Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ray Lucas: The NFL and the Longterm Effect of Injuries

On February 8th, ESPN's Rich Cimini reported that former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas was detailing on Facebook, his withdrawal from painkilling drugs. The pain he earned in the NFL.

Lucas hasn't played in the NFL since 2003, but he recently underwent back/neck surgery. He has been in pain every single day since his retirement from the NFL.

It got so bad, Lucas says “I couldn’t stand up straight, couldn’t walk up the steps. It was that bad.” So Lucas went to a Doctor Colao, who said that Lucas had a severe testosterone deficiency, likely resulting from his long dependence on pain medications. His prescription, unbeknownst to Lucas, HGH and steroids. Dr. Colao died a few years back and Lucas said “I know I’m not in that category where I was trying to get ripped up, because I was a fat pig (300 lbs at the time)...I was hurt when he passed away. I couldn’t believe it,” Lucas said. “I was actually supposed to see him two days after that.”

The pain continued. And so did the painkillers. Last September, Lucas, through the help of PAST—Pain Alternatives, Solutions and Treatments—a New Jersey medical group that specializes in helping retired athletes—performed neck surgery on Lucas in September and has been assisting his attempt to conquer addiction. Finally on February 5th, Lucas checked into the Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, a West Palm Beach, Fla., drug rehabilitation center. Since that time, he has been chronically his journey out of painkiller dependency on Facebook.

Here's a just a few of Ray's Facebook entries:
"I arrived in Fla. Randy tells me not to be nervous but that is impossible. I am in the car on my way to BHOP/Seaside. Nervous about everything, my palms are sweating. This weather will be good for my body. Got a text from my mom she & my family are relieved I am here. I am on my way to start my life over. Can't believe all the FB responses already, it's a good sign & the support is needed.

"The end of day 2 detox. The symptoms of detox are taking hold, I am in a lot of pain & everything hurts. This gets me scared. This place is amazing, having another player, Randy Grimes, who has been through it by my side is a difference maker. Today in a session for the first time in my life I was dealing with the emotional impact of my departure from the NFL. This is the start of the fight & I AM WILLING TO FIGHT!

"Day 3 of detox was filled with a lot of anxiety. I was moved from the detox unit into the Seaside condos to start full days of various therapy sessions, group meetings & other treatment. I am nervous & feeling on edge. I met my therapist, it was a very emotional time a lot of feelings coming to the surface I am drained."

"Today marks 1 week since Randy Grimes & Jen Smith brought me to treatment for pain killer dependency due to my NFL injuries & depression. I am hangin in there. The 1st week has been difficult because of my pain. I had no idea how much pain I was in because the amount of medication I was taking. They are helping me with the pain with massage & acupuncture. I have started going to group & I am fighting the good fight."

"A day ago I was packing my s---; wanted to leave. I can't sleep & the pain is getting to me. The lead Doc talked me down & explained that my brain was in a craving mode & the thoughts of leaving were tied to that. It was enlightening & I am feeling better. P.A.S.T/ BHOP brought in another ret. NFL player into the player program Sunday. There are so many of us out there. This place & the program are saving lives."

I was not at all open to going to AA meetings. I was pissed I had to go. I did not understand. I was not an alcoholic, I was not abusing alcohol I thought this was a waste of time. My wife will tell you that I am as stubborn as a mule. I now go to AA meetings & they are making an impact. This week player only groups led by Randy Grimes will start. All the players here will get together for our own group.

This isn't a essay on the horrors of the violence of football and what it have wrought. It isn't to decry that these athletes don't know what they are getting into. They do. This is just to say that there has to be something the NFL can do to help these guys after their career is over. I don't have any idea what the NFL is bargaining with the Player's Union regarding this stuff. But Lucas is just one guy, who didn't play very long or very much. There must other guys—tons of other guys—who are in agonizing pain and need help. The NFL should do something about that.

My thanks to Ray Lucas for documenting his personal life and journey through this ordeal. And so do my best wishes. Good luck, Ray.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Five

1. In your opinion, who has been the biggest all-time mega-bust of the NFL Draft?

2. Would you take Cam Newton if your franchise needed a quarterback?

3. If you were St. Louis, would you give Albert Pujols whatever he wanted?

4. Without researching, name the past 3 no. 1 picks in the NFL draft.

5. Now the NBA.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Transactions....

Sorry about the lateness of this Transactions. Couldn't be helped.


Before we start, a reminder.....via the Wall Street Journal: Beginning on July 1, 2011, the Mets will pay former player Bobby Bonilla $1.19 million a year for 25 years as part of a buyout of the $5.9 million the team owed him in 2000. A previous headline of this article incorrectly gave the amount of the annual payment as $1.9 million. Well played Mets. Well played.

