Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some Draft Thoughts

Sorry it's been a while. Been crazy at work. Anyway...

It's pretty interesting that the Patriots took yet another cornerback at 33 with Akeem Ayers and Brooks Reed sitting there. Thee Patriots have drafted like 400 corners in the last few years, and still they haven't found 2 that they like. Odd.

I think Ryan Mallett is very lucky to go to the Patriots. That situation is going to be best thing for him.

Mason Foster is perfect for the Buccaneers.

In fact, the Bucs did really well for themselves so far.

So has Houston. Watt, Reed and Harris really, really improve that defense.

Christian Ponder is not a number 12 pick. He's not even a first-rounder.

Anthony Castonzo is perfect for the Colts.

Atlanta better be right about Julio Jones. They gave up the farm for him.

James Carpenter? In the first round? Really?

Muhammed Wilson to the Jets is a nice pick. Then Kenrick Ellis in the 3rd, and now the Jets have a young D-line. Now they just need someone to rush the passer.

On the other hands, the Eagles have had some strange picks. Can't say they were my favorite.

And finally, name of the draft so far. Ugo Chinasa.  Ugo! Chin ass!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Transactions....

Has anyone turned it around more than Alex Gordon of the Royals? And look! The Royals have a nucleus to build around.

I know its only 21 games, but boy....suddenly that Jason Werth contract looks really, really long.

So the buzz has the Falcons trying to move up to grab Julio Jones. That would be a really nice move for their offense, but they would have to sell the farm to do it.

Another rumor: The Redskins trading up to the number 2 pick to get Blaine Gabbert...the Redskins better be sure about Gabbert. They need help everywhere and sacrificing a ton of picks to get this kid is a risky, risky move.

Jair Jurrjens is back. Last night he got 13 outs with 43 pitches. And wow, that makes the Braves rotation a totally dominating one. How dominating? Brandon Beachy has the highest ERA of the starting 5. With a 3.68. He has a WHIP of 1.091.

I know Frank Thomas wont be elected to the Hall of Fame for a few years, but I hope his speech is going to be angry and that he rips into the steroid users of his generation. I really do.

The New York Knicks make many, many dumb moves. This was not one of them.

Heard a very, very sad fact. Paul Maholm tied Zach Duke for most career wins at PNC Park with 31. PNC opened in 2001. Wow.

Is Albert Haynesworth trying to make himself the most hated man in sports?

The more I think about it, the more I think that there are going to be a rash of teams trying to trade back into the first round to take some of the QBs. Colin Kirkpatrick or Christian Ponder could be taken by the Bengals, Niners, Titans or Cardinals late in the first round on a trade-up. And the Jets and Steelers could recoup picks.

I think we're going to be seeing more and more of Joe Mauer at DH. At only 28, he's beginning to break down a bit. He's the franchise. You can't risk him back there behind the plate.

Everybody who had the Cleveland Indians 2.5 games ahead in the AL Central, raise your hands. Stop lying.

Do people really care whether Jeter and A-Rod are best buddies? Whether they hang out and watch Die Hard 2 and have beers or whether they don't...it doesn't make one iota of difference.

Could somebody please tell B.J. Upton that all the "potential" he has is bogius, that 2007 was a long time ago and that he is just not a good baseball player.

And finally, this blog hates soccer. Hates it. A lot. But if this is real....this is ridiculous.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mock Draft

Panthers shock everyone and take the Alabama DT
I love the draft. I really do. And this year is extra fun because there is no consensus number 1 pick. The year of the defensive lineman, here's my guess at how I think the draft could go.

1. Carolina — Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Carolina shocks the world! I just don't think they are sold on Cam Newton being the franchsie. Though I could eat my words come Thursday. If they could trade down to say, 4 or 5, they might.

2. Denver — Von Miller, OLB, Texas
The Broncs are sad. The guy they wanted and thought were getting, gets plucked right in front of them. But since they need defense in any way possible they go for the best defensive guy on the board.

3. Buffalo — Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Well, maybe Newton isn't a sure thing, but for a franchise that hasn't been relevant in over a decade, with one foot in Toronto and in need of a impact player, they can't pass up the guy who could revitalize the franchise and fan base.

4. Cincinnati — Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
The Bengals cannot, repeat, can freakin not, go into the season with Dan LeFevour and Jordan Palmer as the only QBs on the roster. And I don't think the Bengals would go after some of the available QBs (McNabb, Kolb). So I think they take the new face of the franchise and let him take his growing pains this season.

5. Arizona — A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Ken Whisenhunt really wanted Von Miller. Sorry, Ken. And it's too early for OL help, so A.J. Green comes in to help Larry Fitzgerald and whatever QB they end up getting.

6. Cleveland — Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Colt McCoy needs help. Seriously, the Browns haven't had a dynamic playmaker since Jim Brown. Mike Holmgren starts to get the offense he wants.

7. San Francisco — Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The Niners could not be happier. Arguably the best player in the draft falls into their lap. And he fits a real need. Perfection.

8. Tennessee — Robert Quinn, DE. North Carolina
No, Quinn is not the most motivated player in the world, but there are goo-gobs of talent somewhere in there. And the Titans need someone to rush the QB.

