The Wayback Machine Is Set For April 2018…

The NFL’s Exhibition Season begins this weekend and for most of the players selected in April’s NFL Draft, this will be their first “live action” in an NFL uniform.  Fanboys around the country will be watching these rookies closely and projecting future greatness on each and every one of them.  That is why fanboys do not make good coaches of GMs in the NFL.

The reality is that about 250 players were selected in the Draft about 3 months ago and about half of them will never see the field in an official NFL game.  In fact, there will be players taken in the first round of this year’s Draft who will prove to be “less than was expected” even though first round picks get more intense scrutiny from scouts and coaches than others.

The 2022 season will be the 5th season in the league for players taken in the 2018 Draft.  For players taken in the first round, the standard contract for draftees at that level would mean that the team that drafted them would have exercised the team option for the player to be on the squad this year.  So, let us look at the players taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft – – in the order they were taken – – and see what happened to those good folks.

  • Baker Mayfield – – He had an up and down relationship with the Browns that ended less than harmoniously.  Mayfield is now in Carolina competing for the starting job there.  Mayfield is certainly not a bust, but the Browns got little value from the overall #1 pick here
  • Saquon Barkley – – He was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 but was injured and missed most of the 2020 season.  Last year his numbers were down from what they were prior to the injury.  As with Mayfield above, Barkley is not a bust – – but he has not been a value pick either.
  • Sam Darnold – – The Jets took him and gave up on him.  Darnold is now in Carolina competing with Baker Mayfield for the starting job there.  In 4 seasons, Darnold’s completion percentage is below 60%.  Personally, I keep waiting for Darnold to ‘break out”; maybe I am waiting for Godot?
  • Denzel Ward – – The Browns got a better return with the 4th pick than they did with the 1st pick.  Ward has been in the league 4 years and has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice; he is a mainstay of the defense.  Excellent pick…
  • Bradley Chubb – – He has been injured in two of the four seasons he has been with the Broncos.  In his two “healthy years” he recorded 12 sacks as a rookie and 7.5 sacks in 2020.  He is a good player when he avoids the injury bug.  Good pick…
  • Quenton Nelson – – Offensive guards do not get much “celebrity attention”; so, you may be surprised to see that Nelson has been selected to the Pro Bowl in all four of his seasons with the Colts and he has been a first team All-Pro 3 times and a second team All-Pro 1 time.  The Colts got an excellent value with this pick.
  •  Josh Allen – – No need to comment here.  Josh Allen is an excellent NFL QB.
  • Roquan Smith – – As a linebacker for the Bears, he has averaged 3.5 sacks per year and 131 tackles per year.  He has been named as a second team All-Pro twice.  The problem here is that contract talks have not enhanced the player/team relationship and Smith has now requested a trade.  Excellent pick – – but lousy aftermath…
  • Mike McGlinchey – – Has started every game at OTwhen he has been healthy.  Missed half of last season with injuries.  Good pick…
  • Josh Rosen – –  He lasted 1 year in Arizona then was sent to Miami and then to Atlanta.  This year he is with the Browns hoping to be an understudy there.  That is not what was envisioned by the Cardinals when they took him 10th in this Draft.  Clearly, this is the worst pick so far on this list by a mile…
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick – – He was taken by the Dolphins in this Draft and then traded to the Steelers in 2019.  He has been selected for the Pro Bowl twice and was named first team All-Pro twice.  An excellent pick and I am still not sure why the Dolphins decided to trade him…
  • Vita Vea – – He missed most of the 2020 season with an injury but in his other three years he has been an excellent run-stopper in the middle of the Bucs’ defense and has recorded a total of 11.5 sacks from that position.  He was selected to the Pro Bowl last year.  Excellent pick…
  • Daron Payne – – A solid performer at DT he has recorded a total of 14.5 sacks for the Skins/WTFs/Commanders over 4 seasons.  He was hoping for a contract extension this year but that has not happened yet.  Good pick
  • Marcus Davenport – – As a pass-rusher he has averaged 5.25 sacks per year but as a defensive end he has only recorded an average of 28 combined tackles per year.  Meh!
  • Kolton Miller – – He has started 63 games out of 65 possible games on the OL for the Raiders in the last 4 seasons.  He has no awards to his credit, but he has been a reliable offensive tackle from day one.  Good pick…
  • Tremaine Edmunds – – He plays inside linebacker and still has recorded 4 INTs in his career; also, he averages 116 combined tackles per season.  He has been to the Pro Bowl twice in four years.  Excellent pick…
  • Derwin James – – He missed most of the 2019 season and all the 2020 season.  He has been to the Pro Bowl twice and was a first team All-Pro once.  He just needs to stay healthy…
  • Jaire Alexander – – He missed most of the 2021 season with an injury but was available for most of his first three seasons.  He was named to the Pro Bowl and was as a second team All-Pro in 2020.  Good pick …
  • Leighton Vander Esch – – He has missed 13 games in his career due to injuries.  He was selected for the Pro Bowl and as a second team All-Pro in his rookie year.  Good pick…
  • Frank Ragnow – – Offensive lineman are often the most overlooked players on a team; offensive linemen for a team as bad as the Lions are in the NFL’s version of the Witness Protection Program.  He missed most of last season with injuries but was named to the Pro Bowl and as a second team All-Pro in 2020.  Excellent pick…
  • Billy Price – – He played his first three seasons with the Bengals and then was traded to the Giants where he appeared in 15 games last  year.  Meh!
  • Rashaan Evans – – From the inside-linebacker position, he has recorded 3 sacks in 4 seasons and only averaged 79 combined tackles per season.  Meh!
  • Isaiah Wynn – – He missed all his rookie year; he has only been in 34 of a possible 65 games for the pats since the Draft.  Meh.
  • DJ Moore – – He has played in 63 of the 65 regular season games for the Panthers since they took him in this Draft. His numbers are OK but nothing stands out.  Meh!
  • Hayden Hurst – – He played two seasons with the Ravens who then traded him to the Falcons where he played the next two seasons.  The Falcons did not exercise his fifth-year option, so he was a free agent in the last offseason; he signed a 1-year contract with the Bengals in the Spring and is competing for a job there.  Meh!
  • Calvin Ridley – – His first two seasons with the Falcons were good-not-great but he had a very good year in 2020 being named second team All-Pro.  Last year he was injured and only saw the field in 5 games; and while he was injured, he placed at least one bet on the Falcons in a legal sportsbook and that has him indefinitely suspended by the NFL with that suspension extending to all the 2022 season at a minimum.  Ouch!
  • Rashaad Penny – – He has only carried the ball 280 times in 4 seasons with the Seahawks, so you cannot say he has been a mainstay of their offense.  Last year, he led the NFL in yards per carry by a running back averaging 6.3 yards per carry.  Meh!
  • Terrell Edmunds – – He has missed only 1 game in 4 years with the Steelers.  Meh!
  • Taven Bryan – – He appeared in 63 games for the Jaguars registering 5.5 sacks as a defensive tackle but only 86 combined tackles in those 63 games.  The Jaguars did not exercise their fifth-year option, so he was a free agent in the last offseason.  He signed a 1-year contract with the Browns and is competing for a job there.  Meh!
  • Mike Hughes – – He had 3 ordinary seasons with the Vikings who traded him to the Chiefs for a 6th round pick in for the 2021 season.  As a free agent last winter, he signed a 1-year contract with the Lions and is competing for a job there.  Meh!
  • Sony Michel – – His first three seasons with the Pats had injury issues and he was traded to the Rams for the 2021 season.  The fifth-year option was not exercised making him a free agent after the 2021 season and he signed a 1-year deal with the Dolphins.  Meh!
  • Lamar Jackson – – In his 4 years with the Ravens, he has been named to the Pro Bowl twice; he was the MVP of the league in 2019 and was also named as a first team All Pro that year.  Obviously, the Ravens exercised their fifth-year option and Jackson is scheduled to make $23M this season and is in negotiations with the Ravens for a long-term contract.  Excellent pick.

