something new to me; the UEFA Nation’s League.  I knew about UEFA running a Champions League for the top clubs in Europe and I knew about the Europa League for a wide range of European futbol clubs, but I did not remember ever encountering the Nation’s League.  The three things that kept running through my head were:

  1. This must be a scheduling nightmare for the folks in UEFA and for the folks in all the various futbol leagues all over Europe.
  2. How do the players remember where they are supposed to be and for which team they are playing in these myriad overlapping seasons?
  3. How many games a week do those players participate in?

[Aside:  In England, the diversity of competition includes not only the EPL and the various European competitions, it also includes the FA Cup tournament which involves 170 club teams in the country from the top-shelf Manchester City and Liverpool four levels down to the likes of Woking, Wealdstone and Weston-super-Mare.]

I am not going to try to pretend that I did any investigative journalism of the quality of Woodward and Bernstein here, but I did a bit of Google searching and chatted up a good friend who follows the German Bundesliga about as closely as I follow college football.  I hope you are sitting down as you read this because I have some shocking news for you.  The basis of all this complexity and all this overlapping participation by players on club teams and national teams is:

  • Money

All of these competitions draw lots of interest and lots of interest generates revenue for the clubs.  When it comes to the concept of “money” in sports the maxim to keep in mind is this:

  • Whatever we have is not enough; there is always room in the coffers for more.

So, all these teams are out there generating revenues and that means that all the teams are fat with cash, right?  This is not like MLB where the Yankees and the Red Sox and the Dodgers have such a revenue edge on teams like the Marlins and the Rays and the Royals that they can scoop up all the best players for salaries that the “have-nots” cannot possibly afford, right?  As Johnny Carson once opined to Ed McMahon when he incorrectly guessed the answer to one of Carnac the Magnificent’s queries:

  • Wrong, buffalo-breath…

In European futbol, the revenue disparity and the operating budgets for teams varies hugely.  That is why when a player like Ronaldo is available for transfer, there are only a handful of clubs who have the wherewithal to meet the price that Real Madrid set for his transfer (€100M = $118M).  The UEFA Champions League gives you insight into this phenomenon.

To get into the Champions League competition from England, a team must finish in one of the top 4 slots in the EPL.  In other leagues, there are slot allocations based on prior successes in the Champions League by teams from those other leagues.  But it is a BIG deal to be part of the Champions League because:

  • Real Madrid won last year and received a prize of £42.1M = €47.7M = $54.7M.
  • For perspective, the winner of the FA Cup in England last year received a prize of £3.4M = €3.9M = $4.4M.
  • In the less prestigious leagues, the participation revenue for playing in the Champions League gives the one or two teams from that league a huge advantage in their home league.  Olympiakos is a regular in the Champions League from the top association in Greece; Olympiakos has won that league in Greece 19 times in the past 22 years.

As I noted above, I am neither Woodward nor Bernstein.  However, given my “investigation” in order to understand why all of these various complex leagues and competitions exist in the first place, the answer is similar to the advice the Woodward and Bernstein got from “Deep Throat”:

  • Follow the money…

I got back to my friend who tracks the German Bundesliga closely and asked if anyone ever thought of leveling the playing field a bit in European soccer with something like a salary cap as we have here in the US in football and basketball.  He said that I would win the Nobel Prize for Literature before the leagues and the clubs – – and FIFA – – would agree to such a thing.  He said they have something there called “Financial Fair Play” which is what he calls “fancy talk” to make it seem as if FIFA is trying to give the “have-not clubs” a fighting chance to get even with the big boys.  His advice to me was simple and direct:

  • Don’t try to understand Financial Fair Play; it will just make your head hurt.

The Miami Marlins announced yesterday that they have signed two brothers from Cuba and some have declared these signings as a coup by Derek Jeter in his role as the major domo for the team.  Over the weekend, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this to say about the impending announcement:

“[Marlins] on Monday will formally announce the signing of highly regarded Cuban outfield brothers Victor Victor Mesa, 22, and kid bro Victor Mesa Jr., 17. Yes, the more MLB-ready of the two Mesas is named Victor Victor. I guess among the many things in short supply in Cuba are middle names!”

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News noted the intersection of sports (sort of) and politics and international relations with this item:

“Some are urging WWE to cancel its November show in Saudi Arabia, following the suspicious disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Now that’s a first: wrestling drama that isn’t staged.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Getting Ready For The World Series

The World Series pairing is set.  Both teams are worthy of participation, so fans should be happy.  TV execs are likewise happy to see Boston and LA as the participants; given MLB’s “final four” this year, this is the final pairing likely to draw the most eyeballs to TV sets.  Yes, I know that Houston is a large city and a larger TV market than Boston.  Notwithstanding the population disparity, baseball is a bigger deal in Boston than in Houston.

The US has very different regional sports interests.  Baseball is big in the northeast; NFL football is big in the northeast – – but college football is only a minor attraction.  In the south and particularly the southeast, football of all variations is huge, and baseball is something fans pay attention to when football is “on hiatus”.  Houston is “football country”; Boston is “baseball territory”.

Both league championship series provided some history and drama.  Once it was necessary for the Dodgers and the Brewers to decide their series in a Game 7, something “important” had to happen:

  • The Dodgers had not won a Game 7 since 1988 – the last time they won a World Series.  So, they won their first such game in 30 years.
  • The Brewers, on the other hand, have never won a Game 7 in franchise history.  That status remains.

Regarding the controversy of “fan interference” in the Boston/Houston series, all I can say is that Joe West botched the call.  He has seen the replays and the still photos of the event, and he now knows that he botched the call.  He will not, however, be forthcoming and say he made a mistake.  I believe that Joe West is genetically incapable of such behavior.  I suspect that LaVar Ball will take a vow of silence before Joe West admits he blew that call.

The Red Sox beat a very good Astros’ team and the Sox appeared to be in control for most of the series.  David Price seemingly exorcised some of his “playoff demons” in this series.  When he took the mound in Game 5, he brought an ERA of 6.15 in playoff games on his shoulders.  His opposing pitcher, Justin Verlander, brought with him a reputation as a guy who pitched his best in the biggest games.  It was not a Game 7; even if the Sox had lost, they would still have two more chances to wrap up the series.  Nonetheless, here is how David Price performed:

  • He threw 6 shutout innings allowing only 3 hits.
  • He struck out 9 Astros and walked no one.

In the NL championship series, Clayton Kershaw likewise seemed to exorcise his playoff demons.  Kershaw has been a dominant regular season pitcher – – perhaps THE dominant MLB regular season pitcher – – for the last 8 years.  In that span, he has won the Cy Young Award three times and has finished second in the voting twice.  However, his playoff performances have been far less impressive.  At the start of this series, he had appeared in 21 games throwing 133 innings with an ERA of 4.23.  Making that number even worse, Kershaw had allowed 5 runs in a playoff game 7 different times and no pitcher in MLB history had ever suffered that fate.