Good article about age creeping on ballplayers, by Joe P. on SI.com. Hope that's not the case with Jeter. We have him for 4 years....oooops.

Connecticut basketball!...Recruiting violations!....No atmosphere of compliance!....who would have thought?

Like I wrote earlier this offseason, FoxSports.com is writing about the utter devastation of the Ray's Bullpen.
"The Rays’ bullpen figures to be a season-long work in progress," writes FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal.  Tampa Bay lost almost its entire bullpen to free agency, and Andrew Friedman admitted the club was "kind of freaking out about it" in January.  Rosenthal says the Rays will look at relievers cut by teams at the end of Spring Training, and they will also continue to consider possible trades.  
Seriously, no matter how good their starters are...and they are good...the bullpen is going to lose games for them.

Can anyone remember the Knicks actually had a draft pick?

Suddenly, contraction is the word of the day in baseball. Ain't gonna happen. Just won't. Baseball and Bud Selig are just sounding off to create fear and outrage. The A's will get their park in San Jose ("San Jose Athletics?"), and the Rays will either get an outdoor stadium in Tampa, or they will move to San Antonio or Charlotte.

No offense to Norv Turner, but you are creating the 80s Dolphins down there in San Diego. Phillip Rivers...arguably the best QB in the game (no offernse, Tom, Peyton and Drew) to never sniff the Super Bowl.

Hank Steinbrenner is quickly becoming the crazy uncle who makes everyone uncomfortable at holidays.
Pretty soon, the Yankees are going to have to keep this guy in the attic.

I have no reason to say this, other than having watched him a lot the past 2 seasons...I think Greg McElroy would make a good backup QB on an NFL team. He'll never be a starter, but a solid, dependable backup.

If Alex Rodriguez doesn't bounce back this season, he never will. And the Yankees will look extremely, extremely cerebellumly-challenged to have signed him through 2017.

And lastly, Todd Helton getting into the spirit of being a ball played at Spring Training.

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Honor of President's Day

What was the greatest athlete with a President's name: Some examples:

U.L. Washington
Grant Hill
Antonio Pierce
Tyler Brayton
Roosevelt Potts
Charlie Hayes
Cleveland Gary

and my personal favorite,

Lincoln Kennedy

Come up with some other good ones.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Five

1. Which college did Carmelo Anthony go to?

2. Which college has the most NFL players on a roster?

3. OK, I'll ask it: Where does Albert Pujols end up?

4. If you were a HS or college wrestler, would you wrestle a girl?

5. Remarkably, Yahoo has the biggest 5 pro basketball busts as these guys:
The “top” five:
1. Adam Morrison
2. Ed O’Bannon
3. Steve Alford
4. LaRue Martin
5. Walter Berry

Who would you pick as the biggest bust of all time? 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How They Got Here: The State of the Yankees


The whole off-season drama with the Yankees is; "Who's going to pitch for us?" The Yankees have a talented minor league pitching prospects, but they aren't ready to pitch by Opening Day. And they have free agents on their staff, with decidedly mixed results. Where that leaves the Yankees as Spring Training 2011 begins, is with a staring rotation with holes the size of fishing nets. Just how did the richest organization in sports get into this mess?

Short answer; they don't develop pitchers.

Since the Core 4 came up together in 1996, the Yankees have developed exactly 1 starting pitcher: Phil Hughes. For years, the Yankees relied on Andy Pettitte and a bevy of free agents. Clemens, Mussina, Wells, Pavano, Wright, Irabu, etc. During that time—from 1996 until 2010, there were 2 pitchers the Yankees bought up that could have worked, but A: They traded Ted Lilly for a headcase, and B: they mishandled Chien-Ming Wang's injury and he is busted for the foreseeable future.

It's interesting to note that, the Yankees were initially reluctant to bring Wang up and showed little faith in him despite his domination of the minor leagues. Wang only was in the rotation, because free agents Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Jared Wright all had catastrophic performances throughout 2005. Wang was never supposed to have been given a chance—circumstances and desperation afforded him his opportunity.

In any event, the point is the Yankees have had no real success in developing young pitchers since 1996. Their faith has always been placed—despite much evidence to the contrary—in free agency. Whether it was due to lack of interest, or just plain old incompetence, the Yankees haven't been able to develop a young pitcher and haven't shown any confidence in giving one a chance.

"We're gonna be in it every year," says Hank Steinbrenner. "Every single year." Which is great news for Yankee fans—having an ownership that puts their profit back onto the field is a wonderful thing. Ask the Pirates.

But it also means that trusting rookies to develop is going to usually be a non-starter, especially pitchers. Rookies make mistakes, need time to grow. Check out Randy Johnson's first couple of years, or Johan Santana's, or Tom Glavine's. It takes a bit of time before pitchers find their groove. The Yankees do not have a bit of time.

