Monday, December 31, 2007

The Future of the Jets

A while back, I wrote a column about the Jets. It said that the Jets were presumptuous in last year's draft by trading up and only getting 4 players.

And to that I hold. I said it then, and I will repeat it now; the Jets aren't very talented.

Their coaching is sound (the Pittsburgh game-plan was genius). They have some talent. But all around, they have few, if any, dominators, game-changers, players the other coach has to work around and worry about.

Truly, name one guy on their roster opposing coaches wet their pants over? TE is an abyss, QB is a question mark, no one on their D-line frightens anyone. All in all, that spells, at best, mediocrity.

The good news is the Jets are way under the cap and should have a good draft selection. I already wrote how I felt the Jets shouldn't have traded up for fewer picks in the draft, however, the two players they targeted happened to be the two best players on their defense come season's end. So we know they can evaluate talent. That fact and the large salary cap make for an interesting off-season.

So here's a gameplan for the Jets off-season. It's not what they are gonna do; just what they should do.

1. Cut Chad
I know, I know. How do you cut the poster boy of the franchise and such a good guy? Yeah, it sucks. But frankly, his salary cap hit is substantial and he's done as a starting QB. Chad disagrees; he feels he's still a starter somewhere and wants the opportunity. I say, do him the favor and let him try, someplace else. I hope Chad goes somewhere and proves me wrong. But I don't think so.

2. Kill Justin McCareins.
Not because there would be significant salary cap benefits. (There would be.) Just because it would make me happy.

3. Help the O-Line
Test the free agent market here. Don't break the bank, and see if there are good fits. One of the best fits, I feel, is Alan Faneca. A stud at left guard, Faneca is determined not to go back to the Steelers, and is probably slated to go to his old coaches in Arizona (who could use the help on the offensive line). That said, he would fit ever so nicely in between Ferguson and Mangold. Left guard has been a typhoon-sized disaster and Faneca would be a oh-so-snug fit. Also a disaster—perhaps not quite a typhoon—has been the right tackle. The Jets' running game has gotten no push (indeed, the best run in the game against the Chiefs was when Leon Washington ran completely against the failed blocking of the Jets and created on his own), and Jets quarterbacks have been sacked 53 times (while only getting 29 sacks—another point I'll take on shortly). Look at Max Starks (like Faneca, a Steeler) and see if he could fit. Jordan Gross of the Panthers is another option, though word is Carolina wants to keep him. One thing for sure, the Jets cannot go into 2008 with Anthony Clement and (Yo!) Adrien Clarke manning the LG and RT positions.

4. Trade Jonathan Vilma and Dewayne Robertson
I wanted to do this last year. But now it's an absolute must. These guys, while gamers, just do not fit the system. Last year the trade I would have tried for was to Washington. Now New Orleans seems like a fit. The Saints need help up the middle; Young and Villerrel and their starting DTs and Simenaeu is their MLB. Not exactly the Steel Curtain, see if the could be convinced to trade draft picks for two guys, who have proven to be extremely effective in a 4-3 attack defense. Another option is Detroit, who were also bad against the run, could use some help up the middle and run the 4-3 attack defense.

5. Try for Asante Samuel
Having Darelle Revis and Samuel would be a daunting CB tandem for any opposing team to face. It would also push Barrett, Poteat or Dyson to nickel and dime corners or to be cut and not covering Randy Moss or Reggie Wayne. And most of all, it would weaken the Patriots.

6. Not Briggs, Suggs.
A lot of Jet fans on the web have us trying for Lance Briggs, but I disagree. The Jets defense truly needs a pass rusher; someone opposing teams have to account for every play. A Demarcus Ware type threat. If the Jets don't feel they could get an immediate impact player in the draft, I would look into Baltimore Ravens OLB Suggs. While Briggs is a demon OLB, he is not a natural pass rusher, as evidenced by his 5.5 sacks for his entire career. Suggs, in admittedly a down 2007, has 5 sacks. Again, don't break the bank for him. But sniff around. At DT, sniff around Isaac Sopoaga of the SF 49ers to possibly play some NT. A lot of people like the Titans' Haynesworth as an option for NT. A headcase in the past, the Jets could look into him and see if he's reformed. Not likely, though but do the diligence.

7. The draft.
Unlike almost every mock draft on the web, I don't have the Jets taking Darren McFadden. In fact, I kinda think it's the height of stupidity. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are not one of the galaxy of problems the Jets have. Sure Adrian Peterson, whom McFadden is often compared to, had a nice first year, but credit the Vikings offensive line for some of that. The Jets offensive line is nowhere near as good as the Vikings' and if Peterson had been a Jet, his year would not have looked as good.
No, The Jets need help all over the defense and at OL and TE. James Laurinitis, a LB from Ohio St. could take over for Eric Barton who doesn't fit the Jets' system and give the Jets a fantastic ILB combo of Harris and Laurinitis. Calias Campbell, a raw but huge and athletic DE from Miami could be gotten with a trade down. Also, with a trade down the Jets could take Jeff Otah from Pittsburgh or Gosder Cherilus from BC to shore up their RT problems.

8. The big one
OK, I've steadfastly avoided theQB problem because, frankly, I'm undecided. What I've seen of Clemens has left me truly unimpressed. But does that mean we blow him up and start over? Or do we give him more time? After much debate—with myself—I've decided on option 3. Which is bringing someone in to camp and letting Clemens compete with them. Possibly J.P. Losman, whom Buffalo seems to want to dump. Or Rex Grossman, who is leaving Chicago under police escort. To admit the truth this option does leave me feeling a bit queasy. In my core, I feel that Clemens just isn't the guy. He isn't accurate—often throwing behind receivers—and doesn't seem to generate the plays needed to move the yardsticks. That said, I think it might be unfair to judge a guy with a handful of games under his belt, especially with a crap offensive line protecting him. So, getting competition for him for camp seems like the least worst option the Jets have at this time.

So, it seems like the Jets will be busy this offseason. Last year, the Jets didn't do what I felt they should and look what happened...although I did like the Thomas Jones move...hre's hoping they read my blog and do what I tell them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Me too


Why do people watch sports?

It's a loaded question. People watch for different reasons. But I know why I watch and I think I can figure out why a bunch of people watch.

The New England Patriots, owners of a 15-0 record, have the largest audience in
cable television history and the most viewers ever for a Sunday night NFL game. The Pats also also generated the biggest TV audience for a Sunday afternoon game in at least two decades and this week will be on two major TV networks for a simulcast game; the first time this blog can remember that ever happening.

The reason for this is obvious: People want to see perfection, and, so far, the Patriots have been perfect.

Most of us will never be perfect...in anything we do. We're human; more Homer Simpson than Peyton Manning. So in watching sports, we get to, in a frustratingly imperfect world, see perfection.

Did you ever see Grant Hill play when he was young? Before injury and age robbed him. Robbed him of what God created...the perfect basketball player. If you missed him, here are some stats, though they don't do him justice. After the first six seasons of his career, before his ankle injury, Hill had a total of 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,720 assists. Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird are the only two players in league history to eclipse these numbers after their first six seasons. And, as a point forward, he led the Pistons in rebounds, points and assists. For 4 straight years.

But the beauty of watching Hill, was watching someone do what they were meant to do. He was created to play this game, and watching him do it, was watching pure joy. Like watching the Kirov ballet, Hill was something transcendent. Don't believe me, here's a few clips of him. (Sorry about the music and the MTV editing.)

http://youtube.com/watch?v=6x1p46_uc7Q
http://youtube.com/watch?v=Dhd5SWS8u4Y&feature=related

Did you ever see Greg Maddux in his prime, when he had seven years in a row below a 3.00 ERA, two below a 2.00 ERA? When it seemed he had the ball on remote control, telling it where to go? Again, watching Maddux those years was watching art being created; watching Caravaggio or Renoir.

Did you ever watch Bjorn Borg? How about Barry Sanders? Nadia Com─âneci? Lance Armstrong? Stockton to Malone? A young Mike Tyson before he got "confused?"

And that's why people watch sports. Perfection is engrossing, because it's usually so unattainable. So people want to be a part of it. How many people claim to be at the Polo Grounds in 1951 when Bobby Thompson hit the most famous home run in baseball lore and created the most perfect moment in baseball?

Nike had a commercial a few years back, showing people stopping whatever they were doing (the sink overflows with water, the bicycle outside was dropped at the curb) to watch Michael Jordan dunk a basketball. The point: the things we will do to watch a little bit of perfection.

I am no exception. I can't paint the corners like Greg Maddux, just like I couldn't paint "Starry Night" like Van Gogh. I feel a swell of pride if I toast my Lender's with just the tips crunchy and the inside golden brown. And while I am proud of this blog, it is far from perfect.

But for me, there's more to watching sports than just wanting to watch something perfect. More than watching someone dominate, like Michael Jordan, year after year. More than watching superhuman-type people do almost unimaginable things.

Don Larsen had a career record of 30-39 when he took the mound, October 8th, 1956, game five of that year's World Series, against the Brooklyn Dodgers. A journeyman pitcher who would end up with a 81-91 career record, Larsen had just been shelled in game 2, lasting less than 2 innings giving up 6 runs. Even he admitted, he never thought manager Casey Stengel would put him out there to pitch again in the Series.

On October 8th, 1956, however, he was perfect. He is the only person to ever pitch a perfect game in the World Series. Despite his career-long mediocrity, despite the lack of dominating God-Given talent, despite all his human-ness and flaws, he did something no one has ever done before or since. Not Roger Clemens, Sandy Koufax or Cy Young. For one day of his flawed life, he was perfect.

