Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl Prediction

Well, here we are in the most unlikely of Super Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers—not unlikely—and the Arizona Cardinals—really, really unlikely.

So, something like a billion people are going to watch this games—some sober—so who is going to win? Let's find out.


At first look, the game should be a blowout. The Steelers faced the toughest schedule and went 12-4. The won the Super Bowl just a few years back and have a lot of the same players. They are tested and ready.

The Cardinals on the other hand, shouldn't be here. They went 9-7 in the lowly NFC West, and 6 of their 9 wins came against the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks. They haven't been this deep in the playoffs since......ever.

But look closer and the Cardinals might be a good match for the Steelers. They are getting hot at just the right time. And with the way the Cardinals dismissed the Eagles in the playoffs when the entire world thought they had no chance, it could be that the Cardinals have found the right formula at the right time.

Breaking down the game, the focus will be "Can the Steelers stop Warner and the Cardinals offense?" Everyone will talk about Larry Fitzgerald and his amazing catches, but the truth is, to win, the Cardinals will have to run. Check out these facts (Thanks, CHFF):

  • The Cardinals averaged 35 passes and 27 rushes in their nine victories.
  • The Cardinals averaged 46 passes and 14 rushes in their seven losses.
And in the playoffs, Arizona has actually run the ball more often than its passed it: 100 rush attempts in three games to just 92 pass attempts. Combine that with the fact that in the Steelers' two postseason games, quarterbacks completed only 47.6 percent of their passes on second- and third-and-long situations. The quarterback rating in those situations was 45.1.

All of which means that the Cardinals must run the ball well on first down. Problem with that is, the Steeler defensive line has dominated all season long. Meanwhile the Cardinals have only been averaging 3.3 YPA in the playoffs, and that should only get worse against the stout Steeler front. All this means that the Cardinals will be passing from 2nd and 3rd and long.


And against the blitz—which the Steelers will be doing all day long—Warner had a 103.1 QB rating and had 14 touchdown passes and was sacked only five times in blitzing situations which the Problem is, the Cardinals are one of the few teams that can potentially match up well against the tough Steeler defense in these situations. Against the tough Eagle defense, ranked 5th against the pass, Warner had a passing clinic. it's not that the Cardinal O-line is so great; it's that Warner gets rid of the ball in a hurry and to the right person. The Steeler blitz may not be able to effectively blitz Warner.

On the other side of the ball, it will be up to Big Ben to win the game. Willie Parker, although healthy now, has averaged just 3.1 yards in the playoffs, while the Cardinal front four has held opponents to under 4 YPA on the ground. in the playoffs, Ben has been very meh: an 89 QB rating and just 55 completion rate. however, he has not had an interception. Which will be interesting, because both Cardinals CBs have had two interceptions in the playoffs. Big Ben is susceptible to to the blitz—he was sacked 29 times in blitzing situations during the regular season—and the Cardinal love to blitz. Will Big Ben be able to pass his way out of trouble against a leaky offensive line and not throw interceptions? While the Cardinals have been turnover-handy in the playoffs, they did allow Donovan McNabb to pass for 375 yards and three touchdowns 2 weeks ago.

What does this all mean? The Cardinals are perfectly designed to give the Steelers a tough time, and they could surprise the Steelers with some big plays. but in the end, the Steelers defense is too tough. The Steelers will win a close won, on a late Jeff Reed FG.

Final Score Steelers Win: 20-17.

Enjoy the game.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

End Game?

It's hard not to gloat a little in hearing the recent news about Barry Bonds. A misogynist, racist, tax-cheat, and all-around jerk, Bonds made few friends—either in the media, amongst fans, or even in teammates—in his public years, excepting a few apologists. Rather, for years, Bonds flaunted his talent, his powerful swing, his unnatural body, his ego and dismissive demeanor with the air of a mafia boss with the trial knowingly in the bag. It's tough not to gloat...but we shouldn't.

With the report this week in the New York Times that federal prosecutors have evidence that ties Bonds to the use of performance enhancing drugs other than "the cream" and "the clear"—the two drugs Bonds admits he took, but claims he didn't know were illegal steroids—it would seem that the walls are finally closing around Barry Bonds. For good.

This would be a blow to Bonds, who admitted to taking the 2 steroids—the clear and the cream—allegedly thinking they were rubbing balm and flaxseed oil. He admitted in front of a grand jury that he never took injections from his former trainer, Greg Anderson. However, the New York Times writes this week that the Federal government has in its possession a urine sample which could be a significant blow to Bonds's case.

The urine-sample evidence could also have implications for another statement Bonds made before the grand jury, in which he denied ever being injected with any substances by his former trainer, Greg Anderson. Bonds said he never received injections from anyone other than his doctors. Most steroids are administered through injections.

Since most steroids are injected, if in the sample the Federal Government has evidence of steroids other than the cream and the clear—which are rubbed into the skin—it could be the nail in the coffin.

And if that isn't enough for an episode of Barry Bonds's Worst Week Ever, out comes the news that former catcher Bobby Estalella is going to testify in Bonds's upcoming perjury trail, claiming he has firsthand knowledge that Bonds knowingly took steroids.

Again, itt truly is hard not to gloat: An arrogant cheater is getting his just deserts; the vultures are circling...baseball is right again. Right?

However, through it all, what still nags is the knowledge that this was allowed to happen. Owners, wanting to see attendance records broken, wanting to see the big headlines, turned their eyes the other way. Fans, who wanted to see the long ball, ignored Bonds's obvious unnatural body, which had turned from Bernie Williams--sized to Michelin Man--sized. The media, failing in their job magnificently, never seemed to ask the questions they needed to, despite obvious indication that something was very wrong. And as a result, baseball had to endure a decade-long scandal, which included FBI raids on mother-in-laws' houses, several bizarre and shaming congressional hearings, and most troubling of all, multiple defenses of Bonds by members of the media.

"Barry Bonds is a shell of himself. He hits a home run once every two weeks. He's no threat to Hank Aaron's record. And Barry has been reduced to pretending that he reveres Babe Ruth and the Babe's all-white accomplishments....Honestly, I feel sorry for Barry Bonds....His arrogance never bothered me. His alleged use of steroids never struck me as all that unethical when you recognize the obvious fact that pitchers are more likely to use steroids than position players...."
This is Jason Whitlock just 2 1/2 years ago. There are many other "defenses" of Bonds behavior, most equally as frustrating with their lack of anything resembling logic—just Google "Defense of Bonds."