So here come the free agents. The Kei Igawas, the Kevin Browns, the Jared Wrights. The A.J. Burnetts.

Which brings us to 2011 Spring Training. And a ball club that has a 200 million dollar price tag and roughly 2.5 to 3.5 starting pitchers. Ivan Nova will probably have a starting job, but will also have the added pressure that he has to produce immediately as a starter in the rotation. He wont be afforded the luxury of developing in the bullpen and working his way onto the staff. His growth as a pitcher is borne of panicked desperation instead of prudent development.

Our rivals to the north have in 2 slots of their rotation, potential aces that were home-grown. Both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz came up young, were allowed to make mistakes (Jon Lester's WHIP his first 2 years was 1.648 and 1.460; Buchholz went 2-9, 6.75 ERA, 1.763 WHIP in 2008), were allowed to get sent back down to AAA to work on their stuff, and generally learn and grow. There is very little chance that the Yankees would have allowed a 2-9 performance or a 1.648 WHIP rookie on their staff. A call would have been made to Sidney Ponson or Shawn Chacon to try to save the season. Development over.

So that is where the Yankees are in 2011. 2 quality starters, 1 recovering starter, 1 journeyman starter and a rushed rookie. And a 200 million dollar price tag.

And tons of hope in the minors but most of them at least a year away. Going forward, the prayers of Yankees fans regarding those talented minor league pitchers are A: don't rush them (remember 19-year-old Jose Rijo?) and B: don't trade them for someone like Derek Lowe or Bronson Arroyo in an attempt to catch the Red Sox in July.

I do appreciate the Yankees spending beau-coup bucks to try to win. But that mindset—of winning every single season no matter what—has placed pitcher development on the back burner and has created a culture of distrust of young pitchers. Win now! has meant "No Growing Pains". Either perform like an All-Star immediately or you're out. Which is a short-sighted philosophy. Overpaying a older, fading pitcher who may not fit your team and who will plug your payroll for years (Brown, Johnson, Wright) instead of taking a chance to develop a younger cheaper pitcher makes no sense over the long haul. Yet the Yankees continue to do it.

Which is how we got here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why is Jeter Leading Off?

Yesterday's Spring Training media interview was pretty much what you would expect. No new shocking revelations; high hopes etc. Joe Girardi said the platitudes as did Brian Cashman. Nothing new yo report....except for this:

“We signed Jeter to be our shortstop, and we signed him to be our leadoff hitter,” Girardi said. “And he’s got a pretty good track history of what he’s done in the game of baseball. He had a couple of rough months last year. The month of September he was back to being Derek, I thought. I’m not really too concerned about him as our leadoff hitter.

OK, one question. Why?

In almost every single way, Brett Gardner is the perfect leadoff man over Derek Jeter. As for Girardi's comment about Jeter being back to his old self in September, that's not entirely true. It is true that Jeter batted .287 in the last month, which is better than he batted in any month since April. But .287 isn't what you want out of Jeter.

Jeter can't draw walks like he used to; Gardner can. Jeter can't run like he used to; Gardner has speed to burn. Take September; Jeter's best month since April—he had a .375 OBP. In September, with a severely sprained wrist and his worst month of the year, Gardner's OBP was a .372. In that month—his best OBP month all season—Jeter stole 3 bases. In his worst month, with a sprained wrist, Gardner stole 8 bases.

Look, I get it, Jeter is the Captain. The face of the franchise. But would it be such a insult to him to bat 2nd? With Teixiera behind him? And trying to drive in Gardner with slaps the other way as Gardner creates a hole on the right side of the field? Doesn't that make more sense?

Gardner was 8th in the league in OBP, 3rd in steals, 10th in walks and 9th in runs scored. All batting 9th in the lineup. The man is a born leadoff hitter. Jeter at this point in his carer isn't. And it shouldn't be a slap to the captain. He has batted 2nd more in career than in any other spot over his career. So it's not a big move.

I admire Girardi's loyalty. He played with Jeter and has a bunch of respect for the Franchise. But batting Jeter first is a mistake

Monday, February 14, 2011

Transactions....

Happy Pitchers & Catchers Day baseball fans.

If Albert Pujols goes to free agency he's only going to cost the Cardinals more to sign him. And if they lose him, that fan base would have to be crushed even worse than when LeBron took his talents to Miami.

Considering the fact that the Panthers haven been looking for a dominating presence in the middle of their defense since Kris Jenkins got traded and that their starting DTs are Nick Hayden and Derek Landri, I'd say the early run to be the first pick in the draft has got to be Nick Fairly, DT out of Clemson.

St. John's is starting to make a believer of me. beating 4 teams in the top 10, beating 19-5 Cincinnati last night....they might be putting it all together at the right time.