So as a message to all the fanboys who will be salivating over the real and imagined skill sets on display this weekend by rookies and draft picks, they don’t all live up to expectations.  Having said that, I know for sure that my advice here will fall mainly on deaf ears.

Finally, since I just mentioned “advice”, let me close with the definition of advice from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Advice:  the only thing in the world more unwelcome than a baby in a movie theater.”

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

 

 

The Greatest Living Baseball Player

I ran across a reference to the fact that Joe DiMaggio used to be introduced at Yankees’ Old-Timer games/events as the “greatest living baseball player.”  And that got me to thinking about who would be anointed as such in 2022.  Obviously, I began my search by going to the Hal of Fame website and looking at the members there; fortunately, they have a listing of the living Hall of Fame members.  There are 75 living members of the baseball Hall of Fame, and they are not listed alphabetically; in fact, if there is an order to the listing, it is not obvious to me.

However, the first player on the listing there is Willie Mays.  So, I went through the listing simply asking myself, is this guy better than Willie Mays or not.  The answer was “No” for the 74 other member of the hall of Fame who are still alive.

So, then I had to think about the best player who is not  yet in the Hall of Fame with the idea of comparing him to Willie Mays.  Quickly, I adopted three sorting rules for my search:

  1. I was not going to include any pitchers on my list.  I told myself that maybe I would try sometime in the future to identify the “greatest living baseball pitcher” but not today.
  2. Points would be deducted if a significant part of a player’s accomplishments were the result of him being a Designated Hitter.  I think the “greatest living baseball player” also had to demonstrate fielding and baserunning skills.
  3. I was not going to consider young players who are still in the prime of their career because this sorting will be hard enough without rosy projections of possible future accomplishments.  So, there is an unfilled list of players as “Not Yet” including folks such as Bryce Harper, Fernando Tatis, Jr., Ronald Acuna, Jr. – – you get the idea.

So, I began making a list because I was not able to keep all of this in my mind without notes and save for alphabetizing, here is my list along with  some notes:

  • Barry Bonds – – Nope, chemical enhancement
  • Miguel Cabrera – – Sure to be in the Hall but not greatest player
  • Albert Pujols – – Strong candidate
  • A-Rod – – No
  • Pete Rose – – Great baseball player; miserable human being
  • Mike Trout – – Very good at everything

Fortunately, I did not have to worry about any rank ordering of that list for a very simple reason.  No one on that list is comparable with Willie Mays as an all-around baseball player.  So, my conclusion is that as of August 10, 2022, Willie Mays is the “greatest living baseball player.”

