I am going to hop around from item to item today in an effort to clear some stuff off my clipboard. I will begin with something pointed out to me by a friend and a long-term reader of these rants. One may point one’s Internet browser to walmart.com and order a casket. Oh, but it would not be just any ordinary run-of-the-mill casket. You can order one tricked out with the logo of the deceased’s favorite MLB team; if you follow this link, you will see the casket that might be the final resting place of a NY Yankees’ fan.
If you spend just a moment gazing at that page, you will see that Walmart will also ship other sorts of themed caskets and even cremation urns. I have never shopped for caskets or urns but I have to say that until the moment I saw what is on the end of that link above, I never would have thought of Walmart as a potential purveyor. I am not shocked to learn that MLB would license its logo and its teams’ logos to a casket manufacturer; after all, that is the last opportunity they will have to generate any revenue from the fan who will inhabit the product.
Since the subject of the moment is baseball, let me turn to another baseball item on my clipboard. The Toronto Blue Jays and third baseman, Josh Donaldson, are headed to arbitration as of this morning. Understand, in the world of baseball arbitration, the arbitrator cannot “split the difference”; he/she must pick one of the two numbers on the table. Often – actually I would say usually – the “team offer” and the “player asking price” are pretty far apart and the degree of separation of the two figures tends to drive the sides to an 11th hour settlement at a middle ground figure because each side recognizes that they have a lot to lose in the arbitration hearing.
Not so much in Josh Donaldson’s case. If reports are accurate, the Blue Jays have offered Donaldson a one-year deal worth $11.35M. Last year, Donaldson made just over $3M so this is a hefty raise after an outstanding season. Donaldson’s asking price is $11.8M; the difference between the two numbers is “only” $450K. I say “only” because I would love to see that amount of money show up tomorrow in my checking account; it is not a trivial amount for us ordinary folk. Nonetheless, from the Blue Jays perspective, the difference here is less than 4% more than what they offered in the first place.
The arbitration process is adversarial. The team puts itself in the position of explaining to the arbitrator why the player is not worth as much as he is asking. It is hard to imagine how that sort of proceeding leads to extended goodwill between the player and the team – and after all, the contract in question is only a one-year deal. I wish I understood what the dynamic was here that prevents either side from agreeing to a “split-the-difference” agreement at $11.575M.
I was watching the NFL Conference Championship Games this weekend with some neighbors and one asked me if I thought RG3 would be signed by another NFL team. I said I was sure he would get a shot somewhere but I did not know where. My neighbor said that it was a shame how much the Skins gave up to draft RG3 because it hurt the team. Well, that is what happens when you make a trade; usually one side of the trade makes out much better than the other side and it is often difficult to make that assessment at the time the deal is under negotiation. However, that comment got me thinking about the draft in 2012 – the year RG3 entered the NFL. At the top of that draft, there were some hits and some big misses:
#1 Andrew Luck: He will be very good for a long time.
#2 RG3: He had one really good year and then nothing more.
#3 Trent Richardson: He was awful; his next stop might be the Arena League.
#4 Matt Kalil: Very good offensive lineman
#5 Justin Blackmon: Two drug suspensions, now under indefinite suspension.
#6 Morris Claiborne: Underwhelming for a pick this high
#7 Mark Barron: Traded for a 4th round and a 6th round pick.
#8 Ryan Tannehill: Jury is still out.
#9 Luke Kuechly: A certified star
#10 Stephon Gilmore: Solid CB for the Bills.
Just in case you needed a reminder that the NFL Draft – or the draft in any other professional sport for that matter – is an art and not a science, just look at the career arcs for what teams thought were the ten most valuable players in the draft in that year.
Here is an item from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Hoops du jour: You’re probably on to something if you get the sense that there aren’t any really good men’s college basketball teams this season. Even the highly ranked ones are having trouble winning on the road. Now that the secret is getting out, I fully expect the game’s mouthpieces to peddle the line about ‘parity,’ the time-honored euphemism to explain mediocrity.”
I agree that there are no great teams out there this year; I would not ascribe the situation to “parity”; I would prefer to think that no coach was able to recruit and retain a roster that is good enough to dominate its opponents. Maybe the incoming freshman class this year is not a great crop of players; that happens from time to time. The reason(s) for the lack of a great team remain a mystery to me.
The question in my mind is what this lack of dominant teams does to the upcoming men’s basketball tournament. There are probably a dozen teams who might actually put together a six-game winning streak and win it all. That is far more than one might anticipate in a more typical college basketball season. Does the increase in serious contenders make the tournament more interesting/exciting than usual or not?
My preference is for there to be a few dominant teams separated geographically to the extent that they never play one another until they meet in the tournament. In those situations, I like to follow the progress of those teams throughout the final weeks of February and in early March to try to figure out which one might prevail if they play each other in the tournament. I doubt that sort of situation will obtain this year and so I will have to “spread my interest” over a wider field of candidates this year. It is not my preference, but I am sure it will turn out to be entertaining.
Finally, in this year’s Super Bowl game, the Panthers’ coach will be Ron Rivera; he got the job when he was hired to replace John Fox in Carolina. The Broncos’ coach will be Gary Kubiak; he got the job when he was hired to replace John Fox in Denver. John Fox is now the coach of the Chicago Bears. Might a coaching change there be the Bears’ path to a Super Bowl?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………