However, with the Federal Government's new evidence looming, it seems that all of that is moot. Whether you think Bonds is trash or that he is not that bad a guy, the end game seems to be on the horizon. If the evidence is as damning as it seems, Bonds could be headed to a federal detention center. And whether you hated the man (which I did) or loved him, it would not be a good day. Baseball's home run king should not be in jail—and it is everyone's fault; that would be not a thing to gloat about.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Transactions....

Joe Torre....what the hell? For over a decade, you were the closest Baseball has ever gotten to an Atticus Finch. Who knew you had a tude!!! Airing dirty laundry about "A-Fraud" and Cashman not having your back? Sounds like somebody was angry......Still, I think Mike Vaccaro writing for the New York Post says it best. First, Vaccaro quotes Torre:
"I think each of us, when we slip into this uniform, it changes you because it's all about being a part of something bigger than all of us, better than all of us," you said that day, in your spring-training office at Legends Field in Florida. "When you represent the Yankees, you represent some of the greatest things there is: baseball,
New York City, class, dignity."

Now Vaccaro's statement:

This book of yours, "The Yankee Years," is that classy, Joe? Does it dignify what those 12 remarkable years were to baseball, to this city and, not incidentally, to your career? Was it necessary to air the fact that his teammates call Alex Rodriguez — an awfully easy target, by the way, Joe, and also a guy who won two MVPs while playing for you — "A-Fraud," or to liken him to the crazed Jennifer Jason Leigh character in "Single White Female"?

True. Really, there's no reason to write this book except to "get back." There's no money you needed, no anything. Except to settle a score. And now, Joe, you're down to the level of the people you supposedly are so angry at.


It's gotta be strange for Vince Young and Matt Leinart right about now. The saviours of their franchises just a couple years ago, now deeply and steadfastly backups behind a couple of graybeards who's best days where supposedly behind them. Ouch.


Sooooo, Manny. Still think there's no consequences in your "just being Manny?"


I think Herm Edwards might be better on the college level. I don't think he would agree with me and will probably try to hang around as a D-coordinator till he tries again at the head job. Just my opinion, but to me his style just seems better at the college level.


This just in....Jake Peavy still may be traded to the Cubs. At some point.....


Just a gut instinct....look for Jon "Chuckie" Gruden to bounce back next year. Try San Diego next season after Norv Turner gets canned.


If Federer and Nadal both make it to the final at the Australian Open, damn right I'm gonna be DVR-ing it.


Think a few people will be watching the Duke-Wake Forest game coming up on he 28th? Heck with the beatdown Duke put on Maryland (85-44; Maryland scored 15 pts in the first half), I'm starting to think this might be a Blue Devil year.


And finally, Reggie Miller said the Celtics have contacted him about coming out of retirement. They tried last year to get Miller to return, unsuccessfully and are trying again this year. Please, Reggie, do us all a favor and let us remember your sweet jumper when you were able to play, and not some old guy who really should be on the recliner, having a beer.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Modest Proposal: Nady

Lately, the news on the wire is that Yankees are interested in trading Xavier Nady. Seems, that with Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera, Hideki Matsui and new Yankee Nick Swisher, the outfield in Yankee Stadium seems full, and with Swisher able to play 1B, Nady is the odd man out.

Only problem is, the free agent market is filled with outfielders out of work. That means the Yankees will have to look for the right team with the right situation, and pitch a good deal, to be able to make a deal work. That might be difficult.

If I may...

The Yankees should go to the Atlanta Braves and offer OF Xavier Nady and 1B Juan Miranda for utility IF Martin Prado and minor leaguer SP Jeff Locke.

Let's start with the Yankees. If they truly feel comfortable with Nick Swisher as their starting right fielder (and their are some questions as to Swisher's ability to play right field as well as Nady), and that Swisher will bounce back at the plate from a poor 2008 season, then trading him to Atlanta would be an ideal situation.

Atlanta was 14th in the NL in HRs last year with a pathetic 130 HRs total. Jeff Francouer led the way for the Braves outfielders with 11 HRs slugged. Problem with that was, Francouer did it while betting a awful .239. The other outfielders combined chipped in with 17 HRs. In the NL East, that's just not going to cut it.

Nady, by himself, had 3 fewer home runs than the entire Brave outfield. And, in these cost-conscious times, Nady will cost a heck of a lot less than a Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn; just 6.55 million for one year of service. Nady will shore up the Braves offense, which relied waaaaaaay too heavily on Brian McCann and Chipper Jones last year. And not one Brave had 100 RBI last year. Nady will help that. Last year—a year he switched leagues and faced new pitchers in new ballparks—he had 97 RBIs.

As for Miranda, the bane of his existence is named Mark Teixiera. With no place to be promoted to in the big club, the talented Miranda could be a steal for the Braves as a throw-in. In 2008 in AAA, Miranda had 22 doubles and 12 HRs in 99 games—his numbers show signs he can become a power hitter. In the Arizona Fall League, Miranda had a eye-popping .658 slugging percentage with 5 HRs in 19 games. Now, Casey Kotchman is the every-day 1B in Atlanta; however, if Kotchman continues to struggle, (.237 BA with two homers after coming over from the Angels), Miranda, might be a good, and cheap, alternative.

For the Yankees, aside from unglutting their outfield, they would ameliorate 2 problems. 1st, on the major league side, they would get some valuable backup for their infield. As of this writing, their backup for 2B, SS and 3B is Cody Ransom, Cody Ransom and Cody Ransom. Which, for a team spending close to 200 million dollars and has aspirations of a World Series, is scary. Not that the key to a 2009 Yankee Championship is Martin Prado, but he would provide a reliable backup should A-Rod, Jeter or Cano go down for a short period of time. And he could adequately provide a day off for those guys without a humongous drop-off in production. In limited time, Prado batted .320 for the Braves. But with Kelly Johnson, talented youngster Yunel Escobar and of course, Chipper Jones blocking his way, Prado wouldn't find significant time in Atlanta. And with the Braves signing every-position-player Omar Infante, Prado might serve the Braves more as trade bait. The Yankees could use him.

Part 2 of the deal—and in a way, the key—is Locke. With the Yankees giving up their 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks in this year's draft (with the signings of Sabathia, Texiera and Burnett), their farm system is going to take a beating. In trading Nady, the Yankees must focus on getting something back that would help replenish their minor league system. The Braves, on the other hand, are flush with prospects, not the least of which, reside on the mound. With Jair Jurrjens and Jorge Campillo already succeeding in the big show and highly regarded prospects Tommy Hanson, Cole Rohrbough, Kris Medlen, Edgar Osuna, Todd Redmond and Scott Diamond (among others), the Braves can afford to trade one of their prospects—not a main one—for Nady and Miranda. Locke is a lefty—a rarity for the Yankees farm system—and is just 21 years old.

