Friday, September 11, 2009

Defending the Indefensible...

Imagine yourself having just graduated from college. You've been offered a very lucrative job. It's been your life-long dream to work in this industry. It's what you went to college for. You are about to realize all of your dreams. The only downside is, you have to move 1,000 miles away from where you went to college and roughly 900 miles away from where you grew up. But this is your dream, so you do it. And you wind up doing it very well. Over the next 8 years, you win awards at your job. You are one of the best employees at what you do. During those 8 years, you get married, have kids and begin raising your family in your new environment. And you like it. You are living the fairy tale you always wanted to. Then, one day, out of the blue, your boss calls you into his office and tells you that you've been transferred to another branch, but this one is 3,000 miles away. You were never consulted on this. They didn't ask you if you'd be willing to go. And now, you have to go home and tell your family that either daddy is moving, or the entire family is being uprooted or you have to quit your job. Oh, and you have 5 days to move out there or forfeit your salary. You'd be pretty pissed, wouldn't you? Then why, for the love of God, is Richard Seymour being treated like garbage for having a natural human reaction? The preceding paragraph is exactly what just happened to Seymour when the Patriots traded him to the Raiders this week.

When a player gets traded from one team to another, we tend to only look at the ramifications it will have on that player or the team that traded for him or traded him away. We never take into account the human side of the equation. We only look at the teams involved in the trade, not the cities. We never think of the families. The collateral damage, if you will. When athletes sign free agent contracts, they get to take all of these things into account before signing with a team and a city. But when they are traded, most of them (the ones who don't have no-trade clauses in their contracts) just have to go. They have to leave their families behind or uproot them. And we, as fans, just take this for granted, because most of the time, the athlete does so with nary a peep. And we as fans gripe when a player like Seymour resists, because, well its his job to go....and he makes millions of dollars to do it. But those millions don't make it any easier to have to tell your wife and kids that your new office is 3,000 miles away. And there are other factors that most fans don't see or just turn a blind eye towards. Seymour is not the first athlete to resist a trade, after all.

Terrell Owens once got the NFL to void a trade on a technicality because he didn't want to play in Baltimore. Alonzo Mourning essentially held two NBA franchises hostage because he didn't want to play in Toronto. And Charles Johnson once forced the Colorado Rockies to pay him a $1 million trade fee to accept a trade from the Marlins to the Rockies. Why? Because Johnson would be forced to move from Florida (where there is no state income tax) to Colorado (where they have one of the highest state income taxes). I still consider that to be one of the shrewdest trade negotiation ploys a player has ever used. The point is, players, despite their salaries, still have some of the same worries and concerns that we do. We just tend to scoff at them because of what they do for a living and how much money they make.

Seymour was blindsided by the announcement of his trade to the Raiders. If he doesn't report to the Raiders in 5 days, he will be suspended for the season and lose over $3.6 million in salary. It's an expensive statement to make. But it appears as though it's one Seymour might be willing to make.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What were the qualifications?

Last night, I took a stroll through and stumbled upon the ballot for the 2009 MLB Man of the Year Award. Apparently, each team gets to nominate one player for the award, and then fans vote on the award. Players like Mike Lowell, Roy Halladay, Barry Zito, Albert Pujols and Ted Lilly are up for the award. All these players are great humanitarians and do wonders for their local communities. Meanwhile, the New York Yankees nominated.....wait for it........wait for it........Alex Rodriguez. No, I'm not kidding. The quarter of a billion dollar man is the Yankees choice for Man of the Year. The man who took Performance Enhancing drugs, then lied about it (seemingly multiple times) is the Yankees choice. The Yankees nominated an adulterer who tried to throw his own cousin under the bus as their best humanitarian. Really? This is your choice, Yankees? Not Derek Jeter? What- was he too obvious a choice? What about Mark Texiera? Jorge Posada? Mariano Rivera? What exactly were the qualifications that made ARod your candidate? I really want to know.

