Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Correct me if I'm wrong, but...












Won't be getting the new Extra Innings package


...baseball is currently getting lambasted over the possibility of making its elite broadcast package more like football's?

Mind you, I don't like the deal much myself. I'd been toying with the idea of getting the Extra Innings package - what can I say, I needed my Harry Kalas fix - but I won't go satellite to do it. That being said, from the uproar you'd think that baseball was A)requiring you to sacrifice your firstborn child in order to get the EI package B)only making it available in black-and-white to people who viewed TV while in the lotus position and C)extracting an oath of eternal fealty to Satan on order to allow you to do so. This is, in short, poppycock. Extra Innings is a luxury package. Roughly 75 million people attended major league baseball games in 2006. Roughly 750K purchased the Extra Innings package. Clearly, this is not something that every fan is clamoring for or availing themselves of.

Second of all, unlike the NFL, there is an alternative. Got a decent net connection? Then you can get any game you want through MLB.com, which, one suspects, is what baseball actually wants you to do. Unlike Gregg Easterbrook, forever pining for his unavailable out-of-market games (memo to Mr. Easterbrook - if you're that desperate for the out of town action, I recommend a sports bar), the hard-core baseball fan can pony up for the same deal online. It's not as good, certainly, but it's watchabe, and at this point my monitor's a better TV than most TVs.

And yet, the furor continues, and at a white-hot pitch. For goodness' sake, it's enough to punch Roger Clemens' latest "I may not actually be retiring but I'll let you know at some point" pronouncement off the front page. The reason, I think, is that we as fans feel as if baseball is more of a communal trust than any of the other sports, that it should be made more accessible because, well, it's ours. We don't want it to be like football, because then it's just like football, with the emphasis on "just". We feel it should be better and different, because, damnit, it's our game as fans, and an expensive luxury package that's available to a lot of cable subscribers who don't use it is still better than an expensive luxury package that's available to fewer satellite TV subscribers.

It's disappointing, yes. But there are other things more worthy of attention this week, like the over/under on the number of guns that will be found in Tank Williams' locker at the Super Bowl.

Besides, there's always the sports bar.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's Salisbury Steak Day, Children

I suppose Sean Salisbury's comment that Payton Manning "Jewed" the ball down the field makes sense, if you consider that Catholicism owns the vertical passing game by virtue of the Hail Mary.

Honestly, as a self-identified Red Sea Pedestrian, I don't much care one way or another about Salisbury's comment, though the fact that ESPN is trying to deny the whole thing by claiming there are no transcripts available is just plain comical. Try Google, Bristol.

On the other hand, if the rumors are true and Mr. Salisbury has in fact been showing cell phone pictures of his down'n'distance marker around, it's a far more serious workplace issue than anything that Harold "the hugger" Reynolds did at that Outback, and should have been dealt with appropriately.

All that being said, I don't quite understand the fascination Salisbury holds. He comes across as a freaked-out version of Kirk Herbstreit, constantly hostile and confrontational over the most inconsequential things. I keep on expecting him to try to dive through the cut-in screens to go for John Clayton's throat like Brock Samson with his mad on, a barely controlled, twitchy bully whose analysis seems to be limited to cliches.

Who knows. In the meantime, I look forward to Donovan McNabb trying to Zoroastrian the ball against the Giants next year, with maybe a bit of Mithraism thrown in to mix things up in the second half.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Chase Utley - 7 years, $85M

And I'll wager he's playing third base by the last three years of that contract.

Monday, January 22, 2007

More Quick Hits

Now that they can't do the "Indianapolis can't get past the Patriots" storyline anymore, do you think the sports media is going to wring everything it can out of "Peyton still hasn't won the big one yet?" for the next two weeks? After all, it might be their last chance.

Your Super Bowl MVP, Bob Sanders. Seriously. Watch for it.

So the Big Tuna has spit the bit in Big D. Dan Patrick spent about ten minutes today trying to get Terry Glenn to blame Terrell Owens and Jerry Jones for it, and Glenn, wisely, kept his mouth shut. In fact, he actually praised Owens for becoming more of a team player, and Parcells for encouraging that change. In reality, Owens had already started to chug into the next phase of his public career - misunderstood underdog trying for redemption. Bits and pieces of it had popped up here and there - "Hey, the guy played eight weeks with a busted finger! He's really a team player!" - and I had no doubts that by the end of the NFL offseason, we'd have gotten a full-on blitz as to how he's just misunderstood after all. Now, however, he'll be labeled a coachkiller forever. Right or wrong, Owens will be seen as the guy who finally drove Parcells into retirement, and don't think he won't be made aware of that in every interview. God help the next coach to take the Dallas job, because I've got a funny feeling Owens is going to decide if he can't beat the rep, he might as well live up to it.

