Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Christmas Present from Charlie Weis

Now I never have to hear that the Fighting Irish haven't won a bowl game since 1994 - when most of the current players were in preschool, as if this were somehow their fault - ever, evre again.

The answer is "yes"

Yes, Rod Marinelli wishes his daughter had married a better defensive coordinator, because if she had, Marinelli's odds of remaining employed would be much higher going into the offseason.

That being said, the whole flap over the "insulting personal question" a reporter asked is just so much smoke-blowing from a coach looking to divert attention from his team and/or his miserable record coaching it.

It was a joke. It was even a mildly funny joke. And for Marinelli to be crucifying the reporter who asked it, and potentially damaging the guy's career long-term, is not a terribly noble thing. It's not like the Lions' season can be salvaged; the best that can be hoped for is to go down with dignity, and there's none in evidence here.

Even With The Highest Paid First Baseman In the Game...

...not to mention the highest paid shortstop, 3B, catcher, starter, and reliever, they still don't have anyone in the outfield who can actually, you know, catch the ball.

Monday, December 22, 2008

News Flash From the Banks of the Monongahela

Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson says that the team needs better players.

Starting, one assumes, with a better shortstop.

Friday, December 19, 2008

God Bless Anonymous...

...for choosing today, of all days, to drop a flame in the comments section of a baseball notes post.

From 2007.

Seriously. If you want to bitch about what's being written here, at least keep the bitching current.

Whither Tex

The "Mark Teixeira will only go where he has a chance to win!" stories have gotten a bit silly. Yes, winning is probably more fun than losing. That being said, $20M+ per year buys a lot of off-the-diamond fun, especially if you're the biggest star on a losing team and can add endorsement money that's not likely to go to the Levale Speigners of the world instead.

If he goes to the Orioles, he'd be joining a nice young core that includes Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, catching prospect Matt Wieters and more, leaving open the possibility that the O's could win sooner rather than later. Throw in the fact that they have a lot of interesting vets that are on the market and which could bring back some useful arms, and the O's could climb past the disarmed Blue Jayes and into contention in a hurry. In that situation, Teixeira also gets credit for having put the Orioles over the top, possibly cementing a Hall of Fame candidacy while he's at it.

If he goes to the Nats, he's the face of the franchise, joining Ryan Zimmerman and a talented young outfield. Odds of winning here aren't quite as good, but it's not like the Phillies have been making great moves this off-season, the Marlins have been shedding salary, the Braves are still short pitching, and the Mets remain Heimlichian until proven otherwise.

And while folks are fond of pointing out that A-Rod's signing with a losing team didn't work out so well, Pudge Rodriguez' did. It started a renaissance in Detroit that led the team to respectability, encouraged other free agents to sign there, and stood as a symbol for the franchise.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Manufactured Controversy

Monday night's snoozefest was largely interesting for the way in which Tony Kornheiser relentlessy attempted to drive the "Is this McNabb's last year in Philly!" narrative in the absence of any actual evidence. Meanwhile, backup/heir apparent/Danny McBride lookalike Kevin Kolb came in for the fourth quarter and threw two passes. One was tipped, one was tipped, intercepted, and returned for the Browns' first TD since they were running Otto Graham and Ernest Byner out there in the same backfield. If the Eagles dump McNabb and put that out there next season, even if the Eagles' late-season playoff run falls short, the green-and-white lunkheads will in fact burn the city to the ground. There is no controversy, because there is no real option to replace McNabb, at least not yet. Maybe if Kolb actually shows something in the next couple of games there'll be one, though considering how tight they're likely to be, I doubt he'll see the field. But it mainly became a topic through repetition and nothing more, the same way the Schottenheimer-to-Cleveland rumor, roundly denounced as bullshit by all involved, kept on getting brought up. And this was despite the fact that the announcers themselves admitted to knowing there was nothing to it. But what the hell, it's a narrative, so let's run with it.

Because Kolb sure as hell can't pass with it.

Fire Bad!

The early returns are in on the Amaro Era in Philly, and they are not promising. Leaving aside the Jamie Moyer re-signing, which seemed unnecessarily complicated but which is, ultimately, a wash, we have:

  • The acquisition of a backup catcher in Ronny Paulino, which cost a cheaper backup catcher
  • Some minor, expensive bullpen moves
  • The signing of Raul Ibanez for 3 years at $30M to lumber around left field like he's a refugee from Jurassic Fight Club

It's the Ibanez deal that particularly irritates me. The sequence here has been mapped out elsewhere; the Phils didn't offer arbitration to Pat Burrell, thereby forefeiting draft picks when he signs with someone else, and then gave up draft picks to sign the 37-year old Ibanez to a 3 year deal.