9. Dallas — Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The was a tough, tough pick. Tyron Smith makes a lot of sense. But the Cowboy pass defense was aw..aw...awful. The Boys could trade up to the end of round 1 and get Gabe Carimi, Nate Solder or Marcus Cannon. The Prince is too good to pass up.

Castonzo is the best, most ready LT in the draft
10. Indianapolis — TRADE (Washington trades the no. 10 pick to the Indianapolis Colts for their 1st round pick, their 2nd round pick and a conditional 2012 pick) 
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Washington can get their QB down further. This is way too high for the next QB to go. So they trade with the Colts who need a left tackle they can rely on. Bill Polian hardly ever makes trades, but the core group isn't getting younger—Manning is 35. Tyron Smith may be more gifted, but has never played the left side at all. Castonzo can come in right away and start on the blind side.

11. Houston — J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Wade Phillips is installing the 3-4 in Houston and gets the perfect player to anchor the DE spot.

12. Minnesota — Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Too early to take a QB and they could probably pick one up in the 2nd round. That's of course, assuming Donovan McNabb isn't in town. In any event, Nick Fairley—a one-time Top 2 pick—wins the Slippery Slider Award and gets plugged into the spot Pat Williams is leaving.

13 Detroit — DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson
It seems like the entire planet has the Lions taking an OT here. But I have a gut instinct that Jim Schwartz wants to build the defense more. DaQuan Bowers, the best rush end falls into their lap—it's just too good to pass up for old Jim. Pairing him with Suh. A dream.

14. St. Louis — Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
The Rams gave up 4.5 yards per carry. Spags does not like. Also, Liuget is a quick penetrating tackle, perfect for Spags style of defense.

15. Miami — Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Everyone has the Dolphins going with Ingram. And they are right. Makes too much sense not to take him here. Strong, smart, sophisticated back with nice shifts and power to pass-block. Helps the Fins immediately.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars — Alden Smith, DE, Missouri
The Jags only had 26 sacks last season, 2nd worst in the league. They get the best pure pass rusher left on the board to drop onto their D-line.

17. New England — Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The frickin' rich get richer. Sitting still at 17, the Pats get the most athletic OT in the draft. Damn Belichek.

18. San Diego — Muhammed Wilkins DT/DE, Temple
Too early to take a WR—probably will try to sign Braylon Edwards or someone else to fill that need. Instead they take the perfect D-lineman for them. Wilkins can play anywhere along the line and is strong, strong, strong. A lot of mocks have them taking a rush LB. Not sure why, the Chargers had 47 sacks last season—2nd best in the league.

19. New York Giants—Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida
The G-Men should have taken an OL guy last year. Diehl, O'Hara and Seubert are dinged up and all on the wrong side of 30. Mike Pouncey, taking over the LG spot could give the line a jolt of youth and punch.

20. Tampa Bay—Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Like their Florida brethren, the Jags, the Bucs are looking for pass rushing. Ryan Kerrigan's teammates called him Superman—he ran a 4.67 (.5 seconds off the best DE) and benched 31 reps (second best for DE after Watt). Kerrigan joins the Bucs young defensive tackles and can help the pass rush.

21. Kansas City — Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Strong, tough and athletic. Would fit either on right side or possibly the left side for the Chiefs o-line. OC Bill Muir will appreciate Carimi immediatly.

22. Washington — Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Washington needs help everywhere. Really. The interior of their O-line is awful—the 3rd worst run game and 46 sacks. After Orakpo, the next best sacker on the team had 2.5 sacks—The Andre Carter Show has mercifully been cancelled. But Shanahan needs a QB to coach. Locker probably reminds him a bit of Jake Plummer. Locker is not an immediate starter, but Shanahan probably feels he's the guy to get Locker on the right track.

23. Atlanta — TRADE (Atlanta trades their 1st, 3rd, and 5th round picks to the Philadelphia Eagle for the 23rd pick.) 
Cameron Jordan — DE, California
Cameron Jordan has slipped a bit. But no more. Atlanta leapfrogs their rival Saints to grab the most complete DE left on the board.

24. New Orleans — Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
The Saints shrug towards the Falcons trade and grab the Iowa product who can do it all. A slightly disappointing senior year drops Clayborn down a bit, but the Falcons will love his motor.

25. Seattle — Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Local boy Jake Locker might have been a nice story for the Hawks, but the truth is they need O-line help more. The Seahawks had a putrid 3.7 yards per carry last season and seemed to enjoy watching Matt Hassleback get pounded. Danny Watkins is a possibility, but Solder is too athletic and promising for the Hawks to pass up.

26. Baltimore — Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
The Ravens really need a WR and a CB. There is no WR worth this spot, but CB Jimmy Smith is a possibility. But the truth is the Baltimore pass rush is not what it used to be. After Terrell Suggs no linebacker had more than 2 sacks. Ayers is fluid and quick off the snap, and while not the fastest burner, he knows how to make plays behind the line. Ayers also has 6 INTs and had 7 forced fumbles.

27. Philadelphia — Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
The Eagles will look hard at Danny Watkins—the Eagles gave up 49 sacks last season—but truth is defenses are gonna sack Vick—just a fact. And Ellis Hobbs retired and Asante Samuel just turned 30. It's time for the Eagles to restock the corners—Smith is the consensus 3rd best corner and a nice pick for the Eagles. Texas's Aaron Williams is a possibilty as well.