On the other hand, Patrick did have a great bit of conspiracy theory to share - that Parcells wanted to quit weeks ago, and that Jones made him hold out until the day after the conference championship games in order to dominate the news for the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. It's so grade-school Machiavellian, it might be true.

Not much to say about Chicago's vivisection of the Saints, except that it's a lot easier to win if you hang onto the ball once in a while. That, and Rex Grossman must be doing something right if his team's in the Super Bowl. For all the hype, the Bears' depleted defense isn't that good.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Quick Hits

On the Patriots - LaDanian Tomlinson Beef...
Bearing in mind that this is pointless, stupid, and a desperate attempt to fill airtime because everyone's run out of Colts vs. Pats stories, the fact remains that the Patriots' fans' defense of their players' post-game shenanigans is "He did it first." That didn't work so well in elementary school, and I suspect it shouldn't hold water now. Yes, Shawne Merriman is a steroid-snorting jackass and a lousy dancer. How exactly is that an excuse for going T.O. all over the Chargers' logo? Sooner or later, someone's going to start adding up incidents (the cold shouldering of Mangini, the clocking of the cameraman, the midfield dancing, the ridiculous "nobody respects us" kvetching) and realize that the "classy" label on the Flying Belichicks may be starting to wear a bit thin.

On Marty Being Marty...
You can blame him for going for it on 4th and 11 at the 30, no matter what Greg Easterbrook says about fourth down, but as the game-ender showed, maybe he knew something about Nate Kaeding that we didn't.

On Being Married to a Statistician...
Speaking of Easterbrook, he's fond of quoting the stat that the average NFL play gains five yards on average, and thus, it's worth going for it on 4th-and-anything-up-to-4.999998. Of course, being married to someone who chews up numbers for a living makes me look at this bold statement and wonder if by "average" he means mean, median, or mode. Or, to put it another way, 1 80 yard pass and 15 "stopped for no gains" average out to 5 yards per play, along with a former offensive coordinator looking for a new job.

On Barry Being Barry...
"Barry Fails Amphetamine Test, Blames Teammate, Giants Didn't Know!" Umm, not exactly. For one thing, the only sources we have for the Sweeney rumor are those ever-popular "unnamed". For another, Bonds failed a test for "a strong stimulant", a broad range of items that covers a whole lot of things besides amphetamines. Most of 'em are even legal. As for the Giants not knowing, BP's Will Carroll points out that this is utter hooey, as test results are communicated to the team as a matter of course. Throw in the fact that Bonds had to be aware that his test results would be under a microscope and that he'd be a complete flaming idiot to take greenies - and say what you want about the man, but he's not stupid - and all of a sudden this looks a lot less sensationalistic. It is, however, a fabulous story and a platform for moralizing, which no doubt is why those confidential results were leaked in the first place.

On Chris Webber Leaving Philly...
Leaving aside the numbskulls who are braying for the Sixers to punt the rest of the season and try to lose their way to Greg Oden - isn't that called "throwing games", fellas? - ditching Webber is a good move for all concerned. Regardless of whether or not he can still play - and the jury is still out on that one - he's a lightning rod for controversy on a team that just wants to lay low, and was the one player on the roster guaranteed not to get better with more playing time. So sayonara, Chris, and good luck in Detroit. You never stood a chance in Philly, but then again neither did anyone else. On the other hand, the timing of the move is curious. By all accounts, Webber was Larry Brown's fair-haired child during the wandering one's first tenure in Philly, a fact that drove Allen Iverson to distraction. So for Webber to go just as Papa Larry comes on board, either something's seriously wrong with his game or something's soured in the relationship. Billy King couldn't be smart enough to pull one of Brown's favorite props out from under him, could he? Could he?

On Becks Being Becks...
That "superstar" move is looking a lot less important now that word has leaked out that Beckham wasn't even going to be starting for his former club, Real Madrid. This is looking more like Willie Mays in a Mets uniform every day.