And that is why I watch sports. Because I'm imperfect. Because I'm average. And because I hope that one day, even a very flawed person like me, could be perfect at something, just for a little while. I hope, someday, me too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Transactions...


Sure looks like the eagerly awaited San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl was bursting to the rims with fans. I heard that scalpers outside were selling tickets with prices up to $8 dollars.

Watched the Memphis play Georgetown last week and, boy, they look for real.

In the jerk comment of the week, we have Jets WR Laveranues Coles, of the 3-12 Jets. See, Laveranues feels when his team has 3 wins out of 15 is a good time to demand a raise, especially considering he's amassed a whopping 55 catches over those 15 games. And gosh darn it, $5 million just isn't enough. And to persuade people Laveranues has said, "It's not only me I have to keep in mind, I have a family also," he said. Yeeeaaaahh, 5 million just won't be enough.

I know the new Tigers stadium is huge, but I'm concerned about Dontrelle Willis facing AL hitters. In a spacious park down in Miami, facing NL hitters without a DH, Dontrelle's stats in every category have gone down. Of most concern, the base on balls. After only giving up 55 in 236 innings in 2005, he gave up 87 in only 205 last year.

Watched a bit of the Heat game on Christmas and wowzers, it is waaaaay past Shaq's warranty date.

In the ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER's Man of the Week, we have a tie. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs of the Giants. Together they combined for just shy of 300 yards against the Bills. Bradshaw, who has come from Whoville to play for the Giants, ran for 151 yards on 17 carries and Jacobs ran 24 times for 145 yards. All this got the Giants past Buffalo, on a helllstorm day up in Orchard Park and the Giants into the playoffs.

And lastly, would somebody please, please assasinate Bill Walton so he's never use the phrase "premier player in the NBA" ever again.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I could be wrong....but probably not.

With just a couple of games to go, it's time to take a look at the playoffs. And luckily for you, I have all the answers. First the NFC:

All divisions have been decided, with Dallas, Green Bay, Tampa and Seattle taking the top spots. Even the byes have been decided, with the Packers and Cowboys wrapping those up. Let's check the prognosis of each team as we head into the playoffs.

Dallas: The Jessica Simpson crapola aside, Dallas has some actual problems. Dallas' great offensive line took a hit with Andre Gurode out of practice this week. Also, Terry Glenn has been banged up, and with opponents focusing on shutting down T.O., Dallas' offense has not been what it was the past two weeks. Dallas needs to take care of business the last couple of games (both away from Dallas) at Carolina and at D.C. The bye week will help Gurode, Tony Romo and Terry Glenn get the rest they need, heading into the playoffs.
Prognosis: Still the leaders. They win and they get the no. 1 seed. Have talent on both sides of ball to make a run to Super Bowl, but are one significant injury away from a quick exit.

Green Bay: The Packers would relish home field advantage through the playoffs forcing opposing teams to visit Wisconsin in January. Their young defense also, is making life very hard for opposing teams. This week, they face the immortal Kyle Orton and the next week, the Detroit "Which abyss did they fall into?" Lions. All in all, in very good shape.
Prognosis: Very good. Easy schedule, and may have finally found a running game. Could make for a fairy tale exit for Farve.

Tampa Bay: Granted, the NFC South was not the division it was supposed to be (not one player from the NFC South made the Pro Bowl), still, Tampa is 9-5. And they've done this using their 3rd string running back, undrafted dude Earnest Graham. Also, their defense is still stout, ranked third in ypg. The bad news is that the Bucs are 1-3 against teams with winning records. Not good going into the playoffs.
Prognosis: May scrape out a win in the first round, but that's about it.

Seattle: Unbelievable, but the Seahawks still aren't over letting go an offensive guard two years ago. That's when the Hawks let go Steve Hutchinson as a free agent to Minnesota and since then, Seattle hasn't been able to run the ball. At all. And now with Walter Jones unable to practice, Seattle finds itself struggling to retain the no. 3 seed. Defensively, Seattle is in good shape, with Kearney being the best free agent pickup last year, with 13 1/2 sacks so far.
Prognosis: Shoot Shaun Alexander. His 3.3 ypc need to be put down for the playoffs. Maybe then, they make it to the second round.

The Rest: The Giants are done. Period. They are 0-4 against quality opponents, and now, Shockey is down, Kiwanuka is down and Ward is down. The tabloids are circling. At Buffalo this week, followed by the Patriots next week. Over. Minnesota is in good shape, getting hot at the right time. And they are winning playoff musts: they are no 1 in rushing offense (Steve Hutchinson, remember?) and rushing defense. But they've lost to the better teams of the league, including Green Bay twice and Dallas. New Orleans and Washington are dead.

NFC Sum-up. I'm gonna go out on a limb and pick the fairy tale. That is, I say Brett Farve makes it to one more Super Bowl. Green Bay has the defense (they are no. 1 in the league in stopping opponents on 3rd down), they seem to have found a running game, and their special teams has won the last two games for them. And besides, its about time for T.O. to implode.

Now the AFC:

New England: Absolutely no chance to make the Super Bowl. Seriously, to pick some nits. They don't run the ball as well as you'd like. Their linebackers don't cover as well as they once did. But come on, the Super Bowl goes through Foxborough.
Prognosis: Duh.

Indy: Last year, I didn't think they'd make it, then their defense suddenly started playing like run-stopping men. This year, I again don't think they can make it. They are decidedly middle of the pack at stopping the run. And without Peyton's Mind Meld Wide receiver, Marvin Harrison, the offense doesn't seem to scare as many people as it once did. (They needed a last minute score to beat the Raiders.) Also, with both offensive tackles injured, both Joseph Addai and Peyton haven't had the usual time needed to find their marks. As a matter of fact, they could start their own hospital with their injured list. The good news is that the Colts have already clinched the division and a first week bye. Also, the last two games are played at home.
Prognosis: Might have some problems against some matchups, but should make it to Foxborough

Pittsburgh: Up until Willie Parker got injured, I thought the Steelers would represent pretty well in the playoffs. Now, we'll see if Najeh Davenport can become "The Bus Part 2." Also, the once proud offensive line of Pittsburgh has been decidedly mediocre this year, allowing 47 sacks (including 4 against the Rams) and 4.3 ypc. If Najeh can't call on the ghosts of Franco Harris and Bettis in the snows of Western Pennsylvania, teams might gain up on Big Ben and dare him to win it all by himself.
Prognosis: Not exactly a pushover, but won't make it to the AFC Championship

San Diego: The Chargers are everybody's favorite "going into the playoffs really hot" team, having won 4 in a row. The only problem is, 3 of those 4 teams are Baltimore, Kansas City and Detroit (a combined 0-21 in their last 21 games). A closer look reveals that the Chargers are 2-4 against quality teams. Which reminds of me of why I remain skeptical about the Chargers. They are coached by Norv Turner.
Prognosis: Upset victim: don't make it out of first round.

The rest: Jacksonville, in my opinion has it all to make a serious run. They play tough defense, pressure the QB, have a passer that doesn't make mistakes and lose the game himself, and have two running backs who can grind it out and take it to the house. And they've already beaten the Steelers and the Chargers. The Titans seem to do it with mirrors. Yes, Vander Bosch and Haynesworth make for a nice D-line. But Young is "inexperienced" at best and LenDale White seems to fall forward for 3 yds a carry each time. And name one of their receivers. Lastly, their O-Line is banged up at the worst time. And while Cleveland can make some noise in the playoffs with an offense that can score by big play or by grinding it out, they aren't ready for the Big Boys. Also, they play Cincinnati and San Fran, so they should make it no problem.

AFC Sum-up: The match up I'd like to see, Jacksonville and New England could happen. Indy and Pittsburg are banged up, San Diego is unproven while Tenn and the Browns are not ready for Prime Time. But really, when it comes down to it, it's the Patriots House. We're all just renting space.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Transactions...


OK, I've been wanting to say this for a while, and I think I'm ready....

Golf is not a sport.

OK, there. I feel better.

Readers of this blog know that I love Chad Pennington with all my heart, but I have to disagree with those people who say he should be the Jets starter again. Yes he played nice against the Pats last Sunday, but take a look at this stat line.

C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT
25/38 186 4.9 0 0

It's the same problem as before. He throws only dinks and dunks. Under 5 yds a freakin' pass. And once he gets into the red zone, he can't cram it into the end zone. Like I said, the guy is the ultimate team player and a heckuva smart QB. But he can't run a Jets offense anymore as a starter. Sorry.

One thing I keep noticing as I watch Dallas games. Marco Columbo is always the first guy downfield to help a WR or RB up, and the first in the end zone to cheer on a TD. A team always needs a guy like that.

Sunday, Rutger's JR Inman said North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough has yet to be challenged this season by a player such as him. "I really don't think he can guard me," Inman said. The Who-Dat? Rutgers player went on to say, "If I had to guard myself, it would be pretty hard.”

Tyler’s line: 31 mins, 6-15 FG, 8-8 FT, 20 points, 11 rebounds

Inman’s line: 36 mins, 3-14 FG, 3-4 FT, 10 points, 3 rebounds

Good game, JR.

Meant to write this last week, but the Texans taking Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush isn't looking so bad now.