In Game 5 against the Brewers, Kershaw defied the narrative that he chokes in big playoff games.  He was in deep trouble in the 3rd inning but pitched out of it allowing only a run.  When he left the game his stats for the night were:

  • 7 innings pitched allowing 1 run and 3 hits.
  • He struck out 9 and walked 2.

One well-pitched game does not offer total redemption to either David Price or Clayton Kershaw, but both of them came through when their teams needed them in 2018.

As to predictions for the World Series:

  • Clearly, the Red Sox were the better team in the regular season wining 108 games as compared to the Dodgers winning 92.  [Aside:  The Red Sox have dispatched two opponents to get to the World Series and both of those opponents had won 100 games or more in the 2018 regular season.]
  • The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have installed the Red Sox as favorites in the Series at odds of “minus-130”.  The Dodgers are at +110.
  • Many of the baseball writers think the Red Sox will dominate the series; it would seem that “Sox in five games” is the most common prediction floating out there.  If that is to be the case, I think that Chris Sale must be fully recovered from whatever arm ailments and intestinal ailments he has encountered over the past month or so.

Since the upcoming weekend will be my annual autumnal pilgrimage to Las Vegas, I have an enlightened self-interest in rooting against a sweep by either team.  Anything other than a sweep will give me 3 games to watch and wager on this weekend; so of course, a sweep is the worst possible outcome.  I’ll go fully hedonistic with my prediction here maximizing the games for me to see:

  • I like the Red Sox in 7 games.

Finally, here is a Tweet from humor-writer, Brad Dickson:

“There’s a new World’s Oldest Man. Man, they keep dying. I’m beginning to think that title is cursed.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Football Friday 10/19/18

Friday has rolled around once again – as it always does – and I have my seat-belt fastened as I head into another Football Friday.  As usual, I shall begin with college football and an update on the Linfield Wildcats.

Over the last two weeks, Linfield has played at home and has dominated two opponents by a combined score of 102-26.  That puts the Wildcats’ season record at 3-2 as they pursue another winning season in football.  This week, Linfield goes on the road – – albeit not more than about 30 miles – – to play the George Fox University Bruins.  George Fox brings a 3-3 record to the field; this is a Northwest Conference game for both teams.  Go Wildcats!

It seems as if every college football season has one weekend on the schedule where the results seem to come from Bizarro World and we are living on the cube-shaped planet htraE – – that is Earth spelled backwards don’t you know…  Last week was that weekend.

Alabama and Ohio State survived the strangeness of the weekend and Notre Dame remains undefeated – although it took a 4th quarter comeback to beat a mediocre-at-best Pitt team by 5 points.  Cincy also remains undefeated at 6-0 for the season.  In Las Vegas back in August, the win-total proposition bet for Cincy was either 5.5 or 6 wins depending on the sportsbook.  I think the OVER is looking good there…

West Virginia had been unbeaten and was sitting atop the Big 12 hoping that it just might slip into CFP consideration – – and then it lost to Iowa State by 16 points.  There may indeed be a need for the Selection Committee to evaluate teams with a single loss when it comes CFP time.  Having that sort of stain on one’s record will not go down well with the Committee…

Michigan dominated Wisconsin from start to finish.  The Wolverines won the game 38-13 and did not allow a Wisconsin completed pass in the entire second and third quarters of the game.  Both teams were ranked at kickoff, but this is the second loss of the season for Wisconsin and it could be that they win the Big-10 West and then the Big-10 Championship and still find themselves on the fringe of the CFP selection process.  Remember, I said “could be” …

Penn State also lost for the second time this year and both losses have been at home in “Happy Valley”.  I don’t think State College, PA is as happy today as it might be…

Nebraska lost to Northwestern in OT last week.  The Cornhuskers are 0-6 for the season and that is the first time in Nebraska history that the football team has lost its first 6 games.  For the record, Nebraska began playing football in 1890.  [Aside:  Benjamin Harrison was President in 1890 and he signed the legislation that established Oklahoma as a Territory in that year.]

LSU beat Georgia last week by 20 points giving both SEC teams a 6-1 record for the year.  There are several significant outcomes here:

  • The Georgia/Florida game was a big game to begin with and it is now very important as both teams have an in-conference loss.  This game happens on 27 October.
  • The SEC East race is complicated by the success of Kentucky this year.  The Wildcats also have one in-conference loss AND they have a win over Florida to their credit.  Kentucky hosts Georgia on 3 November…
  • LSU has one loss in-conference (to Florida) and has Mississippi St and then Alabama (both in Baton Rouge) as the next two opponents.

[Aside:  One other outcome from last week’s LSU/Georgia game is that the hot seat under LSU coach, Ed Orgeron, cooled significantly – – for the moment.]

Vandy led Florida at the start of the 4th quarter last week but the Gators dominated the 4th quarter to win the game by 10 points.  In doing so, Florida seems to have dodged the Bizarro Bullet from last weekend…

UVa beat Miami 16-13.  How did that happen?

Tennessee beat Auburn at Auburn.  I did not see that one coming…

Washington lost to Oregon in OT and that is the second loss of the year for the Huskies; their CFP aspirations just vaporized into the World Ether…

Meanwhile, Colorado lost for the first time this year to USC.  If Colorado were to be the PAC-12 Champ, they would not find a lot of favor from the CFP Selection Committee for their strength of schedule.  Here are the Colorado out-of-conference opponents and the records for those opponents as of this morning:

  1. Colorado State  3-4
  2. Nebraska  0-6
  3. New Hampshire (a Division 1-AA team)  1-4

USC has 2 losses on its record, but both are to decent teams (Texas and Stanford) and USC has a game at home against Notre Dame down the road.  The Trojans may be the team to watch in the PAC-12 this year.

UCLA won its first game of the year last week blowing out Cal 37-3.  Here are two questions that arise from that result:

  1. The UCLA defense had been giving up 36.4 points per game prior to the Cal game.  How did they hold Cal to 3 points?
  2. Cal started the season 3-0.  They have now lost three games in a row and the last two have been to Arizona and UCLA neither of which have had a lot of good fortune this season.  What happened to Cal?

One final note from last weekend before I move on…  Maryland crushed Rutgers 34-7 in the game that should be labeled The Dregs of the Big-10 Bowl.  Rutgers is 1-6 and it has already seen the “easier part” of its schedule.  Consider:

  • The single victory came at the expense of football powerhouse, Morgan State.
  • Rutgers lost to Kansas at home by 41 points.
  • Rutgers lost to Texas State and Buffalo by 4 TDs each
  • The remaining schedule for Rutgers is Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State.  Yowza!