On the Benefits of Home Cooking...
Duke is 11-1 at home, 3-2 on the road. Of those 5 road games, 3 were played at a neutral site, and both games on an opponent's home court came after conference play started. Let's rephrase that. Duke didn't play a game at anyone else's building until conference play started. Their waxing at the hands of Georgia Tech in their first true "away" game of the year isn't just good basketball, it's karma.

On The Coach Being The Coach...
I would pay good money to hear what happens the first time the talking heads on Boston's WEEI dial up new BC offensive coordinator Steve Logan. Logan is sharp, opinionated, and distinctly intolerant of bullshit. That's going to go over very interestingly in the land of Ron Borges, Dale Holley, and the CHB.

The Eagles' Season Was Over When...
Dhani Jones got whistled for a ticky-tack personal foul on what could have been a sack of Drew Brees during the Saints' go-ahead drive. You could just see the air go out of the Eagles' D after that, a sort of collective, "Geez, what do we have to do to stop these guys?" That play, by itself, certainly didn't cost the Eagles the game - their inability to stop any running play of any kind did, along with the constant availability of the tight end slant over the middle. But it did visibly demoralize them, and it was the moment that made me say, "We're screwed."

On Andy Reid Being Andy Reid...
Do you think, just maybe, he's going to run the ball more when Donovan McNabb comes back? Naah.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

"I'm Doing It For the Kids"

"Are you ready for some football? Err, no."

So sayeth David "Becks" Beckham, on his 5 year, $250M contract to play professional soccer in Los Angeles, where not coincidentally he and his faded pop starlet wife can get their names in the entertainment pages. Apparently, the man whose business advice Becks - we nicknamed my sister "Becks", for God's sake - asked on the deal was none other than Tom Cruise. Memo to the fading footballer - Tom's not really the guy you want to talk to about career trajectory right now, not unless there's a couch-jumping aspect to soccer that my youth-league coaches failed to instruct me about.

We have, of course, seen this before - google "Pele" and "Cosmos" and "NASL" if you doubt me. Fading international superstars taking big checks to bust open the door for soccer in America? Not a new idea. It's going to catch one of these days, if for no other reason than the relentless marketing of the sport by the networks in hopes of creating another sports cash cow, but I'm not quite sure Posh and Becks are the ones to really usher in the age of international football in America. For one thing, Beckham never was much of a scorer. He's a passer, the metrosexual equivalent of John Stockton, and nobody outside the Jazz fanbase ever went gaga for that. For another, he's slowing down, and a past-his-prime footie Maurice Cheeks isn't going to light the world on fire, not even in L.A., not even with a tabloid-friendly wife.

Which brings me to the quote that inspired this whole mess. Yammering on Cold Pizza, Beckham talked about how important it was for him to be part of kids' lives in the US, and what a great honor it was to be opening up soccer in the United States, blah blah blah. Dana Jacobson (who, were I not married, would be #2 on my list of "Really Attractive, Possibly Jewish Female Sports Reporters I Would Be Obsessing Over" - not that this is actually pertinent, but most other sports bloggers seem to feel compelled to discuss their celebrity crushes, and I didn't want to be behind the curve) then tossed the platitudes right back at him with the simple question - then you'd be willing to do this for half the money, right? Beckham, caught, giggled and said he couldn't answer that.

Which, really, is all the answer that was needed. He's here to fleece the American rubes, to take the money and jump-start an acting career or two, and there's really no other reason for him to be here. Soccer in America will live and die without David Beckham and without the wave of washed-up international stars sure to follow him chasing the money. And David Beckham will get to watch the results - not cause them - from on top of a giant pile of money.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Would Somebody Please Wrest The Microphone Away From Number 8. That Is A Direct Damned Order.

There are times in every person's life when harsh, unpleasant, bowel-chilling truths must squarely be faced. Thanks to Deadspin (in the scared-straight, Hell-House, very-special-episode-of-Blossom connotation of "thanks") for alerting us to the following, erm, development:
Last year, a Seattle radio station, attempting to, we dunno, inspire somebody or something, came up with "Sweet Shaun Alexander," an ear-bleeder set to the tune of "Sweet Home Alabama"...
[W]ith Sunday's rather imposing game at Soldier Field looming, the radio folks are at it again, pumping up the crowd with
"I Am Matt Hasselbeck", set to the tune of Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback."
That's one Matthew Michael Hasselbeck, son of Don, brother of Tim, brother-in-law of Elisabeth. Getting his, uh, sexy back, or his jiggy widdit, or whatever unparalleled auditory befoulment fits.

