Random Musings…

Let me give you and update of an unusual stat that I mentioned recently. As of this morning, the Oakland A’s have the worst record in the AL at 55-72. Notwithstanding that record, the A’s have outscored their opponents this year by 16 runs. To give you an idea how strange that is, let me give you the run differential totals for teams with comparable records to the A’s:

    Tigers– – 59-66 minus 53
    Mariners– – 58-68 minus 97
    Red Sox– – 57-69 minus 44
    A’s – – 55-72 plus 16
    Braves – – 54-72 minus 106
    Marlins – – 51-75 minus 55
    Phillies– – 50-76 minus 155

You get the idea…

Since the A’s are the poster children for using statistics to their advantage, what did the A’s do to address this statistical oddity? They fired their third-base coach. That is correct; Mike Gallego is out looking for work. If it is clear to you how the third base coach might be responsible for that monumental underachievement by the A’s, I would like to hear the explanation.

It is not often that a pro sports league and the union representing the players in that league team up to do something right in the middle of an extant CBA. However, MLB and the MLBPA got it right recently announcing that they have come to an agreement on a domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy. Here is the essence of the story from a report at CBSsports.com:

“For the first time since collective bargaining began, the commissioner of Major League Baseball will be empowered to discipline individual players for acts of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. Along with the announcement of the establishment of a joint committee that will be tasked with evaluating and (if necessary) supervising the treatment of a player, commissioner Rob Manfred will be given power to punish the player as he sees fit. No maximums, no minimums. And that’s regardless if the player is convicted or enters a guilty plea in a legal case.

“Intervention, treatment and confidentiality provisions also are written into the agreement, which was announced jointly by the commissioner’s office and the players union.”

This is a positive step for baseball. If you want to read the entire report and see the scope of the new agreement, here is a link.

Recently, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald:

“A team at the softball Little League World Series supposedly threw a game. If this is true, what hope is there of the Tour de France being clean?

The team in question tanked the game because the tournament structure was such that by losing the team could eliminate a more competent opponent from the next phase of the tournament. That is pretty cheesy behavior by the adults in charge to be sure and plenty of scorn was heaped upon those folks. However, all of that score and opprobrium for these coaches begs a question:

    NBA teams tank entire seasons – and in the case of the 76ers tank sequential seasons – and there is no scorn or shame. The players try to win but the front office – the adults in charge – make it such that they cannot win.

    In the Little League softball tournament, the team was punished for this behavior. The NBA does not punish its teams for such behaviors.

    So, the next time you hear about an NBA team tanking a season, remember the Little League softball example. There needs to be more shame allotted to the tanking team(s) and the league needs to find ways to make sure it is not advantageous for teams to behave that way.

A recent report said that the Lakers are considering signing Metta World Peace to a 1-year contract. One of the driving forces behind that consideration is that Peace might be a good mentor for the development of rookie Julius Randle. Peace has been out of the NBA since the 2013/14 season when he was waived by the Knicks. Last season, he played in Italy and in China. During his time in China, there were reports that he contemplated changing his name again to The Pandas Friend.

The Lakers are going nowhere next year even with the return of Kobe Bryant and the addition of Randle (their first round pick from 2014) and the addition of D’Angelo Russell as this year’s first round pick. Adding Metta World Peace or not adding him is not going to change the destination for the Lakers next year which is another trip to the Draft Lottery. Frankly, I would probably ignore this report as just a wild rumor that someone put in a story just to take up web-space except for the fact that the report came from Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports and his NBA reporting is usually much more factual than fictional.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Dominique Perron, president of the French Bullfighting Association, got his leg broken when a bull leapt out of the ring and attacked him last Sunday, EuroWeeklyNews.com reported.

“Suggested new nickname: President Gore.”

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

Some Disgusting Matters Today…

If you have not followed the reports regarding Sam Ukwuachu and the Baylor football team, you may want to do some Google grazing. In summary, Ukwuachu was a LB at Boise State who had an excellent freshman year but was then tossed from the team. He transferred to Baylor; but before he ever played there, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a Baylor freshman and was sentenced to 180 days in the hoosegow. Baylor coach Art Briles has thrown up on his shoes in the wake of this. First he claimed that since Ukwuachu was not on the team, this was not a problem for the football program. Then, he claimed ignorance of any prior behavior by Ukwuachu that would preclude him from being part of the Baylor campus.

At that point, the former Boise State coach, Chris Petersen said that he had called Briles to let him know why an excellent football player had been tossed from the Boise State team. The reason was a domestic assault situation that had occurred in Boise where Ukwuachu allegedly choked his former girlfriend and punched her repeatedly in the head. Perhaps Petersen is just covering his ass in this mess, but the better way for him to cover his ass would seem to have been to keep quiet about this.

Not only does Coach Briles have some ‘splainin to do [/Ricky Ricardo] but the entire Baylor administration needs a whack upside its head. The school did an “internal investigation” of this matter that was so shoddy and so useless that it was declared inadmissible as evidence at Ukwuachu’s trial. Ironically, the Baylor President is Ken Starr who one might think should know what it means to do an investigation…

That internal investigation was so shoddy that Baylor will now conduct another internal investigation to determine how and why the first one was done in such a perfunctory manner. Honestly, I could not possibly make that up; that is what they are going to do. I can hear the announcement at Waco Airport now:

    Paging Inspector Clouseau. Inspector Clouseau, please meet the Baylor University chauffeur service at baggage claim carousel number 4. Inspector Clouseau…

If you do not want to read all the sordid details of the trial and that kind of thing, that is your choice. However, there is a piece that you really ought to read. Charles P. Pierce has a feature on Grantland.com regarding this matter that I strongly recommend that you read in its entirety. One reason to read Pierce’s column is that he ties the Ukwuachu mess with the next issue up for comment today.