28. Dallas — TRADE ( Dallas trades their 2nd round pick and the 2012 1st rounder for New England's 28th pick)
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi
The Boys need to leapfrog the Bears who are sure to grab Sherrod with the next pick—they absolutely need to. Their O-line is aging and they need to protect the Romo-franchise. So they take a veteran LT who blocked in the SEC for 3 years. He can move the 320-lb Doug Free to his more natural RT spot and protect Romo for the next 10 years.

29. Chicago — Danny Watkins, OG/OT, Baylor
The Bears need a OT like my baby needs a clean diaper...which is to say, they really need an OT. They gave up 56 sacks last season and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. The overaged Danny Watkins is tough and played LT at Baylor. Only 6'3", Watkins isn't the ideal LT, but he won All-Big 12 honors and graded out high as a LT. And the Bears can't be picky right now.

30. Houston — TRADE (Houston trades it's 2nd round pick, it's 4th round pick and a conditional pick in the 2012 draft to the New York Jets for the 30th pick.)
Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Houston needs a CB desperately. Kareem Jackson was a disappointment last year and the other corner is Glover Quin. Ooof. Aaron Williams is a tall, fast CB/S that can fill in multiple positions in the sad Houston secondary. The Texans jump the Steelers who needed a CB for themselves. The Jets reclaim a 2nd round pick and can get the defensive help they need later in the draft.

31. Pittsburgh — Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
The Steelers look at Brandon Harris and Ras-I Dowling, but remember they need to repair an aging front 3. Casey Hampton is 33 and has been taking a pounding in the middle of the pile for a long, long time. Taylor can come in, learn from the best and take over in a year or 2.

32. Green Bay — Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona
2 blonde long-haired barbarian looking dudes trying to smash opposing QBs. It's too good to pass up. Reed, big, fast (1.54-second 10-yard split) takes the other side from Clay Matthews and gets the keys to the quarterback. Justin Houston and Cameron Heyward are potentials as well and Kyle Rudolph is a dark horse, but Reed, the complete package at OLB makes the most sense.

And that's the first round. And one last thing. The guy you see below is Mark Herzlich. A sure 1st-round pick 2 years ago, this kid got cancer...then kicked its ass. Herzlich worked out constantly as he was going through chemo—that word again was "chemo" and the other words were "worked out while going through"—and came back to start for the BC Eagles last year. Somebody has to take this kid. If he can sack cancer, he can sack opposing QBs.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Five (Today, it's Seven)

OK, today I'm going to give you an athlete changed name, and you have to give the original name.

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

2. Marvelous

3. World B. Free

4. Pele

5. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

6. Tiger



And for good measure....Macho Man

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is Cam Newton Really A Number 1 Pick?

Back in January after auburn won it all and people started thinking about the upcoming draft, most prognosticators and scouts had Cam Newton as a 1st round pick—not near the top, more like in the 20th pick range. In fact, on January 6th, Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly—when discussing the Panthers options after Andrew Luck opted to stay in school—dismissed Cam Newton in 2 sentences.
Cam Newton is a terrific athlete, but is he a sure thing as a QB?....That's why I think it's far more likely the Panthers will look at other positions.
Since then, Newton's stock has risen and risen and risen till now everyone has him as the top pick come next Thursday. Heck, all 4 guys at Sportsline.com picked Newton to go first.

If you watched Auburn at all this season, you can see why teams are high on him. And if you haven't, just check out some of the scouting reports—they are practically pornographic in their depiction of Newton's athletic attributes.
"Physical marvel."
"Can make all the throws with ease."
"Elite size and athletic ability."
"Outstanding natural athleticism and is very smooth."
Newton can scramble and run, throw a 50-yard spiral and can take/deliver a hit. He's the total package, physically.

It's the other part of the equation that raises the most questions—the mental and technical aspects, that bother people. 1st off, Auburn runs a 1-read and run system, which worked great down in the SEC, but in the pros...not so much with the success.

Also, instead of constantly being in a shotgun offense where he gets to see the defense right away, Newton will have to learn to take the snap and drop back and read the defense and his progressions—something that probably wont be easy against a Rex Ryan or Dick Lebeau defense.


And college quarterbacks who played in the spread option system, a shotgun system designed to take decision-making away from the QB, and base them on the offense design, haven't fared too well.

And its not just me saying it. Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, a former NFL quarterbacks coach (hat tip to Smartfootball.com) is quoted as saying this about college spread QBs:

"And then they find it's tough to take that full drop behind center, a five- or seven-step drop, because at that level, in the NFL, the ball has to be released immediately without taking a gather or a hitch step. Guys just aren't able to get the ball out when it has to be released."

Gary Kubiak said this:
"Quarterbacks in this league don't play that deep (in the backfield) so it's an adjustment and one that can take some time. They have to see it more quickly and they have to do while having the footwork to get back from center, set up and throw."

Now wait a minute...what are the 2 knocks on Newton?