As fellow alumni of the Collegium Bostoniense, we the co-proprieters of this humble but necessary corner of the Interweb tubes feel it our solemn duty as Jesuit-educated men for others to alert our current and former Eagle fellows, male and female alike -- and, for that matter, all good men and women everywhere -- to join us in this humble, heartfelt plea to Our Man in Puget Sound...

"Honestly, man. Would Doug do this?"





Sexy never left ol' #22...




(Go ahead. Click it. You know you want to. I mean, Judas Xavier Priest, that's not good...)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

HoFfing Glue

Atom Ant - Not in the Hall of Fame,
Did Use Performance-Enhancing Substances



Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken are in, which is not a surprise. Nobody else is, which is also not a surprise. As ridiculous as it is, voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame tend to measure the candidates on a ballot against each other, rather than against the rather nebulous standard of what a Hall of Famer is. That means that in a year with a couple of no-doubters like Gwynn (whose baseball telecasts are an immense pleasure) and Ripken, everyone else on the ballot gets held against them, and found lacking. After all, voting in a Goose Gossage or a Bert Blyleven (or, if I keep going with the alliteration, Lois Lane or Atom Ant) the same year as Cal or Tony somehow means that they're equivalent to Cal and Tony, and we can't have that sort of thing.

This is, of course, arrant nonsense. A Hall of Famer should be measured against the standards of the Hall itself, not against the accident of timing that puts some new faces on the ballot one year and others the next. A Hall of Famer's accomplishments need to be measured against the meaningful context of what he did in his career, not against what names abut his alphabetically on a piece of paper.

For my part, I'm disappointed that Blyleven and Gossage didn't make it, and still on the fence about Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, and Dale Murphy. While there are compelling statistical cases as to why those three gents each fall just short, there's also an intangible that I do think needs to be considered, which is to say it is the Hall of Fame. Fame is a slippery thing, hard to define, but my feeling is this: the HoF should be a place to enshrine the game's immortals, the men whose mere presence made a game exciting, whose plate appearances or starts or rip-snorting rides out of the bullpen provided tangible buzz and awe. For all that Andre Dawson's MVP season with the Cubs isn't that impressive when you look at it with WARP, it was still the talk of that summer, the must-see at-bat, the achievement that kept eyes on the Cubs long after their other player had mostly caused fans to look away in disgust.

Yes, the Hall should be a shrine to achievement, and tools like Jay Jaffe's JAWS measurement do a fabulous job of putting all of that into a cross-era context that should be required reading for any Hall voter. But I also think that getting people excited about baseball is an achievement, and not an entirely unimportant one.

Which brings me, tangentially, to writer Paul Ladewski of Chicago's Daily Southtown, who turned in a blank Hall of Fame ballot rather than vote for anyone from the steroid era. His high-minded column noted that since he couldn't be sure about anyone in the so-called "Steroid Age", he wouldn't vote for anyone. It all sounds very noble, until you start thinking about it. For one thing, why this year? There were plenty of people on the ballot whose careers overlapped the "Steroid Era" who weren't first-time candidates. So to be true to his position, he would have had to have not voted last year...and the year before, and the year before, and so on back to roughly the 1990 election. For another, he bends over backwards to cover his derriere in case he changes his mind and votes for some of these guys later on - the precise quote is "Rest assured that I haven't written off anyone who played in the 'Roids Rage Age permanently".

So in all likelihood, we're looking at a one-year moral stand that just happens to coincide with the appearance of Mark McGwire on the ballot. On the other hand, it did introduce the name Paul Ladewski to a lot of people who wouldn't know the Daily Southtown from Luca Brazzi's fish wrapper. It may be cynical of me, but if I see an announcement that Mr. Ladewski landed a book deal any time in the near future, I'll feel entirely comfortable chalking this one up as nothing but a publicity stunt.