That next issue is Cris Carter’s comments to the NFC Rookie symposium last year. The NFL requires all rookie players to attend a rookie seminar to inform them about league rules, financial responsibility, social responsibility and the like. Cris Carter has been a fixture at those seminars for a while; Carter was sufficiently involved with drugs and alcohol during his time with the Eagles that Buddy Ryan just cut him from the team instead of trying to rehab Carter one more time. Carter has said that Ryan saved Carter’s life with that action because it forced Carter to get sober. That is a great story of redemption and it is a message that can have meaning for NFL rookies.

Last year, it seems that Carter took his story to a darker dimension. He told the audience that in every player entourage there needs to be a “fall guy”. He is the guy who – when bad stuff happens – takes the fall and goes to jail for whatever happened and is taken care of. That is not exactly the kind of social responsibility that the NFL wants to promote. Carter is an ESPN employee and the World Wide Leader wasted no time in saying that those remarks were absolutely antagonistic to ESPN’s values and policies. Presumably the story will end there. However, I have two fundamental questions to pose to the suits at the NFL who set up these rookie seminars.

Onstage with Carter when he made those remarks – there is videotape of this so there is not a whole lot of conjecture here – was Warren Sapp who agreed with Carter on the idea of a “fall guy”. In previous rookie seminars, Michael Irvin has been a speaker/motivator/example.


      1. Can’t you find better role models to stand in front of your mandatory Rookie Seminars?

      2. If these are the mentors/role models you offer up to your young players, how can you then be shocked to find that some of them behave anti-socially?

It would not even take Inspector Clouseau more than a few moments to raise a few red flags in the background checks of these folks who are the ones to provide guidance here.

Since I have been focused on disgusting topics this morning, this next item seems to fit nicely into the milieu of the day. The Las Vegas 51s – the AAA affiliate of the Mets – had raw sewage back up in the dugouts at Cashman Field recently. Recalling that a similar problem happened at O.com Stadium in Oakland last year, one might ponder the impact should those two similar events have a common cause. And that impact would be maximally disgusting given that Las Vegas is 400 miles away from Oakland and a sewage clog big enough to have that widespread an effect is close to the nadir of human supposition. Then again, it might explain some of the “water problems” in the California Central Valley…

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

“Spanish champion Imanol Lopez retired from Miami Jai-Alai surprising analysts who had forgotten that jai-alai still existed.”

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

Enough About “Participation Trophies”…

Last week, too much was made of some remarks by Steelers’ LB, James Harrison regarding “participation trophies”. The reason I say too much was made of his opposition to such things is that just about everything that can be said on the matter has already been said.

    Proponents like participation trophies because they reward effort and commitment. They supposedly make all the recipients feel good about themselves.

    Opponents dislike participation trophies because they do not celebrate accomplishment.

The folks on either side of this “debate” have taken sides and no amount of repetition of any of these points is going to change anyone’s mind. Last week’s contretemps on this issue harkened back to the old Miller Lite commercials where people would shout at each other:

Tastes great!
Less filling!!

Next time the subject comes up, remember those ads…

Actually, I think the most cogent comment on the subject came from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald last weekend:

“Parting thought: There’s a big, renewed debate over whether all kids in youth sports, not just top finishers, should get “participation” trophies. ‘That’s a big fat YES!’ said the American Association of Trophy Manufacturers.”

Last November, the Oakland A’s traded third-baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for third-baseman Brett Lawrie, RHP Kendall Graveman, LHP Shawn Nolin and SS Franklin Barreto. I wonder what advanced Moneyball analytics convinced Billy Beane that was a good idea. Here are some numbers as of yesterday:

    Donaldson: .301/.369/.954 Leading the AL with 100 RBIs and 93 runs scored. Also 34 HRs. By the way, he is only 29 years old.

    Lawrie: .266/.318/.713 11 HRs 46 RBIs 43 runs scored. He is 25 years old.

    Graveman: 6-9 with a 4.27 ERA. WHIP 1.46 pitching for the A’s

    Nolin: Did not pitch for the A’s yet this year. In 2 MLB appearances over the last 2 seasons, he had an ERA of 27.00.

    Barreto: At Stockton (Class A) .297,/.352/.821. 12 HRs in 88 games and 45 RBI 47 runs scored.

Looking at those numbers – and conceding that I am not an advanced analytics guru – Nolin and Barreto will have to be productive MLB players somewhere down the road to make this anything other than a major loss for the A’s.

Back in April, the Washington Nationals looked like the best team in MLB for this year. As Michael Wilbon has pointed out on PTI several times this season, the media anointed the Nats as a reincarnation of the ’27 Yankees. It was a tad premature… The Nats are 5 games behind the Mets in the NL East as of this morning but that is the good news. If the Nats do not win the division, their only route to the playoffs would be as a wild card and they are 9.5 games behind the Cubbies for the second wild card slot at the moment.