Seems content to short step throws and get rid of the football before the pressure is able to reach him, causing his accuracy and ball location at times to suffer...He also will get lethargic with his footwork at times...—National Football Post
• Raw footwork and operated primarily out of shotgun
• A tendency to get sloppy with mechanics at times
• Touch, timing and anticipation are all merely average—NFLDraftCountdown.com
...an option-type offense who rarely uses good footwork...his accuracy looks better than it would in a traditional offense because he is often throwing to receivers who are completely wide-open...Newton rarely had to go through his progressions in Auburn's offense. Most of the time he just caught the snap and made quick throws to wideouts behind or at the line of scrimmage—Sporting News
Played in a simplified, run-first, dive-option read offense with very basic high-low reads. Worked exclusively out of the gun and was very quick to run at the first flash of coverage. Limited field vision — does not process the passing game. Inconsistent throwing mechanics with a flick delivery — generates all of his power from his upper-body strength and too often arms the ball. Streaky passer with spotty accuracy. Makes his receivers work hard and throws into coverage.—Pro Football Weekly
So NFL coaches say the most necessary attributes a college spread quarterback needs to succeed in the NFL are 1. Good footwork and mechanics &  2. Quick field vision.

Eeep.

Now, this isn't to say that the Panthers shouldn't take him with the number 1 pick. If they feel that they can coach him up, or tailor an offense to work with his strengths, then more power to them.

And this is not to say that Newton won't be a great NFL player. He led the Tigers to the National Championship and he has all the physical tools to be a champ in the NFL—a howitzer arm and the ability to extend plays and/or run. That said, guys drafted primarily for their great arms and/or athleticism (Kyle Boller, JaMarcus Russell, Jeff George) haven't always fared too well.

This is just to say that when you are taking the number one pick in the draft, and are giving millions of dollars to a guy who will have your franchise put on his shoulders, you'd want that player to be as problem-free as possible.

Best of luck to you, Carolina.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Analyzing Brett Gardner's Hitting Troubles

When investing into Brett Gardner's problems, one stat really jumps out at you. Gardner, after batting .287 against righties last year, is only batting a .105 against them this year.

But even more telling is what Mark Simon found out, in a excellent article on ESPN back in March. Last year, against righties, before he was hit by a pitch on June 21st, Gardner had an awesome .421 OBP. Afterwards, it dipped to .353.

What happened? Well, according to a heat map Simon uses, basically, Gardner stopped hitting the low and away pitch. The heat map shows that Gardner, except for the up and in pitch, was pretty effective in more batting zones pre-injury. Post-injury, righties began to throw low and away. And get him out.

And that trend has continued. The Fox Sports graphic to the left shows that while Gardner has actually been good this year on the up and in pitches and pitches towards the center of the plate, low pitches and outside pitches have rendered him ice-cold.And pitchers know that.

What happened to Gardner when he got injured? Who knows? Whatever it was, it changed his swing, and its still affecting him. Yesterday, Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long said they spotted a mechanical flaw in Gardner's swing.
"He is not trying to lift the ball at all, it has more to do with what he is not doing with the lower half," Long said of the ice- cold Gardner, who wasn't in the lineup last night against Rangers lefty Matt Harrison. "He isn't using the lower half. And he is looking at pitches and expanding the zone more than usual. He has been feeling for his swing."
"Not trying to lift the ball." "Not using his lower half." That sounds like Gardner couldn't get the low outside pitch because his swing was flat because his legs weren't under him. Hopefully, whatever Long found is the cure. Because the Yankees could use the guy who was batting .321 at the end of June last year, with the .821 OPS. Badly.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Transactions....

Knicks. How the heck could you leave RAY freakin' ALLEN that open on that play. It's Ray Allen, one of the best pure shooters of his generation. Even with Garnett's illegal elbow, you still mirror that guy in that situation. I mean look at the photo. That hand running at him is amazingly late getting to him.

And speaking of crap defense. Lakers. You guys do remember that you have to play, right? I mean when Jarret Jack and Aaron Gray combine for 10-11 shooting and combine for 27 points, you ain't playing no defense, guys.

Their owner is borrowing money to cover salaries, and they are already 5.5 games behind the Rockies. if this does indeed turn out to be a down year for the Dodgers, how big do you think the fire sale would be? Do you think they would trade Matt Kemp rather than pay him epic bucks this offseason? Andre Either?

Same question for the Twins. If this does turn out to be a down year for the Twins, do you think they begin the fire sale? How about Carl Pavano or Scott Baker to a contender? What about Denard Span and his reasonable contract which runs through 2014?

I wasn't the biggest fan of ESPN's Gruden QB Grill, but it sure was telling how bad Cam Newton responded to Grunden's question about playcalling. At one point, Newton even complains that Gruden is putting him on the spot. Take a look. Jake Locker and Ryan Mallet had to diagram and break down plays...newton couldn't even give the terminology for a play they ran at Auburn.

Still almost every mock draft has Cam Newton going first. All I can say is the Panthers better know exactly what they are getting, be prepared to coach him up hard and tailor the offense to what Newton does best.

The Yankee Analysts had a good comment today about Brett Gardner.
"I’m a big Brett Gardner supporter, but he’s off to an almost remarkably bad start. That said, he’s still not even the worst LF in the AL East right now- that would be a Mr. Carl Crawford (.137/.185/.157/Yikes). I guess Andrew Jones is the best solution if the Yankees can’t get Gardner going anytime soon."
Epic agree. A platoon between these 2 guys might not be the worst idea, at least for a while.

So Curtis Granderson....how's that improved swing?

