Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Clearing out the recesses of the mind...

And those are lonely places. Lonely, lonely places...

Dissecting labs...
According to the French newspaper L'Equipe, Floyd Landis' B-sample has tested positive for epi-testosterone. This of course is the same paper that has led witch-hunt after witch-hunt against American riders and the same French lab that has repeatedly bungled the testing of Tour-de-France riders.

Landis has of course responded, making some very valid points about the potential invalidity of the test results. I am not defending him, nor any other American rider, as I honestly don't know what to believe. I do have to say that something smells very wrong about the process here and the term "railroaded" pops into my head.

Pushing the panic button...
Brian Cashman must really feel Steinbrenner breathing down his neck at the moment. The Yankees are off to a great start offensively, but have been horrible on the mound (I think the longest any starter has gone has been 6 innings). Cashman will be promoting top pitching prospect Phil Hughes to start Thursday's game. The Yankees GM has been loath to do this in light of the fates of other top prospects rushed to the bigs such as Kerry Wood.

Dropping three straight to arch-rival Boston and then a fourth to Tampa Bay must really be eating at The Boss...and Cashman I'm sure knows it, otherwise Hughes doesn't go any higher than AAA before September of this year. The move smacks of desperation which is kind of funny when you think about it - do the conversion to a football season. This would be like management panicking somewhere around the early fourth quarter of the second game of the season...say with 13:45 left on the clock in the 4th quarter.

Early returns looking good...
My other sports gig, Bitterfans, asked its writers to submit predictions for this year's baseball season season, and right now I'm looking good in my picks for each division winner (hey, I know it's early and anything can happen between now and October). Here they are along with current standings -

AL East - Boston 1st
AL Cent - Minnesota T-1st (with Detroit)
AL West - Oakland - 1st

NL East - New York - 1st
NL Cent - Milwaukee - 1st
NL West - Los Angeles - 1st

I fully expect to be wrong on a couple of these...but hey, I need to give credit where credit is due while the standings still fall in favor of my predictions. Yay me.

Bright lights, big city...
This weekend marks the biggest holiday in football fandom for anyone whose team is a perennial bottom feeder...Saturday is Draft Day. It is the day that is meant to give hope for the turnaround, give belief that what was once bad can become good in a hurry. Fans gather in Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan to see who the future of their franchise is going to be.

The draft was created and designed on the premise that it favored the worst teams, giving them first shot at the top talent in the draft. It hasn't exactly worked that way - ask a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, a perennial bottom feeder. Of course that is no fault of the draft. The draft itself is sound as long as the organization picking has all of its front office and coaches on the same page.

To wit; the Cardinals, Lions, and Browns are consistently picking in the top ten. Theoretically those teams should be amassing an immense amount of talent. The Colts, Patriots, and Chargers typically are picking in the late 20's of the first round, amassing what should be lesser talent.

All teams work with the same salary constraints - and in spite of a reputation as being "cheap" the Patriots usually spend to the cap as does most of the league. What has been the difference between the bottom feeders and the cream of the crop? Management, talent evaluation, and coaching.

Bad luck does play a part (injuries, sudden retirements, etc), but even that can be overcome; the Patriots won a Super Bowl with a defensive backfield so decimated that one corner was a street free-agent, a safety was a career corner, the other safety a career linebacker, and the nickel-back was a career wide-receiver; the Philadelphia Eagles made it past the NFC Championship, getting that monkey off their back, sans the wide receiver who was supposed to be the missing piece in the previous seasons.

To put it a different way - If I told a Colts fan that Matt Millen was going to be their general manager, the Colts fan would probably go all Oedipus and claw his eyes out before killing himself. If I told a Pats fan that Dan Snyder was buying the team from Bob Kraft...let's just say what they would do would make the Boston Tea Party look tame by comparison.

For some reason it's like playing kick-ball when you're little, but the kid picked for team captain somehow finds a way to always pick the kid that everyone else would pick last. That's what it has come to for those bottom-end teams.

Management for the successful teams have set rules and prices and often will part with a highly talented player who thinks they are worth more than the team has budgeted for the position. The teams at the bottom? They're the ones who pay the big bucks thinking that the free-agent is the missing piece. Ask Redskins fans how well that has worked out, or Raiders fans.

The problem isn't the system...the problem is human, and the system wasn't made to account for human error.

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