On the whole, the deal makes sense for both teams; the Braves get a needed bat to help provide protection for McCann and Jones, and a very capable outfield for a relatively cheap price. And they also get a talented power bat that can back-up (or potentially start) at 1B. The Yankees get a quality backup for a number of positions, as well as a prospect lefty for a system staved of those.

With the Braves making a big push to shore up its rotation this off season by getting Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami and Javier Vasquez, they are going to need their everyday players to help them out. And for the Yankees to go into the season with Cody Ransom potentially playing a great deal of time should an injury occur, is terrifying. And they help out a beleaguered farm system. The deal makes sense.

That's just my modest proposal...for your consideration.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Transactions....

In a remarkable year in sports where the Giants beat a perfect team, Nadal defeated the King of tennis in a match for the ages and the Rays went from a decade of last place to the World Series—it shouldn't surprise that the Cardinals are on their way to the Super Bowl. Sports is incredible; what a year.


Now that the World baseball Classic rosters have been announced, there's an interesting mix on the American team, where the reigning MVP, Duston Pedroia is playing alongside Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter. Which brought up an interesting comparison to mind; that being Jeter's 2006 season when he came in second in the MVP voting (with some idiotic talk of his "lack of leadership" playing a role in the voting) as compared to Pedroia's season. Here are some stats:

Jeter 2006:
BA: .343 OBP: .417 SLG: .483 HRS: 14 RBI: 97 SB: 34 OPS+: 132 Times on Base: 295

Pedroia 2008:
BA: .326 OBP: .376 SLG: .493 HRS: 17 RBI: 83 SB: 20 OPS+: 122 Times on Base: 270

So a significantly higher BA, higher OBP and OPS+, more RBI, more SB and more times on base. I guess, Pedroia must be one heck of a "leader" on his team for his weaker numbers to get the MVP.



Generally feel good about Rex Ryan becoming head of the Jets this week. He was due for the big chair job, and the team fits his style of play. However, the big question is, does he play nice with Brett Farve, or try to show him the door. The wise play would be to get a QB of his own and start fresh in that department.


Forget the crazy rumors of Ryan braining Ray Lewis with him to the Jets. A better, more low-cost option. Getting the Raven's free agent Jim Leonard to shore up the other safety spot next to Kerry Rhodes.


As much as I love and respect Bill Parcells, I'm getting tired of each and every year, the will he/won't he leave whatever job he's in nonsense. Bill, please. Take a job and stick to it.


Why haven't the Mets taken a flier on Ben Sheets? I know he's injured a lot, but really, sign him to a decent contract and take whatever he can offer. You guys need something after Santana and Maine.


Not that I would personally sit in Yankee Stadium on New Year's Day, but I love the idea of hockey at Yankee Stadium.


For my money, I think Al Leiter is one of the best broadcasters in the business today. A great pickup for the new MLB Network.


And finally, in a bizarre story, a man is using the dreadful Detroit Lions as a basis for a play. Using the 0-16 season as a metaphor for the struggles of middle-class life, the play, "Lions," is about enduring the unendurable; the struggles against imminent failure. And despite all this, the playwright insists that his play isn't a comedy. "The lone consistent is that every football Sunday brings another Lions game and another opportunity for escape."

And I ask, escape into what?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Just Good Enough To Lose

Donovan McNabb is a good quarterback.

Not a Hall-of-Famer. Not a Superstar. He's good.

Then why for years, is he glorified in the media as one of the best. A superstar? When he so clearly is not; rather just a slightly above average guy who can play pretty well, but can't carry his team to the Promised Land.

McNabb's whole career has been full of heavy praise, decent results, but ulltimatly disappointment. A few years back, The Sporting News ranked him the number one quarterback in the NFL, ahead of Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and Tom Brady, yet the has lost 4 NFC Championships games since then. And then, just a week ago, Jason Whitlock , decried everyone for attacking McNabb for not knowing the overtimes rules and praised him as being a better quarterback than Kurt Warner?

Better than Kurt Warner? Mr. Whitlock, even a cursory examination destroys than assessment. Warner's completion rate is 65.4 to McNabb's career completion rate of 58.9. Warner's Y/A rate is 8.0, McNabb's is 6.8. Warner's QB rating 93.8 to McNabb's 85.9. Also, Warner has won a Super Bowl and in 2 weeks will have been to 3—McNabb has been to only won and lost. In fact, to repeat, McNabb has been to 5 NFC Championship games and lost 4 of them? Warner's postseason passer rating is 97.3; McNabb's is 80.8.

Whitlock, in last week's column, wrote that if McNabb won yesterday and if McNabb goes on to win a Super Bowl, than Whitlock says it's fair to compare McNabb to Peyton Manning. Really, Mr. Whitlock? What makes you think the two should even been in the same category—Manning's Super Bowl win and McNabb's Super Bowl loss? You know what the say happens when you assume, right?

But OK, I'll play along. Comparing Manning (who Whitlock called a choker just the week before—what would you call McNabb now) to McNabb.....well there is no comparison. Statisically, the two aren't even in the same league. In regular season games, Manning is far superior; he's had 8 season's of QB ratings of over 90, to McNabb's 2. Manning averages 259.3 passing yard per game at a 64.4 completion rating. McNabb averages 218.8 yard passing per game at under 59% rating. McNabb's 59% completion rating ties him with Bobby Hebert for 145 all-time. Conversely, Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning are 2nd and 3rd all-time respectively in completion percentage.

The comparison between Manning and McNabb doesn't hold in the postseason as well. Manning is still better in every important category; completion percentage, QB rating, and most importantly, yards per pass completion, where Manning is a yard better than McNabb.

Yards per pass completion is the category we should focus on—because it shows that the quarterback not only completes the pass, but puts the receiver in a position to not break stride and continue to gain yards after the catch. Manning put passes in stride with the receiver; McNabb has been terrible—especially in big games—in putting the ball near the receiver, but in a position to only make the catch, not to continue to gain yards.

Look at yesterday. McNabb, especially in the 4th quarter threw behind receivers or too high. On the Eagle drive just after the Cardinals scored the go-ahead touchdown, McNabb threw 4 incompletions in a row, all low, high or behind his receivers. Whitlock writes about McNabb, "But if McNabb gets the Birds past Arizona and wins the Super Bowl, then you might hear me arguing that McNabb is Peyton Manning's equal. McNabb has never had the kind of offensive supporting cast that Manning has had in Indy."

Is it possible, Mr. Whitlock, that Manning made those receivers—Anthony Gonzalez, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark—better than they would, or should have, been? By being a better quarterback, he put them in a position to play to, and beyond, their capabilities? Something McNabb couldn't do with Freddie Mitchell, Chad Lewis or Todd Pinkston?