Naturally, manager Matt Williams is taking heat for this underachievement and for myriad in-game tactical moves he has made. Interestingly, Williams was Manager of the Year just last season. It is amazing how he got so stupid so quickly…

As the NFL season approaches, the good folks who brew Bud Light are ready to roll out “team specific cans” of their swill for 28 of the 32 NFL teams. [Aside: The Bears, Packers, Vikings and Cowboys do not get “team specific cans” because they have sponsorship deals with Miller/Coors.] Each team-specific can carries the team logo and a custom tagline specific to each team that somehow relates to the Bud Light slogan “Up for Whatever”.

I’ll pause here for a moment while you catch your breath and get back to reading this rant after fist-pumping your way around the room. There…

Here is the way Alex Lembrecht, VP at Bud Light, described this marketing program:

“Ultimately, fans love football and the NFL, but what they really invest in emotionally each week is their individual team. Throughout the 2015-16 season, Bud Light and its team partners will be unrelenting in delivering incredible, one-of-a-kind experiences to fans in their local team stadiums and markets.”

A can of Bud Light is going to deliver an “incredible, one-of-a-kind experience”? Really? Just in case you do not appreciate the gravitas of this undertaking by the folks at Bud Light, you can check out this link to see some of these team specific cans and from that you might be able to concoct in your mind what sort of “one-of-a-kind experiences” they might introduce into your life.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times regarding FIFA and Sepp Blatter:

“FIFA presidential candidate Chung Mong-joon of South Korea, to the London Telegraph, on Sepp Blatter trying to distance himself from soccer’s mega scandal: ‘Blatter is like a cannibal eating his parents and then crying he’s an orphan.’”

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

David Stern Is Bored…

Here is how you can tell that this is a slow period for news in the sports world. This morning, CBSSports.com has a report with a headline:

    Report: David Stern is bored, friends want him to run for mayor of NYC

In the body of the story, Stern says he is absolutely uninterested in any sort of political endeavor. That opens the door for CBSSports.com to go with another report next week saying that David Stern is bored and friends suggest that he take up crocheting. Puhleeez…

Looking at the MLB playoff schedule, the 7th game of the World Series – should it be necessary – will be in the AL champion’s city on November 4. Neither Boston nor Minnesota look capable of making it to the World Series so I guess I have to root for Toronto to make it along with a malfunction of the retractable roof in Toronto freezing it in the open position. Oh, did I just say “freezing”; I am rooting for snow too. “Baseball” and “November” do not go together.

Scott Ostler posed an excellent rhetorical question in the SF Chronicle recently:

“Why is gambling the biggest taboo in baseball? Yes, you expose yourself to nefarious underworld influences and potential extortionists, but don’t you do the same when you buy steroids from shady characters? If you could vote to exclude one group from the Hall of Fame, would it be gamblers, drug cheats or wife beaters?”

For me, it would be “drug cheats”. The Hall of Fame – for players – should be a recognition received for sustained outstanding performance on the field over a career. “Drug cheats” augmented their statistics – the measure by which Hall of Fame voters assess the sustained outstanding performance of the players – by their improper actions. A player who gambles does not become a better hitter or a better pitcher as a result of his gambling; a “wife beater” is not more likely to hit home runs as a result of his assault and battery activities. Therefore, if I were limited to only one exclusionary category from the Hall of Fame, I would pick “drug cheats”.

The Boston Business Journal has a report summarizing an analysis done by a consulting firm in Cambridge, MA regarding the now defunct bid by Boston to host the Olympics in 2024. You can read this article here. Not surprisingly, the folks who were constructing the bid seem to have underestimated the costs for hosting the Games and simultaneously assumed some rosy scenarios regarding sponsorship revenues to offset those underestimated costs. If you want to see some of the specifics, check the link above but here is a part of this report that will give you a flavor of how one can make it seem as if hosting the Olympics can be a moneymaking activity:

“The analysis repeatedly emphasizes that cost and revenue estimates made by Boston 2024 were in many cases detached from the realities reported by other host cities, particularly as they applied to the London 2012 Games and pending Olympics in Rio and Tokyo. For example, Boston 2024’s estimated venue costs were around $1 billion lower on average as compared to prior Games, while Boston’s projected operating costs were some 25 percent lower than what London ultimately spent.”

One of the most interesting feats of financial legerdemain done by the Boston 2024 folks seems to have been to ignore the costs of building “satellite Olympic villages” for those athletes who would be competing in events outside the downtown Boston area. Perhaps they thought the Tooth Fairy would build them…?

WR, Steve Smith Sr. announced that he will retire after this NFL season. Media members who cover the NFL should start a petition to convince him to hang around a while longer; Smith is a font of story material. He is not a fan of things like training camp and joint team practices and made that clear with this statement:

“I’d rather be at home. Today’s my wife’s birthday, so I’m not at home. I’m over here doing this bulls[p]it and missing my wife’s birthday. That’s my honest opinion. I’d rather be at home singing happy birthday to my wife, but I’m out here getting questioned to assess a rookie corner.”

The “rookie corner” in question here is Eagles’ hopeful, Eric Rowe a second round pick in this year’s draft. Naturally, reporters wanted to know how Rowe reacted to Smith’s less than upbeat sense of the value of the practice session. Rowe summarized a bit of the conversational exchange that occurred out there on the practice field;

“He’s like, ‘I saw it in your eyes, you about to s[p]it yourself.’ I’m like, ‘Nah, I don’t panic.’”