Since I mentioned Maryland above, recall that the Terps have their head coach, DJ Durkin on admin leave as the school awaits yet more reports about how Jordan McNair died at a practice and if Coach Durkin has culpability there.  If my reading of Durkin’s deal with Maryland is accurate and if he gets paid on a “per game basis”, I believe Durkin has been paid a little over $600K not to coach the team since being put on admin leave.  Just saying…

Enough of last week’s strangeness and on to what appears to be an interesting week ahead.

Cincy at Temple – 3 (48.5):  Cincy is undefeated at 6-0 for the season and is a road dog here.  The reason probably is that Temple is 4-0 at home.

UNC at Syracuse – 10 (66):  UNC is 1-4 for the season and its coach, Larry Fedora, will be hard-pressed to survive a 3-win season.  He needs this game as much as the team needs this game.

Penn St. – 14.5 at Indiana (61):  I would not be surprised to see the Nittany Lions hit the field with a hangover from last week’s home loss to Michigan state.

Illinois at Wisconsin – 24.5 (56.5):  Wisconsin can run the football effectively with Jonathan Taylor and Illinois gives up 199.5 yards per game on the ground…

Colorado at Washington – 17 (51):  Both teams lost last week; both teams have one loss in conference.

NC State at Clemson – 18 (56):  Both teams are ranked and both teams had a BYE Week last week.  This is a big game in the ACC and recent meetings between these teams have been close.

Virginia at Duke – 7 (44.5):  Very quietly, Duke has produced a quality season; they have only lost once…

Michigan – 7 at Michigan State (41):  The Total Line opened the week at 47 points and has plummeted to this level.  This is one of the rivalry games the folks at Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh to win.

UConn at USF – 34 (69):  The game is of interest to me because UConn could be one of my SHOE Teams at the end of the season.  UConn is dead last in defense in the country giving up – hold your breath here – 658.2 yards per game and 9.21 yards per play.

Cal – 7.5 at Oregon St. (58.5):  Cal has been an enigma this season (see above).  They must not lose this game to this less-than-mediocre opponent even on the road.

USC at Utah – 7 (47.5):  Utah is tough at home to be sure…

NFL Comments:

Last week was not quite as hectic at the pro level as it was at the collegiate level – – but there were about 5 surprises.

  1. The Dolphins win over the Bears with Brock Osweiler at the helm was a big surprise.
  2. The Skins win over the Panthers was a moderate surprise.
  3. The Rams winning by only 3 points over the Broncos was a surprise.
  4. The Cowboys beating the Jags was a surprise.
  5. The Cowboys scoring 40 points on the Jags was a big surprise.

The final 3 minutes of the Niners/Packers game and the final 3 minutes of the Patriots/Chiefs game last week ought to demonstrate the Hall of Fame certainty for Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.  I cannot imagine anyone not being enough of a football fan to sit back and be amazed at the comebacks they each managed here.

Will someone please file a Missing Persons Report for the Tennessee Titans’ offense?  The Titans surrendered 11 sacks to the Ravens last week; they managed all of 117 yards passing; they never really threatened to score points in the game.  What a stinker…

Here is an example of how stats can be misleading until you look at all of them for a game with some degree of care:

  • Eli Manning and Carson Wentz each threw for the same amount of yardage
  • Saquon Barkley rushed for more than twice as many yards as the Eagles’ leading rusher.
  • The Giants’ leading receiver had a couple more yards than the Eagles’ leading receiver.

One would think it was a close game and it was not.  The Eagles won 34-13 and had it on cruise control for much of the second half.

Here we are in Week 7 of the 17-Week NFL season; Halloween is still in the future; nevertheless, I think it is safe to say that the 2018 season is “OVER” for 6 teams and is “ALL BUT OVER” for 6 more teams.

Here is my breakdown of the six teams whose season is All But Over:

  1. Broncos:  The team plays very well at home.  The problem is that the NFL requires teams to play away from home 8 times in a season…
  2. Browns:  They are much-improved; they are competitive.  The problem is that they are – truth be told – the 4th best team in the AFC North.
  3. Colts:  The only thing that elevates them to the level of “All But Over” is the miserable division they play in and the inconsistency of the other 3 teams there.
  4. Jets:  They are only 2 games out of the AFC East lead, but we know that the Pats are going to prevail there, and the Jets are not making it as a wild card team.  Sorry about that…
  5. Lions:  They are not nearly as bad as recent Lions’ teams have been but to me they are the 4th best team in the NFC North and teams that finish 4th in their division are unimportant.
  6. Niners:  CJ Beathard played really well against the Packers, but I just do not see him doing that week after week after week.  The Niners season took a severe blow when RB, Jerrick McKinnon, was lost for the season; it is really circling the drain now that Jimmy G. is out.

            Here is my breakdown of the six teams whose season is Over:

  1. Bills:  Derek Anderson and Nathan Peterman are in the driver’s seat as long as Josh Allen is sidelined.
  2. Bucs:  The defense is even worse than the Falcons defense and that is saying something.
  3. Cards:  The only thing they are competing for is the overall #1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
  4. Falcons:  That defense is a traveshamockery.
  5. Giants:  The offense still stinks even after adding Saquon Barkley and upgrading – a little bit – the offensive line.
  6. Raiders:  Khalil Mack is gone; rumors say that Amari Cooper and Derek Carr could be on the trading block.  Jon Gruden 2.0 has been a disaster to date.

So here are the games for this week.  The Steelers, Raiders, Seahawks and Packers take this week off.

  • Maybe the Steelers reunite with LeVeon Bell this week?
  • Maybe the Raiders find a pass rush this week?
  • Maybe the Seahawks avoid any more “roster drama” this week?
  • Maybe the Packers find a running game this week?

Tennessee vs Chargers – 6.5 (45): [Game is in London]:  The Titans’ offense was awful last week and the team has not played well in the last two weeks.  The Chargers, on the other hand have played very well for several weeks now.

New England – 2.5 at Chicago (48.5):  Best game of the week?  Maybe the Bears were looking past the Dolphins last week to focus on this game?  If not, the Pats will roll here even though they have not played well on the road yet this year (at Jax and at Detroit).  The Pats have scored 38 or more in their last three wins; can Michell Trubisky keep up with that sort of pace?  I see a close game.

Detroit – 3 at Miami (46.5):  My reaction to seeing this game on the card was a resounding, “Meh!”  The only question of interest here is seeing if Brock Osweiler can play well two weeks in a row.