It's amazing to me that Green Bay won the Super Bowl with a defense that averaged 4.7 yards per rushing attempt—2nd worst in the NFL. That average dropped in the postseason to 4.1 yards, but it was still one of the worst for teams in the playoff. The important thing to notice is this. Even though the Packers gave up a bunch of yards per carry, in 4 games in the playoffs, the longest run against the Packers was 18 yards. That's pretty amazing.

The 2011 draft looks to be another draft without a Notre Dame player in the first round. The last first rounder from Notre Dame was in 2007, Brady Quinn. Before him was Jeff Faine in 2003 and before him Luke Petitgout in 1999. Tell me again, how does this team recruit so well?

Interesting audible from PFW: One scout writes:
"Everyone got all excited about Michael Vick — and there was reason to be excited early — but if you look at how he finished the season, you see (that) teams started to figure out that if you make him play quarterback, he is not that good.  He's not a great three-step, five-step, read-and-throw-to-the-open-receiver quarterback. And he takes more hits because he does not read it quickly. Look at the Indy game when (Colts MLB Gary) Brackett drills him. If his primary (receiver) is not there and he has to go through the thought process, he holds it for an extra second to second-and-a-half, and in this league, that is the difference between a defender breezing by — like they do with Peyton Manning, barely touching him — or getting drilled. If I'm Michael Vick, I'm digging up every game that Steve Young played late in his career when he made his transformation, and I'm studying it."
Totally agree and said this myself. Vick. Talk to Steve...study him. He's the template for what you're trying to do.

I'm already of the mocking articles of how the Yankees got spurned on the should-have-been-a-layup signing of Cliff Lee. Lee never wanted to come to New York, guys and were just using the Yankees to drive up the price. You can stop gloating now guys and try writing an actual insightful article.

In the "Are You For Real?" news of the week, former baseball player Elijah Dukes has come out and said that he is being blackballed by MLB. In short, Dukes is claiming "Dukes talked about how the police are out to get him, the difficulties of being a black athlete in Tampa and how he was "thrown under the bus" by Major League Baseball."

Funny, Carl Crawford hasn't said anything about how difficult it is to be black in Tampa. Neither has David Price. Oh and the Reason baseball is blackballing you is probably because you batted .250 over your career, had as many stolen bases as caught stealings and had a problem catching the ball. Oh and it might also be the fact that you've been arrested at least three times for battery, and once for assault. Also you've threatened your wife and children with a gun. You also impregnated a 17-year foster girl then threw a bottle of Gatorade at her. Then you failed to pay child support. Not sure why they are blackballing you, don't have a clue.


And lastly, congratulations to Yankee announcer, Michael Kay; a good announcer, but.....well anyway, he somehow snagged news hottie Jodi Applegate.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Wussification of Football

I've written about this before, but I'd like to expound on this subject—and take to task one Frank DeFord of Sports Illustrated. Here's Deford a few weeks ago.
No -- the championship must be exported to more benign latitudes, leaving January to do its mischief to temperate America without tarnishing the gridiron game and forcing team season-ticket holders to venture out into an ugly second season. In 1967, Rozelle's first Super Bowl was played right about now, in mid-January. This year, it will go on three weeks later: Feb. 6, with playoff games scheduled all January, in places like icy Massachusetts and suburban Lake Michigan.
Seriously? Football should only be played in sunny warm climates where everyone is comfortable. Who came up with that silliness?

Apparently the chiefsblog.kansascity.com came up with it. This is what they wrote just last week.
Football was not meant to be played outside in February unless it's indoors or in South Florida or Southern California.
Even football players—supposedly the toughest people on earth, are catching the fad to complain about cold wet field conditions. Players have complained so much about field conditions (go Google "Heinz Field" or "Soldier Field" and "turf complaints") that now before games, football announcers will update—for us fans—the conditions of the field: Is it muddy? It it cold, etc. How do the players feel?

Really? See I thought the football players were...you know...football players. Big tough guys. Can take anything. Guess not. Here's a part of a complaint titled "Our Field Is Terrible" by Bears TE Desmond Clark from his blog.
"Did you guys take a good look at our field. If you did you had to be disgusted...Some of our opponents comments: "yall play on a cow pasture" "this is the [worst] field in the league" "what the hell is going on with this field". These are a few comments that come to mind. What the hell is the park distict of Chi cgo doing when it comes to taking care of this field. They have to resod the whole field before we play Pittsburgh, which will lead to loose turf.
Here's Rodney Harrison on playing in a cold weather Super Bowl:
"Part of the reward for getting to the biggest game of your life is the beautiful warm weather or the climate-controlled atmosphere," he said. "Players would hate playing in cold weather."
Players wouldn't like playing in the Super Bowl? Because it's cold? Good lord. Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and every player from the Ice Bowl must look at these modern football players and wonder, "What the heck is wrong with them? They play a bunch of their games either in a dome or in sunny climates on artificial turf and sometimes they have to Buffalo or Pittsburgh or Kansas City in January, and the field gets all muddy and get cold and wet and all uncomfortable. Poor babies."


Football was born in Connecticut and grew up in Pittsburgh. It became popular in places like Minnesota and in colleges like Harvard, Yale, Michigan and Northwestern. It was a violent game played in the cold. The game was played in the winter of the North, in the mud, without pads. On grass. In the cold.

But nowadays we have people saying things like "Football was not meant to be played outside in February unless it's indoors or in South Florida or Southern California." Or this: "The quality of the game would also go down because players would barely be able to move, and should anyone score, the cheers would be muffled by all those winter facemasks fans would be wearing." The quality of the game would go down?" "Should anyone score?" For reals? Has anyone seen the Ice Bowl? Or the Giants-Green Bay NFC Championship game of a few years back? Or the Freezer Bowl in Cincinnati in 1982? Or The Greatest Game Every Played in Yankee Stadium in December 1958? Did they not score in those games? Were they not fantastic games? Would any of those games have been better in Florida on AstroTurf? Please.

What about Canadian football? Up in Edmonton, they play outdoors year round. For those who don't know, the average temperature in January is 10.0 F. They average 50 inches of snow a year. In Montreal, it averages around 14 degrees F and they get 86 inches of snow annually. They play outdoors.

To the contrary, football was exactly meant to be played in the mud in the cold. That's how it was born. That's how it developed and was enjoyed for decades. But now, poor shivering journalists want to play golf on Super Bowl week and players want to beach it up, the internet is swelled with articles how the Super Bowl in the cold is a ridiculous idea.

Because to host a Super Bowl in a place where winter weather can be cold and windy and snowy (see: blizzard conditions) is ridiculous. 
A certain new Super Bowl record — most cups of hot chocolate sold. Limos sharing the parking lot with salt trucks. Something new to see for a $1,000 lower deck ticket: Your breath....Choosing New York was lunacy. Not only does the location rule out "optimal" playing conditions, it gives teams who are used to cold weather a huge advantage. Sure, "playing football in lousy weather can be memorable" — but there is "no reason" to do it "if you don't have to.
Bringing the Super Bowl to New York would be dumb on steroids. First off, in January and February it is cold here. Secondly, in January and February it is freezing here. Thirdly, in January and February it is arctic here. Absolutely, positively arctic.
Is it fair for teams to potentially alter their game plans dramatically in the face of wintry conditions?
It's a gamble. It's roulette. However, one wants to characterize it, Goodell's vision of putting the game in parts of the country in which an unexpected blizzard event or cold weather event can take away from the NFL 's ultimate game should be grounds for Goodell's dismissal. 
It's as if no one remembers that that's how the game has been played for decades. Where did Jim Brown play? Did Gale Sayers not run on Soldier Field? Did Bart Starr not throw for 2 TDS in the Ice Bowl? Did Ken Anderson not throw the ball a lot? And where did these guys play their championship games before the NFL decided it had to make sure everyone was comfy? They played them in the Polo Grounds, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Detroit's Briggs Stadium, Comiskey Field, Lambeau Field. In December. And I doubt the reporters whined about how cold it was. Fans didn't.

And the fans today don't either. In a recent ESPN SportsNation poll, 67% of the fans want a cold weather Super Bowl. So if fans do, why don't the journalists? Why do they say a northern Super Bowl would be bad for the game (sanctimonious bull)—that, indeed the weather shouldn't be a factor in the game. Well, fans say...why not? Here's Jeff Pearlman of SI.com.
For the game itself, meanwhile, cold weather is a killer. Does the NFL really want its calling card matchup to be plagued by, say, snow-caused sloppiness; by passes slipping out of the hands of quarterbacks; by halfbacks and wide receivers pulling off pratfalls atop the ice?
Jeff. I love your writing, but this is not about the players playing in cold. Players know football is a winter game and has been forever. They can still play the game. Aaron Rodgers throws the ball a bit, no? Can Tom Brady handle the weather in New England? What about Jim Kelly in Buffalo? Gale Sayers ran on Soldier Field and John Riggins in the mud of RFK Stadium. The cold weather hasn't stopped free agents from signing in New England, Chicago or Green Bay. Player will go where the money is and where the best chance to win is—and if that's the case in Chicago or Cincinnati or New England over places such as Houston or Tampa Bay, then cold and mud doesn't seem so bad.

And games played in New York, Green Bay, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are packed, so fans don't seem to mind all that much. So then what's the problem with a cold weather game?

This is about the journalists not wanting to go to a game in the cold. You said it yourself earlier, Jeff, in that very article: "I haven't attended another cold-weather NFL game. Never, ever will I ever attend another cold-weather football game."

Pearlman continues on why the Super Bowl in the northeast is a bad idea.
But, well, the weather. From start-to-finish, Super Bowl weeks are meant to take place in warm environments. Miami. San Diego. Arizona. The parties should involve fountains and beach motifs and Kardashian sisters in embarrassingly skimpy outfits. The media days are required to occur beneath a bright sun, so that questions like "How long have you been a black quarterback?" won't reverberate off the steely walls of, say, the Javits Convention Center. The rest of the nation is supposed to watch enviously from afar, jealous over the tans and the convertibles.
Kardashian sisters? Fountains? Media Days in bright sun? What the heck do I care about that? Isn't this supposed to be about football? I want football. I want hard-hitting football played in a hailstorm by huge men with grass stuck to their helmets. I want the breath of linebackers coming out of their helmets like raging bulls. I want mud-stained uniforms and snow-splattered grass fields.

I want Jack Lambert and and Alan Page and Jerome Bettis and Mike Singletary and Greg Pruitt and Mark Bavaro and Jamal Lewis and Ray Lewis and Jim Brown.

I want Emmitt Smith running for 168 yards and catching 10 passes with a separated shoulder because the Cowboys had to beat the Giants to win the NFC East. They did. I want Jack Youngblood playing in the Super Bowl with a broken leg because that's how much he cares about the game.

I want guys who want to play football because they love the game and want to win. And not care about where its being played. If the Super Bowl was being played in in a bus station parking lot in Butte, Montana in February, I want players who want to be there. And I don't want whiny reporters and million dollar athletes complaining that the field is snowy or that its cold.

It's what I want. It's what the fans want. So to the athletes and reporters. Cowboy up. Don't make our game wussy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Five

1. Will there be a NFL lockout?

2. Have you ever watched the XFL, USFL or CFL?

3. How many teams has Jamie Moyer played for?

4. How many Super Bowls have the Green Bay Packers won?

5. Does the fact that Joe Montana's son is thinking of transferring to Montana U. tickle you

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Know Thy Enemy: Tampa Rays

A little while back, we did an examination on one of the Yankees oldest enemies; the Red Sox. Now we're going to look in depth on one of the newest Yankees rivals; the Tampa ("Don't call them Devils") Rays.

The Tampa Rays got hit hard this off-season; Carl Crawford left for the rival Red Sox. Rafael Soriano left for the rival Yankees. In fact, not just Soriano, but a goodly chunk of the Rays quality bullpen is gone, including Dan Wheeler (3.35 ERA, 46 SO, 1.08 WHIP, 48.1 IP), Grant Balfour (3.35 ERA, 46 SO, 1.08 WHIP, 48.1 IP) and Joaquin Benoit (1.34 ERA, 25 Holds, 75 SO, .68 WHIP, 60.1 IP). Ooof. That’s a lot to lose. Their rotation lost Matt Garza in a trade for prospects. Also gone is starting shortstop Jason Bartlett and 1st baseman/DH Carlos Pena. In short, the team has been gutted and remade.

But is it better. Well, one good thing for the Rays is that their farm system is loaded and quality replacements are at the ready. Taking over for Crawford is Johnny Damon who will man the left field spot until highly touted 24-year-old prospect Desmond Jennings is ready. Former first round pick Reid Brignac will take over shortstop duties. Brignac, like much of the team is young and can improve on his .256 BA.

The cipher of the Rays—and the man they most need to step up—is B.J. Upton. A 5-tool talent, Upton’s average has fallen each of the past 4 seasons, from .300 in his banner year of 2007, to a sickly .239 last year. Upton has the speed to turn every walk into a double, but can’t steal first base. He did flash a bit of power last year, hitting 18 HRs. A talented outfielder, Upton needs to put it all together—and still can at only 25 years of age.

Manny Ramirez will hit clean up as the DH, taking over for Carlos Pena. Manny hit for .298 last season showing he can still swing. Yet Manny hasn’t shown the display of power that made him feared and famous—batting for a wimpy .460 slugging percentage, the lowest of his career. Well, Manny had better hit for more power; taking over 1st base duties for Carlos Pena—who even in a terrible season, hit for 28 HRS—is Dan Johnson. Yes, that Dan Johnson. If Johnson completely muffs it, figure Ben Zobrist to take over 1st base duties, with the outfield reshuffled to make room for Jennings. The Rays also pray that Evan “That’s My Cap!” Longoria grows into his body more at 25 years of age and can hit for 30+ HRs. Let’s hope so for their sake.

The real strength for the Rays lies in their rotation. All young (James Shields is the elder, pitching at 29 years old), all talented. David Price is an all-out Ace; Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann and youngsters growing into their rotation role and Jeremy Hellickson—taking over for Matt Garza, has already shown signs of dominance in a limited role last year, throwing up a 3.47 ERA, with a 1.101 WHIP and striking out 33 in 36 IP. The rotation is as complete as any in the AL and could be the best in the league.

It had better be; the Rays bullpen has been decimated and now relies on the unknown quantities of Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos. The Rays are counting heavily on rookie Jake McGee and former starter Andy Sonnanstine to fill some of the void left by all the free agent defections. As stated before...”Oooffff.”


The Rays are one of the few teams in MLB who can lose their best player, their op 3 relievers, their 2nd best pitcher and their starting shortstop and 1st baseman, and still be in the discussion for a playoff spot. It is a credit to their farm system, which didn’t rush their top prospects and groomed them into very talented pro ball players. But all the defections do hurt. Replacing Crawford with a diminished Damon and a raw Jennings can’t pan out well for the Rays in ‘11. Losing all that talent in the bullpen will cost games and put a lot of stress on a very young rotation. Pena’s 28 HRs be replaced by Ramirez? Can Longoria take the next step? What about young catcher Jaso? Can Upton put the bat on the ball (and cut down on his gargantuan 164 Ks?)? Most of these questions have to be in the Yes column if the Rays are going to compete with the Red Sox, much less the Yankees in 2011.

Overall, the Rays will be good this year. But look for them in 2012.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Transactions....

So, I went 3 for 3 on Conference championships and the Super Bowl. Which I had money on those games.

Once again, NFL. Put the Super Bowl on Saturday! Getting up, especially on the East Coast, on Monday to go to work is awful.

I know college football is a religion in the south, but having a live video feed of the Alabama Crimson Tide fax machine as recruits' commitment letters came in—and then a mini-skirted check picking up the faxes—...is more than a little weird.
Project Prospect has their Top 100 prospects in the game right now. Worth a look.

Odd that the Rangers would lowball Josh Hamilton. Wouldn't they want to lock this guy up. as the Reds did with Joey Votto? Guy won the MVP, led the league in slugging, OPS+, batting average and RBIs. 8 mill per? That could get Hamilton mad, guys. Play fair.

How could the fans vote in Yao Ming ahead of Kevin Love? Ming played 5 games this year people, while Love is averaging 21/15 a game. And he's making "Donnie" Darko Milicic look like a decent player by playing next to him. That alone deserves a start on the all-star squad.

Profootballweekly.com speculates that the Patriots could use one of their first round picks on a DE. Well duh. One one of the best DE drafts in a while and the Patriots still trying to fill their glaring DE hole since Richard Seymour got traded, yeah, durp, PFW, they might use a pick on a DE.

Would the Nuggets just trade Melo already. This will they/wont they stuff is getting ponderous.


Speaking of which, how the heck did Clemson pull of this good a recruiting class. Clemson, notorious for high expectations and flopping during the season hasn't won double digits since the South seceded, and closed last season by losing 4 out of their last six, including getting annihilated by South Carolina, then blowing the final game to South Florida. Yet they put up a Top 10 recruiting class. How?

Interesting article regarding where Albert Pujols could end up if the Cardinals negotiations break down. The Texas Rangers make a lot of sense.

For AAPTBNL Man of the Week, come on....duh. Aaron Rodgers. Guy handled the whole Brett Favre thing with class, had the weight of all that on his shoulders—not to mention the Steelers defense, and not only handled it well, he made beating the Pittsburgh Steelers and winning the Super Bowl look easy. Let's go over this again, he took a 6th seed who squeaked into the playoffs and ended up beating the Steelers by throwing 3 TDs and over 300 yards. Well done, Aaron. Enjoy the moment.

And lastly....I'm not a fan of the guy and I'd be the last person to defend his actions overall, but really....piling on the guy because his girlfriend feeds him popcorn. Go after Alex for legitimate reason. not for something silly like this.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl Prognostications

Let's take a look at the Steelers and Packers and see who wins this throwback Super Bowl.

Take a look at this stat: Rashard Mendenhall ran for 95 yards in the first half against the Jets: The Steelers scored 24 points. The 2nd half, the Jets held him to 26 yards. The Steelers didn't score anything.

Most of the headlines will be about Big Ben and his right arm and his scrambling ability. And sure, those are important, but a big important hunk of what the Steelers need to do is up to Rashard Mendenhall. Especially with the Packers awesome (and number 1 rated) passing defense making it hard for Big Ben to find anybody. On defense, the Packers have 2 advantages. One is the aforementioned pass defense, which is turnover-happy. The other is the awful, sack-producing Steelers offensive line, made all the more awful with the loss of center Maurkice Pouncey. If the Steelers can force the Packers' secondary to cheat up a little by running consistently the run, then it will make things easier for Ben to matriculate the ball up the field. If B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins and crew can force the Steelers to be one dimensional, it will lead to turnovers and 3-and-outs.