Interesting mock draft by the guys at Cold Hard Football Facts. They put Jerome Beal and Sam Acho in the first round and knock on Julio Jones and Blaine Gabbert. Beal and Acho don't make Rob Rang's Top 50 and to CFN.com, Beal is the number 10 OLB and Acho is the number 11 DE. To the National Football Post, Acho is the number 16 DE and Beal is the number 27. Wow.

You're a potential Top 10 pick, and you're interviewing for millions of dollars and you do this?

Just a hunch. The first trade of the season. Jose Reyes to the Brewers for prospects.


Think Grady Sizemore knows it's his big contract year?

Pssst. Albert's back.......uh oh.

I wonder if something is wrong with King Felix. His ERA is 4.33 and his H/9 is way up to 9.7. But according to Fangraphs.com he is throwing his change almost 23% of the time. Also he is throwing his curve 16% of the time and is throwing both his 4-seamer and 2-seamer a lot less. His speed is down a little across the board, but not frightfully so. This is just speculation, but when his WHIP is way up, his Ks are down, so the question could be there.

How can the National Football Post give the Steelers at pick 31 Mark Ingram. That would be the silliest pick in a decade for the Steelers, especially with the help they need first on the O-line and secondly on the D-line. And at CB.

Maybe they are still under .500, but the Pirates are sure fun to watch. Have a look whenever they're on.


And lastly, for those who haven't seen hit. Here's Justin Verlander's brain fart on the mound—one of the funniest balks I've ever seen.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why Mock?

Hey guys, today I got a rerun. It's from a few years back and it's about mock drafts and all the crazy geeks—like me—who take such pleasure in doing it. It's one of my favorites and I hope you guys enjoy it as well.


In an episode of the TV show Sports Night, the character Dan Rydell, an anchorman in the eponymous show, poses the question while reporting the NFL Draft, "Why should we care?" For an athlete, being selected as a 1st round pick as opposed to being picked in the second round represents a difference of millions of dollars....so the athletes definitely care. But why should we care—we couch potato sports fans who will never see the field of play in an NFL game let only the money—at all?


Why do we care so passionately if some young linebacker from BYU ends up going to the Colts at the end of round 2, or to Carolina in a trade-up in the middle of round 3? Why do some of us spend useless hours writing up drafts, months and months before the actual draft takes place? Why do we then post it to a message board only to have another mock draft fanatic hurl abuses at us for our stupidity? And when the actual draft day comes, none of our picks is anywhere close to the target. The futility is limitless.

And it’s not just the layman who’s questioning the passion for the draft. Professional sportswriters (including some who work for ESPN, the host of the draft) are not just expressing confusion over the Draft’s popularity, they are outright claiming that it’s stupid, boring and pointless. Mike Lupica has repeatedly ripped the NFL Draft both in print and on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters. On February 20th of this year, George L. Jones of the Selma Times-Journal published his “top 5 reasons to hate the draft,” which has since made the rounds on the Internet. And Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post wrote: “I hate the NFL draft. I realize that saying anything against the draft amounts to blasphemy, but somebody's got to do it…. I love pro football, but I hate the draft. I hate being asked, ‘Who is so-and-so going to take’ because not only do I not know, I don't care.”


The Super Bowl? Hah.
Here’s a statistic. Last year's NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers had an estimated average viewing audience of just under 9 million people per game. By comparison, over 30 million people watched the 2008 draft. Bizarre, no? Because while the NFL Draft is fantastically long—two full days, clocking in at over sixteen hours—not one point is scored. The draft is homework rather than great hits, paper-shuffling rather than explosive breakaway runs. It's 2 full days of "sports entertainment" that doesn't have a football, a field, or a scoreboard. What it has is men putting names on a bulletin board. It has the assistant NFL Commissioner and little-known kids dressed up in suits and caps.

Yet, ESPN broadcasts each and every second of it, up to and including the final, 7th round. And, those 30 million people at home, more likely than not, are on the web commenting on each of the selections on NFL message boards while thumbing through magazines covering draft prospects and with full mock drafts sold by Street & Smiths, Lindy's, The Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly and ESPN (among others) for eight dollars or more. For the truly obsessive draft fan, the Ourlads.com "complete draft package" is available for “only” $55.00.

The NFL Draft, according to CNNsi.com’s Tim Layden, “…is the biggest sporting event in America.” He adds:

“It is not a two-day event. It's a three-month event. NFL Nation (that's everybody) begins talking about the draft before the Super Bowl broadcast signs off.”

From early February into late April, fans talk endlessly about the draft, watch and listen to shows about the draft and hammer Web sites devoted to the draft. In March, I went to dinner with a group of New York Giants' fans who worship football, the Jints and the draft. Great guys, all of them. But I've got to say, their knowledge of the draft was vaguely scary.

The hype is endless from the dead of winter into the middle of spring. Give me another event that can match this. The Super Bowl? Hah. Two weeks of hype. Period.

But why? Sixteen hours of conference room tables and talking heads trying to fill the dead time between picks does not sound like the recipe for thrilling sports entertainment. Yet somehow it is.


Why Would You Want To Do That?
For years and years, the NFL Draft took place in a nondescript hotel conference room filled with cigar-chomping men who looked like overweight Mike Ditkas and the results were published in the newspapers the next week or so, if anybody cared.