I'm gonna take some flak for this, but I never thought Reggie was going to dominate the NFL. In USC, going up against Washington State or Stanford, sure he can outrun everyone to the outside and escape tackles, but that changes when you're facing Brian Urlacher or Ed Reed. They run just as fast as you, Reggie, and aren't going to miss as much. And I question if he can run up the middle. Sean Payton has him running mainly screens or dump off passes in the open field to try to set up Reggie to use his elusiveness. But Reggie has yet to show anyone if he can carry 25 times a game up the damn middle.

And this week's ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER.com Man of the Week award goes to Jamal Lewis. After being unceremoniously dumped by Baltimore in the off-season, most thought he was done. This year, he's having a nice bounce-back year and last week, in awesome blizzard conditions (wind gusts were up to 40 mph and there was practically no traction on the ground), he carried his team on his back to the tune of 33 carries and 163 yards.

I feel like I say this every week, but the New York Tabloids keep slicing up Eli Manning, so I gotta say it. OK, yes Eli didn't play very well on Sunday. But when your receivers drop at least 10 freakin' passes, including some wide open first-down-making passes, let's see how good your stats are. And to his credit, he hasn't once thrown any of them under the bus, no matter how many wrong routes they run or buttery their fingers.

And lastly, if next April, in the draft, if Jets don't take a DT or LG in the first two rounds, I am going to write my name in Magic Marker on my hand, then slap Jet GM Mike Tannenbaum hard across the face, so that when he looks in the mirror, he can see the name of the man who tagged him.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Get it Right

"The majority of players followed the laws and followed the rules. And that's the one point I've been trying to make in the twenty months I've been involved with this is the principle victims of illegal use by players are the other players who follow the rules and follow the law."

That was Senator Mitchell speaking to Jeremy Schapp of ESPN just after his extensive report of illegal drugs in baseball came out.

"Again, most of the players didn't use drugs. To not indict Bonds would be an insult to every honest, hard-working player, who played the game the right way. To not go after Bonds would reward every player who cheated and would be a slap in the face to every player who didn't—Henry Aaron included. Every home run Henry Aaron hit would be the home run of a fool, who didn't cheat."

That was me, a month ago.

Aside from bragging that I pre-echoed Senator Mitchell's main point, the reason I bring these two quotes is to bolster the main point of this article:

All players who took illegal drugs and cheated at the game of baseball must be punished and their records should be expunged from all annuls of baseball. To not, is to reward every cheater and to insult every honest player who played the game the right way. Further, to hold both the cheaters' records and the honest players' records in the same light is to postumously reward cheating. And that cannot stand.

Senator Mitchell, who gets it right most of the time in his report, advocates amnesty for all past crimes. His point is we shouldn't drag out this black period in baseball any further. While I understand his point, I disagree. And I'll use the Senator's own words in my point.

"(The players who didn't cheat are) faced with an awful choice of either becoming illegal users themselves, or being put at a competitive disadvantage." Exactly right. So the players who played honestly and acheived a place in the record books, not only chose to play honestly, their accomplishments were acheived against those who had a competitve advantage.

To further prove my point, here are some stats of Roger Clemens while he was on the smack:

1997 264.0 IP, 2.04 ERA, 292 strikeouts
1998 234.2 IP, 2.65 ERA, 271 strikeouts
2000 108.2 IP, 3.15 ERA, 98 strikeouts (Second Half)
2001 66.1 IP, 4.61 ERA, 70 strikeouts (Second Half)

Here are his stats while he was off the junk:

1996 242.2 IP, 3.63 ERA, 257 strikeouts
1999 187.2 IP, 4.60 ERA, 163 strikeouts
2000 95.2 IP, 4.33 ERA, 90 strikeouts (First half)
2001 113.2 IP, 4.20 ERA, 122 strikeouts (First half)
2002 180.0 IP, 4.35 ERA, 192 strikeouts

In 1998, Brian McNamee said he injected the steroids into Clemens' buttocks after the Jays returned home from a trip to Florida. Up to that point Clemens was 6-6 with a 3.27 ERA. After that: 14-0 with a 2.29 ERA.

So, tell me....why should Greg Maddux—or for that matter, Whitey Ford, or Bob Gibson or Sandy Koufax—have to share their records and their achievements next to a guy who obviously used drugs to get his?

And now, Jason Zombie's stats on the stuff:

2001 .367BA/.493OBP/.709SP (Second half)
2002 .314BA/.435OBP/.598SP
2003 .267BA/.419OBP/.547SP (First half)

Off

2001 .322BA/.463OBP/.618SP (First half)
2003 .226BA/.401OBP/.498SP (Second half)

Again, why should he be rewarded, or at the very least, exempt from having his records expunged, when we can clearly see those record were achieved due to cheating? Why should this guy be next to Jimmie Foxx, Willie Mays or Frank Thomas?

A lot of people disagree with me and feel an asterix in the record books should do the job, and that no suspensions or bans are necessary. In short, read the report and call it a day. One of those people is Scott Miller of CBSportsline.com. He writes: "Indications are, there will be no striking of Clemens' seven Cy Young Awards or Bonds' seven MVPs from the record books, nor should there be. Illuminating as it is, the Mitchell Report remains only one part of a labyrinth that will entrap the game for decades, and it is both impractical and impossible to officially decide which parts of the record book to keep and which to eliminate."

First of all, you don't not do something—in this case, clean up baseball's record books—because it's difficult and not pleasent. You do it anyway, because it is worth it to do so.

And anyway, wasn't it just last week that the IOC stripped Marion Jones of her gold medals and will eventually give the medals to the person who came in second? And why? Because the person who trained their whole life and went to the Olympics to compete fairly deserves the medals.

ESPN.com writes: "Many prominent voters -- including several ESPN writers -- have pronounced themselves uncomfortable with playing detective and trying to guess which players were clean or dirty. So rather than pick and choose based on gut instinct or innuendo, they simply vote based on the numbers. 'The bottom line is that we really don't know who cheated or who didn't cheat, so I have no choice but to put everyone on the same playing field,' said Bob Nightengale of USA Today."

That is a cop out. You don't throw your hands up in the air just because you can't be 100% sure on each and every person who cheated. To not punish the people who you know committed a crime because you're not sure about others, absolves the people you do know about. It's amnesty for criminals and cheaters.

One fan—who seems to be in the majority—wrote on the Los Angeles Times' Web site, "I could care less about fair play as long as these overpaid athletes entertain me."

This seems so misguided as to not be worthy of a response, but since many people feel this way, I'll respond.

Baseball isn't pro wrestling. The majority of the people playing the game play it honestly and diligently and work very hard to do so. The game has a history, a passion, and all of that is worthy of protection. It is not American Idol or the WWF. It is not disposable entertainment. It's competition. And another point is, if you passively accept steroid-enhanced baseball players with a shrug and with no punishment, what does that tell the high school kids playing baseball with an eye to making the big leagues?

I'll use Senator Mitchell's words: "The minority of players who used such substances were wrong. They violated federal law and baseball policy, and they distorted the fairness of competition by trying to gain an unfair advantage over the majority of players who followed the law and the rules."

This blog takes no joy in saying this. But a zero-tolerance policy is the only way to make the game clean again. That mean, no Hall of Fame for cheaters, an expunging of the records of known cheaters, and suspensions/bans for players who cheated and are still playing the game. To do anything less is to accept an unfair situation in a game of fair competition.

John Donovan writes in Sports Illustrated: "The lesson here should be that those who cheat by breaking the law pay the price, not that they skate just because we want to get this whole thing over with." Exactly. Unless we truly want baseball to become Professional Wrestling—where records mean nothing, and achievement is XFL-type comedy—there has to be accountability for cheating.

Donovan continues: You can't catch all the crooks. And even some of those you catch slip away sometimes. But Selig has to go after those he can go after and suspend them. Go through the appeals. Take on Don Fehr and the union. Fight the good fight. It's not something that Selig wants to do. It's not something anyone wants to do. It's going to drag out this already interminable story even further."

In the end, this whole process is ugly. It's ugly and nasty and no one wants to do it. But we have to. We owe it to all the players who played fairly. We owe it to them to get this right.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cowardice

"I believe this is truly the best football job in the NFL.”

That was Bobby Petrino, when he was introduced, less than a year ago, as the new Atlanta Falcons head coach. Yesterday, after going 3 and 10 as a head coach there, he quit the best job in the NFL.

And the reason he quit is simple. He is a coward.

This is Petrino on the day of his hiring: "I think the No. 1 thing that drew my interest was Rich [McKay] (the GM) being here...It was an easy decision for me."

Yeah....right. It wasn't working with Michael Vick. It was the "working relationship with a GM". That's why like, 16 seconds after Vick gets thrown into the pokey for two years, you resigned for the college football hotbed of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Aside from all the double-talk, how "hard" it was for him to leave Atlanta, and how it was the best decision for his family crapola, the truth is plain: Bobby Petrino didn’t think he was up to coaching the Atlanta Falcons.

Let's look at from poor Bobby's point of view. Instead of coaching the talented, but erratic Michael Vick (or Matt Schaub) your choices now at quarterback are Joey Harrington, the forever-broken Byron Leftwich and Chris "I was selling insurance 6 months ago" Redman. The best player on your defense, Patrick Kearney from last year has 13 1/2 sacks, which leads the league. Too bad those sacks are for Seattle, where he plays now, and your defense is 24th in the league and DeAngelo Hall is openly saying he wants to be elsewhere next year.

So, when the coaching situation in Atlanta got tougher than you thought it was gonna be, what do you do, Bobby?

You thought, I'm not up for this.

But tough luck, because men honor their contracts. No matter what turn of events, no matter how they may dread it inside. They do what they say they're gonna do. Right?