Now, I've seen Raul Ibanez play. This May, my wife and I were lucky enough to catch a game at Safeco with the inimitable Derek Zumsteg and his wife, and there we got to see Mr. Ibanez lurching around left field like he had waffle irons on the ends of his arms and legs. One play in particular stood out: A grounder down the left-field line that Ibanez completely missed as he chugged after it. Instead, he face-planted into the wall. On a grounder. I'm not sure he actually blamed the mishap on losing the ball in the turf, or perhaps in the blinding glare of the foul line, but...yeah. Whapow, right into the architecture.

And this is the big-ticket item, an inferior, older, worse-fielding version of Pat Burrell. Nothing against Ibanez, who for all I know is a nice guy who gives loving homes to stray rabbits and donates kidneys on a regular basis, but there is no argument to be made for replacing a player with a worse, older version of the same ballplayer. There's absolutely no argument for giving him an extended contract. He's not going to get any better as he heads toward 40, and the stuff he's bad at already - like running and fielding - is in line to get quite a bit worse. Phillies fans are natural born pessimists, but it's moves like this that nurture that pessimism.

At least the walls at CBP are padded. That's going to be helpful. Trust me on this one.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Meeting Thoughts

  • According to mlbtraderumors, "Jon Heyman says that Peavy is frustrated by the team's inability to trade him." Well, yes, that happens when you will only allow trades to a very few teams, who may not have the interest or payroll flexibility to take on a Jake Peavy.
  • Fox clearly won the online coverage wars of these winter meetings. ESPN's coverage updated intermittently, and contained generous helpings of Steve Philips randomly reporting that the Yankees were looking to trade Robinson Cano to Omicron Persei 8 in exchange for Lrrr and a generous supply of human horn. BP's coverage had depth, but not the constant presence that Ken Rosenthal provided for Fox.
  • Incidentally, was it just me or were these meetings fun to follow? Even without many big deals, there was an enjoyable sense of imminence and possibility, which is really what the Hot Stove League is all about. If all the players simply signed deals as soon as they could, what would we have to talk about all winter?
  • In their one move, the Phillies traded a AAA player (Jason Jaramillo) who projects as a backup catcher for an older, more expensive backup catcher who's essentially the same player (Ronny Paulino). Did Chris Coste run over Charlie Manuel's cat? TP Reuben Amaro's house? Put sand in the Phanatic's scooter's gas tank? There's really no other explanation for this deal.
  • I don't much like the K-Rod signing, but the Putz deal was inspired for the Mets. The biggest things they gave up were a 1B prospect who's light in the thunder department and a pitcher who may not haunt them for years; in exchange they got serious help for their pen. Repeat after me: Aaron Heilman is not that good, and if he'd been pitching anywhere but New York for the last few years, he'd be Tim Stauffer.
  • Apparently the Phillies are trying to unload Adam Eaton for a roll of Garden State Parkway tokens. This is not a surprise. They have found no takers. This is not a surprise, either.
  • Every time Scott Boras suggests that there's "another team involved" in the bidding for one of his clients, I automatically assume it's the Springfield Isotopes.
  • Have any of these teams supposedly avidly pursuing Raul Ibanez ever actually seen him in the field? He makes me sincerely appreciate Pat Burrell, and that's saying something.
  • I strongly suspect that Edwin Jackson will be the Tigers' closer by midseason at the latest.
  • Note to MLB.com - the key part of "draft tracker" software on a website is that it, you know, tracks the draft. Those few of us who pay attention to the Rule V draft care, you know...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

M-E-T-S! What's That Spell? MONEY!

Phillies fans are greeting the news that K-Rod has agreed to a 3-year, $37M deal with the Metropolitans with mixed emotions. After the initial "Oh, crap, they got their guy," those with more advanced math skills are noticing the following:

  • Rodriguez's velocity has been dropping steadily, and his motion has been red-flagged by scouty and stathead types alike for years as a Black Knight waiting to happen.
  • With the injured Billy Wags on board Mets have now sunk roughly $22M into their closer role for next year, and they still don't have any decent setup men. Also, I think we can be sure that Wagner's going to be his usual warm, friendly, giving self in welcoming the guy who's taking his job, leading to a summer of back-page drama a la Gossip Girl in Flushing.
  • 1 inning is about all you can ask Rodriguez to pitch. He's a closer, not a stopper, and even with that careful usage he still blew better than 10% of his chances last year.
  • The Mets still need a couple of starters minimum, along with a corner outfielder younger than John McCain and someone to provide some actual production at second base. This is the high-profile move, not the needed one.