While this is hardly dialog that will go down in history, it is a whole lot more interesting than the standard player blather – mastered by just about every QB in the NFL – about how they take it one game at a time and how the opposition for next week presents challenges they have not seen before and … The impetus for this kind of “insight” will go away once Steve Smith Sr. retires; that is why the media needs to start a petition drive immediately.

Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald lets us in on a potential TV viewing appointment he may have next Spring:

“There is YouTube video of a drunk golfer in Wolstanton, England, who got his head stuck in a trash can. If this guy is granted an exemption for next year’s Masters, I’ll watch.”

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

I Have Not Changed My Mind…

Let me be sure to start with full disclosure here. I was not in favor of the idea of changing the college basketball shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. I was not upset with the “pace of the game” nor did I think that emulating women’s college basketball or the WNBA – both of which use a 30-second shot clock – was a positive role model for the men’s game. The rules mavens have made the change and after reflecting on that change, I still do not like the 30-second shot clock.

Using the NBA as a role model for the college game is also flawed. When I watch a game between two good NBA teams – such as in the playoffs – here is what “NBA offense” devolves to much of the time:

    1. Give the ball to the best player on a team and have everyone else get out of the way and/or prepare to hit the offensive boards.

    2. Give the ball to the point guard who penetrates and either gets a layup or he passes the ball out to someone standing at the three-point line for a jump shot.

Once in a while, they will add a pick-and-roll to the options above just to “keep the defense honest”. I do not find that nearly as interesting as the men’s college game is. I am not trying to be a harbinger of doom here with regard to the 30-second shot clock, but it is an inexorable fact that the shorter the shot clock the less time a team on offense has to run an offensive set to get a really good shot. I do not think that having the clock at 30 seconds “crosses the Rubicon” so to speak, but it is not a step in the right direction.

My point here is that men’s college basketball and NBA basketball are not the same game; in fact, they are merely cousins not even siblings. The talent level and the athleticism on the worst NBA team is superior to any college team. That is why NBA coaches can focus on simple offensive tactics; they need not employ a lot of trickery or motion for their players to create a good shot. That is also why men’s college basketball ought not to try to emulate the NBA and its shorter shot clock.

Here is another potential problem that a shorter shot clock may create. With less time to run set offenses, some coaches will look to “spread the floor” and have a player drive off that spread formation. To those who thought there were too many free throws in college basketball last year, they will really dislike what happens in games where one or both coaches employ that strategy. There will be loads of fouls called; the only “beneficiaries” may be the guys who are the ninth and tenth men on the squad who will get a few extra minutes on the floor instead of on the bench in some games.

I think there may be another fallout from the rule change that derives from the Law of Unintended Consequences. Let me give you two examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences here before looking at how the college basketball rule change may create some unintended consequences:

    Laws that prohibit public actions or behaviors that are in demand create black markets to serve the need for such actions/behaviors. The fact that you have a “local bookie” is due to the fact that many desirable forms of gambling are illegal and cannot be done in the open. The entire Prohibition Era in the US in the 1920s was an example of the creation of such black markets.

    Back in the 1970s, the US Congress enacted the Federal Election Campaign Act with the purpose of limiting the influence that wealthy contributors may have on federal elections. That law allowed for the creation of PACs – and ultimately Super PACs – which have magnified the amount of influence wealthy contributors might have on elections.

Back to college basketball now… One of the fun/interesting things about the NCAA Tournament is the chance to see a Cinderella team “make a run”. There is usually a Cinderella every year; few of them make it to the Final Four and only NC State and Villanova were Cinderellas that actually won it all. Notwithstanding this limitation, they are fun to watch and even to root for. Shortening the shot clock tends to stack the deck even more strongly against Cinderellas. Shorter shot clocks mean more possessions per game meaning that is a greater number of opportunities for the “better teams” to demonstrate their superiority.

I agree that men’s college basketball needs changes. However, changing the shot clock would not have been my preferred way to make the game better. I think the rules governing contact with players who do not have the ball need to be strengthened – and made points of emphasis for the officials. I think that change would do more to make the game of men’s college basketball better next year than will the shorter shot clock.

That is my story and I am sticking to it…

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had a different idea for how to improve men’s college basketball and to increase scoring:

“They rejected my idea to encourage quick passes and lots of shots: Randomly exploding basketballs.”

A quick look at the standings in the American League shows some potential for an interesting September:

    The Twins were riding high at the All-Star break. However, in their last 30 games they are 10-20.

    The Angels are only 2.5 games out of first place in the AL West despite a record of 8-17 in their last 25 games. How did the Astros not find a way to open a 6 or 7 game lead here?

    The Rangers are third in the AL in scoring – and they are the third worst team in the AL in runs allowed. Fun and games in Arlington…

    The Blue Jays end the season with their last 7 games on the road. From their point of view, that is a sub-optimal schedule.

Finally, here is one more item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“National gymnastics championships end Sunday in Indiana, where Miami’s Danell Leyva hoped to perform a parallel bars maneuver so groundbreaking that, if successful, it would be named after him. I can relate. In sports writing, someone who mails in a slapdash column is said to have ‘nailed a Cote.’”

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

Jason Day Is “Off The List”

After Jason Day won the PGA Championship last week, he said that he could no longer be described as the best golfer never to win a major. One of the TV talking heads commented that no one wants to be on that list and Day was rightfully pleased to be “off the list”. I think the talking head is wrong. I think there are millions of weekend golfers who would give their eye teeth to be known as the best golfer in the world never to win a major.