Carolina at Philly – 5 (45):  The Panthers played sluggishly and poorly on the road last week; this could be an even worse match-up for them.  Meanwhile, the Eagles appeared to start to put the pieces together on offense last week – – but those were the Giants and these are the Panthers.

Minnesota – 3.5 at Jets (46):  Both teams have won their last two games.  Sam Darnold feasted on the Colts’ defense last week; the Vikes’ defense is a whole lot better…  Jets’ running game will have to help out Darnold or this will become a long day for him.

Houston at Jax – 5 (41.5):  Texans have won 3 in a row – – all of them squeakers.  The Jags have lost 2 in a row and have looked pathetic doing so.  And if Bad Blake Bortles shows up one more time …  Meanwhile, the Texans’ offense has been dreadful; other than an explosion against the Colts’ defense, they score about 20 points per game.   I think the Jags defense comes alive here against a putrid Texans’ OL.  The winner will be the leader – for the moment – in the AFC South.

New Orleans at Baltimore – 2.5 (50):  Best game of the week?  It certainly pits a very good offense against a very good defense.  I think the key to this game is Joe Flacco and his ability to keep the Ravens’ defense rested.  Ravens recorded 11 sacks last week and 10 came on blitzes.  Unlikely they will have that level of success against Drew Brees this week.

Rams – 9.5 at SF (52):  The Rams are the last undefeated team in the NFL.  They are better than the Niners and the Niners are coming off a short week.  Niners’ defense gave up a bunch of big plays to Aaron Rodgers last week and look to give up a few more to Jared Goff & Co. here.

(Sun Nite) Cincy at KC – 6 (58):  KC’s offense is rolling and the Bengals’ defense is nothing more than OK; they gave up almost 500 yards on offense last week to the Steelers.  The Bengals will run Joe Mixon at the porous Chiefs’ defense as a way to hold the Chefs’ offense in check.  By the way, the Chiefs are 6-0 straight up this year AND 6-0 against the spread this year…

(Mon Nite) Giants at Atlanta – 4.5 (54):  This is the Dog Breath Game of the Week.  It takes a lot for me to ignore a Monday Night Football game …  The only interesting question here is if the Falcons miserable defense is bad enough to make the Giant’s offense appear to be relevant.  Other than that…

Here is your Six-Pack for the week.  We have 3 college games and 3 NFL games once again in the Six-Pack:

Mississippi St. at LSU – 6 (45):  Perhaps the biggest college game of the week, LSU cannot afford a letdown in this “sandwich game” after a big win over Georgia last week and with an upcoming battle with Alabama next on the docket.  Mississippi St. beat LSU by 30 points last year; there is a revenge factor at work here too.  The Bulldogs problem is that they cannot throw the ball against quality defenses and LSU has a quality defense.  I like LSU at home to win and cover.

Oregon at Washington St – 3 (68):  Oregon is 5-1 with the loss coming in conference; Oregon scores 44 points per game.  Washington St. is 5-1 with the loss coming in conference; Washington St scores 42 points per game.  This is an important PAC-12 game that should light up the scoreboard.  Washington State has not lost at home in two years.  I like the game to go OVER.

Vandy at Kentucky – 11 (48):  Kentucky is well-positioned to play for the SEC Championship, but it must not stumble against weaker opponents such as Vandy.  Kentucky RB, Benny Snell should have a big game here; Vandy allows 4.5 yards per carry and 184 yards per game on the ground.  I like Kentucky to win and cover.

Buffalo at Indy – 9 (43):  This will be a low scoring game because the Bills’ defense is solid and because the Bills’ offense is a steaming mess.  In a low-scoring game, I like the idea of getting 9 points, so I’ll take the Bills on the road here.  Please let Derek Anderson start and finish this game; if Nathan Peterman plays, this could get out of hand quickly.

Cleveland at Tampa Bay – 3.5 (50):  Here are two teams going nowhere in 2018.  Baker Mayfield gets to show his stuff against a bad Bucs’ defense with a new defensive coordinator calling the shots.  If Mayfield is indeed the future in Cleveland, he should play well here.  I like the Browns on the road plus the points.  By the way, the last road win straight up for the Browns came in Week 5 of 2015 in case you were wondering…

Dallas at Washington – 1.5 (41.5):  The Cowboys are 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road.  This game is on the road.  Kabeesh?  I like the Skins to win and cover at home.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Patriots fans were incensed upon discovering that some Dunkin’ Donuts outlets in Massachusetts were serving drinks in cups featuring a huge Eagles logo and the words ‘World Champions’ on them.

“Which makes one wonder: What are the odds of buying a set of Eagle tires in New England that are fully inflated?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Two Not-So-Good NFL QB Situations

When Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities, he began by comparing and contrasting.  It was the best of times and the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness; it was the spring of hope and the winter of despair.  His comparisons were always “the good” with “the bad”.  Today I want to present a tale of two quarterback situations in the NFL.  However, since these words emanate from Curmudgeon Central and not the pen of Charles Dickens, the comparison will be between “The Bad” and “More of the Bad”.

Let me start with the QB situation in Buffalo.  When the 2018 training camp began, the Bills were coming off a playoff appearance in 2017; notwithstanding that fact, they let their starting QB, Tyrod Taylor, mosey off to Cleveland and they seemed to be planning to replace him with AJ McCarron (signed as a free agent) on an interim basis plus rookie Josh Allen whom they drafted early in the first round of this year’s draft.  Nathan Peterman – the human interception machine – was also on the roster but there was no way that I thought he might be part of the picture there.

At the close of training camp, the Bills shipped off McCarron to the Raiders for a 5th round pick in 2019.  That left Allen and Peterman as the QBs for a team that made the playoffs the year before.  That was strange enough; Peterman started and demonstrated that if he is “the answer”, the question has to be “what the Hell were you thinking?”  Allen took over and looked like a raw rookie with tons of God-given physical ability.  So, you would figure that the team would soldier on and try to prop up the wunderkind.

And then, Josh Allen hurt his elbow on this throwing arm.  The team has not announced the extent of the injury but there are some reports out there saying that Allen needs Tommy John surgery – something that works very well for baseball pitchers but something that does not have a long track record of success for NFL QBs.  Let me stress here that Allen may not need this surgery; the injury to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm may right itself without surgery.  Nonetheless, there are reports that are dire…

The Bills took out some insurance – – a tad late if you ask me – – by signing Derek Anderson as a free agent.  If Allen cannot play, the Bills surely need a backup QB; so, a free agent signing is not surprising in the least.  Moreover, the Bills must be just a little concerned that the guy now at the top of their QB depth chart seems to be Nathan Peterman.  I referred to him as the human interception machine above.  Here is why:

  • In his brief career in the NFL, Peterman has thrown 82 passes and had 10 of them intercepted.  [These numbers include part of a playoff game last season.]
  • Nathan Peterman throws INTs at the rate of 12.2%.