Of course, with all that said, Phillies fans are still freaking out, largely because they're Phillies fans. But as a Philthy bastard, I'd rather see the Mutts sign K-Rod than Sabathia, Lowe, Burnett, Teixeira, Ibanez, or any of about a dozen other guys.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Quick Hits

  • There is a word for those members of the Veterans Committee who did not elect Ron Santo to the Hall of Fame. It may in fact be "jerks". It could be something stronger.
  • Who thought it was a good idea to play the ACC championship game in Tampa, right in the middle of SEC country? It makes me sound like a homer, but the geographic center of the conference is in North Carolina. Play the damn game there; ACC football is not such a draw that you're going to get ten zillion fans to travel to a neutral site for what's likely to be a rematch game anyway.
  • Greg Maddux was frequently obscene on the mound. He threw at batters, memorably Scott Rolen back before Mr. Rolen became J.D. Drew Jr. to the good people of Philadelphia. He benefitted from a few extra inches off the black because he was Greg Goddamned Maddux, and if he threw it, by God, it was a strike. That being said, he was one of the most remarkable pitchers and characters the game has seen in a while, and I'll miss him. Even if he did spend all those years pitching for the @#$@#ing Braves.
  • New Phillies GM Reuben Amaro Jr. is quoted in the latest issue of The Sporting News as saying that he's after athletes who will hopefully turn into baseball players. KHAAAAAAN!
  • Listening to sports talk radio hosts deride Wikipedia as a destination for get-a-lifers is possibly the most ironic thing I encountered today.
  • Reading statheads deride baseball teams' proprietary and undisclosed statistical measures for fielding because they haven't seen 'em in action, and prefer to trust what their eyes tell them about the existing defensive metrics (as noted in the comments in Will Carroll's Unfiltered piece on defense over at BP) is the height of irony I've seen in a while.
  • Congrats to Shysterball on the move over to The Hardball Times. Two great tastes that go great together, though I'm not quite sure which one's the chocolate and which one's the peanut butter.
  • So in their last two games, the dead-in-the-water Eagles have thoroughly outplayed the NFC West champ Cardinals and the NFC East (and Herkimer's Weapons Range of East Nyack, NY) champ Giants, sparking talk of a high-flying Eagle revival. Of their three games remaining, two are against division opponents, meaning that if they win out, they climb past the Cowboys in the Wild Card standings. All of which means, of course, that they're going to go lay an egg against Cleveland next time out. Ah, my Eagles. How you toy with your fans' affections.
  • Bowl season exists largely as a creative exercise in cameramen finding ways to avoid showing empty stands at games in places like Toronto, Shreveport, and Charlotte. There are 34 bowls this year, precisely one of which matters, and with the economy in its current state I'd expect that number to drop precipitously for next year. Which, I suppose, is a good thing; I'm not sure how many mid-December slugfests between 6-6 teams the world really needs.
  • The magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl? Seriously?
  • The Phillies could do a lot worse than the rumored Jason Donald-Delmon Young trade. If nothing else, it would free up enough cash that they could quit messing around and just resign Jamie Moyer already.
  • Dream free agent signing? C.C. Sabathia to the Giants, leading up a rotation that goes Sabathia/Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez....and forces Zito to the pen.

Monday, December 08, 2008

BCS Thought

Oklahoma and Florida may not be the 2 best teams in the country. However, they are the two teams everyone outside of Austin thinks are the best, which accomplishes what the BCS is after for another year.

Incidentally, can we get enough of this "SEC is the best conference in football ZOMGWTF" nonsense already? Yes, Florida and Alabama make a formidable 1-2. But beyond that, you have an underachieving Georgia, a mediocre South Carolina and LSU, and a bowl-eligible Vandy team that lost to Duke. Mississippi seems like the best bet, and they had to beat up on a Formerly Directional Louisiana School and Sanford to get there. Meanwhile the rest of the conference is, frankly, meh.

For my money, I'll go Big 12, at least this year. When a 9-4 Missouri is your fifth-best team, you've got something going on.

Fishstorm

It occurs to me that there are certain parallels between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Marlins. Both franchises were parachuted into their respective areas based on the notion that there was an untapped market of carpetbaggers waiting for that particular flavor of professional sport. Both have a boom-or-bust model of on-field success, alternating unexpected title runs with years of abject wretchedness.

And, of course, there's the big one. The Marlins have been associated with rumors of moving - OK, not it's not a rumor when one of your owners shows up in San Antonio wearing nothing but a raincoat and a smile - for years. The 'Canes have been a bit more stable, but in this week's Sporting News, the possibility of moving the team to Seattle was raised.

To my knowledge, the rumor hasn't registered down here yet. It may just be a writer floating something to see if anyone reacts. But having watched the embarrassing circus that is Marlins ownership from afar, I'm really hoping that's one parallel that the RTP area can avoid.

Friday, December 05, 2008

God Bless that Florida Education

More proof that when coach at Florida, Steve Spurrier actually reanimated the lifeless husks of the dead and plugged them in at quarterback, releasing them to wander the earth as mindless zombies after their eligibility expired.