The reason I included today’s date in the paragraph above is that Willie Mays is also the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame; Willie Mays celebrated his 91st birthday back in May.  And that got me to thinking about current living members of the Hall of Fame who might inherit Mays’ status down the line.  Again, save for alphabetizing, here is my list of candidates with notes:

  • Rod Carew – – Career batting average of .328.  In MLB for 19 seasons and was an All-Star in 18 of those seasons.
  • Orlando Cepeda – – Did everything well except baserunning. Overshadowed by teammate Willie Mays early in his career.
  • Ken Griffey, Jr. – – Excelled at every phase of the game
  • Reggie Jackson – – Great player with one ignominious stat.  He struck out 2597 times in 21 seasons; no player ever struck out more times.
  • Mike Schmidt – – Best third baseman ever notwithstanding Orioles’ fans thinking Brooks Robinson was better.
  • Frank Thomas – – Had a 19-year career with career batting average of .301 and career OPS of .974.
  • Yaz – – Was an All-Star 18 times in a 23-year career.

Choosing from that list is not easy; if there were an “Elite Members Only Wing” of the Baseball Hall of Fame, all these folks would have keys to the amenities in that wing.  If I had to pick one player from the list, it would be Ken Griffey Jr. because he was great in the field, on the bases and at the plate.

Obviously, I do not expect unanimous agreement here.  As they used to say in the car commercials, “Your mileage may vary…”

Up above, I said that I was not going to include young players in my thinking for “greatest living baseball player” but as I was ruminating, I did keep a separate list of “Current active players who should make it to the Hall of Fame”.  Just for giggles, here is my list:

  • Acuna, Jr. – – only needs to stay healthy
  • Altuve – – forget the sign-stealing business, he is a great player
  • Arenado – – good at the plate and excellent in the field
  • Betts – – ???
  • Cabrera – – Shoo-in
  • Guerrero, Jr. – – can join his father in the hall…
  • Harper – – must avoid injuries
  • Machado – – Shoo-in
  • Molina – – ??? longevity as a catcher is a plus
  • Pujols – – Shoo-in
  • Soto – – ???
  • Tatis, Jr. – – ???
  • Trout – – Shoo-in
  • Votto – – great player on some awful teams

Finally, let me close today with this description of the movie, Star Wars taken from The Illustrated Dictionary of Snark:

Star Wars:  Let’s see; A woman with two sticky buns on her head, a shag carpet, a vacuum cleaner, and a gay robot save the universe.  Could happen.”

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

 

 

Futbol And Football today…

When it comes to hosting the FIFA World Cup, a current trend seems to be for neighboring countries to submit joint bids for the tournament.  In 2026, the US along with Canada and Mexico will be the joint hosts; several other country pairings appear to be interested bidders for the 2030 Tournament.  FIFA is beginning to explore options for 2030 and here is the state of play for now:

  • Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay will submit a joint bid.
  • Spain and Portugal have already submitted a joint “Iberian bid”.
  • Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Serbia are in talks to put together a joint bid.
  • Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are considering a joint bid.
  • Cameroon is exploring potential partners for a joint “Sub-Saharan bid”.
  • England, China and Egypt are all considering “lone wolf” bids to be the 2030 host.

Joint bids make sense for smaller countries with smaller economies.  Just about every country has a futbol pitch or two that is “satisfactory for FIFA World Cup play” but few would have enough venues to host a World Cup tournament without lots of construction.  When Brazil hosted in 2016, it had to build lots of facilities, and they are now giant white elephants in a country with plenty of poverty and marginal housing.  Joint hosting could allow these smaller countries to bring pieces of the tournament home to its fans without spending a ton of money on things that might not be at the top of the spending priority list for that smaller country.

Hosting the 2030 games will probably be a plum for the country that is selected because it will be the 100-year anniversary of the World Cup Tournament.  The first one back in 1930 was held in Uruguay which might give that Latin American consortium a small leg up in the approval process.  Back then, only 13 teams entered the tournament; Uruguay was the first World Cup champion when it defeated neighboring Argentina in the 1930 final game.

For the 2030 tournament, the field will consist of 48 teams meaning that the idea of trying to shoehorn that many games into a small set of venues becomes impractical.  England and China probably have the facilities to be the host country all by themselves; it is not clear to me that is the case in Egypt without a massive construction effort.

The timeline for a decision for 2030 is that it should be voted on and announced at the FIFA Congress at the end of 2023 to be held in Kigali, Rwanda.

Several weeks ago, Michigan football coach, Jim Harbaugh, was the keynote speaker at a Right-to-Life event that intended to raise money for pro-life non-profits in Michigan.  In his remarks, he said:

“In God’s plan, each unborn human truly has a future filled with potential, talent, dreams and love.  I have living proof in my family, my children, and the many thousands that I’ve coached that the unborn are amazing gifts from God to make this world a better place. To me, the right choice is to have the courage to let the unborn be born.”

It should not be a surprise that such statements drew attention and criticism Harbaugh’s way.  I have no interest in a Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate here, but I will note that Harbaugh’s critics in this situation were by and large the same people who thought he took a righteous and courageous position when he spoke in support of Colin Kaepernick or when he expressed his personal disgust at the death of George Floyd.  And indeed, folks who criticized him then largely praise him for his speech at that fundraising event.

  • Memo to Coach Harbaugh:  You can’t please all the people all the time.

In a discussion with someone from ESPN, Harbaugh also said that if one of his family members or one of his players had a baby that they could not care for, Harbaugh would step up and care for the child.  That is heady stuff even when you recognize that the Harbaugh family has ample resources at its disposal.  That pronouncement got him a lot of positive reaction.

As you might expect, I did not see that second line of oratory quite as positively as others may have.  I acknowledge that it can be heard as a huge commitment to charity and a statement of Harbaugh’s resolve in his convictions that produced the remarks at the fund-raising event.  However, it may not necessarily be “read that way” by everyone.