I hope you find that figure as stunning as I did when I went to pro-football-reference.com for the numbers.  Just to put this in perspective, let me compare that interception percentage to some other QBs:

  • Tyrod Taylor – the guy the Bills did not want after last year – is at 1.5%.
  • AJ McCarron – the guy the Bills traded away in August – is at 1.9%
  • Brett Favre – a “gunslinger” who took a lot of chances – is at 3.3%
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick – like Peterman a late-round draft pick – is at 3.4%

The Bills’ QB situation is a bad one – and it sure looks as if it is a self-inflicted wound…

And then, there is another NFL QB situation that is also bad.  Last year, the Jags were in the AFC Championship Game; they led the Patriots by 10 points early in the 4th quarter and then lost the game.  Losing to the Pats in the playoffs is not outrageous; what is outrageous is not recognizing the weak link on a team built around the defense and that weak link is QB, Blake Bortles.  Since I railed on Nathan Peterman above about interception percentage, let me just put Blake Bortles’ comparable info here to start:

  • Blake Bortles – picked #3 overall in the draft back in 2014 – is at 2.9%.

Bortles does not suffer from the same ailment as Nathan Peterman, but he is problematic as the starting QB for a team whose defense was good enough to get the team to within 15 minutes of a Super Bowl appearance last January.  QB rating systems are not probative when it comes to identifying excellence in QBs; however, QB rating systems can give relative performance ratings in the broadest sense.  Now consider these ratings for these QBs all of whom are playing or played in the current gestalt of NFL football:

  • Blake Bortles QB rating is 80.2.  Comparable ratings belong to Brian Hoyer and Trevor Siemien.
  • If you were running the Jags, would you entrust your team – – and commit $18M in salary cap space – – to either Hoyer or Siemien?  I doubt it…

Blake Bortles is durable; he has not missed a start since his rookie year in 2014.  [Aside: It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine if that is a blessing or a curse.]  That seems like a good thing on balance when you consider who the backup is in Jax.  No Googling, can you name the #2 QB on the Jags’ depth chart?  I had to go and look to determine that it is Cody Kessler and while I was looking I found out that in his 8 career starts at QB, his team has never won the game.

So, there you have it.  Two of the six teams that made the AFC playoffs last year have maneuvered themselves into QB situations that are best labeled as “bad” and “also bad”.  Circle November 25, 2018 on your calendars for this reason:

  • At 1:00 PM (EST) the Jacksonville Jaguars will play the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo.  Notwithstanding the fact that this will be a game between two playoff teams from a year ago, there is about a ZERO probability that this game will be flexed to the late afternoon “Game of the Week” slot.  It is almost as if the schedule maker saw these QB messes coming…

Finally, Dwight Perry had this observation in the Seattle Times recently about two other QBs neither of whom is embarrassing to their respective franchises:

“Steelers star pass-catcher Antonio Brown says he and QB Ben Roethlisberger operate like Wi-Fi: ‘Sometimes the connection is poor. Sometimes the connection is great. But it’s always connected.’

“Can’t wait to hear what Cooper Kupp has to say about Jared Goff and gigabytes of Ram.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

A Shot In the Foot…

We all know someone who fits the description, “He can’t get out of his own way.”  Maybe the person is an artist who is so self-critical that his work is never finished or displayed; maybe the person is an engineer who is so absorbed by career goals and getting credit for his contributions that no one will work with him; maybe the person is so risk-averse that he ignores great opportunities in his life.  The person who can’t get out of his own way comes in many forms and in many fields.

The NCAA is an organization that seems not be able to get out of its own way these days.  The NCAA is under pressure to pay its athletes in the revenue sports; it faces health and safety issues; it has coaches and assistant coaches who run programs that abuse athletes to the point where the athletes suffer sexual assault and/or death; it faces the critical reality that its recruiting rules invite abuse by the “member institutions” and that the NCAA is feckless in its ability to enforce its own rules.  And in that quagmire, the NCAA was presented with a golden opportunity to do good and do well at the same time – – and it blew the opportunity.

Hurricane Florence did a lot of damage in the Carolinas last month; people suffered catastrophic losses; all the “rescue work” is over but the reconstruction of homes, facilities and lives has only begun.  The basketball coaches at UNC and South Carolina came up with the idea of playing a pre-season basketball game between the schools where all the proceeds would go to Hurricane Florence recovery activities.  The teams were going to pay their own way; there would be no facilities costs; it was a way to funnel money to the recovery.  These teams used to be rivals in the same conference but have not played one another for years now; the game would have drawn a good crowd.  Kudos to Roy Williams and Frank Martin for the idea.

That game will not happen – – thanks to the NCAA and its amazing ability not to be able to get out of its own way.

You see; the NCAA has a rule about college basketball exhibition games …  Once I tell you that, you can easily see how the NCAA can manage to tie its shoelaces together to immobilize itself.  Here is “the problem”:

  • The rule says that schools may play no more than 2 exhibition games and/or joint practices/scrimmages prior to its regular season.
  • Both UNC and South Carolina have contractually committed to two such “events” prior to the birth of Florence let alone its devastation.  Ergo, the schools need a waiver from the NCAA to raise money for Hurricane Florence relief in this way.
  • The NCAA said, “No!”.

[Sigh…]

The Tampa Bay Bucs fired defensive coordinator, Mike Smith, earlier this week.  The Bucs’ defense was bad last year, and it has not been any the better this year.  That is a recipe for firing a defensive coordinator if ever there was one.  However, I think there is something else bubbling below the surface here.  Head coach, Dirk Koetter is an “offensive guy”.  Supposedly, he got the job when as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator, he made Jameis Winston look like a future star QB in Winston’s first season and was high on everyone’s list to become a head coach somewhere else.  The Bucs fired head coach, Lovie Smith, and elevated Koetter to the position.

The Bucs improved to 9-7 in Koetter’s first season at the helm; then, things went south in season two; the Bucs struggled home with a 5-11 record last year.  In 2017, the Bucs’ defense ranked dead last in the NFL in yards per game allowed (378.1) and in yards allowed per play (6.0).  Mike Smith’s defense certainly did not distinguish itself there.

This year, the Bucs record is 2-3 and the defense has been statistically worse.  In 5 games this season, the Bucs have yielded 439.8 yards per game and 6.9 yards per play.  If the defense hit rock bottom last year, they seem to have continued to dig this year.  And so, Mike Smith is gone, and linebackers’ coach Mark Duffner takes over the defensive coordinator job.