Tonight's case in point? Jesse Palmer's work on the Rutgers-Lousiville broadcast. In discussing the disappointing Louisville team's offensive woes, he pointed to two elements: interceptions, and turnovers.

Yeah. I'll let that one sink in for a while.

Memo To Jim Rutherford:

The hiring of a coach is not an "either/or" proposition. There are options on the menu that are not Paul Maurice or Peter Laviolette. Heck, the Hurricanes remain one of only three teams never to employ Mike Keenan - why not give that a shot? Sure, he's coaching Calgary, but he'd probably be willing to take on both, just because he could.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's Hip To Be Square

The fine folks at Duke University have settled on a song to play under the sponsor listings for Duke basketball broadcasts on the local station. The piece in question: "I Want A New Drug", by Huey Lewis and the News.

Somehow, I can't help but think this says everything that needs be said about Duke. Not because it's a "drug" song. Rather, because it's Huey Lewis and the News.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oh, Plex....

There's a lot of idle chatter about how athletes think they're bulletproof. Thanks to Plaxico Burress, we have more definitive evidence that this isn't the case. We also have an interesting mess as relates to how sports and society intersect, and how much you'll be allowed to get away with - or be crucified for - if you're an athlete and commit a crime. If the fans love you, you can get away with, well, you can get away with a lot. On the other hand, once John Q. Public* turns against you, you're not going anywhere, as evidenced by the lengthy travails of Mr. Barry Lamar Bonds.

The real issue, of course, is that Burress violated New York City gun laws, and may have conspired to hide evidence of that fact. He accidentally shot himself with a gun he claimed he was carrying because, as he told the restaurant staff, he was carrying large amounts of cash. Of course, saying you're carrying a ton of cash is at best, stupidity and at worst, incitement; whatever Plex was thinking, it wasn't too bright.

That being said, at this point it doesn't matter what the Giants plan to do with him. It matters what the New York criminal justice system plans to do with him. Once the lady with the scales finishes up, then and only then should the Giants' plans and responses matter. In the meantime, he can't play football because, like a dumbass, he shot himself. And, to be blunt, one cannot help but think that the sports-watching public of the greater New York area wouldn't be quite so eager to see justice done if Plex had performed a little better this season.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Thought On Baseball Contracts...

The Mets, while widely rumored to be lusting after Orlando Hudson to fill their yawning chasm at second base, are also widely discounted from pursuing him, due to the fact that the have an expensive, if subpar, second baseman already under contract for the next few years. In tough economic times like these, when teams are laying off front office workers making literally tens of thousands of dollars a year, a team doesn't really want to be on the hook for two guys at the same position. Cast a wider net, and you see lots of teams passing on guys that they might want because they have solutions in place for a year or two, leaving them needy down the road at a time when the free agent and trade markets might provide less promising alternatives.

All of which has me thinking, why don't we see teams getting more creative with this sort of situation? Got a second baseman under contract for another year? Why not cut a deal with a second team to sign the guy you want to a heavily backloaded contract, and then have them flip him to you when the time is right?

Sure, it's collusion, but it's too sensible for someone not to have thought about it....

BCS

So the BCS standings have come out, and there is much yelling and hollering over the fact that Oklahoma has passed Texas in the computer rankings, thus earning the right to massacre Missouri in the Big 12 title game en route to the BCS championship hoedown. This switch is due largely to the fact that Oklahoma dismantled a top-tier team in Oklahoma State this weekend, while Texas destroyed a substandard Texas A&M squad, jiggering the strength of schedule numbers enough that the Sooners snuck past. Of course, numerous voters in the human polls were aware of this possibility and rigged their ballots to try to keep Texas afloat, leading to a hue and cry about the fact that the BCS voting system can be rigged.

In a word, duh.

It's a system that's fairly easy to do a crude reverse engineering job on, and such is susceptible to being gamed. Of course coaches are going to vote certain teams higher or lower than where they think they actually belong, based on how that's going to counterweight other coaches' votes. The only surprise is that it took so long for the media to notice this sort of thing was going on; after all, it's the same sort of cheesing the system that 12 year olds on XBox Live! master instantly. The only solution is to make all the ballots public, instead of the just the last one, and thus demand at least some accountability from the coaches.

But in the meanwhile, the shout goes up that, horror of horrors, the system can be gamed because Oklahoma jumped Texas, and Texas beat Oklahoma. Of course, if Texas had stayed ahead, then the Oklahoma supporters would be pointing out that OU beat Texas Tech, who beat Texas, and we'd have exactly the same debate, except in strawberry instead of chocolate. And Utah and Penn State, who both beat Oregon State, are both behind USC despite USC having lost to Oregon State, and...

...and in the end, it doesn't much matter. It's a broken system, easily gamed, and designed to provoke the arguments that keep college football on everyone's radar twelve months a year. To express surprise now that the system can by gamed is simply to admit that one has not been paying attention.
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