Then in 1980, ESPN, a fledgling new network that needed something, anything, sports-related to broadcast, saw the perfect time-eater in the NFL Draft. ESPN figured, while the draft was definitely not scintillating TV, it filled a lot of hours, and it was better than high school curling, which took up most of ESPN's broadcasting at that time. So they went to then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and asked for permission to broadcast the NFL Draft in its entirety. Rozelle said, "Why would you want to do that?"

Funny thing happened though. This event that no one ever thought to broadcast and defies every logical tenet of sports entertainment—there's no competition, no violence, no drama—became a phenomenon. A cult audience grew. And grew. And then grew some more. Soon, people were waiting outside all night for a chance to watch the draft, live. By the end of the 80s, loud, raucous groups of fans (many of them, irate Jet fans who always hate whatever pick their team makes—usually with reason) came to cheer and jeer. Niche experts gained a niche popularity, building entire enterprises based solely on this one day. No one is more famous to draft fans, or “draftniks,” for his prognostications than Mel Kiper, the bouffant-sculpted 30-year guru of the NFL Draft.


It Started Out As A Hobby
How does one become a guru of a noncompetitive wing of a violent and popular sport? During an interview with ESPN, Mel Kiper explained how we got started:

I was a big fan of the NFL and college football. I saw the impact of the draft then. It was the only way you could improve your football team from year to year. There was no free agency, there were very few trades.

I always thought, if this is the only way to increase your talent base, there should be huge interest in this. I thought any college or NFL fan should crave the kind of information that I was interested in. The GM of the Baltimore Colts at that time, Ernie Accorsi, was a good friend of mine, and he basically encouraged me. He told me that fans would crave that type of information, that I should take it public and turn it into a business.

And Kiper was not alone. The late, great Joel Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly became involved with the draft even earlier than Kiper. In the early 70s, Buchsbaum was set on following in his father's footsteps and becoming an attorney. That is, until his hobby of writing scouting reports on college football players—imitating the scouting reports of Carl and Pete Marasco in Pro Football Weekly—eventually took over, and he left his career path to follow the NFL Draft full-time. As Buchsbaum later said: "It started out as a hobby and became a job."

And for thousands and thousands of people out there, the NFL draft is not just a hobby, but a job. And for some, it’s not just a job, but an obsession. Google "NFL Mock Draft" and you'll see that there are thousands of sites—featuring mock drafts, personal opinions and more—all amateurly run, all for little more than the love of the draft.

I think after the Super Bowl, it's the second biggest event, not just in the NFL, but in sports.

So says Scott Wright, owner and sole proprietor of www.draftcountdown.com, the world's most popular NFL Draft site. The site is completely free as well, which is amazing, considering that Wright maintains the site as a full-time job, year-round. That's right, all year round. The day after this year’s NFL Draft, Wright's site will begin the march to the 2010 NFL Draft (if it hasn't started already). For Wright, the NFL Draft is not just a hobby, it's his career.

I just became interested in it in high school, started messing around, making my own site. And it took off from there. Now I get to say, I get to work on the NFL Draft full-time.

Colin Lindsay of www.gbnreport.com also works full-time on his own NFL Draft web site. He started following the draft because: "...in the late 1970s there was absolutely no coverage of the actual draft up here in Canada, so I would take a day or two of annual leave from my job, but still go into the office, spread out my rating sheets and call the old sports ticker every 5-10 minutes to get the latest picks and followed the draft pick by pick that way."

Both Lindsay and Wright know that they aren't alone in their interest in the Draft and it's popularity. Lindsay says, "The interest in the draft is very real; indeed, it's become a year round thing, and for a lot of sports fans draft weekend has become the #2 'holiday' on the calendar after Christmas."


Those Who Can't
So still the question remains: Why would so many people devote such time over what is essentially a job fair? Says Lindsay:

I believe for many sports fans the NFL draft provides the best opportunity to play along at being GM for a day---and how many NFL fans don't fantasize about being general manager of their particular team.

Is that it? A fantasy football-like "Let's Pretend we're a GM." Perhaps. Instead of pretending to be Peyton Manning or Brian Urlacher, people are pretending to be Mike Tannenbaum or Scott Pioli. With fantasy football's popularity and the growing communities on the web of amateurs, "draftniks" abound on the web.

One such draftnik is Robert Bryant who not only follows the NFL Draft on a self-run web site, but on two. Bryant owns and runs NFLDraftDog.com as well as NFL-Draft-Site.com, both comprehensive sites that he frequently updates in addition to having a full-time job as a police officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He writes on his site that he: "...personally scouts NFL Draft prospects by analyzing hours upon hours of game film and has multiple contacts within the industry, including current and former NFL Scouts, coaches, current and former players, experienced sports writers and other Draftniks."

There's that old much-abused saying, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Perhaps there's something in that for the draftniks. Since Wright and Lindsay and Buchsbaum and Kiper and Bryant and the 30 million other people who watch the draft can't run a 4.3 40-yard dash or throw a laser spiral into triple coverage, to become a part of the game they love, they do what they can do. And that is, obsessively watch game after game after game, analyze, form strong opinions of what they see, and pretend that they have a say in the future of their team.