So, now Rodriguez gets his name on a ballot with a cancer survivor (Lowell) a well known humanitarian in his community (Dan Haren) and a man who married a woman with a 3-year old who had down syndrome and now donates time and money to that cause (Albert Pujols). What am I missing here? How does Rodriguez even belong in the same sentence as these guys when it comes to anything remotely charitable? And don't tell me about all the money he donated to the University of Miami - he did that for name recognition alone. If ever someone could be selfish while donating money, ARod managed to do it.

My guess is, the qualifications the Yankees thought MLB and its fans were looking for were: overpaid, steroid using, lying, cheating, adulterer. Well, if those are the qualifications, then ARod wins. Hands down.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Weekend Review....Jeter & College Football

The 2009 College Football season kicked off this weekend. It began with a punch and ended with a fury. Here are some things we learned in week 1 of College Football....
  • Pre-season polls are still as useless as tits on a bull. They are prejudicial, subjective, based off of roughly zero facts in evidence and skew the NCAA landscape for the entire season. Don't believe me? Just ask Missouri, Miami, Michigan and Cincinnati, who were all written off as non-factors before the weekend started. Ask Ohio State and Iowa, who were severely overrated until an Armed Forces School and a Directional school came within a whisker of beating them both.......on their own home turf, no less.
  • LeGarrette Blount is nothing more than a thug and a punk. But then again, we knew that before Thursday Night's "punch heard round the world". This guy is going to be earning millions next season in the NFL while honest, hard working Americans struggle to scrape by. A true testament to the ass backwards society we live in.
  • Oklahoma will struggle against good teams without Sam Bradford. Then again so would Florida without Tebow, Texas without McCoy, Ole Miss without Snead, etc... In other words, quit overreacting as though OU was overrated. BYU is a good team and basically every other school in the country would struggle if their #1 QB went down, too.
  • Florida, Texas, UNC, USC can all beat teams comprised of players who would be second high school. Congrats, boys!
  • Alabama, BYU, Boise State, Oklahoma St. can all beat ranked opponents and should be applauded for scheduling real out of conference games (therefore, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Oregon and Georgia deserve the same applause).
  • Rutgers is probably not going to be that sleeper team coming out of the Big East, as all the "experts" had predicted.
  • The Big East gets an automatic berth in a BCS game, while BYU, Boise State and Utah will have to go undefeated just to get consideration. Yup, that seems fair.
  • Miami and FSU may not be all the way back just yet, but they provided us with the game of the weekend and showed the rest of the ACC that they both play offense this year. Here's hoping for a December rematch in the ACC Title game. Though, UNC, Va Tech and Ga Tech might have something to say about it.
  • Missouri was picked to finish 4th in the Big 12 North behind Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado. That seems a bit off now, doesn't it?
  • The SEC East just became a 1-horse race. But the SEC West, now that's going to be fun - Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss are three teams all with a viable shot at Atlanta in December.


In other weekend news, Derek Jeter went 0-8 in the Yankees Double Header yesterday vs. Tampa Bay. Why is this news? Great question. Glad you asked. This is Jeter's 14th major league season. This was the first time in his career that he went hitless in both games of a double header. That is remarkable. So, that got me doing some research on Jeter. And I'll say it - when Jeter retires, he should go down as the second greatest player in New York Yankees history. That's right. I believe when the dust settles and people truly examine his numbers and take everything into account, he should be regarded higher that Mantle and Dimaggio and Gehrig and Berra and all of them, except Ruth. Consider the following - at some point over the next week or so, he will eclipse Gehrig for the most hits in Yankee history. He already has more hits by a shortstop than any other player in Major League history.

When Jeter steals his next base, he will join a very exclusive list in the 200/300/.300 club. He will join Willie Mays, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar as the only four players in history to hit 200 home runs, steal 300 bases and have a career batting average over .300. Babe Ruth can't make that claim, neither can Mantle, Dimaggio, Hank Aaron or even Barry Bonds. And, Jeter will have the highest batting average of the 4 players in the club.