The Bucs have 11 games left in the 2018 season and the defensive coordinator has already been jettisoned.  Jameis Winston continues to show physical skills on the field that are enticing but his mental errors and his off-field behaviors could give one pause about his future status as a franchise QB.  If the Bucs do not rebound and play competitively, the Bucs owner – Malcom Glazer – may just feel the need to make major changes and “major change” would not stop merely at changing the team’s coordinators.  With the move to fire Mike Smith, I think Dirk Koetter is coaching for his job now.

Oh, by the way, the Bucs GM is in the final year – a team option year – of his contract too.  If the Bucs stumble home in 2018, the front office and the coaching staff may be looking for work in 2019…

At the other end of the NFL coaching spectrum from Dirk Koetter this morning, we find Sean McVay doing something else innovative besides his offense and his play calling.  McVay has hired an assistant to be on the sidelines with him during games whose job it is to advise McVay on clock management.  Jedd Fisch had been the offensive coordinator at UCLA under Jim Mora, Jr. and at Michigan.  Let me just say that there are other NFL head coaches who could use a clock management assistant too…

Finally, here is an observation by Brad Rock in the Deseret News with which I totally agree:

“A poll conducted for calm.com says the dullest sport to watch is golf.

“Cricket ranks the second-best cure for insomnia, followed by soccer and baseball in a tie for third.

“Synchronized swimming officials are demanding a recount.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Bouncing Around …

The NFL has put Mychal Kendricks on indefinite suspension after he entered a guilty plea to chargers of insider trading.  To put a perspective on this, insider trading is what put Martha Stewart in the slammer for a short period of time about 10 years ago.  From that perspective, I can see why the NFL would not want Kendricks on the field as part of their TV product; he just admitted that he did something that put another widely known TV celebrity on the shelf.  In addition, it is important to recognize that despite all of the coach-speak and player-platitudes that you hear, at its core, the NFL is television programming.

The irony here is that Kendricks’ suspension by the NFL has already exceeded the suspension handed down to Ray Rice.  While not trying in any way to condone insider trading, I sorta think that what Ray Rice did – on video tape so there is no real debate about it – is worse than what Mychal Kendricks did.  Oh well …

The thing about this indefinite suspension is that it may become a de facto lifetime suspension.  Kendricks will be sentenced to a prison term in January 2019; the length of that sentence is obviously unknown.  However, if he remains “indefinitely suspended” for the balance of 2018 and is then sentenced to 24 months in prison in January 2019, it may be the end of his career.  That would make him 30 years old when he finished such a sentence (remember, this is hypothetical) and making a comeback as an NFL linebacker at that age would not be trivial.

Since Kendricks was a member of the Seattle Seahawks prior to this suspension, it is not surprising that Dwight Perry had an observation about the situation in the Seattle Times:

“Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks has been suspended indefinitely after pleading guilty to illegal stock-market moves.

“Coincidence?  ESPN’s NFL Insiders got the scoop.”

WNBA President, Lisa Borders, resigned that position to take the job as the CEO of a new organization called Time’s Up.  This entity seeks to represent women and advocate for women who face discrimination and harassment in the workplace and in their careers.  Time’s Up is pretty clearly an outgrowth/extension of the Me-Too Movement.

I guess Ms. Borders is a good choice for this new position given that she has run an organization dominated by women in the recent past.  However, I would pump the brakes before I went so far as to say that this selection is a shortcut to success for Time’s Up.  Consider:

  • Ms. Borders has been with the WNBA as its President for 3 years.  Is it fair to say that the WNBA has not exploded onto the sports scene during her time at the tiller?
  • The WNBA has been in existence for more than 20 years and it is just now beginning to achieve “niche-sports” status.  Is it fair to ask someone to point to two accomplishments identified with Ms. Borders that have put the WNBA on a better footing than it had before her?

Since I would choose to align myself with the goals and objectives of Time’s Up, I hope that this hiring decision bears fruit down the road.  As of now, there has been no indication as to who might replace Ms. Borders at the WNBA.  However, we should know that the WNBA is headed for some dicey negotiations whenever the next CBA is on the table.

  • The maximum salary in the WNBA is $115K.  Minimum salary for a rookie in the NBA is $823K.  That means if a WNBA team started 5 players all making the league maximum, that starting-five would earn less than the rookie NBA players sitting at the end of the bench.  That should be an interesting point of discussion…
  • Recalling that WNBA maximum salary of $115K, the entry level pay for an NBA official is $150K.  As the saying goes, no one buys a ticket or tunes into a game to see the officials.  Draw your own conclusions here.

Obviously, the NBA pays more because it takes in much more revenue.  I do not have the latest figures, but the last time I checked the figures the WNBA revenues were about 1% of the NBA revenues.  But the difference in revenue generation is only the starting point for the wide discrepancy here.  If I read the NBA CBA and the WNBA CBA correctly, the NBA funnels about 50% of the revenue to the players in the form of salaries/benefits while the WNBA allocates about 30% of its revenue to that end.  Whoever takes the WNBA job is going to find some headwinds when it comes to getting a new agreement.

The current CBA will expire in 2021, but the players association can opt out of the agreement this year with the aim of getting a new deal before this one expires.  Looking at that landscape, I think Lisa Borders made a very savvy career move with her decision to change jobs…

Pardon me, but I need to vent here.  We are only about a third of the way through the football season and I have reached my limit on something that TV announcers say far too often.  There is no such thing as a “very unique” offense or defense; in fact, nothing in the universe is “very unique”.  Everything and anything are either “unique”, or they are “not unique”.  There are no gradations there.

  • Memo to TV announcers:  Please replace “very unique” in your vocabulary with something that makes sense such as “highly unusual” or “very different”.

Finally, here is a WNBA related comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Seattle throws a championship parade Sunday to celebrate the Storm’s third WNBA title. It also is the third for star Sue Bird, now established as the second-best Bird ever to play basketball.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…….

 

 

No Fantasy Football Here …

I do not like fantasy football.  I do not play fantasy football – – or fantasy “anything else”.  I tried it once in an NFL fantasy league and lost interest in about the 4th week of the season to the point where I never changed my starting lineup from that point on.  In one week of the season, I “started” four players who were out of action for the week.  Somehow, I did not lose every game of the season and wound up something like 2-12.  I bring this up because I want to point you to a column by Brad Dickson about fantasy football that I really think you should read in its entirety.

Brad Dickson is a humor writer; so, this is not a “serious” exposition on fantasy football.  Nonetheless, I think there are several important issues that he addresses there.  Just to whet your appetite, here are two short paragraphs from that column:

“It hasn’t been easy to resist the siren call of fantasy football. Indeed in 2018 playing fantasy sports has become America’s new pastime, having supplanted the erstwhile, laudable pursuits of Fidget-spinning, dabbing and searching for Pokemon.”