One more comparison; Manning has never had the defense that the Eagles have had. Since the beginning of his career, the Eagles have consistently had one of the best defenses in the NFL, including this year, where they were ranked 3rd in over defense. The year Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl, the Colts were ranked 21st in overall defense.

None of this takes into account Donovan's frailness versus Manning's health. McNabb has been injured several times (including the 2005 Eagle run when Jeff Garcia came and drove the 5-5 Eagles to the NFC Championship game), whereas "choker" manning has never missed a game in his career.

So Mr. Whitlock, if Peyton is a "choker" who's postseason play is "indefensible," what is Donovan McNabb?

A pretty good quarterback who is just good enough to lose the big game.

NFL Championship Weekend

Up here in Brooklyn, it's snowy, it's bitter, it's cold. It's football weather.

Good thing it's championship weekend. Let's preview each of today's games and see who we think is going to win.


Philadelphia Eagles At Arizona Cardinals
It's the battle of the aviary society; two surprising teams not expected to be here, but here they are. For the very surprising cardinals, it's Larry Fitzgerald, some more Larry Fitzgerald, and some surprising takeaway-heavy defense. The Cardinals, who had a truly terrible pass defense during the regular season, suddenly has channeled Deion Sanders. And while McNabb has been known to Air Mail some passes in the playoffs, he's been superb of late.

On the other hand, the defensive front of the Eagles has been amazing, shutting down the Giants running game (which had been bulldozer-like), and has only given up 3.51 YPA during the regular season. The Cardinals will learn quickly they will have to pass to move the ball—however, expect Larry Fitzgerald to be double-teamed, even if Anquan Boldin can play. The bad news for the Cardinals is that the Eagles are rated 5th against the pass, and haven't given up a touchdown via the air since Thanksgiving—against the Cardinals.

Add all this up and it means the Cardinals will have problems moving the ball against the Eagles tough defense. The Eagle will rely on Brian Westbrook and will move the ball enough to win.

Eagles Win 23-17


Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Third times a charm for these teams. But like the first 2 games, most of the odds favor the Steelers. The Steelers front 7 have been second to none, dominating most defensive stats in those areas. Here are some of the numbers: opposing teams have only converted 31% of the time, they average opposing YPA a ridiculous 3.29, first in the NFL. And the Steelers dominating defense extends to the pass defense where opposing teams only average a 56.5 completion rating and a sick 5.35 YPA. And in the snow and tough Steeler home crowd and Joe Flacco is going to have a tough day.

Now, Baltimore has a pretty good defense themselves. Their pass defense generated an impressive 26 interceptions and have a ferocious pass rush. The Steelers offensive line is pretty pourous, so the Steelers' Big Ben is going to have a pretty tough day himself.

The one thing that has stood out in the tough playoff games Baltimore has played is Joe Flacco not making mistakes—even against the tough Titan defense. Baltimore led the league in Big Plays Allowed vs. Big Plays Surrendered, with a +27, way out front in the league in this category—meaning the Ravens are a turnover machine, and prevents opposing teams from doing the same.

Will that be enough? Expect the game to be tough, hard-hitting, and down to the wire. in the end, though expect the Ravens to finally put down the Steelers—in their own house.


Ravens Win 20-16

Enjoy the games.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Pink Elephant

It's the gigantic pink elephant in the room.

It's what everyone who watches sports has thought about at one time or another. Or probably joked about with a friend. Or cursed an opposing player. But probably never thought about it seriously.

Of all the men playing professional sports—of which there are thousands—some of them have to be gay.

Which ones?

Unless you are the president of Iran and believe that "There are no homosexuals in our society," you have to believe that some of the athletes we watch everyday are homosexual. However, excepting those in non-mainstream sports—such as Olympic Diving or Ice Skating—or those athletes who have retired from sports, no one has admitted publicly that he is gay.

Not one man in the major sports.

Of the more than 11,000 participants in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, only one was out of the closet. One.

In 2001, 73% of the United States general public stated that they know someone who is homosexual, which is up drastically from 1983 when only 24% affirmed that statement. Which means both that homosexuals feel more comfortable coming out of the closet, and society as a whole feels more accepting of homosexuality.

Why not in sports?

Now, it doesn't matter to this sports fan who Pedro Martinez, Patrick Willis or Peja Stojakovic sleeps with. Not one iota. And supposedly, in our society—a society that has elected a black President—we have become more tolerant, more accepting of different lifestyles. Not the case in sports.

If anything, the sports world is less tolerant, with the athletes taking great care to foster an image of if not outright skirt-chasing, at the least straight as an arrow.

This week, a driver for New York Knick Eddy Curry came out with the allegations that Curry is not only racist and violent, but had propositioned him for homosexual sex. While the allegations are unproven, the latter provides food for thought. If true, it is obvious that Curry has been deep in the closet to protect himself. If false, it is obvious that the person making the claims is hitting Curry where he believes he is the most sensitive.

In 2005, when a web site made an obvious practical joke stating that Michael Vick was gay (“I love playing professional football and rough physical contact on the field, however, I enjoy male contact off the field as well," the joke went), Michael Vick immediately called into an Atlanta radio program to deny the story.

“I won’t even feed into that,” Vick told hosts of the “Frank Ski Morning Show.” “Everybody who knows me, knows how I get down. It’s not even an issue.” Which of course, begs the question, if it's not an issue, why call in? Mike Piazza did the same, calling an out-of-the-blue press conference simply to state "I'm not gay."

Perhaps its because of reasons like this. In 1995, 29-year-old Swedish hockey player Peter Karlsson died after being stabbed 64 times by a 19-year-old neo-Nazi because Karlsson had been out about his homosexuality. Karlsson's murderer claimed that Karlsson had tried to initiate a relationship. So naturally, he stabbed him 64 times.

Much less life-threatening and much more common, are slurs fans use against hated rivals. "Jeter's a fag!" "Isiah's a homo!" as well as the anti Jeff Gordon web site, Fans Against Gordon (acronym, FAG) are just a few examples where fans use accusations of homosexuality as a weapon against athletes they hate.

However, it isn't only public opinion and threats that might keep an athlete in the closet. Another problem is his teammates: As Sports illustrated reported:

Examples of athletes showing hostility toward gays are many and varied, from running back Garrison Hearst's declaring, "I don't want any faggots on my team" to Allen Iverson's rapping about "faggot tendencies" to Sterling Sharpe's telling HBO that his former Seattle Seahawks teammate Esera Tuaolo was wise to have concealed his homosexuality while he was an active player. "Had he come out on a Monday, with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practices, he'd have never gotten to the other team," Sharpe said.