As opposed to right now, when I think it's only partially, maybe mostly, one.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fly, Eagles, Fly

As a coworker of mine noted, at no point during yesterday's NFC Wild Card game were there two actively engaged football teams on the field at the same time. One got the definite impression that the Eagles had decided early on that they'd already won the game, and simply did just enough to get the W without exerting themselves unduly. The Giants, on the other hand, made their run early and then rolled over, only to perk back up when the Eagles couldn't be bothered to put the last nail in the coffin. In the end, though, when confronted with a determined, focused opponent with an actual game plan - at least on that final drive - the Giants folded like origami.

It wasn't a surprise, really. All day, their game plan hand been more recess scramble than coherent attack, full of "look-at-me-I'm-open" waves and bad route running. One expected that Manning was drawing up plays in the Lincoln Field mud, telling Shockey to run down to the blue car and then turn left, while Tiki could stay back to block the guy shouting "One Mississippi, Two Mississippi" on each down. As flustered as Eli Manning was by the psychedelic freak show of Jim Johnson's blitzes, his receivers didn't do him any favors by not looking back, not cutting routes short to help him out, and generally throwing him under the bus of the Eagles' defensive pressure. Jeff Garcia's receivers, by comparison, stayed with the play, frequently looked back quickly, and curled back when Garcia scrambled. This, along with Brian Westbrook's speed to the outside, is what really fueled the Eagles' offense, allowing them to chew up yardage and clock like Sean Connery chewing scenery, albeit only on those occasions when they were interested.

This should be the end for Tom Coughlin, the martinet with the rich, chewy center. Resorting to talking about recovery from first-and-30 on one drive when you lost the game and were thoroughly outplayed is the press conference equivalent of "great personality," or perhaps "winning and I have decided that we just want to be friends". For all of his flaws, he did get the Giants to the playoffs for two consecutive years in what was always a hard-fought division, but in the end, it was clear that the team was playing in spite of him, not for him, with him, or even near him.

As for the Eagles, they now take on a Saints team that they should have beaten earlier in the year, albeit without cornerback Lito Sheppard. It's an eminently winnable game, though Drew Brees is probably the one quarterback left in the NFC playoffs who won't be bamboozled by the relentless blitzes. One hopes that the Eagles show up for the entire game this time, if only to see what a truly interested performance looks like.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Big Unit, Small Division

So Randy Johnson is off to Arizona for a 30-something relief pitcher (Luis Vizcaino, formerly of the Brewers, A's, and White Sox) and three prospects, none of whom scouting guru John Sickels rates all that highly. Conventional wisdom says that this is clearing the decks - and $20M in payroll and luxury tax fees - for a run at Roger Clemens. This makes sense if you believe the reports that Johnson and Clemens apparently loathe each other. Coincidentally, it also jibes with Brian Cashman's offseason plan to grab as many prospect-shaped bodies as he can in order to restock a farm system that looks like, well, Arizona. And by Arizona, I mean the bits that aren't irrigated within an inch of their lives, covered with golf courses, or otherwise landscaped into a reasonable facsimile of Middlesex County, New Jersey.

For the Diamondbacks, this deal makes a lot of sense. If there's one thing they've got to deal, it's bodies who excelled in the minors. Meanwhile, they're in a weak division, they've chopped most of the big names and big checks off their payroll, and they get to add a walking, talking marketing campaign to their rotation for the cost of a year and a half of Gil Meche. Reports say that Johnson's back is feeling great, and I'd rate him as more likely to rebound than, say Mark Mulder. If Johnson stays healthy and takes advantage of the weaker opposition (and huge ballparks) he'll be facing, then the Diamondbacks suddenly have what looks like a strong front 4 to their rotation, and a lot of young talent in the lineup that could put them over the top.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Baseball Geekery

Video games are my job. Baseball is my favorite diversion. And so, when the two intersect - whether it be Curt Schilling and Doug Glanville violating the sacred edict of Don't Tell Me About Your Character, or Joel Zumaya tweaking his wing playing Guitar Hero during the LCS, then I end up in synchronicitous nirvana. Or, at the very least, with something I can talk about with both my baseball-loving friends and my video game-making coworkers.

Which is why I'm so deeply amused about today's double dip.

First of all, there's this, from Ken Arneson's always-entertaining Oakland A's blog Catfish Stew (at Baseball Toaster). What makes it even funnier, at least to me, is the fact that the A's are already in the heart of computer geek country, and will be going deeper with their new park. You really would think someone would have noticed...