Wrong. Remember, you are a coward. So, this is what you do, as a coward. You assure the Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Monday afternoon you would be back in 2008 to coach the Falcons. And then the next day, you call anyplace that will have you—in this case, the football legacy that are the Arkansas Razorbacks—and ask them about coaching there. You hold a press conference at 10:45pm saying you can't wait to coach at the "A", and to your old players, you write a 4 sentence note. It was hung in each of their lockers. You don't speak to one of them personally.

It's beyond me you are ever are gonna get a recruit, how any kid would wanna be coached by you. Because the evidence says, not only are you a bald-faced liar, but the minute things turn rough, you run away.

All a recruit has to think is: "This guy had 'The best job in the NFL' and ran away, like a coward."

And who the heck would ever want to be coached by a coward?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Transactions...


If the Jets learned anything from Anthony Smith's "guarantee," it's that...it's a real bad idea to piss off the Patriots.

In all fairness, Anthony Smith's guarantee really wasn't a big chest-thumping, "We're gonna kick their butt" guarantee. This is what he said: "As long as we come out and do what we got to do. Both sides of the ball are rolling, and if our special teams come through for us, we've got a good chance to win."

"Good Chance?" Not exactly the Joe Willie guarantee, now is it?

OK. I've avoided the whole Michael Vick dogfighting thing, because it's so pathetic and dumb, but I'll say this one thing. He got what he deserved, no more, no less, and he should be able to come back to the NFL once he's paid his debt, if anyone will have him. And someone will. My guess is if he comes back it won't be as a quarterback. At least not a full-time QB.

By the way, in case you're checking, Jacksonville's QB, David Garrard has one interception. That number again, is one.

Is there any duo in the entirety of sports more despicable than James Nolan and Isiah Thomas? Here's a list of the goings-on at the Garden for just this week: 11.5 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit (which include, but is not limited to Marbury’s dalliances with an intern). After the agreement, Isiah reminded us that he is completely innocent. "However, this is the best course for Madison Square Garden, and I fully support it." How noble of him. Oh and this is after the Knicks lose a home-and-home series against the powerhouse 8-13 76ers (one of the losses being a 105-77 blowout at the Garden), and then get toyed with by the Mavs. All in all, a nice week for the Knickerbockers.

Staying with basketball, the one thing I do miss not watching, is Steve Nash. He has got to be the most enjoyable basketball player to watch since maybe Magic.

Looks like Tavaris Jackson is starting to get this whole "quarterbacking" thing, no? Granted it was only San Fran he played last week. But it seems as if he's playing with a heck of a lot more confidence than he was a month ago.

Who exactly will the Mets be trading for Johan Santana? Pelfrey and Humber didn't look like the budding stars everyone thought they were going to be, and the Mets already traded Lastings Milledge for whatever they could, which wasn't much. So, unless they fork over David Wright, Johan won't be in Queens anytime soon.

Here's some sick news. If the draft were held today, the New England Patriots would have the second freakin' pick. Because of the trade with the 49ers last year (who could truly, truly use the second pick back), the Pats get a chance to pick up uber-back Darren McFadden or everybody's All-American LB James Laurinaitis. Enough to make you want to Belichek all over the place.

Which brings us to the ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER.com's Man of the Week. Kind of an easy one. Although LT ran all the heck over the Titans, I still have to give it to Jason Witten of the Cowboys. After a costly fumble, he came back to score the winning touchdown with under 20 seconds left. And that catch, was his 15th of the game. Man.

And I'd just like to give a hat tip to sportswriter Ron Borges, who wrote a good sense article about Eli Manning. Basically he echoed the little sentiment I wrote last week. Which is, simply, yes, Eli isn't Peyton. But given a shot, he might be pretty good. Borges uses Phil Simms's stats after 4 years, and they weren't even as good as Eli's. And he also rightly points out that Eli has never once thrown his receivers under the bus for running wrong routes, which they have. A lot. But does any of this really matter to Giant fans, who are starting to light the fire in which they are gonna throw Eli?

Doubtful. Very doubtful.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Farewell To Basketball

As I kid, I was lucky. I grew up in the heyday of basketball. Bird and McHale, Worthy and Magic and Jabbar, Olajuwon, Drexler, Malone and Stockton. I watched as the Knicks won the lottery and took Patrick Ewing. I saw Jordan finally beat the Pistons and go to the first of his Finals. I saw Chris Mullin become the player he always could be—before alcohol took years of his talent—and finally make the original Dream Team.

But that's all gone. I gave up basketball. I'm done.

And apparently I'm not the only one. With waning TV ratings, and no one rising to take Michael Jordon's mantle, arenas from Milwaukee to Charlotte, Seattle to Atlanta once filled with fans, remain half-full, where they once sold out.

Michael Sokolove, in his 2005 New York Times magazine piece, "Clang!" writes that the problem may stem from the decline of the quality of the game. He writes that, over the years, as the game has become more focused on the highlight reel play, the decline in basketball fundamentals has led to an inferior product, and thus, disinterested fans. With quotable line after quotable line, Sokolove writes about the MTV-ization of the game; the decline of team play in favor of individual showboating (including players forcing trades so they didn't have to share the spotlight with another star), and the rise of international players who have the team-oriented fundamental skills that American-born stars have never been taught (or who refuse to learn). To complement Sokolove's essay, I'll use one example of a play I saw recently while watching the Knicks—a play I've seen way, way way too often recently. With the Knicks down by 8 in the third quarter, they get a long rebound and start a quick 3 on 1 fast break—until Marbury stops at the 3-point line to shoot a 3. Which he misses.

To further this argument, Sokolove interviewed Walt Frazier who positively fumes about the decline of basketball team play: "They do that even on a fast break, not just the Knicks but most of the rest of the teams...One guy's got the ball in the middle, and these two guys on the wing here, they should be cutting to the basket, right? But, no, here they go way out here, to three-point land, and they get the ball and shoot it. You're 6 feet from the hoop; why pass it back out 25 feet? And then people wonder why teams can't score 80 points.''

However, as persuasive as Sokolove as, I do think there is one place where he errs. And that is when he writes of the growing thug problem and the disconnect of NBA fans from the stars of the game. He writes, "The NBA doesn't have a thug problem; it has a basketball problem." I disagree. It has both.

He is very right about the decline of the quality of basketball. The lack of fundamentals is obvious to anyone who has watched the game over the past decade or so. An example of where this is evident is exactly what Walt Frazier complained about, that is, team scoring. A quick look into it this year shows that the highest team scoring average is 107 pts a game (which is higher than it's been recently). In the 1983-1984 season, the season I really began to follow basketball, it was 122 pts a game. Stephon Marbury, the self-proclaimed "best point guard in the game" this year is shooting a 41% field goal percentage. Allen Iverson's career percentage is 42%. To contrast, John Stockton's career percentage was a touch under 52%. Walt Frazier's was 49%.

Watching a game destroy itself is not only frustrating; it is sadly, boring. Fundamentals I was taught in pee-wee league are spotted in NBA games exceedingly rarely. Miss after miss, dumb play after dumb play, it became tiresome to watch. But even so, that alone wasn't enough to drive me from the game I grew up loving.

Last year, the NBA, in a remarkably unwise decision, decided to have their annual All-Star game in Sin City, that is, Las Vegas. The result: 362 arrests, 4 people shot. NBA thugs, hangers-on and posses rode roughshod over a city built for partying till Sin City raised a white flag. It got so bad over NBA All-Star weekend, businesses closed and lost money rather than risk the safety of their employees and livelihood. The Chief Executive of the MGM Mirage was quoted as saying he doesn't want the NBA All-Star game in town. Ever again. This despite the fact that Las Vegas has spent millions of dollars trying to draw an NBA franchise to the city.

In 2004, there was the infamous brawl in Detroit where Ron Artest jumped into the stands which began a players versus fans stadium-wide brawl. A few days later, Artest appeared on TV, not to apologize, but to promote his CD.

To continue, there was the recent referee betting scandal and the Knicks sexual misconduct trial. Before these, there was Latrell Sprewell choking his coach, P.J. Carlisemo, twice. The Nuggets—Knicks courtwide brawl in 2006. Kenyon Martin refusing to enter a game over a feud with Coach Karl over playing time. Robert Horry throwing a towel into the face of his coach and walking off the court. There was the Knicks-Heat playoff brawl. Scottie Pippen refusing to enter a playoff game because he wasn't getting the final shot. Sprewell, again, turning down a multimillion-dollar contract, because he has to "feed his family." And one of my favorites, Gilbert Arenas, as he was being arrested, said, “You can’t arrest me. I’m a basketball player." And there are more. These are just the ones off the top of my head.

And yes, thuggery is not exclusive to basketball. All sports have thugs, and there are incidents in every sport. However, whereas there are shmucks and problem-cases in other sports, it hasn't become the culture, the norm. It hasn't become as accepted as it has in basketball.

But the real reason I left basketball—and the reason I can't ever see going back—occurred earlier this decade. It was when the United States tried to organize a new Dream Team to go to Athens for the Olympics. As the Olympic committee asked player after player, they were met with refusal after refusal. Some were "too tired" (Shaquille O'Neal). Others were "concerned about security," despite the fact that 1.5 billion dollars was being spent on security and the NBA team would be staying on a ship protected by Navy SEALS. (Also, I'd like to point out, that Yao Ming, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitski and other foreign-born NBA stars had no fear about representing their countries even though they would not be protected by Navy SEALS.) One player, who I won't name, refused to represent his country because he wanted to be close to his NBA contract negotiations. As if there isn't a fax machine in Athens.