Just 2 years ago, Tim Hardaway, in response to John Amechi's post-career book about being gay in the NBA, said this:

"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known," Hardaway said. "I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."

As shocking as that might have been, here was the response of people on web site message boards, defending Hardaway's comments.

"Homosexuality is no more a Lifestyle than pedophilia or beastiality [sic]. It's a sickness and people need to face up to that reality."

And another (unedited):

His candor draw a lot of criticism, event the NBA distanced themselves from him and also ejected him from the AllStar Game Festivities! The sad part about this is that, I feel where is is coming from 100%. Are gays so powerful and influencial now that heteroes have to watch what they say about them when asked?

Sorry, but I don't equate being Gay to Civil Rights, Gender Rights and Religious Freedom. It appears that mainstream society has now fully embraced gay culture.

And another (unedited):

Well, to me, homosexuality is right up there with other sexuality illnesses like beastiality, child molestation, man-boy love, etc.... They all sick and need jesus and a jail cell. But I think he fell on the sword when he said "I hate gays".

There is no way you can get grown as men, athletes at that, to share a lockerroom with a faggot. They may not admit it on T.V., but that's reality. When I'm handling my biz in the lockerroom, I don't want to have some fag staring at me lusting and all that. ...nasty!

Hell, most women love guys, but they don't want them in the bathroom with them either. It's not cool.

You said one thing that rings true; gays have some incredible power today. Very Very sad.

Which brings up another aspect to the situation. All of the above quotes defending Tim Hardaway's words came from an African-American message board called www.afrochat.net. Many studies, such as the one quoted here from a study at Texas A&M using data complied in a 2004 General Social Survey, show that on average, African-Americans "have more negative attitudes toward homosexuality than their White counterparts." The study shows also that women are found to be much more tolerant than men. As written in Slate magazine, just after the election of Barack Obama to President, and quoting the LA Times, African-Americans, unlike their white counterparts—who were almost split down the middle in California—voted about 70% in favor of Prop 8 which banned gay marriage in the state of California. William Saletan goes on to write in Slate, "In Florida, Black support for Florida's ballot measure against gay marriage ran 11 percent higher than white support and 7 points higher than Latino support." Saletan then quotes a black man who voted for Prop 8. "'I was born black. I can't change that,' one California man explained after voting for Proposition 8. 'They weren't born gay; they chose it.'"

Taking the above data and combining it with the fact that there are a large number of African-Americans in professional sports—65% of the NFL and 80% percent of the NBA—you begin to see a reason why gay athletes might be apprehensive about coming out while playing.

Of course, African-American prejudices are nowhere near the only reason for the reluctance of gay athletes to risk exposure. Rather, the attitude depicted in the statement, "They weren't born gay; they chose it," might not be just that black voter's opinion, but the attitude towards homosexuality in the lockerroom as well—namely that it is a chosen "weakness." And in the lockerroom, "weakness" is not permitted, and camaraderie means standing shoulder to shoulder and falling in line.

Julian Robertson, on his web site, julainrobertson.com wrote an apt description of the attitude of sports towards homosexuality.

Despite the populist appeal, and ostensibly inoffensive nature, men’s professional team sports quietly remains one of the last bastions of intolerance in this country. While even the military and the Catholic church have addressed the gay issue, albeit unsuccessfully, men’s pro sports are so far from a dialogue on the topic it may actually be setting the modern standard for homophobia.

Men's sports is a place for Alpha Males or, as Bob Costas put it, "a powerful culture of hyper-heterosexuality." As former Texas Ranger Todd Zeile told the Miami Herald in 1998: "Athletics is the backbone of male machismo. Overt homosexuality is not accepted in this arena, not even in 1998."

Nor in 2009. While it seems that perhaps a good number of athletes might have trouble accepting a gay teammate, would fans? Aside from knife-wielding Nazis, would fans really mind a gay athlete? Since there is no gay athlete in mainstream men's sports, we can't know for sure fans' response, however, the evidence at hand suggests they might. When posed the following in a 2005 Sports Illustrated poll, "Americans would be less proud of an Olympics gold winning athlete if he/she were gay and 'out'", 41% of the participants voted yes to 32% no. Uber sports agent Leigh Steinberg said this about accepting a gay player in the NFL, "Frankly, I'd think it would be easier for me to place a quarterback on a professional team who had been arrested and served time for armed robbery than an openly gay quarterback."

One explanation for the reluctance to accept the gay athlete comes from Eric Anderson, author of the 2005 book In the Game: Gay Athletes and the Cult of Masculinity, and an assistant professor of coaching education at England’s University of Bath. In an interview with MSNBC.com, Anderson said, all athletes have been "indoctrinated since they were very, very young to meet certain mandates." One of those mandates being, "you can’t walk out of line with the other men. And men don’t talk about having sex with other men. It’s not perceived as being one of the boys. That’s why [many gay] athletes fail to come out of the closet even after retiring." And that’s why the idea of homosexuality as a problem because it’s a "distraction" doesn’t hold water to Anderson. "If team sports doesn’t want to deal with distractions, then they should get rid of people with arrests, violence against women and chemical enhancement."

So, what will it take for a homosexual athlete to come out? Bob Costas had this to say in an interview with afterelton.com, about the fact that there are no "out" athletes in the major professional sports.

You figure that some of them may believe that it would impact their marketability and endorsement opportunities. Which is A) sad if that’s true. And B) sad also that even if it is true that some people aren’t willing to run that risk to take a more honest and principled stand. So it’s on both those levels.

Costas also felt that the first gay athlete probably wouldn't be in football—"I think football would be the hardest because that’s the most hyper macho culture with its own mythologies attached to it."

Also, the first publicly gay athlete, most likely, wouldn't be a marginal player, as evidenced by this comment from former Dallas Cowboy coach Barry Switzer. "Especially with a marginal player, if an owner, a manager or a coach knows a guy in his locker room is gay, he’s out of there."

Julian Robertson said it would... "likely take a figure of Jackie Robinson proportions to really begin to change attitudes," meaning not just any old athlete, but a supreme talent. Salon.com's King Kaufman wrote in 2002: "

I predict the major leaguer who breaks the lavender barrier will be a pretty big star, someone who can be confident that his teammates will stick with him despite any misgivings they might have. As Phillies manager Larry Bowa pointed out Tuesday, "If he hits .340 it probably would be easier than if he hits .220." If Sammy Sosa says, "I'm queer," the Chicago Cubs suddenly become a very gay-friendly bunch.