The Steelers run defense on the other hand, is no slouch. The number one rated rush defense, the Steelers will definitely turn the Packers into a one-man, one-dimensional offense—namely Aaron Rodgers. Luckily, they have a of of experience at this. Despite having the 24th rated rushing offense, the Packers have the 5th rated passing offense, resulting in just under 360 yards a game. The Packers were 3rd in the league averaging 7.1 NY per passing attempt and 6th overall in yards per attempt. And in the playoffs, the Packers actually ran the ball better, having discovered James Starks in the postseason and averaging a respectable 118 ypg.

These teams match better than almost any other combination in the league. Both are dominant run stoppers with an excellent 3-4 corp. Both have sack-master rush linebackers. Both have young quarterbacks with howitzer arms. The are the 1st and 2nd ranked defenses in the league. They rank 3rd and 6th in turnovers, including 2nd and 5th in interceptions. They are, in short, a perfect Super Bowl matchup.

Statistically speaking, it boils down to the Steelers 11th-ranked run game. If it keeps the packers honest, the Steelers will move the ball and score the points they need. If not, the Packers have the advantage. The call?
Packers 21
Steelers16

Enjoy the game. And the hair.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Five

1. Name all 4 teams Nolan Ryan was on. Bonus points for getting his full name.

2. Is Jim Kaat in the Hall of Fame? Is Gaylord Perry?

3. Which team did Steve Carlton retire with?

4. Where did Warren Moon go to college?

5. Did Marshall Faulk ever win the Heisman? How about the NFL MVP?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Can Notre Dame Still Recruit?

Can someone please explain the siren call Notre Dame football has over recruits?

Sure, way back when, The Fighting Irish ruled the college football world. They won championships, had Heisman winners and possessed a mystique that few colleges could possess. But, heck. That time was long, long ago.

Frankly, when it comes to challenging for a BCS title, the Fighting Irish are irrelevant. Annually overrated and irrelevant.

Oh sure, they always seem to be part of the conversation. They have the T.V. rights; they seem to always have some buzz about them. Commentators always seem to feel that this year, “they are back.” But the truth reveals itself on the field. On the field, they don’t matter.

They haven’t won a title since 1988. Their last Heisman winner was in 1987. Since 1995, they have a grand total of 4 first round draft picks (the same amount Florida has done in the past 2 years and only 1 more than Marshall). The last few quarterbacks they put into the NFL have been Jimmy Clausen, Brady Quinn, Jarious Jackson and Rick Mirer.

So what can they possibly offer a kid when recruiting him? Their history? Why would a kid care that they won 4 championships in the 1940s? And would he even know who Knute Rockne is?

If Ohio State and Notre Dame are recruiting a kid, how can Notre Dame promise him anything that those other schools couldn’t? In fact, what could they promise a five-star recruit? Their recent record of mediocrity? Their recent Bowl record of 2 and 7, including revealing blowout loses to LSU and Oregon State? That they have had 1 first round draft pick since 2004 and it was Brady Quinn? And only 2 first round picks in the last decade?

Yet the Fighting Irish keep recruiting. According to Rivals and Scout, Notre Dame has the 7th and 9th best recruiting classes respectively. According to Scout, Notre Dame has 4 of the Top 100 recruits, ahead of National Champions Auburn, and 4 5-star recruits, twice what Ohio State and Auburn have. National runner-up Oregon has none.

On Rivals, Notre Dame has a better class than Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida and Nebraska and a much better class than Virginia Tech (who last had a losing season in 1992—the last year they missed a bowl game).

Amazingly, Notre Dame recruits year in and year out exceedingly well. Jimmy Clausen was the number one prospect in the nation. How did that fare out? Meanwhile Sam Bradford was a middling recruit that Oklahoma’s staff turned him into a number one pick. Brady Quinn was a high recruit—well ahead of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. How did that turn out?

And heck, if a recruit wants an education as well as the ability to play football, go to Boston College (9 first rounders since 1995). Go to Northwestern (2 first rounders since 2003), Vanderbilt (2 first rounders since 2002) Cal (11 first rounders since 1995) or Stanford (Andrew Luck guaranteed first rounder if he had left this year).

Some recruit specialists say that scouting sites over-rank Notre Dame recruits. Maybe. But what can they say about Ishaq Williams, a 2011 five star DE recruit, who chose Notre Dame over Florida, Ohio State, Oregon, and Penn State. Same goes for Stephon Tuitt, another 5-star recruit. Schools like Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech, LSU all offered Tuitt. Yet he went to Notre Dame. Why?

I have no answer. If anyone out there can explain to me why a recruit would choose Notre Dame over LSU—a two-time BCS champion coached by Les Miles, or Florida or Auburn or Alabama or Ohio State—please let me know. I am honestly fascinated.