The fact that certain players of the NBA not only didn't relish the chance to represent their country, but shirked it as some kind of burden, represents for me the ultimate in arrogance and selfishness. Can you imagine not wanting to stand on a stand with a medal around your neck as the National Anthem is being played and the flag is being raised? What about that seems a burden?

In a way, this nauseating off-the-court behavior mirrors the on-the-court selfishness. I don't expect angels to play the game, I don't mind grown men enjoying the money they make. I simply want the players to love the game as I love it. Play as though you realize you are so lucky to have the talent you do—because there are millions who would give anything to play that well. Millions who would play the game for nothing. In short, I simply ask for a respect for the game, not to mention a respect for the country that allowed the opportunity to earn millions playing a game.

And until that happens, I say goodbye, godbless and farewell to the game I love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Transactions...


Thank you, Andy Petitte, for coming back. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Just want to say, once again, I was so right. About the Kansas City Chiefs. While Mike and Mike (also known as the Meatball and the Wussboy) were, at the season's halfway mark, praising the job that Herm Edwards did, careful readers will remember, I said they were going to be the big-time bust for the second half of the season. Since then, all KC has done is gone 0-4, including a suck-o loss to the Raiders at Arrowhead. And Meatball and Wussboy have the nationwide radio broadcast, and I blog from work.

I told the Giants not to wear their 'I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK" red jerseys. Same goes for the Jets Pee-Wee league unis. Really. Stop it.

It's time for the annual "Are You Frickin' Kidding Me?" BCS outrage. As I wrote over the weekend, the BCS Bowl-deciding system is fundamentally corrupt, full of crap and needs to be scrapped in favor of a playoff system. And now, I say thanks to them for proving me right. How the heck does Kansas get to go to the Orange Bowl and Missouri—who just beat Kansas last week!—doesn't. Basically Missouri gets punished for making the Big 12 title game, which it lost to Oklahoma; if Missouri had just sat home, they'd be in the Orange Bowl.

And BC, which as the ACC runner-up gets passed over by two teams who didn't make the ACC championship game (Clemson, who BC beat in Death Valley, and Virginia) and gets stuck with the Champs Sports Bowl on December 28th. Last year, the loser of the ACC Championship went to the Gator Bowl—this year, they go to the Champs Sports Bowl and a team that didn't even make the ACC Championship goes to the Gator.

OK, it's time for the andaplayertobenamedlater.com Man Of The Week award. Lots of nominees. Aaron Rodgers for stepping in and playing well after not playing since Mr. Rogers was in the neighborhood. Seattle's Tatupu and his 3 interceptions. Patrick Willis doing his "I tackle everything that moves" thing he does. But I'm gonna be boring and give it to Adrian Peterson. After manning up and saying "Torn lateral collateral ligament? Psshhaw!" he went out and lit up the Lions defense for 116 yards on 15 carries. Quick math experts will tell you that's 7.7 yards per carry. Oh and he scored two touchdowns, including one on a run where he juked Keroy Kennedy out of his jock. Seriously, go Youtube.com it—it's worth it.

Just want to take a second here to again speak up—a little bit—for Peyton's little brother. Again, I'm not saying Eli is great, but I am saying that his receivers are partly to blame. He still isn't as accurate as he needs to be and he needs to be calmer when the pocket breaks down. But, if his teammates, GM and most of the NFL commentators got off his case and recognized him for what he is—a talented QB with a good arm, but not his brother—then they might realize that they can work with him and focus on their other problem. A really crappy secondary.

And lastly...again...thank you, Andy. Thank you so frickin' much!!!!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Learning From History


Once upon a time in the 80s, in a place known as The Bronx, a team called the Yankees had young and talented prospects. But this team, in one desperate move after another, traded these young players—players with names of Fred McGriff, Willie McGee, Jay Buhner, Al Leiter, Doug Drabek—away for aging warriors, well past their prime....

But then the Yankees learned from their mistakes. They kept their prospects and won many World Series. And all was right in the Bronx.

But now, these Bronx warriors seem to have forgotten history, and seem on the verge of not only repeating history, but outdoing it, by trading away one of the best prospects in recent memory. Phil Hughes, a 1st round draft pick, who dominated through the minors and pitched with the big club before the time he could drink—with accolades and talent to spare. Baseball America rated Phil Hughes the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball with these words; "As good as Chien-Ming Wang has been, this homegrown ace will be even better." Why did they say that? Well, during his time in the minors, Hughes had comparable or better numbers than Scott Kazmir, Mark Prior, Francisco Liriano and yes, Johan Santana.

I'm sure you see where I'm going with this. So here it is. "Yankees. Do not trade Phil Hughes for Johan Santana."

Two reasons: The first being, that Phil Hughes could be the rock-solid ace the Yankees haven't grown since Andy Petitte—and by all accounts, Hughes could be a great deal better than Andy. The second: the Santana you see the past 4 years may not be the same once he hits 30 and pitches in big games in October in Yankee Stadium.

Let's do the second point first. And I start with a few names. Kevin Brown, Javier Vasquez. Randy Johnson. Guys with big arms, and big contracts. But what's the one thing that truly ties them together. Hmmmm....how about the minute their cleats hit Yankee soil, their ERAs ballooned? Don't believe me? Let's take the a few examples. Javier Vasquez, pitching in the peace and quiet of Montreal 2003—an ERA of 3.24 and 230 innings pitching. The next year, pitching in the turmoil and pressure of Yankee Stadium—an ERA of 4.91 and less than 200 innings pitched.

Kevin Brown, 2003 Dodgers—ERA of 2.39 and 211 innings pitched. 2004 Yankees—4.50 ERA and 132 inning pitched.

Randy Johnson, 2004 Arizona—2.60 ERA and 245 innings. 2005, Yankees—3.79 and 225 innings. The next year, 5.00 ERA and 205 innings.

And this has been going on forever (which makes the Yankees lack of realizing this all the more frustrating). Let's go back a few years. Dave LaPoint, 1988 Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox—3.25 ERA and 213 innings pitched. 1989 Yankees 5.62 ERA and 113 innings pitched.

Andy Hawkins, 1988 San Diego Padres 3.35 ERA and 217 innings pitched. 1989 Yankees 4.80 ERA and 208 innings pitched. The next year, 5.37 ERA and 157 innings pitched.

And my personal favorite: Steve Trout, a Chicago Cub, who had thrown two shutouts right before being traded to the Yankees, then threw 3 wild pitches in the first two innings of his debut with the Yankees, some of them hitting the backstop. His ERA with the Cubs in 1987 was 3.00. The same year with the Yankees, 6.60.

I could go on (Kenny Rogers being another favorite, I won't even touch Igawa or Irabu), but you get the point. Pitching, and pitching in Yankee Stadium are two totally different things. I'm not saying Santana is guaranteed to be a washout once he's in the lights at Yankee Stadium come next October. I'm just saying it's one thing to pitch in Minneapolis, or San Diego, or Arizona, where there are swimming pools in the grandstand and people don't bleed team colors, and another animal completely facing the Red Sox in October with 57 thousand people who live and die with the Yankees, and 4 newspapers comment on every move you make.

Considering the history with big Yankee pitching trades and signings, this blog has to wonder...why so quick to give up on a 21 year old, who scouts say had 4 "plus pitches." Why try to buy a World Series when history has more than proven it doesn't work? And especially why give up on youth when the 4 World Series in 5 year run was built on Pettite, Rivera, Williams, Jeter and Posada, all guys built from your farm system?

Just like I can't say Santana will blow once he's a Yankee, I can't say Hughes is going to be the next Sandy Koufax. However, I can say that Yankee pitchers that come from the farm, rather than come in from big-time trades, have proven far more worthy. History tells us that.

Let's listen to it this time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Bowl Blackmail

The BCS always reminds me of the national healthcare crisis; everyone knows something's wrong, but no one has a plan everyone can agree on.

Which makes no sense. College basketball has a great playoff system, which not only provides an undisputed national champion, but also generates so much interest, it actually cuts into the nation's work productivity. And college football is way more popular than its little cousin, college basketball. Even college Divisions 1-AA, II and III have a playoff system. So what's the haps with big-time college football?

As usual, it starts and ends with money. Bowl games generate mondo money for the sponsors and the city sites. As Franz Beard wrote on Scout.com: "The bowls exist to sell hotel rooms, dinner at restaurants and tickets to tourist attractions in the cities where games are played. The payout to college football is miniscule in comparison to the amount of loot that college football fans spend in bowl cities. The economic impact of the bowls is a big deal for the power conferences but there isn't the shared revenue effect of the NCAA basketball tournament, which actually puts far more cold hard cash in the hands of the schools that need it than the bowls ever have or ever will. The revenue potential for a 16-game college football playoff over four weeks is far greater than that of the basketball tournament but as long as the bowls continue to ante up more blackmail money --- and let's face it, that's what it is --- the athletic directors and university presidents feel no need to give the fans that actually pay the freight for college football what they want."

Simply put, afraid of losing these cash cows, the playoff system everyone is begging for gets the kibosh.

Kirk Herbstreit was asked Wednesday on ESPN about a playoff system, and he put it ominously, but simply: "Never gonna happen."