CBSSports.com reported yesterday that the NFL has not yet sent out to the team equipment managers the new pressure gauges they are supposed to use this year. This is a $10B per year organization that has been enmeshed in an air-pressure controversy for a bit more than 6 months now and they have not gotten their act together sufficiently to get new and standard pressure gauges into the hands of the folks responsible for inflating the footballs to between 12.5 and 13.5 psi.

With a few training camp brawls this year, some NFL folks are now saying there needs to be an end to this fighting. Unless the league and the union agree that participation in such brawls is a behavior that gets every player who throws a punch gets removed from training camp for the rest of camp time and gets a one-game suspension, the fights will continue. It has to cost the participants something if you want them to stop with this behavior. Rookies tossed from training camp will likely lose their shot at making the team; vets tossed from training camp may have a better shot at sticking with the team but will lose a game check. That is the kind of rule that would minimize the number of brawls, but there is about no chance at all that the league and the union will agree to do anything like that.

Here is another news tidbit emanating from an NFL training camp – adding to the mountain of evidence that there are surely slow news days in those venues. This comes from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“As the Dolphins and Dolfans prepare for Tuesday’s annual Kickoff Luncheon in downtown Miami, running back LaMichael James informs the media he’d like that we call him “LaMike” from now on. Tell you what. First prove that we won’t be calling you “ex-Dolphin” instead, OK?”

Here is another NFL training camp comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson told ESPN the Magazine he worked 12-hour days in the off-season on the family farm because he identifies “more as a farmer” than as a football player.

He makes $10 million a year. Who does he think he is, Kevin Costner?

Creed will be the seventh opus in the Rocky Balboa movie series; it is scheduled for release late this year. In this episode, Apollo Creed’s son wants to take up boxing and gets Rocky Balboa to train him for his fights. I have no idea if the film will be any good – or even marginally interesting – but there is one hopeful sign. At least Rocky is not still fighting for heavyweight championships; Stallone is getting a bit up in years to pull off that kind of casting. Moreover, Rocky fight scenes would stretch credibility due to the bulging of the Depends under the boxing trunks…

The Boston Red Sox shook things up in their front office. They hired Dave Dombrowski to be team president and director of baseball operations and the current GM, Ben Cherrington, decided to leave the Sox after a transition period. Dombrowski has been a “baseball guy” for the last 35 years; when he was only 31 years old, he became the GM of the Montreal Expos. He has been in decision-making positions with the Expos, the Tigers and the Marlins. During his stint with the Marlins, the team won the World Series.

The Red Sox have been disappointing this year. After a high-profile offseason, the team on the field has not come close to meeting expectations. As of this morning, the Sox are 13.5 games out of first place in the AL East and only the Oakland A’s have a worse record in the AL.

    [Aside: Looking up the A’s record for comparison, I notice that the A’s are 52-69 and yet, they have outscored their opponents this year by 4 runs. That is not commonplace by any means. Only the D-Backs this year have a record under .500 and a positive run differential – and the D-Backs are only slightly under .500 at 58-60.]

Dombrowski was the exec in Florida who dismantled the Marlins team after it won the World Series because then-owner, Wayne Huizenga, demanded cost reductions and that meant moving high priced players to other rosters. I mention that because the Red Sox indeed have some high-priced players on their roster and a few of them are signed to long-term deals. Dombrowski has a reputation for making big trades – he acquired Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer in Detroit and he traded away Randy Johnson when he was in Montreal. Might the Red Sox be involved in some big trades this winter?

Finally, here are two items from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“U.S. World Cup star Alex Morgan, playing for the Portland Thorns, tweeted that her team’s hotel in Kansas City was riddled with mold and bedbugs.

“Witnesses say they’d never seen a soccer team so happy to get a clean sheet.”

And …

The University of Illinois has been declared the country’s top party school in The Princeton Review’s annual rankings.

But don’t call it getting drunk. Students prefer the term “getting anesthetized before the Ohio State game.”

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

No College Football Union Now

The National Labor Relations board (NLRB) ruled unanimously yesterday that Northwestern football players could not unionize. That is the headline and seemingly the bottom line. However, reports on this event are confusing because supposedly the NLRB did not rule on the question of whether the football players were employees of the university. The NLRB said:

“We address this case in the absence of explicit congressional direction regarding whether the Board should exercise jurisdiction. We conclude that asserting jurisdiction in this case would not serve to promote stability in labor relations.”

Now that sounds to me as if the NLRB thinks this is none of their business; yet, somehow their decision in something that is none of their business is binding on the parties here. Whatever… I have never thought that the players’ claim that they are employees of Northwestern made a lot of sense so the ruling here does not offend me but the basis of the ruling is strange.

Yesterday, Robert Griffin III told a Washington TV station,

“I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league and I have to go out and show that.”

Recently, I offered my rankings of starting NFL QBs and Griffin was in the fourth out of five tiers in my analysis. It is not a bad thing for him to think he is the best and that it is incumbent on him to demonstrate that; however, it does seem a tad delusional.

Ever since about June 1, I have been suggesting that A-Rod is the Comeback Player of the Year. I still think that is the case but would like to suggest three other players who merit consideration for that award:

    AJ Burnett: Last year he was 8-18 (leading the NL in losses) with a 4.59 ERA. This year he is 8-5 with an ERA of 3.06 (the lowest ERA of his 17-year career).

    Matt Harvey: He did not play last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. This year he is 11-7 with an ERA of 2.57.

    Jason Kipnis: Last year he hit .240 with 6 HRs and 41 RBIs. This year, he is hitting .274 with 6 HRs and 39 RBIs – and there are still 6 weeks of baseball left this year.

Recently, Scott Ostler posed this rhetorical question in the SF Chronicle. This could be the subject of a term paper in Philosophy 101…

“If Pete Rose were a Buddhist, would he be banned for more than one lifetime?”

The impending departure of Sepp Blatter from FIFA is not without drama. Blatter and Michel Platini (president of UEFA) are taking potshots at each other and FIFA announced that it has started an internal investigation into “corruption”. Given the fact that this is FIFA, that investigation could go on forever absent some boundary conditions on the “corruption” that might be considered. Greg Cote succinctly put this in focus in the Miami Herald:

“FIFA said it has opened an internal investigation into corruption. That’s like the Mafia investigating organized crime.”

That comment leads me to offer a Quick Quiz:

    Which is the more meaningless entity:

      A. The FIFA Ethics Committee – or –

      B. Pre-season college football polls.

    500 words or less…

Bob Molinaro had this comment in his column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

“Enablers: Jimbo Fisher had no choice but to accept responsibility for recent events involving Florida State football players striking women – one caught on video, the other being investigated. But it’s not Fisher’s fault. He’s just a cog in the machine. Put the blame on university presidents and other officials for turning a blind eye to what’s involved in the care and feeding of those athletes who don’t belong on campus. The real scandal is these guardians of higher education are never embarrassed enough by a dubious process to do much more than offer lip service to their schools’ true missions.”

All I can say to that is “Preach on, Brother! Can I get an Amen here?” For me the key phrase in that statement is “athletes who don’t belong on campus”. I know my position can be assailed as elitist and exclusionary; nonetheless, I remain convinced that there are loads of people in college who do not belong there and the percentage of such people who happen also to play a “revenue sport” probably approaches 50%.

There is an interesting situation in San Francisco with regard to the Niners’ training camp. They seem to have gotten control of Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and dialed it back to 2001. Consider:

A Bush (Reggie) came to town

A Gore (Frank) left town.

Similar to what happened in Washington DC back in 2001 when a Gore left town and a bush arrived…

Finally, here is one more comment from Scott Ostler regarding Pete Rose:

“I’m 100 percent in favor of letting Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame, but under my proviso that he has to get past Ray Fosse guarding the door.”

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

Counting Down To The Rio Olympics – 12 Months…

We are at 12 months and counting down to the goat rodeo that will be the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. As is always the case when the IOC puts the games in a place where lots of construction and infrastructure needs to be built in a country not accustomed to doing things on a grand scale – see Greece in 2004 as a prime example – it is going to be a race to the finish. I have written before, and it has been confirmed recently, that the promise to clean up the water in the venues for watersports will not be honored. In fact, the Brazilians and the IOC are not going to test that water for viruses – only for bacteria – even though the AP took samples for testing and found the virus levels 1.7 million times higher than levels that “would cause alarm on southern California beaches”. I do not want to make California out to be a perfect model for the world, but a factor of 1.7 million is not something to ignore.

Remember the tradition after the rowing events are over is that the winning coxswain gets thrown into the drink. Given the virus content there and the thousands of gallons of raw sewage that pour into the bay every minute, that is probably not such a great idea this time around.

Back in 2010 when Brazil won the IOC blessing to hold these games, the Brazilian economy was humming along. Today, that is hardly the case. Inflation in Brazil is running amok; unemployment is high, the economy is in tatters (one report said that Brazil contracted almost 400,000 jobs in the last 12 months) and there is a huge corruption probe ongoing with regard to the government owned/controlled oil company there. When Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, there were street protests that came perilously close to riot status because the government was spending lavishly on glitzy soccer stadiums and not on basics that people need such as food and transportation. Now the economy is even worse than in 2014, so prepare for more protests and demonstrations.

    [Aside: How can the Greek economy be in such bad shape today? After all, it was only 11 years ago that they hosted the Summer Olympics and reaped all the economic benefits from those Games. You would think they would be in the land of milk and honey still…]

The Games will happen and NBC will be there to telecast them back to the US. And last week, NBC announced that Ryan Seacrest will be the host for the “late night coverage” of the 2016 Games. This is the guy who brings us American Idol and Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. I think anyone interested in the actual sports and competitions associated with these games can read the tea leaves here and look elsewhere for coverage and results. An NBC exec said:

“The late night atmosphere will be electric and we’re thrilled to have Ryan Seacrest in the middle of it all capturing Rio’s unique flavor, talking to Olympic athletes, and telling the stories of the day.”

I will lay odds that he will not talk about the sewage problems in the watersports venue and/or the eviction of people from slum housing in Rio to make way for many of the venues needed for other sports. Neither of those “stories of the day” would be sufficiently “feelgood”…

Let me change the subject partially and speak for a moment about media coverage of the NFL. In addition to the obvious – that the coverage is unending – there are two things that need to be considered at the moment:

    1. The NFL is reported to be “thinking about” moving Super Bowl Media Day to primetime. Media Day is the nonsensical event where reporters from all over the world – most of whom would not know a football from butt hole – ask inane questions and/or dress up in outrageous costumes. It ought to be an abomination in the sight of the Lord. And now they want to put it on TV in primetime to add another revenue stream. Which of the Ten Plagues visited upon Egypt in the Bible should the NFL incur for this awful idea?