And …

“There’s no doubt that fantasy football, which has grown into a full-fledged pandemic in America, makes you do crazy, off-the-rails stuff. My buddy Vic once sneaked a look at his cellphone during the eulogy at his grandpa’s wake to see how many yards Matt Schaub had passed for during a first half. (He justifies this by asserting it was ‘during a lull’ in the eulogy.)”

With the season-ending injury to Jay Ajayi, there had been an increased focus on the potential for the Eagles to trade for LeVeon Bell – – who has pretty much made it clear that he will not be signing with the Steelers next year.  Forget all of the questions about if Bell is in “football shape” and how he might fit in within an Eagles’ locker room that has stars but not divas.  Focus solely on this question:

  • If the Eagles cannot sign him to a contract as part of the trade process, is it worth it to them to “rent him” for a few months?

My answer to that question is a resounding, “NO!”  If I trade to acquire Bell and I am the Eagles’ GM, I do not want to be part of the focus of a ton of drama once the offseason starts.  So, if I am the GM of the Eagles – which I am not nor am I connected to that position in any way whatsoever – here are the parameters of my deal:

  • I believe the Eagles have 2 second-round picks in next year’s draft.  I would offer one of those to the Steelers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.  That’s it; that’s all you will get from me for Bell.  If they come back with a “counter-offer” that sweetens the deal, I would reduce my offer to one third-round pick.
  • AND I would demand the right to negotiate with Bell’s agent for a contract extension beyond the end of the 2018 season.  If Bell signs on, the trade goes through; if not, the Steelers still have a disgruntled RB who may show up in another 4 weeks – – or not.

Here is my offer to LeVeon Bell’s agent:

  • Three-year contract … total value of contract is $48M … incentives could increase the value by up to $5M … total guaranteed money is less than $28M.

Again, my offer to Bells’ agent is take-it-or-leave-it; the last thing I would need in the middle of a season is haggling over details.  Granted that Bell is the best running back option out there – – but he also brings more baggage with him than any other guy I might sign off the street to include:

  • Two substance abuse suspensions
  • An injury history
  • Currently evident diva tendencies

And now it should be patently evident why I do not have the temperament or the résumé ever to be considered for the post of GM for an NFL team.

In the aftermath of the melee/brawl that ensued at UFC 229 in Las Vegas over the weekend, humor-writer, Brad Dickson, had this observation on Twitter:

“I watched my first ever UFC match Saturday night & I have tons of questions. For starters, when the winner spits on his vanquished opponent & jumps out of the Octagon to attack the opponent’s manager, how many points is that worth?”

Recall that I said earlier this week that UFC and professional wrestling were converging in terms of the promotional and “storytelling” aspects of the two enterprises.  Brad Dickson’s comment goes to the question of what a first-time viewer of this sport is supposed to make of the after-fight activities.  I do not have a good answer for him other than to say that all of this will be part of a humongous build-up to the rematch that will happen – – and then maybe a third match to be the “rubber match” …

It is time for a Quick Quiz …  Put away all your notes and put all your cell phones out of reach.  There is to be no Googling …

  • There are 3 metro areas who have a pair of NFL franchises attached to them.  The LA region is well served.  The Rams are excellent, and the Chargers are at worst, “above average”.  Take the LA metro area out of the discussion here.
  • The other 2 metro areas with 2 NFL teams located there exist in a bleak landscape.  The Giants and the Jets are both sub-standard teams in the NYC market; the Niners and the Raiders are both sub-standard teams in the Bay Area market.  [I am being polite here; those four teams – Giants, Jets, Niners and Raiders – may not win a total of 25 games this season.]
  • So … which metro region served by 2 NFL teams has the worse prognosis looking forward?  The NYC area or the Bay Area?
  • 100 words or less…

Finally, since I have cribbed from Brad Dickson for much of the content above, let me close with another of his observations about the stadium environment at the University of Wisconsin for a college football game:

“Then there are University of Wisconsin home football games at night which strongly resemble Turkish prison riots if the inmates paused to do the Wave and ‘jump around’.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

More Than I Wanted …

Yesterday, I did not pay heed to the adage:

  • “Be careful what you wish for lest it come true.”

I mentioned that the Yankees/Red Sox game and Monday Night Football would be on at the same time, so I wished that one of the games would turn out to be a blowout so I could focus on the other one.  Well, both of them were blowouts.  There was about as much drama in those two games as there was joy in Mudville back in the day.

CBS Sports had a report yesterday about the ongoing trial of Adidas execs for wire fraud regarding college basketball recruiting.  Here is an important paragraph buried in the middle of that report:’

” ‘We are closely monitoring the trial of three individuals charged with corruption in college basketball,’ the NCAA said in a statement Friday to The Washington Post. ‘If information relevant to potential NCAA violations is uncovered, we will continue to follow-up and investigate all the facts’.”

Why is that important?  Isn’t that what you would expect the NCAA to say?  Indeed it is, and it also demonstrates that the NCAA will – yet again – have to rely on outside efforts to bring to light “information relevant to potential NCAA violations”.  It is an organization that is not capable of monitoring and enforcing its own rules.  Is it any wonder why there might be programs that decide it is OK to act outside the boundaries of those rules?

USA Today did a poll to determine the salaries of college football head coaches in Division 1-A.  There are 129 schools that play football at that level and the poll found that the average salary for head coaches is $2.4M per year.  Doing just a tad of math here, that means head coaches – not all coaches on all staffs at those 129 schools – make a total of $309.6M.  Given that the NCAA and all its member institutions are tax-exempt entities that operate not for profit, that seems like a hefty financial burden, no?

Other information from the USA Today poll that I found interesting:

  • There are 44 head coaches in the country that make $3M per year or more.
  • There are 13 head coaches in the country that make $5M per year or more.

Staying with college football for a moment, Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“Musical chairs: Clemson’s Kelly Bryant is bailing on the Tigers now, while Alabama backup quarterback Jalen Hurts is expected to change campuses after the season. Both have been dislodged by younger, better passers. Can’t blame them, though, for wondering why they were benched. As starters, their teams were a combined 42-4.”

The NFL has always been about “what have you done for me lately”; that attitude has trickled down to Division 1-A college football now…

As of this morning there are 11 undefeated college football teams in the country.  It is tempting to try to conjure up scenarios whereby all of them end the season undefeated so that the College Football Playoff Committee would have to squirm as they made their announcements of the CFP seedings.  Problem is that it will not happen because it cannot happen.