Another problem is Big Southern School arrogance. Since the majority of these bowl games are played in the South, a team like Boston College which played well and deserves a major bowl bid gets screwed out of one in Atlanta or Tampa because the Bowl commissioners would rather have a close by team like Georgia Tech or Florida State—even if Boston College (or whichever northern team) beat them or had a better record. See, the Bowl commissioners know that fans from southern schools are closer, so are more likely to travel to the bowl, get hotel rooms, spend money in bars and restaurants, etc. The same goes for smaller schools—a Boise State. Since they haven't had a winning football program for as long as Georgia or USC—and as big a traveling fan base— they get penalized. Even if Boise State, or Marshall or Akron goes perfect for the entire season, it will never, ever have a shot at national championship because the Powers That Be in college football won't allow it.

And that's a shame. It proves that performance on the field matters less than cash in hand. And that doesn't only hurt the players and the schools—it hurts the game itself. Because while bowl games might be fun, the deck is stacked against truly iconic moments ever happening in college football. A Cinderella moment—a no 8th seeded Villanova running through the tournament and upsetting Georgetown—will never occur because of the bowl blackmail.

Dan Weitzel (of Yahoo Sports) recently wrote the umpteen thousandth article proposing a college football playoff system. The difference with his, is that his modest proposal actually was well thought out and well designed. Therefore, it'll never work. Let's take a look at it anyway.

Basically it's a 16 team round robin, where 16 plays 1, 2 plays 15 and so on for 4 rounds, until you have a national champion. The teams are selected as in college basketball with 11 automatic bids going to conference champions, and 5 at-large bids which would go to the highest ranked teams. What's great about this is that now smaller conferences get to play for something substantial: a chance to go to the dance and become the next George Mason, the next Valparasio. Potentially an Appalachian State now would have a Cinderella-like Bowl Series.

Also, while teams left out of the 16 would complain—there are always bubble teams who complain in college basketball—what this system does is ensure that an unbeaten team would never get left out of the hunt for the championship. (Auburn 2004 anyone?)

The next part of this plan would be controversial, but the idea has merit. The first three rounds of these games would be at the team with the higher seeds' home field—as is done in the NFL. You know, though, the owners of the bowls as they are right now would throw the Grandmother of all hissyfits once they hear of this plan. Not only is there a playoff system, but now the games aren't in New Orleans, or Tempe or Miami, but in Columbus, Eugene or Norman? Hissyfits aside, the plan has merit because it forces teams to play for the highest seed possible, even if they have their conference wrapped up—home field advantage is a good incentive to play hard the entire season.

But, as Wetzel writes, (and I have to admit, I thought of a while back when I was coming up with my own playoff system), bowl games could still exist. For the other 113 teams not in the playoffs, you could still have a bunch of bowl games whenever, and wherever you want. (And thank god, we salvaged the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.) And Pasadena, Miami, New Orleans, or wherever you wish, could still account for the neutral site championship game—call it the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, whichever.

But when money is involved, I have very little faith. Herbstreit said on ESPN, "Never gonna happen," and I can't say I disagree. As long as the people who decide are hostage to the people holding the money, the true champion-deciding playoffs the fans want and the players deserve will never happen. And you know what they call that:

They call that blackmail.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

B*nds Red*x


Since the first article I wrote about Barry Bonds, more articles have come out both criticizing him (too little, too late) and, amazingly, defending him.

The most defiant is Jemele Hill from ESPN. A black woman sportswriter, her article, "The Indictment of Bonds is Just Plain Wrong" begins as defiant as Bonds himself, stating that you would assume that she defends Bonds because she is black, and that we would be wrong. She later does, in fact, pull "the race card" to defend Bonds.

However, race isn't her biggest problem; it's logic. A quote: "For now, let's focus on something even bigger than race -- the unbelievably deep hypocrisy that has fueled the federal government's pursuit of Bonds for four years. The decision to indict Bonds on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, a charge I still don't understand, considering the government didn't need Bonds to topple BALCO -- isn't right, fair or just."

Ignoring the fact that she admits to not understanding why the government would give Bonds total immunity for his testimony, then indict him when he broke the agreement, the bigger question is, "why would it be hypocritical to go after Bonds?" Ms. Hill's claim is that Bonds wasn't the biggest criminal; there were bigger. Victor Conte, who ran BALCO, she claims isn't facing as stiff a punishment as Bonds. Well, maybe so. But Conte agreed to a plea deal and more important, didn't lie in his testimony. The charges Ms. Hill can't understand, the perjury and obstruction of justice, wouldn't exist if Bonds had simply told the truth.

More quotes: "Bonds -- who wasn't the first baseball player to take performance-enhancing drugs...who played against players taking the same drugs as him...-- is facing prison time and will be anointed the primary culprit of an era he didn't create."

The logic of this is truly freakish. Al Capone didn't create gangsterism, and surely competed against (and killed) other gangsters. Should he be free from prosecution because he didn't create the crime he committed? The point is moot, because to repeat, Bonds crime wasn't steroids; it's the perjury and obstruction of justice.

Ms. Hill continues to either willfully ignore the issues and obfuscate, or just plain doesn't understand them. She even bizarrely drags President Bush into the fray, implying that his interest in the steroid scandal is "intriguing" considering that when he co-owned the Texas Rangers, some of his players used steroids.

Then she plays the race card, claiming Bonds' biggest crime was not playing the grateful black man. She then brings out the worst example possible. "Gary Sheffield, while not the most eloquent speaker, alerted us to the obvious -- that MLB has a certain amount of economic control over Latino players because it plucks them from their home countries so they won't have to pay hefty signing bonuses in the draft."

Ignoring the fact that Gary Sheffield is a world-renowed malcontent and moron, I'll attack the financial facts of this argument. Two years ago, the Mets signed two Latin American prospects to the tune of 2 million in signing bonuses. They were both 16 years old.

Then last year, the Nationals signed a shortstop from Latin America to a reported 1.6 million signing bonus. The Yankees signed a catcher from Venezuela named Jesus Montero to a reported 2.2 million dollar signing bonus. He was 16 at the time. Seems to me they are paying hefty signing bonuses...to unproven 16-year-olds.

Exponentially increasing signing bonuses aside, didn't the Red Sox pay over 100 million dollars for Daisuke Matsuzaka? The point being: Major league ballclubs will pay top dollar for anyone who can help them win. Money isn't the issue, talent is.

Ms. Hill continues her race diatribe. "Why didn't the government pursue the past that Mark McGwire wasn't eager to talk about? Why does MLB seem to have only a passive interest in Paul Byrd?" To retort to Ms. Hill: Didn't the Feds invade the home of Jason Grimsely, a white pitcher? Didn't the Feds offer Bonds the exact same deal they offered Jason Giambi?

Perhaps the point could be better-made by another ESPN reporter. Howard Bryant, African-American himself, chastises the Bonds' defenders and the thought that race is a major part of the BALCO case.

"In the BALCO case, there were numerous defendants and many targets...but nobody associated with BALCO has escaped cleanly. Bonds is the last domino. He and his trainer, Greg Anderson, are the only ones still standing from BALCO who haven't either pleaded guilty, cooperated fully, or both; and that explains the treatment given Bonds."

He continues: "At one point in December 2003, Bonds and Jason Giambi were in the same position. But Bonds chose, in the eyes of the feds, to lie. Neither was to be charged with any crimes if they told the truth in a private setting, under oath."


Mr. Bryant's logic is as strong as Ms. Hill's is faulty. Ms Hill writes, "What-about-them arguments are normally despicable, but to ignore that Bonds was part of an ensemble cast is foolish and lacks perspective."

As Mr. Bryant wrote, Bond's indictment isn't about his being singled out. It's about his arrogance, his belief that he could bully prosecutors. Mr. Bryant writes persuasively: "It is a power game; and against individuals who possess such staggering degrees of wealth, only the federal government -- with its resources, subpoena authority and moral muscle -- has the power to make them accountable. That miscalculation, more than any racial bias, is the root of Bonds' downfall."

Amen. No matter how defenders of Bonds angle and obfuscate the argument, the undeniable truth is, he had a chance to avoid all this and struck out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Transactions...


No, seriously. Hockey season started?

Who knew?

Think the Browns want the No. 1 pick they traded away for Brady Quinn. So far, Derek Anderson has a QB rating of 90% and 22TDs. Also, he has good pocket awareness and knows when to get rid of the ball, as he's also only been sacked 10 times.

Meanwhile, Quinn is getting really good at sitting.

Probably gonna take a lot of flak for this, but if anyone can beat the Patriots this season—and I don't think anyone can—I think the Jaguars might be able to. Call it a hunch, but I think they might have the defense to get in Brady's face. And just enough offense with Maurice Drew and David Garrard to get the job done.

But I don't think it'll happen.

That said, kudos to Jack Del Rio for sticking to his guns and chucking El Tubbo— Byron Leftwich—this offseason. Byron, while a gamer (because he has no mobility and is constantly getting knocked onto the DL), and not a bad QB, made Drew Bledsoe look downright nimble in the pocket. After Del Rio inserted Garrard, Jacksonville is now an offense that, while not Dallas's or New England's, can help their stout defense. Garrard has command of their playbook—as evidenced by the 9 TD passes, no interceptions and 65% completion rating—and what's more, can actually shift in the pocket. The result is Jacksonville this year is the team I thought they would be last year; that is, the team the big boys (Indy, Pittsburg, N.E.) don't want to face.

It is more than a little excellent that "The U", that is the Miami Hurricanes football team, stink so bad. For years, the arrogance and downright thuggery that program exemplified was an embarrassment. Mugshot after mugshot; obnoxious NFL rookie after obnoxious NFL rookie. It's nice to see them eat a little humble pie with a absolute crapola season and no bowl trip.