      I am torn between swarms of flies, death of their firstborn and festering boils.

    2. Media coverage on all platforms from TV to newspapers to Twitter of the NFL training camps/exhibition games is overblown by at least a factor of 10. Just as with Spring Training in baseball, many of the reports are formulaic and contain little substance. Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald commented on this issue recently:

    “At Indianapolis Colts training camp, T.Y. Hilton showed up with a backpack that looks like a cheeseburger. This is when you know there’s not a lot to write about during training camp.”

There are two NBA reports that merit commentary.

    There will be 5 – that is FIVE – NBA games on television on Christmas Day. Forget any religious significance or any traditional family gatherings on that day; treat it as any ordinary day on the calendar and ask yourself this:

      Do I care sufficiently about 10 NBA teams such that I might find a 5-game TV schedule even marginally enticing? You may stop chortling about now… Oh well, at least it will be a change from the bazillionth re-running of Miracle on 34th Street come December.

    Josh Smith of the LA Clippers has earned $90M during his 11-year NBA career. Last week, he signed a contract with the team at the “veteran minimum” and said that he has a family and things would be a little harder for him this coming year. Forget about the career earnings, as a player with more than 10-years in the league his “veteran minimum salary” will be $1,499,187. Somehow, I do not think he and/or his family will need to be standing in soup kitchen lines in the next 12 months or staying home and eating canned cat food twice a week.

      [Aside: I wonder if Josh Smith ever heard of Latrell Spreewell whose family would not have been able to survive on an absurdly low contract offer presented to Spreewell. As I recall, the offer was something like $7M per year over 3 years.]

Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald recently and it probably will not endear him to Adam Silver:

“Increasingly popular in America, the English Premier League kicked off this weekend. Don’t expect many surprises, though. The league is top-heavy with only four or five teams considered to be realistic championship contenders. We have a phrase in the U.S. for that kind of predictability and lack of parity: ‘the NBA.’”

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

“Comedian Argus Hamilton, on the FBI probe into the Astros’ online player database getting hacked: ‘When the Cardinals sent scouts to China, everyone thought they were looking for players, not attending a seminar.’”

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

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – NFL Style

Before I disappeared for three weeks in Eastern Europe, I said that putting a single NFL team in London was not a great idea and that expansion of the NFL to accommodate international expansion was probably a worse idea. My reason was that there is not enough quality quarterback talent to go around as it is.

A reader sent an e-mail suggesting that I do an analysis of the mediocre quarterbacks in the NFL and I agreed that was a good idea but that I did not have time to do it while preparing to go on vacation. Now that I am back, I have run out of excuses…

In order to do this, I have to separate the starting QBs into categories and so I have put them into five categories sort of in the shape of a bell curve. The categories are:

    The Top 4 – or – The Elite

    The Next 7 – or – The Really Good QBs

    The Great Unwashed 10 In The Middle – or – The Good

    The Lower 7 – or – The Bad

    The Bottom 4 – or – The Ugly.

As I was doing the allocations here, I immediately recognized that there will be arguments about where I put certain QBs. However, I don’t think there will be any cases where someone will think I was off by two categories. So here is the distribution in alphabetical order in each category:

The Elite: Brady, Luck, P. Manning, Rodgers. Some might want to suggest that Peyton Manning is on the downside of his career at this point and/or that Andrew Luck has not won anything yet. Fine… I still think all four of these QBs belong in this category

The Really Good QBs: Brees, E.Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Romo, Ryan, Stafford. Some might object to putting Ryan or E. Manning in this category at the expense of Flacco or Palmer. Fine… My objective here is to get to bottom two categories to check out the mediocrity levels there.

The Good: Bradford, Carr, Cutler, Dalton, Flacco, Foles, Newton, Tannehill, Palmer, Wilson. I can sense the unrest boiling up in the readership already. I just put Russell Wilson and Joe Flacco (Super Bowl winners both)in the same category with Jay Cutler and Andy Dalton; yes, I did. More interestingly to me is that I put Nick Foles and Sam Bradford in the same category and they were traded one for another in the offseason.

The Bad: Bridgewater, Cassel, Griffin III, Kaepernick, Mariotta, Smith, Winston. I had to put Winston and Mariotta somewhere and since most rookies struggle a bit I figured to put them here. The Bucs and the Titans have to hope that they will not be in this category should anyone think to do this again next season. However, with regard to the others in the category:

    Bridgewater showed improvement late last year but let us not mistake his performance with the stuff of legends.

    Cassel has been in the NFL for 10 seasons and has had 2 good years (2008 and 2010). This year he battling EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor for the starting QB job; any QB in the NFL who is a “certified journeyman” would be the hands-down starter over either of those other guys.

    RG3 had a great rookie year and has stunk in spades ever since. Because of that rookie year, I put him one notch above the abysmal QBs for this year – but one more season like the last two and he will go to the back of the class.

    Kaepernick regressed last year along with the rest of the Niners’ team. Maybe he belongs one category higher here but I do not know who to “demote” from the list above to accommodate him there.

    Smith is a game manager and not much more.

The Ugly: Bortles, Hoyer/Mallett, McCown, Smith/Fitzpatrick. The Texans are trying to decide between Hoyer and Mallett as their starter; for me, this is a coin flip that does not turn out well for the fans in Houston. The Jets will have to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick until Geno Smith’s jaw heals but the fact of the matter is that neither one is very good.

    Bortles has all the physical tools but here are last season’s results. His QB Rating (flawed as that yardstick is) was 69.5. To give you an idea who else is at that rating level, let me point you to Kordell Stewart. Ka-beesh?

    McCown will start his 13th season in the NFL in September; he has averaged fewer than 4 starts per season in his career. Last year in 11 starts, his team was 1-10.

The 11 QBs in the bottom two categories here are not great QBs who suffer only by comparison to the elite ones at the top of the scale. They are a pretty mediocre lot and it makes my point that if the NFL expanded to 36 teams (the next logical number for the league) there would have to be even more mediocrity starting under center in the future. Is that what you really want to see? I don’t.

Finally, to lighten the mood here a bit, here is an observation on the MLB All-Star Game from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Pete Rose was in the Fox broadcast booth for the All-Star Game. He was very informative. I had no idea that the underdog covers the spread 32 percent of the time in All-Star Games.”

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

Off-Field Football Injuries…

I believe it was Vince Lombardi who said:

Football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport.

In the course of participating in football as a collision sport, players incur injuries in a variety of ways. Jets’ QB, Geno Smith, just incurred an injury off the field when his jaw collided with the fist of IK Enemkpali who, up until that moment of collision, was a linebacker for the Jets. The first reports said it was a “sucker punch” provoked by Smith’s delay in reimbursing Enemkpali $600 that Smith said he would give to the linebacker. The background here is not important; what is important is:

    Enemkpali was cut by the Jets and just signed with the Bills who, coincidentally, are now coached by Rex Ryan who coached the Bills last year and who play the Jets twice each year.

    Smith is out 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. That makes Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter on the depth chart for now and, frankly, that is not such a huge step down from Geno Smith. However, if Fitzpatrick goes down, things could unravel quickly for the Jets this year.

According to a report in the NY Daily News this morning, a “Jets’ source” said that Smith deserved what he got not because of his late payment of the $600 but because he was in Enemkpali’s face pointing at him and perhaps even poking him. If that is the case – and I have no way to know if it is –, then Geno Smith is dumber than toast. None of that would raise the level of Enemkpali’s behavior beyond the level of moronic. Even at the Pop Warner level, players know that they should not purposely take out their own starting QB.

The weirdness of this situation calls to mind three other football players who incurred injuries outside the field of play in strange ways:

    Just recently, Jason Pierre-Paul blew off a finger or three playing with fireworks.

    Outside a nightclub at about 2:00 AM, Plaxico Burress felt the need to brandish a handgun – an improperly registered one at that – leading to Burress shooting himself in the leg.

    In the Jags’ locker room the coach had placed a large tree stump and an axe and told players that the motto for the team for that season was to “Keep choppin’ wood.” Punter, Chris Hanson, took all of this very seriously and picked up the axe to chop a bit of the wood. The axe ricocheted off the stump and sliced into Hanson’s leg seriously enough to require surgery and to keep Hanson out for the season.

Football is a collision sport indeed. Nevertheless, players find ways to injure themselves rather seriously outside the game too…

One final note relevant to the Jets and their QB situation came when Jared Lorenzen – you remember him as The Pillsbury Throwboy and/or The Hefty Lefty – tweeted that he was available for the Jets and that he already looked good in green. That is the color of his uniform in an Indoor Football League where he is playing QB at something like 320 bills.

I realize that trying to apply logic to the sequence of events related to the NFL’s desire to put a team or teams in the LA market is a futile exercise and that the only thing that matters is “league revenue”. Having said that, there are strange doings in that arena:

    There was evidently a law in St. Louis and/or Missouri that required a referendum before the city and or state could shell out taxpayer money to upgrade the Rams’ stadium. That requirement meant the city/state could not meet the NFL deadline for proposing what they would do to keep the Rams in St. Louis. So the folks in charge went to court to get the law that was on the books declared too vague to enforce so that they could pledge taxpayer money without a referendum.

    If that is not strange enough, they did that even though the Rams’ owner does not want to stay in St. Louis and would prefer to spend lots of his own money to build a stadium in Inglewood, CA.

    The city fathers in San Diego – after fiddling around with the Chargers on stadium matters for about 10 years – came up with a plan to spend about $400M taxpayer dollars on a new stadium for the Chargers in a location that the Chargers have deemed unacceptable for at least the last 5 years.

    The only sane behavior by city officials comes out of Oakland where the city has not even tried to finance a new stadium for the Raiders for the very simple reason that Oakland does not have that kind of money to throw around. So, the Raiders are faced with this situation:

      A. They stay in Oakland and play in an outdated and dilapidated stadium where the drains back up once in a while putting raw sewage on the locker room floors.

      B. The NFL grants them permission to move to Carson, CA as joint tenants with the Chargers.

      C. The NFL grants them permission to move somewhere else where a new stadium might materialize – think San Antonio or Las Vegas.

Paramount in all of these maneuverings is a strong desire on the part of the NFL that it not be the target of any serious lawsuits by cities that lose teams and/or cities that believe they should have gotten a team if the selection process had been “fair”. The saga continues…

Finally, here is a note from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald from about a month ago related to another lawsuit brought against the NFL.

“A federal court ruling said NFL cheerleaders deserve to earn at least the minimum wage. Thank goodness these women will finally be paid commensurate with the valuable public service they provide.”

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