Young males who are collegiate athletes at top-shelf athletic schools like Michigan are also testosterone driven beings.  Please do not try to square the circle defined by “Top 50 Football Teams” and “Celibacy”; it just ain’t gonna happen.  And because that ain’t gonna happen, I think his declaration of support for a child in need can be interpreted as being akin to a “hall pass” for players who might engage in non-safe sex.  And if any of his players take that message in that way, then Harbaugh’s declaration runs counter to what a coach and leader should be telling young men is a smart approach to the rest of their adult lives.

I have no problem with Coach Harbaugh saying what he did and using his stature to raise money for causes he believes in, and I have no problem with his commitment to care for young children once they have been born.  I only hope that his message is not misinterpreted as stated above because I sincerely believe that is NOT what Coach Harbaugh meant to convey as his message.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close today with this entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Boxing:  One day, somebody mentioned that it might be interesting to let two men pummel each other about the face and body, preferably to the point of inflicting cerebral hemorrhage, while a bunch of people watched.  And then, somebody else said that sounded like a pretty good idea.  Sometimes, life is pretty uncomplicated.”

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

 

 

Baseball, Football And The Caribbean…

As I was checking MLB results from the weekend, I noticed that the Yankees had lost 5 games in a row and that they were swept in a series by the Cards in St. Louis.  I went browsing into Yankee stats to see if anything jumped out at me to explain how or why this was happening and found nothing obvious.  But I did do a bit of math on one player stat that I think is interesting.

  • The Yankees have played 109 games so far in 2022.
  • Aaron Judge has hit 43 home runs in those 109 games.
  • A linear extrapolation here says Aaron Judge will hit 64 home runs in 2022.

Let me go on record now and say:

  • If Aaron Judge hits 64 home runs this season, then I will consider him to be the “Home Run King” for MLB.

Roger Maris’ record has stood for more than 60 years.  The folks who hit home runs in the 60s and 70s during the Steroid Era have no claim on that record as far as I m concerned.  I am not denying that three players all hit more than 61 home runs in a season; they most certainly did.  However, I believe they accomplished those feats in a biochemically-enhanced condition and that belief allows me to ignore those numbers and focus on the number 61.

Surely, someone in the audience will ask how I know that Aaron Judge is not “on the sauce”.  And the answer to that is – – of course – – that I do not know.  But even if I acknowledge that “cheaters” are always a step ahead of the “police” in the world of PEDs, I still do not believe that Judge fits the pattern of a “user”.  Aaron Judge did not bulk up between 2021 and 2022 – – or between any previous seasons.  He is simply a very large human being; baseball-reference.com lists him as 6’7” and 282 lbs and he has been that way for several years.  My assessment is that he is having a storybook season and if he continues on this pace, I will consider his home run record for 2022 as THE MLB record.  Please feel free to disagree…

Dwight Perry found a headline in The Onion that is pertinent here:

“Slumping Aaron Judge fails to hit home fun for entire at-bat.”

Aaron Judge also leads MLB in RBIs so far in 2022; he has driven in 97 runs to date.  So, how might he stack up in a race for the season record for RBIs?  The answer is that he is not even close to threatening that record:

  • A linear extrapolation here says Aaron Judge will have 144 RBIs in 2022.
  • The MLB record is 191 RBIs in a season held by Hack Wilson in 1930.  That record is in no danger in 2022.

[Aside:  After Wilson had 159 RBIs in 1929 and then 191 RBIs in 1930, he played 4 more seasons in MLB.  In those 4 years combined he had only 298 RBIs – – an average of only 73 per season.]

Speaking of people named Aaron, we had an announcement from Aaron Rodgers late last week that he and his former girlfriend had taken a trip to Peru and had taken some psychedelic substances on that journey.  Rodgers attributes his two recent MVP seasons to those psychedelic experiences.  According to Rodgers, taking a dose of ayahuasca “helped me see how to unconditionally love myself.”  As you digest that snippet let me give you what followed in Rodgers’ “testimony”:

“It’s only in that unconditional self-love that I’m truly able to unconditionally love others. What better way to work on my mental health than to have an experience like that? The greatest gift I can give my teammates is to show up and be someone who can model unconditional love to them. Obviously, it’s important I play well and show up and lead all that stuff. But they won’t care about what you say until they know how much you care.”

Please note here that Rodgers can now unconditionally love others and combine that thought with the fact that he had this experience with his former girlfriend…

Moving on …  In the world of “bad optics” you can debate which organization is the gold standard.  Big Tobacco, various Teachers’ Unions and the Congress of the United States would all be part of a list that I might construct here and news over the weekend reminds me to add the Washington Commanders to that list.  The Commanders announced late last week that there will be a Commanders’ Fan Cruise in the Caribbean next March.  It will be a 7-day event where fans can meet and party with “Commanders’ Legends” and that it will be a time of:

“ … meet-and-greets, Q&A’s and photo opportunities, trivia, karaoke, dancing and more, all while enjoying the company of up to 30 Washington Legends.”

So, what makes this “bad optics”?

  1. It was a photo shoot in Central America – – near the Caribbean – – where cheerleaders were ogled as they were dressing for a calendar photo shoot.
  2. Danny Boy Snyder took to his super yacht to stay in international waters so that he could not be served with a subpoena by the posers on a committee of the US Congress.
  3. One of the potential “Legends” that could be invited would be Fred Smoot. He qualifies as a “Legend” in these parts; if you wonder why he would be “bad optics” please Google “fred smoot party boat”.

Finally, let me close with another offering from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Dr. Anthony Fauci will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Tuesday’s Mariners-Yankees game in Seattle.