Great. Now all we need is an incredibly brave soul, who has Hall of Fame talent, to prove to not only his teammates, not to mention to the front office and fans, that he deserves to be there, but also to the Garrison Hearsts, Tim Hardaways as well as the Todd Jones, John Rockers, Martina Hingis and Terrell Owens of the world.

Kaufman continues: "And 100, or 50, or let's be optimistic and say 20 years from now, we'll look up from our bar-stool game of naming an all-time all-gay team -- Carstairs at short! No, McGillicutty! -- and have to remind ourselves why it was such a brave thing to do when that first player came out of the closet."

While it seems rather pie in the sky to say 20 years from now it'll be no big deal to have out and prominent gay athletes, one can hope. In the meantime, the statistics of today tell us that though America is becoming more open, we aren't ready yet. In fact, we're not even ready to talk about it. In that SI.com poll mentioned from a few years ago, they posed the following: "What America needs now is an open discussion about homosexuality and sports." 52% of America voted no.

And so, homosexuality in professional sports remains the gigantic pink elephant in the room—the thing that nobody talks about. It's possible that people don't discuss it or acknowledge it not because it doesn't matter, but because it matters too much.

In any case, they should. The Pink Elephant isn't going away.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Transactions....

To start off, let's compare the two new logos of the inaugural seasons in the new Mets and Yankees Stadiums. First is the Yankees. Stately, regal. Everything it should be when you're opening up a new baseball cathedral.

Now the Mets logo. And as you can see, from the logo comparison via a Met's blogger's web site, it looks like a place to get pizza, quickly. Like Shea Stadium, the 15 interchangable uniforms and seemingly everything about the Mets....it misses the mark.


Second....what a weekend of football. 3 out of the 4 home teams lost. And the two number one seeds lost. Incredible. Now only if college football could have a playoff system like this.....how great would those games be?


One more thing about the playoffs....how dang good is Larry Fitzgerald. It's like he's a college star playing with pop Warner kids. The real deal he is.


Just a big round of applause to Pac-Man Jones for the brilliant speech he gave upon being released by the Dallas Cowboys, for yet another behavior-related incident. When asked why he seemed so nonchalant about being released, here's what Pac-Man said, “If I beat myself up, who will take care of me? Football means a lot to me, but it’s not everything. It’s not like I’m taking it pretty good, I love me some me.”

Outstanding Pac. Outstanding.


So a guy who batted .247 last year, .236 the year before and .253 the year before that, and has a history of injuries gets a 1-year 5-million dollar contract? He fields first as well as my mother and has the same throwing style as her. Sure, Jason Giambi can still thump the ball sometimes, but his slugging percentage is .502 and and .433 the past two years—not bad, but not exactly Ruthian. I suppose the A's think pairing him with Matt Holliday might get the best out of ole' Jason, and if his name sells a few tickets out in Oakland, I guess, so much the better.


Hilarious move by McNabb running to the Giants sideline and grabbing a phone and making a fake phone call. Ha, Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!! What a card.
Would have loved to see Donovan try that prank with Jack Lambert or Mike Singletary playing and seen how they reacted. My guess is McNabb wouldn't have been playing this week due to his own foot up his wazoo.


Interesting article in the Tennessean today regarding Vince Young. Here's what they wrote about the offseason and Vince Young.
...Vince Young, the third overall pick of the 2006 draft has three years left on his Titans contract. He's scheduled to make an affordable $2.16 million in 2009, but his salaries increase to $7.5 million in 2010 and $8.5 million in 2011. Young is facing a very important offseason, Jeff Fisher said. "We expect a 100 percent commitment from Vince. We'll accept nothing less than that,'' he said.
Might turn out if Vince doesn't have his head screwed on straight that the 2006 Rookie of the Year might be out of work by the end of 2009.


Is it me, or have the Jets interviewed seemingly 30,000 people for their open coaching job? Which begs the question...where the heck is my phone call. I have some ideas for the Jets offense.


A little pat on the back to myself for correctly guessing last November that Rocco Baldelli would/should go to the Red Sox. And congrats Rocco, hope everything works out for you.



And lastly, congratulations to Rickey and Jim. Well done, guys. And to Tony Dungy—thanks for a great career, and being a class gentleman the whole time. Enjoy the time you have now, Tony.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Predictions

It's my favorite weekend of the year. There's football on for 12 hours and it's all good—no crap teams. So let's see who's gonna win.


Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans
This should be a slugfest. Both teams are built on the run, on quarterbacks playing within themselves and on defense. However, those things being equal, I'd rather be at home, rested and with Chris Johnson and Lendale White rather than on a short week, away with Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain.
Titans Win: 24-16

Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers
Probably the most lopsided game of the weekend, it could be the most fun. Both these teams have the potential for offensive fireworks—both the Panthers and Cardinals have quarterbacks who sling it deep; the Panthers average 7.26 ypa and the Cardinals average 7.10—good for 5th and 6th in the league. The problems come on the other side of the ball. The Cardinals rank 30th in defensive passer rating and give up an average of 6 more points per game.
Carolina Win: 31-21

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
Game of the week. They match up well. The tough, underrated Eagle defensive front, ranked 2nd in the league will keep Brandon Jacobs in check and force the Giants to pass more than they want—something they haven't done well since Plaxico Burress shot himself. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles proved they can handle the Giants pass rush, only giving up one sack in the two previous games. With the expected snowy conditions, see the Eagles controlling the Giants in the trenches and pull out an upset on the road.
Eagles Win: 24-14

San Diego Chargers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Chargers come to the mid-west in the middle of a snowstorm an expect to pass the ball around? Not likely against the no. 1 ranked defensive front and the 2nd rated defensive passing unit. The Chargers keep it close, but tail off in the harsh conditions of snow and the Steelers blitz at Heinz Field.
Steelers Win: 16-10

That's the down n' dirty quick predictions. Enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kontract Kapers!!

Let's just start with an admission: I am no contract lawyer. I am not an expert in Black Letter sports law. I am just a fan, a couch-based novice in the wacky world of sports salaries and negotiations.

That said, I have to shake my head in incredulity at the impunity with which athletes and coaches flaunt contracts they supposedly signed in good faith. Are contracts that flimsy? Are they worth anything?

For instance, in 1991, during contract negotiations between Scottie Pippen and the Chicago bulls, then Chicago Bulls General Manager Jerry Reinsdorf told Scottie Pippen and his agent, "Scottie, in my opinion, I think you will regret signing because salaries will be going up in the N.B.A. and if you continue being a good player, it'll turn out you're underpaid." In short, Reinsdirf told Pippen not to sign the contract he was offering him. Reinsdorf continued, "I remember him telling me at the time that he wanted the security because of the back surgery and he might be injured. I said, 'Scottie, if you sign, we're never going to renegotiate.''' Pippen signed.