Second, there's the announcement that Johnny Damon (Looks like Jesus, throws like Mary, acts like Judas, pwnz0red like a n00b) is the commissioner of this, a league pitting MLB players against gamers in video game combat. I offer this news, along with the fact that this is apparently the brainchild of Scott Boras, without comment.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

$aban

One cannot blame Nick Saban for being overwhelmed when the University of Alabama unloaded a dump truck full of money on his head. After all, there are few reading this who'd turn down the roughly $4M/year he's supposed to be making. That's solid middle reliever territory, after all, and not just for the Orioles.

But it is perhaps right and proper to blame Nick Saban for his miserable hypocrisy, for his insistence on berating and taking to task anyone who - rightfully - failed to believe him when he said "Gawrsh no, I'm staying right where I am." Having lied to and browbeaten the media, he has abandoned any claim he might have had to a fair shake from them. Nothing was gained by his transparent denials, by his behind-the-scenes hissy fits, except a loss of goodwill when Alabama finally cranked those Showcase Showdown numbers high enough.

I don't begrudge anyone the opportunity to jump to a better job. Having worked in outplacement, I even understand the need to, shall we say, conceal one's intentions from one's current employer. But the line gets drawn when your job hunt interferes with someone else's ability to do their job, and when you treat others unfairly in your pursuit of a little more filthy lucre. As grotesque as the job of head football coach is - and make no mistake, it is a freakish one - there are certain things that come with the title and hefty paycheck. One is the understanding that you are the public face of a school or of an organization, and in the latter case that organization claims to represent an entire city. (That is, after all, the basis of fandom - those are our guys out there. They represent us.) And to lie transparently, to bolt greedily, to money-grub relentlessly - all of those are qualities that might not be appropriate in someone whose duties include standing up for one's employer, and for those whose support you lay claim to.

One wonders why exactly a coach willing to do such things - and the list is long - is so appealing that someone would want to hire him away. The answer, I suppose is that they win games, but that's never a sure thing (see Spurrier, Steve). Besides, if they cheated with on their former employer with you, they just might do it again, but this time, the boosters who took such pride in luring the wayward coach to their school will raise holy hell about being jilted by the faithless, traitorous no-goodnik. Then, of course, they'll go poach someone else's coach and start the whole thing again.

So, in the end, I don't blame Saban for going, just as I don't blame Urban Meyer for jumping to Florida, or any other coach who jumped at the big money. There are only so many shots at that brass ring, after all, particularly when it's something shinier and more valuable than brass. But I do blame him for being a schmuck about it, and I think the damage from this is going to follow him far longer than he expects.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Happy New Year To All...

...and a list of ten things I hope to see in the sports world in 2007

1-Brett Favre figuring out that he's going to retire and announcing it sooner rather than later, allowing the Packers to plan for the future. As an added benefit, this will spare us the endless "will-he-or-won't-he" stories in the media, not to mention the slightly stomach-turning apologia for yet another easy pick from "gunslinger" Brett.

2-Fewer stories involving the words "athlete", "gun" and "shot". Last year gave us, among others, Tank Williams and Stephen Jackson. This year's already started horribly with the murder of Darrent Williams. All bloggery snideness aside, one can fervently hope for a year of less violence inside and outside of the world of sports

3-A team to come from outside of the preseason top 25 to take a place in the BCS championship game and blow the living hell out of (Notre Dame, USC, Michigan, Texas - pick one) to do so.

4-The Missouri Valley Conference to go perfect in opening round NCAA tournament play.

5-Mike Tyson to do something stupid without the sports media feeling compelled to give it front page coverage.

6-Roger Clemens to admit that yes, he is coming back because how can you say no to that dump truck full of money, and to do it early so that whichever team he signs with can plan and thus be more competitive. Also, being spared the endless "will-he-or-won't-he" stories, not to mention the agonizing homilies on how he's such a "gamer" when the special perks he negotiates would get any other player blasted for being a selfish git, would be a nice plus.

7-Bill Simmons to go an entire month without referencing "Swingers", "Hoosiers", "The Godfather" and "The ______ Face". Just

8-Andy Reid calling some running plays with Donovan McNabb on the field.

9-The results of a survey given to sportswriters to see A)how many of them have actually read "Moneyball", B)how many of them know who actually wrote it and C)if any of them have seriously considered writing any articles about the Oakland A's that did not involve the same pointless "Moneyball" reference.

10-Good games, just on general principle. Play ball!
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