“In keeping with the theme, the catcher will be wearing an extra mask.”

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

 

 

 

 

Crime And PUnishment

There is a need for the NFL to modify one of its policies.  It took me a while to understand how the NFL could penalize the Miami Dolphins and the team owner, Stephen Ross, for tampering without punishing someone else.  Here is the source of my problem:

  • In order for there to be a “discussion” or a “conversation” that might run afoul of the league’s tampering rules, there must be at least two parties involved.  If what Stephen Ross had done was to say aloud in the shower that he would really like to have Tom Brady on his team with Sean Payton as his coach, I doubt that would count as “tampering”.

If the facts of this case are as have been reported, Ross and one of his associates had rather extensive and repeated contacts with the agents for Sean Payton and Tom Brady between 2019 and 2022.  That is tampering; the Dolphins deserve to lose those draft picks as punishment – a first-round pick in 2023 and a third-round pick in 2024.  However, the agents are equally culpable here.  Even if I grant that they did not know beforehand what the “first discussions” were going to be about, they surely knew the improper nature of those “repeated discussions”.  So, why stop the punishments with the team and the owner here?

You may argue that agents speak with teams all the time and do not necessarily keep their clients abreast of every detail that arises in those exchanges.  You are going to have to do a lot of hypothesizing to get me to believe that nothing about discussions of that sensitivity ever slipped from agent to client over a 2-year period.  So, where is the punishment for Brady and/or Payton?

It took a while to dig up the NFL rule that governs punishment for “tampering”

“If a club is contacted by a player (or his representative) who is under contract to or whose negotiating rights are held by another club, and such player has not been given permission to negotiate with other clubs, or such player is not in a permissible negotiating period under the terms of an operative collective bargaining agreement, then the contacted club is prohibited from:

(i) negotiating with the player or his agent;

(ii) discussing even in general terms the player’s possible employment with the contacted club; or

(iii) discussing the player’s contract or his potential or ongoing contract negotiations with his current club.”

The rule only pertains to the situation where the player or his agent makes the initial overture that leads to tampering.  Since the Dolphins initiated the discussion, the rule here simply does not pertain.  And even if a player, a coach or an agent for one of them did the initial outreach, it is not clear how the rule would be used to levy punishment because in such a circumstance the onus is on the club to comply with the itemized conditions of the rule.  If the team does not do that, then it is the team that runs afoul of this rule.  Got that?

Strange as that outcome may seem, there was no real surprise that the NFL investigation into Brian Flores’ charges that owner Ross offered him $100K per game to lose games so the Dolphins could get a higher draft pick found nothing nefarious.  That had to be the outcome save for “indisputable video evidence” to the contrary because had there been a finding that it did happen, the league would have to have forced a sale of the team to preserve the integrity of the games.  The NFL – and all major pro sports – always trumpet the importance of game integrity, but now that legalized gambling represents a huge new revenue stream for the NFL, that stance is not just a philosophical nicety; that stance is now a core value of the league and a load-bearing member of its foundation.

Switching sports – but staying with rules and policies and punishments – Phil Mickelson and 11 other golfers who have signed on with the LIV Golf Tour have filed suit against the PGA alleging anti-trust violations.  The complexities of the assertions here by both sides make my teeth itch; so, this is one of those situations where I would prefer for both sides to lose.

  • Of course, the PGA is a monopoly in the professional golf “industry”; and it uses exclusionary rules and tactics to keep competitors out and it forces players to abide by the rules that it makes.  Any assertion by the PGA to the contrary is bullsh*t.

[Aside:  The PGA assertion of the primacy of its rules extended all the way to the Supreme Court of the US when the PGA asserted that its rule against golfers using a cart had higher standing than the Americans With Disabilities Act.  SCOTUS set them straight on that issue.]

  • The LIV golfers were warned that they would be suspended by the PGA if they played in an LIV event.  They made a choice to play; that choice should have consequences because every one of those golfers is an adult.

If you want to take a deeper dive into some of the issues involved, here is a link to a report at ESPN.com that might help.

Next up …  In all the hullabaloo about the Juan Soto trade earlier this week, I neglected to mention that the Orioles traded Trey Mancini to the Astros for 2 prospects.  That deal was clearly under the radar amongst all the player movement at the trade deadline; Mancini is a nice player but if anyone is beating a drum for him to go to the Hall of Fame someday, I have not heard that sound.  But that trade is interesting for a couple of reasons:

  1. The Orioles were at .500 when they made the deal and were only 3 games out of the final playoff slot in the AL.  No one has them penciled in as a playoff team or as a serious threat if they manage to get in, but for a team that has lost more than 100 games frequently in recent history, this is a “magical season”.
  2. Trey Mancini is a fan favorite and one of the better players on the team.  Oh, and did I mention that he is a cancer survivor too having missed an entire season fighting the malignancy?

In a world of “bad optics” this one holds a special place…

Finally, since today began with punishment meted out and punishment avoided, let me close with this adage:

“Capital punishment really means that those without capital get the punishment.”

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

 

 

More On The Juan Soto Trade…

I think there are a few more points to make about the Padres’ acquisition of Juan Soto and Josh Bell.  Yesterday, I looked at the exchange from the perspective of the Nationals’ team; today I want to look at this from the Padres’ perspective.  Obviously, the Padres know that negotiating with Scott Boras for Soto’s services once Soto reaches free agency after the 2024 season will be “pricey”.  Soto makes $17M this year and will make more than that in each of his next two years which will involve arbitration; so, what is the payroll situation in San Diego?