  • Alabama and Georgia are in the same conference.  One of them must lose a game.
  • Clemson and NC State are in the same conference.
  • Cincy, UCF and USF are all in the same conference.  Two of those teams must lose a game.

Looking at the other unbeaten teams:

  • W. Virginia still must play Texas, TCU and Oklahoma
  • Ohio St. still must play Michigan St. and Michigan
  • Colorado still must play USC, Washington and Utah
  • Notre Dame still must play Florida St., Syracuse and USC.

A reader asked me via e-mail if Notre Dame were to finish the season undefeated and not make it to the CFP, would that be the impetus for Notre Dame to join the ACC in football.  Actually, here is what I think would happen if an undefeated Notre Dame team were left out of the CFP:

  • That would provide the impetus for expanding the CFP to 8 teams.

As is customary here in Curmudgeon Central, one never looks at the undefeated teams in a vacuum; the ethos here is to search out the winless teams too.  If I have counted correctly, there are 4 of them:

  1. Nebraska
  2. San Jose St.
  3. UCLA
  4. UTEP

Nebraska and UCLA are recognizable programs with a history.  Both have new coaches this year.  Nebraska has Bethune-Cookman on its schedule along with visits to Minnesota and Illinois.  There should be a win in that mix, right?  UCLA’s schedule does not have any games that look like layup victories.

[Aside:  The Cards win over the Niners on Sunday assures that no team in the NFL will be winless in 2018.]

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times found an intersection of sports and business with this observation:

“J.C. Penney’s portfolio for the past four years boasts a profit in just two quarters.

“In a related story, J.C. Penney has just been named the official retail store of the Cleveland Browns.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Professional Rassling In A Different Form

Over the weekend, there was a big pay-per-view MMA fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.  Khabib won the fight but that seems ever so unimportant this morning given two other events that occurred:

  1. Several months ago, McGregor and some of his attendants attacked a bus carrying Khabib and some of his attendants.  They threw object through the windows of the bus and there were some minor injuries.  McGregor was charged in the incident and plead no contest to a minor charge and did community service.
  2. After the fight on this weekend, Khabib climbed out of the ring and attacked one of McGregor’s coaches and several of Khabib’s attendants rushed the ring and attacked McGregor.  It was a melee.

I mention this as prelude to repeat something that I have said about MMA events and UFC and all of those other alphabet-soup fighting enterprises:

  • These entities are, at their core, professional wrestling where the blood is real and the punches actually land.  The outcomes are not pre-determined, but every outcome is exploited to hype the next fight.  Fighters – just like rasslers – are always involved in feuds and revenge and the like.

Today’s Washington Post has a story on the front of the Sports Section with this headline:

Post-match melee has UFC world still reeling

I cannot recall any other time when UFC got such a prominent placement in the Post; I will not be surprised when the “retribution” for Khabib’s post-match attack draws more attention to this matter.  Nor will I be surprised when UFC exploits it to promote the rematch.

The MLB playoffs roll on.  The Brewers swept their first round series shutting out the Rockies twice along the way.  The Astros hold a 2-0 lead over the Indians who will try to avoid elimination this afternoon in Cleveland.  The Dodgers had shut out the Braves twice in LA, but the Braves came back to win the first game in Atlanta last night by a score of 6-5.  The Red Sox and Yankees are tied at 1 game apiece with the series going to NYC this evening.  I will be rooting for a blowout game in either the Sox/Yankees contest or in the Monday Night Football game so that I do not wear out the batteries in my TV remote.

Last week, Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot summed up the baseball situation in Baltimore very succinctly:

“Idle thought: Was Orioles manager Buck Showalter fired? Or was he granted clemency?”

People who create rankings MLB teams in terms of the strength of the farm system all seem to say that the Orioles’ set of prospects is sub-standard.  Some have attributed that to a supposed edict from owner Peter Angelos to minimize spending on players from Latin America in general and the Dominican Republic specifically.  I have no idea if such an edict exists or when it may have been announced if in fact it does exist.  What seems to be a consensus among the “prospect raters” is that the Orioles are in deep yogurt.

That might not be so bad if the major league roster were a juggernaut.  News flash here; it is not.  The O’s lost 115 games this year; they do not hit well; their pitching is awful and good defense is not their forte.  It may be a while before the Orioles are relevant again and Buck Showalter is in his 60s.  It would not be difficult for you to convince me that he would not be overjoyed with the prospect of rebuilding a roster from scratch when the talent pool in the minor leagues is not very deep.

Looking at the Orioles’ situation, I wonder who would relish the job of manager – – or GM for that matter – – at this time.  Peter Angelos is getting up there in years and just may have lost a lot off his fastball; neither of his sons has had much experience in running the baseball side of the team and there appears to be little delegation of authority on that front.  The Orioles are a bad team today and could well be a bad team for more than a couple more years.  Managing a team that loses 100+ games or being the GM who assembles the roster for a team that loses 100+ games is not a way to build a baseball résumé.

Perhaps the only open job in baseball that might be as bad as the opening in Baltimore would be the GM for the Mets.  The problem there is simple:

  • The GM cannot make any deals without the specific approval of the Wilpons in the owners’ suite.
  • The GM will be [presumably] a baseball guy.  The Wilpons are not.

Good luck with that…

The MLB free-agency meat market will get rolling as soon as the World Series is over.  This is a bountiful crop of free agents led by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado who are in their mid-20s and are among the best players in the game.  Often, the big-name free agents are over 30 and are looking for long-term deals even though their prime production years are behind them.  GMs and owners will have to decide how much money they are willing to throw at these folks.  Here are a couple of guidelines I would use:

  1. If I were a GM and were going to be tempted to offer up $350 – 400M to a free agent this year, I would offer it to Manny Machado before I offered it to Bryce Harper.
  2. I would not give a long-term contract (anything longer than 3 years) to Clayton Kershaw if he opts out of his contract with the Dodgers.  Kershaw is a great pitcher, but he also has had 3 consecutive seasons that have been interrupted by “arm problems”.
  3. The same goes for David Price if he opts out of his Red Sox contract.  Price is not as effective as Kershaw, but he too has had “arm problems” in recent years.
  4. Dallas Keuchel is an interesting situation.  He is 30 years old; he has been with the Astros for 7 years – his entire MLB career; he was an Astro when the team was in the NL.  I worry about pitchers in their 30s but somehow when I watch him pitch, I don’t see a guy who has been around long enough to throw almost 1200 innings of MLB.  I do not know what I would offer him as a contract…

Finally, here is some solid career advice from humor-writer, Brad Dickson:

“If both your Twitter and Facebook profiles show you flipping off the camera, try to apply for jobs with companies that don’t check applicants’ social media.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………