Whatever nonsense is preventing most of the country from getting the NFL Network needs to stop now. One of the biggest games of the year is coming this Thursday with the Packers visiting the Cowboys and only like, 13% of the nation is going to be able to see it.

The ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER Man of the Week Award. Lots of applicants this week. Andy Reid for designing a brilliant gameplan against the Patriots and got backup A.J. Feely to throw for 345 yards against the Pats. Patrick Kearney with 7 tackles and 3 sacks. Patrick Willis (the guy I wanted the Jets to draft) with 18 tackles (17 solo) and half a sack. and kept Edge in check. Devon Hester and his entire punt blocking team. But the award goes to Ryan Grant—who's come out of Wheres?-ville to give the Packers a needed running game. Ryan got over 100 yards against a very good Lion rush defense on only 15 carries. He also got 6 of Lord Farve's passes. Congratulations, Ryan.

Schmuck of the Week goes to Chad Johnson for celebrating a touchdown by playing with the camera in the endzone. Hey jerk, your team was picked by everyone to go to the playoffs, but is only 4-7. What the hell are you doing showboating at 4-7? Flip the damn ball to the ref and try to go on a two-game winning streak.

Starting to think the Yankees should go after Randy Wolf. A low-risk, potentially medium-range reward type guy. He's a lefty, only 31, and wasn't all that bad in the spring before the injury shut him down. A nice incentive-laden contract might be the way to go here. This is all assuming he gets a clean bill of health.

Ok, not to defend Eli Manning—because he had a stinkpoo game yesterday—but his receivers have to run the called routes. And then when the ball is thrown to them, they have to actually catch and hang onto the ball. Maybe then, all this "He's not Peyton" stuff would begin to go away.

And lastly, Vince Young. You're not allowed to do another commercial until you pass Kyle Boller on the QB rating chart.

And only one until you get past Joey Harrington.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Transactions.....


Was it me, or were there more Pittsburg fans at the Meadowlands last Sunday than Jets fans?

I'm glad the Yankees kept Kevin Long as their hitting coach. A bunch of the Pinstripers credit this guy to no end.

Seriously, has anyone told Stephen A. Smith on ESPN that he can't speak English? I mean, listen to the man. If you can.

I'm not really a big fan of their fans, but Clemson really does have one of the coolest logos in college sports.

There were of a bunch of men to choose from this week...but the coveted AND A PLAYER TO BE NAMED LATER Man of the Week award goes to....Antrel Rolle of the Cards. A bit of a disappointment since he was taken 8th in the 2005 draft, he went all loco this week, getting 3 interceptions, returning two to the house. Congratulations, Antrel.

G4s Ninja Warrior is what the Olympics should be....seriously, the best show on TV.

I really think Bryant Young on San Francisco is one of the most underated player in football. 3-4 or 4-3, end or tackle, he's done nothing but produce. This year, at 35, playing at the end postion in a 3-4 defense, (on a crap team) he has 6.5 sacks, 2 passes defensed (as a DE!) and a forced fumble. A man.

And congratulations to professional sportswriter Stewart Mandel of Cnnsi.com. Today, he picked Boston College to appear in the Champs Sports Bowl on December 28th seeded as the ACC number 4 seed. Only problem is since Boston College has earned its way to the ACC title game, the worst it could be seeded is 2nd. Way to go professional sportswriter Stew!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The D*fense of B*rry Bonds

The indictment of Barry Bonds this week brought along with it the usual hoopla and opinion-spouting from every "analyst" as well as from every halfway-knowledgeable sports fan. This blog is no different.

However, what hoopla is unusual is the loud defense of Barry. Coming from certain quarters—especially black reporters—the defense rings false. It smacks of defending Barry at all costs for reasons not true and having nothing to do with the integrity of the game.

The defense seems to follow two schools of thought. The first—the everybody's doing it—argument goes like this. "...(Barry is not the bad guy) The entirety of baseball is the bad guy" (Betting Fool Blog—SFGate.com). The second argument, the race argument, goes like this: "What about Mark McGuire?" (The semi-coherent Stephen A. Smith—ESPN).

Let's start with the first one—the Everybody's Doing It" defense. The gist of it seems to follow this thought; It's not that big a deal...The government is wasting their time...Everybody does it anyway.

The head-scratchingly obvious response to this is...the fact that others, (including, but not exclusive to, Raphael Palmiero and Jason Grimley) have committed a crime isn't absolution from a crime. You are still just as guilty.

Here are some quotes from a Barry defender. "By some estimates, 40 percent of MLB over the so-called "Steroid Years" were on something."

Again, even if the figure of 40% is true, it doesn't absolve anybody. The logic of "If enough people commit a crime, it ceases to be a crime" is not logic at all. At what percentage of people doing it does it cease to be a crime? 40%? 50%? Also, which crime is ok? If 40% of players were gambling on baseball as well as injecting steroids, should we ignore their behavior as well?

Another defense is: "Granted, the hundreds of other users didn't supposedly lie to the feds. But I bet many of them lied to teammates, their families. Ever lied on your tax returns?" (That's an actual line from the Betting Fool Blog)

Um, no. I don't cheat on my taxes. And I don't use steroids. Should I because "everybody" was doing it? Also, we're not condoning their behavior—lying to family or such—we're indicting a crime.

Even if the estimates (we wonder which reputable source afforded those numbers) are true and 40% of players did it, that still leaves 60% who didn't. Why should we let those who played the game the honest, true way get penalized for not cheating.

You don't pick and choose which lawbreakers you go after. If there is a law against doping and steroids. you enforce it. If you don't, what's the point of the law? And if a man knowingly breaks the law, then lies to a grand jury—after being warned not to, and doing it anyway—then you indict him.

Another quote: "But if he didn't tell the Feds the entire truth about the juice that fueled baseball's comeback, slap his wrists and put him on probation." Right?

No, because perjury and obstruction of justice are not slap on the wrist misdemeanors. They are, and should be, serious charges.

"The owners and snakes slithering around in Bud Selig's cave are hugely to blame. That's who the feds should arrest."

Why? What law did they break? What logic are you using to go after owners? Because they are rich?

Again, most of the players didn't use drugs. To not indict Bonds would be an insult to every honest, hard-working player, who played the game the right way. To not go after Bonds would reward every player who cheated and would be a slap in the face to every player who didn't—Henry Aaron included. Every home run Henry Aaron hit would be the home run of a fool, who didn't cheat.

You would be rewarding someone who knowingly broke the law. Multiple times.

That's why you go after Bonds.

The second point. The race card. The Why Barry and not Mark card.

Simply put, because the whole BALCO investigation wasn't started until after Mark left the game. In 2003, the government got an anonymous tip regarding the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. The investigation started then and there. Again, why? Because use of steroids did not violate baseball policy until a testing program for the performance-enhancing drugs became part of the current collective bargaining agreement in 2003. Also, when McGuire played before 2001, he didn't hide the fact he used androstenedione, an over-the-counter muscle enhancement product. Why? Because baseball didn't consider it illegal.

In December 2003 when Jason Giambi went in front of the grand jury, he admitted using the Cream and The Clear—at that time, impossible to find steroids. For his part, Barry said he got what he thought was flaxseed oil from his trainer, and not steroids. If you believe that, then you probably also believed John Gotti was a part-time electrician from Queens.

Frankly, there is no conclusive, or even mildly persuasive, evidence that the indictment of Bonds has anything to do with race. Jason Giambi—who to his tiny credit, went up and admitted using drugs—was the first ballplayer vilified (and rightly so) in the press. On August 1, 2005, Raphael Palmeiro, a Dominican, who had loudly and vehemently professed to never doing steroids was suspended for violating baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy. On June 6, 2006 the home of baseball player Jason Grimsley (a white player) was searched as part of the ongoing BALCO probe. Baseball and the press has gone after any any all races in their search for steroid users.

"...you know Mark McGuire shoulda been had and he's able to retire..." (Stephen A. Smith —ESPN). Again, using enhancements wasn't against baseball's collective bargaining agreement at that time, which, if Smith was a more diligent reporter, would know that. And if Smith paid any attention to details, Bonds indictment isn't for steroid use; it's for perjury and obstruction of justice. If Bonds had followed Jason Giambi's example and confessed to the grand jury in 2003, we wouldn't be here right now talking about this.

Charles Barkley (for some reason) was asked about his opinion on the Bonds indictment, and he says "I cannot believe that after four years this witch hunt came to a conclusion....I cannot believe this selective prosecution, witch hunt, came to this. We didn't have prosecution against Mark McGuire. We didn't have prosecution against Jason Giambi....It's about race..."

Witch hunt? How? The fact that Bonds has used steroids is beyond need of any more proof. Selective prosecution? Again, the charges he was indicted for are for lying and obstructing justice. Giambi confessed to using drugs. McGuire didn't have to. And another thing. Giambi and Bonds had been given immunity for the 2003 grand jury testimony, meaning they could be prosecuted for the information they gave only if they lied. That's why Bonds has now been indicted and that's why there is no case against Giambi.

This blog in no way condones or approves of the actions of McGuire, Giambi, Bonds or anyone else who cheated (including Sammy Sosa, he of the corked bat). But to say this has anything to do with race....there's just no evidence.

To conclude, this blog thinks that anyone—including Giambi—who has been caught, or admitted doing steroids while playing baseball during the time that it has been illegal to do so, should never play the game again, and all records they accumulated are null and void. And that goes for whatever race they are.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I-Rod

So now Alex Rodriguez wants to stay a Yankee.