Jeter should finish his career with over 3,000 hits and possibly even 3,500 hits. He won the 1996 Rookie of the Year. He is a 4-time World Series Champion. He is a 10-time All Star. He has won 3 gold gloves as well as the 2000 All Star Game and World Series MVP. The sad thing is, the writers who vote for the season MVP rely so heavily on numbers and not intangibles that Jeter has yet to win an AL MVP. That should change this year. But it appears he is behind teammate Mark Texiera (who was MIA in April) and Joe Mauer (who missed 3 weeks of the season and is playing on a team probably not headed for the post season). Jeter deserves the MVP this year. He deserves his place in Yankee lore.

Sure, Jeter's number will be retired one day and he will be enshrined in both Cooperstown (though, apparently he won't be getting Jim Rice's vote) and Monument Park. But Jeter's rightful place is next to Babe Ruth as one of the two greatest Yankees ever to don the Pinstripes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Eagles will soar in '09

By this time next Sunday, most of America will be sitting around their TV sets, flipping their remotes vigorously to catch every second of every NFL game on. Domino's and Papa Johns delivery drivers will be burning more fuel than Al Gore's Lear jet. Side note- seriously, if Oil companies wanted to make more money and NOT gauge the American Public, here is my suggestion, just raise gas prices on Sundays and Mondays during the NFL season (when I am certain more people order delivery than any other time of the year). This way, the big time corporations who pay for the gas mileage for their drivers get stuck paying the overpriced gas prices, and the rest of us can be sure that we only get gas on Tuesday - Saturday, when it is mandated that gas cannot be over $1.99 a gallon. This wouldn't work? Why not? Since President Obama is losing the Health Care debate worse than Charleston Southern lost last night, I think he should look into this idea. It's a winner.

Ok, back on point, this is the final Sunday of 2009 without NFL football. So, it appears to be the perfect time to unveil my 2009 NFL Predictions, division by division.

Brady is back. The Dolphins have the toughest schedule in football and history is not on their side. The Bills did not improve by adding T.O. and Lynch is suspended for 4 games. The Jets are starting a rookie QB and his best Wide Receiver is a 2nd string running back. Meanwhile, the Patriots just swindled the Raiders into a 1st Rd pick in 2011 (and it's the Raiders, so let's be real, it's going to be a top-5 pick) for a defensive lineman whose contract is up after 2009. Sometimes, I think the Patriots use the Jedi mind trick on teams when talking trade with them.

Predicted order of finish:
Patriots 11-5
Dolphins 8-8
Bills 7-9
Jets 6-10

It's always hard to repeat as Super Bowl Champion. Pittsburgh is going to have an even tougher time doing it in a very competitive division. Baltimore still has a fantastic defense, but questions still loom about their offense. The Browns can't make up their mind on their QBs, and it's not like they are debating between Montana and Marino. Their defense still has swiss cheese-like holes in it. And they have RB issues. This is not a recipe for success on Lake Erie. Meanwhile, in the southern part of Ohio, a sleeper looms. A healthy Carson Palmer. A hungry and oddly overlooked receiving corps. A RB looking for a second chance. A vastly underrated defense. And a maligned head coach with something to prove. Hello 2009 Sleeper!!!

Predicted order of finish:
Bengals 11-5
Steelers 10-6
Ravens 10-6
Browns 4-12

Welcome to this season's most overrated division. The Texans are the chic pick to be this year's sleeper. Does anybody realize that Rex Grossman, REX GROSSMAN, is a Matt Schaub injury away from being their QB. And Schaub gets injured every year. He already sustained an injury in pre-season. The Jags are poised to rebound from their 5-11 season. They are? With what passing game? And what offensive line? The Titans had the league's best record last year. Yeah, and they lost their best defensive player, one of their Wide Receivers, Kerry Collins is another year older. Meanwhile, lying in wait is the team nobody seems to be talking about. This year, things return to their natural order in the south.