Thanks here to spotrac.com for this data:

  • Counting players on the IL at the moment and counting players who are being paid by the Padres but are not on the team the total payroll for 2022 is $232,628,899.
  • The first tier of MLB’s “luxury tax” for this year is $230M.
  • If Soto gets only a minimal raise to $20M next year, the Padres will have 6 players making $16M or more apiece with a total salary of $124M in 2023 for those 6 players alone.

From my perspective, it appears that Padres’ owner, Peter Seidler, has decided to go all out for a World Series shot.  What could make this an interesting story is that Seidler is the grandson of Walter O’Malley who is the MLB owner who took the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles in the 1950s.  The Dodgers have been the “big dog” in southern California for MLB over the last 75 years, but it looks to me as if Seidler has set his sights on taking down the “big dog”.  Those 6 players who will earn $16M or more next year form an excellent core:

  1. Starting Pitcher, Blake Snell
  2. Starting Pitcher, Yu Darvish
  3. Outfielder, Wil Myers
  4. Starting Pitcher, Joe Musgrove
  5. Outfielder, Juan Soto
  6. Third Baseman, Manny Machado

Please note that Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Josh Hader are not on that list.  Their absence is not a lack of comparable talent; their absence is because neither is going to earn $16M next year.  If everyone stays healthy – a caveat that must be added to every team projection into the future – the Padres look to be loaded for 2023.

Tatis suffered a wrist injury this year and has been on the 60-day IL.  Recent reports say he has rehabbed to the point that he can take “live batting practice”.  Can he return this year and play anywhere near his potential?  The big question for the Padres is can he fully recover for 2023 because Tatis is a prodigy similar in stature to Juan Soto.

My sense of the Padres committing to “big spending” with an eye on the NL West crown in 2023 – – it is too late for the Padres to make up 11 games on the Dodgers this year – – points to the bimodal status of MLB franchises.  There are big spending teams and there are small spending teams.  Those clusters often align with the size of the markets for the franchises – – but not always.  See Chicago for example…  And if you look at the projected roster for the Padres in 2023 against the projected roster for the Nationals for 2023, it would take an intervention from the gods of Greek mythology for the Nationals to be competitive with the Padres.

Colin Cowherd often argues that dynasties are good for sports; dynasties give fans someone to root for and someone to hate on.  In either situation, the dynasty brings attention to the team/sport thereby creating interest.  I agree with him to a point; dynasties do serve the purpose that he postulates but if there is never any fluidity to the dynasties and its potential cluster of teams, things can get boring.  I believe that what dynasties bring to sport is challenge; dynasties get themselves to an exalted status in a sport and then rival teams plot to become their equals or even superiors.  It is that ebb and flow that makes dynasties valuable; without that ebb and flow, things can get tiresome.

The Padres appear to be aiming to “take on the Dodgers” in the NL West; if they can make a race of it next year, that would be great.  But the arrival of the Padres on the scene as a potential “big dog” only accentuates the futility that must be part of the fanbase in at least 15 of the MLB cities where the locals have precisely zero chance of playing any games in October save for the spillover regular season games.  Moreover, when it became painfully obvious that the Nationals were going to have to trade Soto this summer or over the next winter, the fanbases in only about a half dozen cities experienced any real excitement; not a single fan in Miami or Oakland even dreamed of Juan Soto coming to their town.

The fact that there is a permanent “underclass” in MLB does not enhance its stature and does not bring attention to the games.  MLB puts on 2,430 regular season games per year; far too many of those games have exactly no bearing on anything that resembles a “chase to a championship”; a series between the Pirates and the Rockies is as meaningful as serenading a corpse.  Oh well, at least the Padres will be interesting to watch now…

Finally, since much of today has been about money and wealth, let me close with these observations:

“Nothing makes a man more intolerable than his consciousness of having enough money for a good lawyer.”  [Anonymous]

And …

“The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.” [H. L. Mencken]

And …

“Money is not important. But a lot of money is something else.” [George Bernard Shaw]

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

 

 

RIP Vin Scully

Vin Scully died yesterday; he was the broadcast voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers – – and then the LA Dodgers – – from 1950 to 2016.  At the start of his career, he was part of a troika of broadcasters hired by the Dodgers for their games; the lead announcer was Red Barber; the two “junior guys” were Scully and Ernie Harwell.  All three men are in Cooperstown.  Scully had a distinctive voice and a distinctive style for broadcasting.  He was equally adept at radio and television which is not often characteristic of play-by-play guys.  When he was at his best – in the 1980s and 1990s –  I believe he was THE best baseball broadcaster ever.

Rest in peace, Vin Scully…

Staying with baseball, yesterday also saw the Washington Nationals trade Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres for 5 prospects and first baseman, Luke Voit.  Oh yeah, the Nats also sent Josh Bell to the Padres in this exchange.  Everyone takes it for granted that Soto will be a star player in MLB for the next 10-15 years and some commentators have already begun to pave his way to the Hall of Fame.  Juan Soto is a prodigy; he arrived in MLB at the ripe young age of 19 and in that rookie season he hit .292.  At age 23, he has already been an All-Star twice.  So, what did the Nats get in exchange?

  • SS CJ Abrams:  Overall #3 pick in 2019 MLB Draft; has not been in an MLB game.
  • LHP Mackensie Gore:  Overall #6 pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.  Has made 13 starts this year for Padres with a 4.50 ERA.  He recently suffered a sore elbow, but MRI did not reveal damage.
  • OF Robert Hassell III:  Overall #8 pick in 2020 MLB Draft; has not yet been in an MLB game.
  • RHP Jarlin Susana:  He is 18 years old from the Dominican Republic.  He is now playing at the Rookie Level of minor league baseball.  [Aside:  If he ever makes it to MLB, the broadcasting call for his strikeouts should obviously be, “Oh, Susana!”  Now you know why I was never asked to join Vin Scully in a broadcasting booth…]
  • OF James Wood:  Overall #62 pick in 2nd round of 2021 MLB Draft; has not yet been in an MLB game.

It must be pointed out that the MLB Draft is not nearly as predictable as are the NFL and NBA Drafts – – and even those two drafts involve a bit of a crap shoot.  What the Nationals are banking on here is that their scouting reports from 2017-2021 plus the observations of Padres’ scouts over that same period have produced at least a couple of players with star potential.  Moreover, the Nationals must hope that if one of those players becomes a star, that player should also be someone who could be a “face of the franchise” because Juan Soto was precisely that.

This makes two consecutive seasons where the Nationals have given away the store in exchange for prospects.  The team is a full “tear-down/rebuild” mode and that is a bit dangerous in Washington which is a town of front-runners because given the political presence here the fact is that losers leave town.  With the team for sale, I wonder how the prospective buyers will take yesterday’s news and factor it into their price offers for the team.

  • Scenario 1:  This allows the new owner to come in and start afresh with a new management team and a new team on the field.  Success will make the new owner a “good guy” in a town that does not have an overabundance of “good guys”.  In addition, it starts the new owner out with a very manageable salary outlay for the first year or so.
  • Scenario 2:  The current owners have stripped the franchise of its assets.  What the new owner is buying is a AAA team along with two burdensome contracts for two pitchers – – Strasburg who cannot stay healthy and Corbin who cannot get out of a fourth inning unscathed anymore.  If they wanted to increase the value of the franchise, they should have jettisoned those two guys also.
  • Scenario 3:  None of this nonsense matters because the new owner is a really rich guy who wants to buy an MLB team as a toy and as a way of flexing on other rich guys who could own an MLB team but do not.

You make the call – – but I have a definite lean toward Scenario 3 above…

There is an adage:

“It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”

Well, jettisoning Soto is surely an ill wind for Nats fans but there is a small glimmer of good that came from it.  Thomas Boswell came out of retirement to write a column in today’s Washington Post about the trade and the franchise.  Boswell has been retired for about a year now but there is little or no rust on his writing skills.  When Boswell speaks on the subject ot baseball, the best thing to do is to listen and learn.  Do yourself a favor and follow this link to read his perspective today.

Finally, let me close today with a baseball observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“San Francisco rookie righty Sean Hjelle, who made his major league debut May 6, stands 6 feet 11.

“Well, they are the Giants.”

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

 

 

Recycling Recent Stories …

Yesterday’s rant had not been posted more than an hour when I got a call from an old friend who has been reading these rants ever since they appeared on the Internet.  He said that I was obviously getting old and that “you lost your fastball.”  His explanation was that in recalling Bill Russell’s amazing legacy of winning championships, I missed the opportunity to cite a remark made by one of Russell’s teammates, Tommy Heinsohn, about Russell’s legacy.

I admitted my error; I should have immediately put that comment in yesterday’s piece as a tribute to Bill Russell.  So, here it is today – – a day late.  This comes from an article in Sports Illustrated more than 20 years ago:

 “Look, all I know is, the guy won two NCAA championships, 50-some college games in a row, the 1956 Olympics, then he came to Boston and won 11 championships in 13 years, and they named a [bleeping] tunnel after Ted Williams.”

One more time, rest in peace, Bill Russell…

Having had some time to think about the 6-game suspension handed down to Deshaun Watson by the NFL arbiter, I think that she did what a judge is supposed to do in rendering a decision.  That makes sense because the arbiter here is a retired Federal judge; this sort of thing is what she did for a living.  The first part of the process was to decide based on a preponderance of evidence – not a decision beyond a reasonable doubt – about the veracity of the claims against Watson.  Clearly, she decided that Watson had indeed acted “inappropriately” with at least some of the women who had made these allegations.  If she had believed Watson in his claim that he never did anything wrong, there would have been no punishment of any kind.

After coming to that conclusion, she did judge-like reasoning.  She looked to precedent regarding how other NFL players in similar – not identical – situations had been punished.  In this case, Watson was investigated by the District Attorney in Houston and no charges were brought against him.  Therefore, the arbiter in this case looked for similar cases involving NFL players alleged to have assaulted women but who were never convicted of such a thing.

If I am correct in reconstructing the thought process here, then these are the precedent cases that are relevant.  The Ray Rice incident is irrelevant because there have been changes in the negotiated Personal Conduct Policy subsequent to that matter.  I will not pretend to have done exhaustive research here, but these are precedent cases I would look to were I the arbiter here:

  • Ezekiel  Elliott – – alleged assault and domestic violence.  Suspended 6 games
  • Darius Guice – – alleged assault and battery.  Suspended 6 games
  • Greg Hardy – – alleged assault and domestic violence.  Suspended 4 games
  • Jarran Reed – – alleged assault.  Suspended 6 games
  • Jameis Winston – – alleged sexual assault.  Suspended 3 games.

The precedents here indicate to me that the arbiter thought it was appropriate to give Watson “the max” based on history.  One can argue that this case was “worse” than some of those others because it involved two dozen different victims and/or one can argue that the arbiter should have used this case to set a new standard for players accused of “crimes against women”.  However, the decision here looks to me to be on point.

I suggested yesterday that only the NFL itself was in a reasonable position to appeal this decision.  Having thought about it overnight, I believe the NFL is best served by letting this matter recede into memory; no one derives benefit from keeping this matter alive – – assuming of course that there are no new accusers who reopen the criminal investigation(s) leading to…  There is one “bad optic for the league” involved here but it should not be bad enough to keep this story at or near the top of any sports page:

  • Deshaun Watson will return to the field in Game 7 of the 2022 season.  That will be on October 23.  That is amid the NFL’s “appeal to women month” where players wear all sorts of pink “accessories” to raise awareness of breast cancer.  [Aside:  Are there actually people who are not yet aware of breast cancer?]
  • Someone needs to take Deshaun Watson aside and tell him not to wear pink shoes for that game – – or for the Browns’ next game on October 31.
  • If he decides to “wear pink” for those games, that decision could easily find itself in the Hall of Fame of Bad Decisions.

Moving on …  The “Kyler Murray Contract Saga” took an interesting turn  yesterday.  Recall that Murray signed a huge contract that included a “mandatory study clause” which the team had to rescind from the contract after all the negative press that it generated.  That seemed to be a tempest in a teapot that would dissipate itself once Murray reported to training camp and the news focus would involve the normal minutiae of a training camp.  Then yesterday the announcement came that Murray tested positive for COVID and that he would miss the next 5 days of training camp.

Here is the good news:

  • He now has plenty of time to do his “individual study” regimen even though it is no longer a contractual requirement.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close today with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Jazzed:  A position on the excitement meter somewhere between ‘would rather be having oral surgery’ and ‘I just got Dish Network.’”

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

 

 

Rest In Peace, Bill Russell

Bill Russell died over the weekend.  Russell played – and was a player coach – with the Boston Celtics from 1956 to 1969.  He and his teammates won 11 NBA Championships in that time span.  When folks “debate” about which of the great players was greater, there is one of Russell’s stats that is unassailable:

  • In his career, he played in 21 games where it was “win-or-go-home”.  These games were in the NCAA Tournament, the Olympics and in Game 7 of an NBA playoff series.  In those 21 games, Russell’s team record was 21-0.

In addition, Bill Russell was an advocate for civil rights at a time when very few athletes of any minority group took a public position on such issues.  Bill Russell was a great basketball player and a great person.

Rest in peace, Bill Russell.

Since I mentioned the Olympics above, let me transition to a report that France’s preparation for the 2024 Summer Games could wind up costing the country €10B.  Inflation is a driver here and that estimate could turn out to be very conservative if the worst fears about inflation come to pass.  The initial estimate for prep costs was €6.8B; early cost estimates for things such as the Olympics are always understated and even before inflation hit, that estimate was increased to €8.6B.  One of the cost elements is the plan to have 11,000 police officers on the ground in the venues and the housing areas every day and the plan calls for up to 25,000 “security agents” to be available each day in addition to those police officers.

An interesting planning element for the Paris Games is to stage the opening ceremonies on the river Seine instead of in a giant stadium.  Organizers hope to attract as many as 600,000 people to view those Opening Ceremonies.  Boats will transport the athletes from the various countries down the river past the viewers; approximately 10,500 athletes are expected to participate in the Games so there could easily be an interesting “traffic jam” on the river that day.

One other Olympics note today, the 2028 Summer Games will be held in Los Angeles.  Host countries usually propose the addition of a new sport to the Games and seek IOC approval for such new endeavors.  The organizers in LA – with the urging and backing of the NFL to be sure – has proposed flag football as a sport for those Summer Games in 2028.  A ruling from the IOC is expected later this year.

Not that it needs any assistance, but IOC approval here would be a big plus for the NFL.  One of its objectives has been to “grow the sport” outside the US; that is why we have “London Games” and “Mexico City Games” that is why there will be a “Germany Game” later this season.  The inclusion of flag football in the Olympics would sow seeds of potential interest in lots of countries where the NFL would be loathe to schedule any regular season games for lack of interest and/or for lack of economic return.  A positive decision by the IOC on flag football as an Olympic event could be interesting to follow.

The NFL story of the day is that the arbiter hearing the Deshaun Watson disciplinary case has imposed a 6-game suspension for Watson’s alleged off-field improprieties.  This is not necessarily the final decision on the matter; any of the parties may appeal this ruling and if that happens, the final decision will be made by Commissioner Goodell.  The NFLPA has said that it will not appeal the suspension; my sense is that Watson and his legal team would be playing with fire if they were to appeal the decision given that the NFLPA has said it will not; the key element here would seem to be the league itself.  I wonder if enough owners are sufficiently angry with the Browns for giving Watson that huge and fully guaranteed contract that they might push for a league appeal that could lead to a bigger suspension.  Stand by…

Moving along …  If you recall the book and its companion movie, Moneyball, the underlying thesis for team construction is to spend money wisely to overachieve expectations.  No one associated with the Washington Nationals can invoke that sort of “smart spending model” as of this morning.  Consider:

  • Fifteen MLB teams – that is half of all the teams – have lower payrolls than do the Washington Nationals.  [Hat Tip to Spotrac.com]
  • Right now, the Nationals have the worst record in MLB at 35-68; they are 3.5 games worse than the 29th team in MLB – – the Oakland A’s.

That is not exactly an efficient outlay of payroll…

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times, from yesterday:

“The Mariners have released pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon.

“So much for the team’s hopes of getting younger.”

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