So what happened? Within 3 years, Pippen complained to the media, his teammates and anyone who'd listen, that he wanted, nay, demanded a new contract. Because he felt underappreciated (athlete-speak for "wants more money"), he admittedly didn't play as hard as he could have—all memory of what his GM told him went out the window. He called his 7-year, 22-million-dollar contract "a slap in the face." Pippen felt he exceeded the contract relative to average league salaries. A question for Pippen, if he played poorly, would he have given money back, saying he didn't deserve it?

And then there's the case of Jason Giambi? To sum up, the man is caught breaking the law of not only Major League Baseball, but United States Federal Law. Is that enough to be considered a breach of contract? Of course not.

In 2005, The Deseret News wrote this about Giambi's contract with the Yankees. "The language in Giambi's contract says the team may withhold salary from a player for the 'use or abuse of any illegal substance, including but without limitation . . . ' and then goes on to list a variety of [those substances. The contract] also has a general 'other chemical abuse or dependency' clause that gives the team latitude in definition, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement."

So why on earth wasn't Giambi considered in breach of his contract? If I—my wife, my friends, or anyone I know—broke Federal Law, acted in bad faith, lied and cheated the company I worked for, I'd be fired. No question. Just, "You, get out!" Yet Giambi was not. Where can I get that kind of contract.

The reason for the sudden interest in sports contracts—and it really isn't sudden—is because of Jeff Jagodzinski. For those who don't know, "Jags" was hired two years ago to be Boston College's football coach, and has done a superlative job. However, last week, Boston College threatened to fire him. Why? Because Jags was taking an interview with the New York Jets to be their new head coach.

See, when he was hired, Jags signed a 5-year contract with Boston College. And now, Boston College has the audacity to expect to try to live up to that contract he signed.

It has become commonplace for head coaches to sign contracts, or even, extensions to their contracts, with no intent of ever fulfilling them. Indeed, Bobby Petrino left Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons just 5 months after signing a 10-year, 25-million-dollar contract. We know how that ended; Petrino left the Falcons just a few short months later, his contract there not even a memory as he left for Arkansas.

However, just because something is common doesn't make it right. Once again, I am no master of contract law, however, it doesn't seem right to me that when a person makes a pledge to do something, they should honor it. In almost every other job you can think of—the Army, for instance—if a person makes a pledge to do something for a number of years, they have to honor it. And if they don't, they pay the consequences.

Not in sports. Not only can Jags, or Petrino, or anybody not honor the contract they signed, in Jags case, if Boston College fires coach Jags, they are contractually obligated to pay him for the duration of the contract. Why? Well, for the same reason the Yankees couldn't get rid of Jason Giambi even though he broke Federal Law. It's sports, and in sports, all common sense and Common Law goes out the window.

If anyone reading this can explain it to me, I'd love to understand how someone can break the law, but not be breaking their contract. Or how someone can not honor a 10 year contract and not get in trouble. If anyone out there can understand, please let me know.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Transactions....

Brett.....just retire. Now. Seriously.


Hate to say it, but I told you about Chad Pennington. I love the guy. He's a true "good Guy" and I wish him well. But I knew, come playoff time and he's playing the Titans, Steelers or Ravens—and not the 1-15 schedule they were playing all year—that his lack of arm strength was gonna catch up with him. And some of those deep passes he floated out there—especially the Ed Reed floater that was too inside and lofted like a fly ball—just exemplified what we thought this year; that Tony Sparano did a fantastic job with the Wildcat schemes and mixing up his offense, masking Chad's arm.


I know Minnesota traded a ton to get him, and then gave him a room full of money to keep him....but Jared Allen really is that good.


Yeah, the whole "SpyGate" thing really seems to be blocking Eric Mangini getting job interviews.


And regarding the whole 'Who should the Jets hire as new head coach?" thing, Merril Hoge is the only guy to bring up actual salient points (instead of the "Go Get Cowher!" Go get Spags!" screamers).

"The Jets' personnel does not fit either one of these coordinators' schemes," said ESPN football analyst Merril Hoge. "That's the biggest problem for these guys. You can only do so much."


Not that you don't hire either of these guys based on that alone. But you just gave away Jonathan Vilma 8 months ago, spent a ton of money to get Calvin Pace, and both these things have to be considered when you are considering a guy like Steve Spagnuolo, who runs a very different 4-3 defense. What do you do with Pace now?, Who's the second defensive tackle? On the other hand, maybe Spags would be able to get through to Vernon Gholston, who so far, is a huge bust.


One last thing on Mangini getting fired, gotta hand it to Peter King for writing about something that bothered me too. King write that it seemed a bit over-the-top the way the tabloids bit into Mangini when he got fired. "I realize you get this big money in the big game in the big city, but did Mangini, after two winning seasons in three years as coach, deserve to be treated like some... Son of Sam?" Agreed. The guy didn't do that bad a job. Why all the over-the-top hate?


I know I'm not the first to say this....but Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco both have the chance to be very, very good for a long time.


BTW, I am already deeply in love with the new MLB Network. The rebroadcast of the Don Larsen "Perfect Game" was fantastic.


Sources have the Braves considering Andy Petitte. How weird would that be, to see Andy in a Brave uniform?


And finally, we have another problem for the New York Giants. Apparently, they have a fan, one
Sondra Fortunato, who's.....how to say this.....extremely well endowed.....who came to their last game, wearing a Santa Claus outfit, a tiara, fishnet stockings, a bathing suit bottom and high-heeled boots. Considering the outfit to racy, they asked her to leave. Here's the self-proclaimed "Queen of Jersey" speaking about the incident:

"You couldn't even see my underwear."

Come on, you couldn't even see the unmentionables! Now, people, here's a picture of Sondra. I ask you, do you see anything wrong?

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Yankees Are Bad For Baseball (yeah, right)

Here it comes. The annual "The Yankees are bad for spending money...competitive imbalance...blah blah blah" arguments that come up this time of year. For those not familiar with this annual rite, the gist is this: The Yankees spend too much money; they are just buying championships; they are killing small market teams, etc. Conveniently ignoring the fact that there have been 8 different winners in the last 9 World Series, and the Yankees haven't won since 2000, or that 18 of 30 franchises have made the playoffs at least once the last three years or that the National League has had 10 different franchises win a pennant the last 11 years, sportswriters decided this winter "Just declare the Yankees the champions. Why have a World Series?" "The Yankees are bad for baseball." And my favorite, from Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer,"The New York Yankees represent the very worst of America."