So this April, old men, young men, fat men, thin men, all sorts of “men who can’t” will sit around, either in New York City at the actual draft, or on their couches in front of their TVs, or on their computers linked to other “men who can’t,” all cheering or booing, full of opinions and tirades, and watch hour after hour to see if their teams pick the way they guessed they would, trying to be a part of the sport they love.

And what’s wrong with that?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's Not The Velocity: Why Can't Phil Hughes Throw A Change-up?

Here's Phil not throwing a change-up.
Read the local papers and everyone is worried about Phil Hughes' velocity. Even Phil Hughes.

I'm not worried. No, what worries—or rather—my main problem with Phil Hughes has been his reluctance to add a meaningful change-up to his arsenal.

Look at A.J. Burnett last night. He threw 16 changeups last night—for him that's a ton. And last night, without his best knucklecurve, being able to go to his change-up 16 times—and getting some swings and misses—was huge. Hey, look! A.J. has a 3rd go-to pitch!

Hughes doesn't. Which was fine when he was an 8th inning guy. Coming in for an inning, like he did in 2009, Hughes could uncork his heater/cutter and let it fly. Which he did. And then he could change the hitters timing with a nice curve and basically that was all he needed. In 2009, as the 8th inning guy, his K/9 ratio was 10.05. He didn't need his change and as a result, that season he threw it only 0.6% of the time.

And it also worked fine for the 1st half of last year—those pitches were so good it got Hughes to the All-Star game. But then batters caught on. And then Hughes couldn't get strike 3. When batters figured out there was no change-of-pace pitch coming, they could foul off his pitches until a mistake came their way.


Want proof? Since batters figured Hughes out halfway through last season, his ERA is over 5.00. Batters' contact percentage has climbed through the roof and Hughes' SwStr percentage has steadily dropped. Not having a change-of-speed pitch has made him predictable and has rendered his other pitches less effective Hughes.

Let's use Ian Kennedy as an example. Coming out of USC, Baseball America said that Kennedy's best pitch was his fastball, and with the Yankees, he didn't rely on his change-up that much. And it showed. However, since being traded to the Diamondbacks, Kennedy has refined his change-up and used it over 18% of the time last season. In fact, its so good its become his strikeout pitch. Fangraphs rated it as a 16.4 wCH—good for 5th best in the game. And as a result, his WHIP dropped to 1.201.

So, what the heck, Phil? You've got a popping fastball, a nice complimentary curveball. What's with not developing a good change and committing to it? CC Sabathia, for all his power pitcher reputation threw his change over 17% of the time last year. King Felix threw it 16% last year. Heck, even Ivan Nova is committed to using his change. Yet you only use it less than 3% of the time.

So, no I'm not worried about the lack of velocity. That'll come back. It's the not trying to learn an offspeed pitch that bothers me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sheff Special? Does Gary Sheffield Get Into The Hall of Fame?

Since he announced his retirement, there have been a slew of articles debating whether Gary Sheffield deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. And perhaps no other potential candidate has brought such a polarizing argument with him to this question. Sheffield, you loved him or hated him. But as for his qualifications for Cooperstown, let’s take an in-depth look.

First, he has some really nice numbers. He has 509 HRs, 9 above the standard cut-off line for HOF consideration. He has a lifetime slugging percentage of .514. His 4737 total bases are good for 27th all-time. His 1676 RBIs are good for 25th all-time.

On the other hand, he never won the MVP. He won a batting title once. Sheffield was an All-Star 9 times. By comparison, the 3 people Baseball-Reference compares him to the most, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson and Mel Ott, each earned 14, 14 and 11 All-Star appearances, respectively. His contemporary Ken Griffey went 13 times. And after 22 seasons, his lifetime WAR of 63.3 puts him behind Reggie Smith, Bobby Grinch and Kenny Lofton.

And unlike other all-time greats, Sheff showed up small when it mattered most. In 202 postseason at bats, Sheff had a .248 BA and a .398 slugging percentage. Mr. October, in contrast, had a .278 BA and a .528 slugging percentage; Griffey; .290 and .590; Ott, .295 and .525.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Transactions....

So the early returns on my Baseball 2011 Predictions....awful. Only one of my predictions is in first place, with that being the Rangers. The Giants, Red Sox and Braves are in last place. The Tigers are 3-6 and the Brewers are 5-5. So far, so bad.

Everybody remember one thing before we banish Phil Hughes to thee nether world of trade bait. He's 24 years old. Yes, he's pitched very poorly so far in 2011. but it's April 11th, and he's 24. Now take a deep breath and remember that before you want to trade him to Pittsburgh for a couple of fungos.


Peter King is right about the Patriots very likely trading pick #33 (first pick in the second round for a future 1st round pick. That seems exactly like their M.O. Those guys always seem to have multiple picks in the first 2 rounds.

I saw Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE out of Temple play a few games this past college football season...and I remember seeing a man among boys. he just seemed like he was stronger and faster than everybody on the field.

Out of 9 games, the Rangers have gotten 8 quality starts...and the other one wasn't all that bad either.

So....did Tiger win something yester.....oh, frick it. Who cares?

If Oklahoma City could play any....any....defense, they would make it to the conference finals easy.

MLB Trade Rumors had a nice little piece this morning on free agent contracts gone sour. The Fernando Rodney one was a good call—I'd forgotten about that signing. How the heck did the Angels justify giving Rodney a 2-year deal?