Predicted order of finish:
Colts 12-4
Titans 9-7
Texans 8-8
Jaguars 7-9

Does a pre-season prediction even matter in this division. You could simulate this season 1,000 times and 999 of them, the same outcome will be reached - this division has only one team that will finish over .500 and make the playoffs. It's the same team every time. Try as you might to find a sleeper here and all you find is three teams just flat out sleeping. If San Diego doesn't go 6-0 in divisional play, they should all take handguns to a NYC night club.

Predicted order of finish:
Chargers 13-3
Chiefs 7-9
Raiders 6-10
Broncos 5-11

AFC PLAYOFF TEAMS: Chargers, Colts, Patriots, Bengals, Steelers, Ravens

Probably the most intriguing division maybe in the history of the NFL. Ask 20 different NFL analysts, and you'll get legitimate arguments as to why all 4 teams can win the division and why all 4 teams can miss the playoffs. It's fantastic. It's the best division in football. All 4 teams can, and very well might, finish over .500. It's the anti-AFC West. I love the Redskins young and fast defense. But I hate their passing offense. I love the Giants rushing attack and their defense. But I hate their Wide Receivers. Oh, and brother Manning is still less than 24 months removed from nearly being run out of town. Now he's a $100 million man. The Cowboys have the flash and the new stadium (with some low-hanging fruit). They also have a dandy running game. But not much else. And the Eagles have a chip on their shoulder. Don't underestimate that chip. Or McNabb. Or Westbrook (if he's healthy). Or their receiving corps (man, is it fast). Or their pass rush.

Predicted order of finish:
Eagles 12-4
Giants 10-6
Redskins 9-7
Cowboys 8-8

Brett Favre used to play for the Packers. They hate the Vikings. The Vikings are Favre's new team. Favre's old team now has Aaron Rodgers, maybe the most talented QB in the division. But their biggest rivals are the Bears, who just traded for Jay Cutler, the QB that most people call the next Brett Favre. The Packers have the best set of Wide Receivers in the division. The Vikings have the best running back. The Bears have the best defense (and their running back is pretty good, too). Oh yeah, the Lions play in this division, too, in case anyone forgot.

Predicted order of finish:
Bears 11-5
Packers 10-6
Vikings 8-8
Lions 2-14

The Saints play offense. They play it pretty well. As a matter of fact, I don't think anyone will score as many points as they will. All they need is something that resembles a defense to run away with what will be a very mediocre division. The Falcons, like the Dolphins in the AFC, will come back to Earth a bit - remember for all the hoopla, Matt Ryan only threw 16 TDs last year. The Bucs have a lot of question marks on both sides of the ball. And the Panthers play great defense and can run the ball down your throat. But do you trust Jake Delhomme anymore? Me neither.

Predicted order of finish:
Saints 12-4
Panthers 9-7
Falcons 8-8
Bucs 6-10

Talk about mediocre. At least the AFC West and NFC South have a bonafide Super Bowl contender in it. What's that? The defending NFC Champions, who came within a whisker of winning last year's Super Bowl reside here? Crazy talk! What I see are three teams that are 8-8 caliber (though one of them will find a way to go 9-7 and win the division because the league mandates somebody has to) and one team that will be lucky to win any games this year. Seriously, other than divisional games, where are the Rams getting a win from? I'll wait. Yeah, exactly. They have a beat up offensive line. Their QB is already hurt. Their Wide Receivers are Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson (no, that's not a punchline, it's the truth) and their defense will give up 30 points a game. Other than Steven Jackson, what's to like?

Predicted order of finish:
49ers 9-7
Seahawks 8-8
Cardinals 7-9
Rams 3-13

NFC PLAYOFF TEAMS: Eagles, Saints, Bears, 49ers, Giants, Panthers

Patriots over Ravens
Bengals over Steelers
Bears over Panthers
Giants over 49ers

Chargers over Bengals
Colts over Patriots
Eagles over Giants
Bears over Saints

Colts over Chargers
Eagles over Bears

Eagles over Colts

Of course, there is no chance any of this will prevail. I guess we'll just have to tune in each week to the best reality show on TV - NFL Sundays (and Mondays, and the occasional Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays).