With two weeks of XFL 2.0 games in the books, I have seven brief observations to make about the league:
- I like the pace of the games with the 25-second play clock; the games are good for television.
- I do not like the fact that the XFL has doubled the number of sideline reporters doing the games; sideline reporters are as useful as a trombone player in a duck blind.
- A big plus for XFL 2.0 is the absence of any cheerleaders. They add about as much to a telecast as do the sideline reporters.
- Putting a mic on the QB is interesting; letting viewers hear some of the offensive and defensive play calls is also interesting – – but overdone.
- Only two teams (DC and Houston) have competent QBs. Next time you think your favorite NFL team is overpaying its backup QB, remember that these XFL QBs are the next best available.
- Tackling is very poor in the XFL; my guess is that more than a handful of these guys got released by NFL teams because they cannot tackle effectively.
- There is a broadcasting difference between “dead air” (very bad) and “announcers’ silence to let the scene speak for itself” (usually very good). The announcers on XFL games need to shut up every once in a very long while.
The Astros’ sign-stealing business simply will not go away. The latest plot twist involves players and commentators opining that the lack of punishments for Astros’ players who participated in the cheating is insufficient sanction. Commissioner Rob Manfred is made out to be the bad guy there.
It is not typical for me to praise sports commissioners (or the NCAA for that matter) when it comes to policing their sport; but in this case, Rob Manfred was between a rock and a hard place.
- Faced with allegations of cheating he could not ignore, he had to determine what happened and who was involved before he could hand out punishments.
- Lacking subpoena power to compel testimony under oath, he could offer immunity in exchange for amnesty or he could try to break down the baseball code of omerta. That leads to the current situation which is …
- Having chosen the immunity option, which is what has given all the current critics most of the information they have on which they base their criticisms, he absolutely cannot pull a bait-and-switch and renege on his immunity pledge.
By the way, as obvious as it is that the Astros were cheating in their video enterprise(s), I cannot find any rule in the MLB Rule Book that specifically says what they were doing was against the rules in 2017. That does not exonerate the Astros; that does point to a loophole in the rules.
It should come as no surprise that do-gooders found an opportunity here to engage in virtue signaling related to the Astros’ stiuation. There is a report that two Little League teams in California will not use the Astros team name or team logo starting this season. Two reactions:
- I am not the least bit surprised that this noble gesture took place in California.
- That level of opprobrium heaped on the Astros’ team will surely cause them to see the improprieties of their ways and to repent.
On a much more positive MLB note, lots of players get invitations to Spring Training as “non-roster invitees”. Most of these folks do not make a major league roster and then must decide if they want to be a minor league player of if it is time to move on to another phase of their life. However, last year the Mets invited Pete Alonso to Spring Training as a “non-roster invitee” and all he did was to hit 53 HR and win the Rookie of the Year award. So, I took a glance at some of the “non-roster invitees” for this year. It is a mixed bag…
- Braves – – Felix Hernandez – – Yes, THAT Felix Hernandez. Are there any innings left in that arm?
- Brewers – – Shelby Miller – – He has had injury plagued seasons for the last 3 years and his record over the last 5 years is an underwhelming 12-38.
- Cubs – – Brandon Morrow – – He did not pitch last year; he will be 36 years old in July. He was effective in relief from 2016-2018.
- Mets – – Tim Tebow – – He won’t make the regular season roster, but he is worth a ton of publicity as long as he is with the Mets’ organization.
- Phillies – – Mickey Moniak – – He was the overall #1 pick in the MLB draft in 2016 and is currently only 21 years old.
- Rangers – – Sam Huff – – No, not THAT Sam Huff; that Sam Huff is 85 years old these days…
- Rockies – – Ubaldo Jimenez – – He is 36 years old; he last pitched in 2017; the last season where he pitched to an ERA less than 4.00 was in 2013.
Finally, Antonio Brown is about the business of apologizing to anyone and everyone about his “off-center” behavior(s) over the past couple of years as a means of getting another shot at playing in the NFL. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel linked Brown’s “apologia” to the other burning story of the day:
“I’m not saying Antonio Brown is going overboard with apologies, but I think he just said, ‘I’m sorry,’ for the Houston Astros stealing signs.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………