For those keeping track, here's the timeline again. First he claimed to want to remain a Yankee. Open the new Stadium ... tradition ... pinstripes, blah blah blah. Then he wants to do what's best for his family, which apparently means announcing his free agency during Game 4 of the World Series. Also, he doesn't even invite his beloved Yankees to the table, which drives Hank "Steinbrenner Part Deux" to rightly state, "It's clear he didn't want to remain a Yankee."

Now he loves New York and wants to stay.

So while Boras is in Miami—the home city of A-Rod—"on business"...hmmmmm...Alex goes to the Yankees and says he'll take less to stay there.

There are moments in sports when the good guy does win and justice is done. (Just look to the Isiah-Marbury feud to see what I mean—there are two guys who ABSOLUTELY deserve all the fan derision and bad press they get.) One of those moments is here with the Boras/A-Rod cabal. For all their machinations, for all their "media savvy," for all their attempts at controlling the market, to have it blow up in their faces—with both an empty marketplace for Alex's expensive services and the media ridicule—is sweet, yummy justice.

“After spending time with (wife) Cynthia and my family over these last few weeks, it became clear to me that I needed to make an attempt to engage the Yankees regarding my future with the organization. . . . We know there are other opportunities for us, but Cynthia and I have a foundation with the club that has brought us comfort, stability and happiness. As a result, I reached out to the Yankees through mutual friends and conveyed that message. I also understand that I had to respond to certain Yankees concerns, and I was receptive and understanding of that situation."

In other words, for all his massive talent, for all his professing of baseball tradition and "doing things the right way," clubs had no use for a bloated ego superstar with no rings and an inflated sense of importance. No "I-Rod" please.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Relief...Only 163 Days Away


The good news is the Jets didn't lose last week. They were off.

The truly bad news is that they might not win for the rest of the year.

What the heck happened? Last year they went 10 and 6. They beat the Patriots once. They made the playoffs. The coach was "Mangenius." Life was good.

Well, a number of things happened. First off, they didn't get the easy schedule this time around. Next, the offensive line lost its glue. Guard Pete Kendell, neatly placed between rookies Mangold and Ferguson and who tutored them well, left to be replaced by an even greener castoff.

But mostly...the Jets aren't very talented.

Last year, they could mask that somewhat with smoke and mirrors and a weak schedule. This year, not so much.

Which is why I think this year's problems all started at the draft. Which is not to knock the guys we got. From every indication, the two guys we got up top are good. Revis should be a nice corner and Harris seems like every bit the inside linebacker a 3-4 defense needs.

The problem stems from the fact that we weren't two players away from contention. We are a whole lot of players away. To trade away picks when we needed a great many players was silly, if not stupid.

Another problem; the players on our defense were picked and built for an entirely different defense—the one-gap, attack 4-3 defense (similar to Indy's defense). Robertson is a one-gap attack DT; Vilma is a quick, flow-to-the-ball middle linebacker who needs two DT's to cover for him. So to run Mangini's 3-4 two-gap defense—not to mention retool the offensive line and get a new tight end—we needed to restaff most of the Jets team.

So in the draft, what did the Jets do? Did they get the big DT they needed? Did they trade Vilma or Robertson who are both obviously ill-suited to this style and try to get more draft picks for them? Did they trade down to get even more picks so they could retool their appropriately named offensive line? And maybe a nice TE?

No, they traded up.

When the Cowboys of the early 90's were terrible, coach (and draft guru) Jimmie Johnson set the blueprint for rebuilding teams. Do your research, set your draft board. And then trade down. Again and again and again. His volume of picks allowed him to build the Cowboy dynasty of the mid-90s.

In 1996 when Jimmie was with Miami then, he traded down to accumulate 3 picks in the fifth round. His haul: utility back Jerris McPhail, solid DT Shane Burton, and future hall-of-famer Zach Thomas.

Point being, whether it was hubris, ignorance or folly, the Jets were obviously much further away than the two picks they took from this draft.

On draft day, I conducted my own mock draft along with the real one. I made it as realistic as possible with trades being positive for both teams, finances included. In this draft, I traded Jon Vilma and Dewayne Robertson to the Redskins for the number 6 pick. Washington needed run support and they run an attack 4-3 defense; perfect for Vilma and Robertson. I then traded back to get run-stuffing ILB Patrick Willis (who's doing great in the 3-4 defense out in San Fran). For the rest of the draft, I followed Jimmie Johnson's philosophy and traded back, then took players who fit the Jet's new defense. The result was a 9-player draft with more picks for next year's draft as well. I took young offensive linemen, cornerbacks, a big 3-4 nose tackle, rush linebackers. But no TE. Nobody's perfect.

But since this never happened, what we have instead are the Jets of now. Vilma likely will be traded this off-season, one year too late—with his knee injury, his value will definitely take a hit. Robertson can't anchor the Jets' rush defense, as evidenced by the Jets giving up 296 yards rushing to the Redskins a couple of weeks ago. So far, the Jets have gotten 9 sacks all year; they have given up 23.

Their offense is 100% certified crap as well. They don't average 100 yards rushing per game because they allow too many holes on their offensive line. (Granted that might have something to do with defenses stacking up because Chad couldn't throw more than 15 yards downfield with taking a half hour to float one out there.) Their quarterbacks have passed for 11 TDs; this week's opposition, Ben Rothlisberger, has 22.

But it's not all face-in-the-mud for the Jets. I hated to see it, but Mangini made the right choice in going to Kellen Clemens—who has a nice early rapport with Cotchery. He will face some touch teams right away—Pittsburg, Dallas, New England—with absolutely nothing to lose. Which will be good experience for him. Revis and Harris, now starters both, will also gain experience and become anchors in the new defense for which they are suited.

And the best news of all...the 2008 draft is only 163 days away.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Transactions....


Wait, hockey season started?

Could the Giants, please...please, never wear those stupid red jerseys again. They look like they're gonna break out into the Monty Python "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK" song.

This Jimmie Johnson-Jeff Gordon NASCAR Cup points race sure is electrifying stuff, isn't it?

The Man of the Week award has to go to Mark Brunell of the St. Louis Rams. With most of his offensive line in intensive care, he goes out against the resurgent Saints and throws 27 for 33 and 302 yards. Though he still got sacked 4 times, he didn't throw one interception. He threw, instead, three touchdown passes. Man.

I wish McNabb would just keep his mouth closed. Just play football, dude.

OK, here's the super-duper mega-early 2008 prediction. Toronto Blue Jays. They scare the AL all year and make the playoffs.

Could the "Fantasy Football Guy" on ESPN be any more of a Pocket Protector dweeb?

I can't name one team more fun to watch right now in college football than the Kansas Jayhawks and any coach more cool than their Mark Mangino.

And Kudos to College Gameday for going to a Division III matchup, to cover student-athletes playing the game, not for a big contract, but because they love the game.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Case for Nothing


Last year, some truly average free agent pitchers hit Lotto. Almost every team desperate for starting pitching threw crazy money at them to sign these paragons of mediocrity. Some guy named Gil Meche with a career record of 55-44 and who only once had an E.R.A under 4.00 (when he went 4-4 in 2000) signed a 55 million dollar contract. Lefty Ted Lilly, who's lifetime E.R.A. was over 4.5 got himself a 40 million dollar contract.

A lesson to be taken from this could be, if you're gonna go get a pitcher in free agency, grow one from your farm system instead.

Which is what the Yankees seem to be doing. After Wang came up and turned himself into a perennial 19 game winner, the Yanks have grown themselves a starting rotation. If Petitte takes his ball and goes home to retire, the Yankees with Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain and Wang could have 4 farm-groomed pitchers under the age of 28.

And that's fine with me.

The Yankees should NOT go after Santana. They should NOT sign Jennings to a huge multi-year contract. Those days are done (hopefully). If the Yankees do anything, they should add a complementary piece. A small signing.

The papers and talk radio would have us give up Melky, Kennedy and uber-prospect Jose Tabata for Santana. Or we should go after a top-tier free agent pitcher, Carlos Silva for instance (that is what passes for top tier these days).

Why not you say? Silva is a groundball pitcher who logged 200 innings last year for a 4.19 ERA. Not bad. But a few flags. First off, he gave up 229 hits in those 202 innings pitched. His lifetime BAA is .300. with lefties hitting a .472 slugging percentage off him. Also his ERA on grass is over a point higher than his ERA on turf. And lastly, and maybe most importantly, he's going to be expensive. The Twins have already tried to sign him for three years at 21 million and Silva laughed it off. Take last year's Meche/Lilly numbers and add a few zeros.

The Yanks should walk away from that as well as the Johan Santana drama. And from Livan Hernandez. And Jason Jennings. Face it—the Yanks track record on Big Money pitcher deals is G-O-D-awful with a list of tragedies from Andy Hawkins to Kei Igawa. Pitchers who were awesome suddenly implode when they touch Yankee Stadium grass (anyone remember Steve Trout?) Any free agent pitching signings should be of the low-risk variety.

And it's next to impossible to make a small move with even mediocrity getting Big Boy money. One small move might be fossil-reliever Todd Jones. A one-year deal for an experienced set-up man/"off day for Mariano" might be wise. Other than that, we should leave well enough alone. Walk away from the table.

To sum up, instead of signing a huge big bucks free agent and then crossing our fingers that it doesn't blow up in our faces, we should look for the guy to replace Petitte from where Petitte came from. Within.