Speaking of awful free agent signings, the Yankees might be counting the fat one they gave Derek Jeter this past offseason. And yes, they were absolutely handcuffed into signing the Captain—there was no way he could go somewhere else. That said, no other team was breaking down his door to sign him. He was an aging shortstop with a rapidly decreasing range on the field and a slowing down by the second bat. And with an ego. The Yankees should have signed Jeter yes, but I think to a more team friendly contract. No on else was signing Jeter for what he thought he demanded.

Seriously, there might some need to platoon Jeter sooner rather than later. Sure, let him get to 3000 hits, but against dominant righties, give him a "rest". Dude batted .246 last year against righties and that number is going down this year. Sooner or later it has to happen...and if he bats as badly as he did against the Sox this weekend (2-13, 3 Ks, a bunch of weak groundouts), then let him get to 3000 and get him ready for some pine time.

www.profootballweekly.com has an interesting little feature where they show the past 10 years of selections at each number of the first round. For instance , look how the perennial powers did when they had to select 30th the past decade. The Steelers drafted heath Miller and Kendell Davis—2 important parts of their recent Super Bowl runs, and the Colts drafted Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai at the 30th spot in 2006 and 2001. So you see, good teams pick smart...and Matt Millen picks poorly.

The Celtics are too old. They are busted. yeah, I said it.

I am so very happy the Yankees did not panic and trade for Francisco Liriano this offseason.

I'll say just one thing about the Manny substance-abuse-fueled retirement....is anybody surprised?

And finally, in white men can't jump news of the day...sit back and watch this 5'11" white boy dunk. And feel very bad about your own athleticism. Or lack thereof.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Five

Sorry about the lackl of updates lately....promise I have a few things coming....



1. Who has been hit by the most pitches of all baseball's history?

2. Who has the most fumbles of all time?

3. Who has the most personal fouls of all time in basketball?

4. Who has the lowest QB rating of all time?

5. Who has the most strikeouts?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Transactions....

For all those people who doubted the Big East being a truly competitive division, and not just overrated, hear this: UConn, which is playing for the Championship, was 31-9 on the season. All 9 losses came within the Big East. They went 16-0 outside the East, 15-9 in it. If that doesn't tell you how difficult the Big East, nothing will.

Nothing against Ian Kennedy because he had a nice year last year, but my boy there should not be the Opening Day pitcher for any squad. Dude is a good pitcher, but nowhere near an ace.

I can't imagine what Warren Moon had to go through being one of the first prominent black quarterbacks. i get that. But the criticism of Cam Newton being racially motivated. Just, no, Warren. Every potential first round quarterback gets their lives scrutinized like crazy. Right now people are saying that Ryan Mallet is a bad guy because he drank too much his first year in college (what college kid didn't?). PFW wrote last year that Jimmy Clausen was "...an egotistical, disingenuous, scripted player with a sense of entitlement." Ouch. So relax, Warren. It's not about Cam's race, but about legitimate questions about Cam. And really, don't worry. Newton will still be a top 10 pick come the Draft.

Yes, sure it was fun to watch the Red Sox get swept down in Arlington, but really, the Sox will be OK come September. I have no ilusions about this team imploding at all. And I'm pretty certain they have enough time to come back.

That said, Saltalamacchia looked G-O-D awful this weekend. He looked like he no idea what he was doing up at the plate—just no idea. I'd be interested in seeing who the Sox go after as a half-a-season rental catcher at the trading deadline.

Pretty damning analysis from one anonymous scout of Georgia OLB Justin Houston:
• "(Georgia OLB) Justin Houston is very talented, but he could be the next Vernon Gholston. It's scary, but he shuts it down way too much. He's one of the draft's great magicians. He can disappear with the best of them."
Anyone who compares you to Vernon Gholston does not like your game, kid.

And now, a shout-out. MLB Gameday is awesome. Totally awesome. Especially for those watching the game on on the sly at work. The detail of each pitch, the stats and facts throughout the layout is great. One thing though—they have to get their batter's correct. They had Jeter as a lefty, and Granderson as a righty. Aside from that though, I highly recoomend watching any day games through that site.

If Jair Jurrjens could every get fully healthy, he'd be a Cy Young Candidate each an every year. He's that good.

Just a gut instinct. If Connecticutt wins tonite, Calhoun stays. he has every reason to go: his age, a coming NCAA investiation, nothing left to prove. But Calhoun is a ornery old coot. I think he wants another good fight, so he stays.

Don't look now, but Baltimore is 3-0 after sweeping the Rays and are on top of the AL East. Is Buck Showalter pulling off a miracle and getting Baltimore back into contention in the AL East. Ahhh, probably not.

And finally....Laurence Maroney, former first round pick, has probably just run out of chances. After getting busted on weapons charges back in January, Maroney was again busted for possession of weed. But hey, for my part, I'd probably bust him just for the hairdo. I mean, really is that's a felony of some sort?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Five

1. We all know that UCLA has won the most NCAAs; who has won the second most?

2. What team was the lowest seed to ever win the Championship?

3. After Wooden, which coach was won the most Tournaments?

4. Which team won the first NCAA ever?

5. Which player was the last to win the NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player twice?