Oh, please. The Yankees are the best thing to happen to baseball. There is a reason that when the Yankees visit a city, they break attendance records. (In 2004, when the Yankees visited Los Angeles, the Dodgers recorded over 55, 000 fans in attendance, or the highest recorded attendance in 31 years...including World Series games.) There is a reason that when the Yankees play an away game on a getaway day, the game is scheduled at night, even though most teams play day games on getaway days. Why? Because the local television want to broadcast the games at night when people are home from work, because they know they will get the highest ratings of almost any game that year.

Why do people come to see them? Simply put...they are the Yankees. They will invest money in their product to give themselves in the best chance. They will do whatever it takes to win, including spending money and the fans respond. Not only in New York, but everywhere. It's good business, not just for the Yankees, but for baseball. Fans want the best product and the Yankees deliver.

And as a result, the Yankees earn a lot of money—which certainly makes other fans mad. But the point is they spend it, while a team like the Houston Astros, home to the fifth biggest market, cry poverty and pretend they are small market and spend next to no money on their own team. As a result, they are mediocre.

Example #1 of the crying poverty nonsense; Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio. “At the rate the Yankees are going, I’m not sure anyone can compete with them,” Milwaukee Brewers owner told Bloomberg News in an e-mail after the Yankees signed Texeira. “Frankly, the sport might need a salary cap.” This coming from an owner who made almost $40 million over the 2006 and 2007 seasons and is set to make more money after the Brewers ranked 9th in attendance this year, up from 17th just two years ago.

However the internet and newspapers have been riddled with complaints of Yankee malfeasance; articles unaware of their own wrongheaded logic. Here's an except from an article from bleacherreport.com

In a span of a week, the Yankees have signed the top pitchers in the market, C.C. Sabathia (17-10, 2.70 ERA in 2008) and A.J. Burnett (18-10, 4.07 ERA in 2008). It seems to be the way the Yankees function. Spend the big bucks and make it impossible for the weaker guy to win.

In recent years, the Yankees have been disappointing. Last year was a good example of that. The Yankees finish third in the AL East, much due to the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bronx Bombers finished 89-73.

So the article's principle argument states "Spend the big bucks and make it impossible for the weaker guy to win and in the very next sentence states that the Yankees came in third behind the Tampa Rays. The article then goes on to write, "It seems baseball is now a game of money, not talent. The spenders are usually the ones who succeed," conveniently ignoring the fact that the World Series played three months ago was played by two teams ranked 13th and 29th in team salaries and who beat the 1st, 3rd and 4th teams in salaries.

Let's go back to Mr. Sheridan and his circuitous logic.

What's wrong here is obvious. It's also not really new. Unlike the NFL, NBA and NHL, baseball has no salary cap.....Those leagues have them as part of an effort to maintain some kind of competitive balance among teams from different-size markets in disparate parts of the country. The Yankees have proved for the last five years that buying the highest-priced players does not guarantee you a title. Teams, not necessarily all-star teams, win championships.....The bully franchises make good foils for everyone else. It was a nice, fun story when the Tampa Bay Rays played their way into the World Series to face the Phillies (who in turn beat out the New York Mets and their bloated payroll).....When the bullies win, well, they're supposed to. When they lose, well, they give everyone something to laugh at....."

OK, let's get this straight. The Yankees are bad for baseball because they destroy competitive balance, but they haven't won the Series in 9 years and didn't even make the playoffs this year and got beat by the Rays. How does that follow? Let's read on.

In fairness, MLB did create a luxury tax system that punishes overspenders such as the Yankees and Red Sox and adds revenue to the coffers of teams such as Florida and Kansas City. Of course, that system also gives some of the small-market teams a disincentive to spend money to win. They can pocket their free money from New York and Boston and continue to flounder on the field.
Nonsense. The Yankees and revenue sharing don't cause a "disincentive to spend money and win." A reluctance to spend is the reason teams don't spend. As James Lincoln Ray wrote in his essay, "Baseball's Revenue Sharing Problem", some teams use the money they receive in revenue sharing to improve their ballclub. "The Rockies used all of the $16 million they received in 2006 revenue sharing dollars to increase their payroll in 2007, and that certainly helped the team win this year's National League pennant." He goes on to write that the Detroit Tigers in 2006 used the money they received to attract Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez and win the pennant the next year.

There's no "disincentive" to not spend money on free agents and lose. Teams just do it to be cheap. It's easier to pocket your revenue sharing earnings, smile, then publicly blame the Yankees for trying to win than to actually go out and sign a free agent.

Ray continues in his essay:

The Marlins won the World Series title in 2003 with a team that had...Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Mike Lowell and Ivan Rodriguez. That year, the team had a respectable $54 million payroll. Rather than retain those players, however, the Marlins traded away Penny and Beckett for much cheaper players, and lost Mike Lowell and Pudge Rodriguez to free agency.

By shedding these stars, Florida was able to cut its payroll down to $14.9 million in 2006, which is less than 20% of the Major League average of $78 million. It was also less than half of the $31 million in revenue sharing dollars the team received that year. So, rather than using the money to retain or attract on-field talent, the owners took it as part of the team's MLB best $43 million profit in 2006.

The Rays might be worse than the Marlins. From 2002 through 2006, Tampa Bay took in an average of $32 million per year in revenue sharing money. During that same period, the Rays had an average payroll of just $27 million, which was the lowest in baseball. They also had the worst five year record on the field, winning an average of just 70 games per season. Yet the team turned an average profit of more than $20 million during those years.


It's interesting to note that since Ray wrote this, the Tampa Rays increased their payroll to $43,820,598 last year and with the players they spent money on, made it to the World Series. That exemplifies that young talent mixed in with some money spent on free agency is the best method. Crying poverty and doing nothing, however, does not.

A high-ranking MLB official once said anonymously to Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle, ''There are owners that would like to see the Yankees win every year. They believe it raises the water level for everyone.'' See,TV ratings when the Red Sox and Cubs are on are decent. The Dodgers still do well. The Giants, Tigers and Cardinals still hold their own. But nothing is as good for baseball—financially speaking—as having the Yankees playing deep into October. When they're on, more people tend to watch. And when more watch, there are more earnings. So let your team lose, have the Yankees win the Series and pocket the revenue.

To sum up a response to Mr. Sheridan's silly "The Yankees are bad for America" spiel, I'll quote from soxandpinstripes.com:

"Now what seems un-American or bad for economic times? Spending money on an internal product? Drawing fans into the American economy? Boosting revenue and paying higher taxes as a result?"

And to that, I'll add the thought. Is trying to win, anti-American, Mr. Sheridan? I'll bet in your heart of hearts, you know the answer to that one.