Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dolphin safe Tuna

With Bill Parcells signing a contract to run football operations for the next four years in Miami, the speculation has already begun as to whether or not he will try to recruit his son-in-law - Scott Pioli.

As Pats fans well know, Pioli is half of the front office tandem along with Bill Belichick that put together the three Super Bowl winners and the current undefeated edition. They are the architects. There are a whole slew of things we're going to find out about Parcells and the Dolphins -

How deeply seated is the grudge against Kraft for not being allowed to "buy his own groceries?" This is going to be answered by how hard he pursues his son-in-law, whom Kraft is unlikely to give permission for Parcells to interview. Considering he's married to Parcells daughter, though, how hard will it be for Parcells to talk to him anyway?

Under NFL rules, Kraft is only obligated to give Parcells permission to speak to Pioli if the position that Parcells wants to offer is a definite promotion - the bottom line is that Pioli would have to have final say on personnel matters. I have a hard time buying that this job isn't about showing everyone that HE can turn the moribund Dolphins around. As such, Kraft will be in his rights to turn Parcells down for an interview request.

We're going to find out if Cam Cameron still has a job.

We're going to find out just how bad the front office has been for the Dolphins for the last decade. Their drafts during that time might have never happened. As I have previously noted - In the six drafts from 1998 to 2003, Miami had 59 choices. It exercised 46 of those picks and used 13 other choices in trades to acquire veteran players. Only Ricky Williams, acquired in a draft day deal as one of those 13 other choices, is on the current Dolphins roster.

Their first round pick last season was an injured kick returner who was projected to still be on the board when they picked again in the second round. Their last coach was an unmitigated disaster who bailed when the going got tough (sound familiar Atlanta fans?).

We're going to find out, and quickly, who on the current roster is not a "Parcells-type" of player.

And we're going to find out who is his coach - who will want to coach in Miami with Parcells breathing down his neck? Will Maurice Carthon get a shot? Mike Singletary?

Finally, the Dolphins will be better, but by how much? We're going to find out if Parcells can really get the job done without Belichick at his side. For his career, The Tuna is under .500 without his one-time right hand man at his side. In nine seasons without Belichick as either a defensive coordinator, or assistant headcoach, Parcells is 67-76 (12-19 with the Giants, 21-27 with the Patriots, and 34-30 with the Cowboys), 2-6 in the playoffs with no conference or Super Bowl Championships, and only two seasons of at least ten wins. Three of the winning seasons came in Dallas where Jerry Jones was "buying the groceries."

Sure, Parcells will be in the front office, and not the sideline, and Parcells made some great choices for the Patriots including Ty Law, Drew Bledsoe, and Willie McGinnest, but he also brought in washed up favorites from the Giants like Myron Guyton.

One last thought - Having worked for the Patriots, and Jets, what are the odds that Parcells goes to the Bills in some capacity when his contract is up with the 'Phins?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Philosophical question(s) for the week...

In light of the Mitchell Report and the pending holiday which always invokes, for me, the films of Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life), I am forced to correlate MLB to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington...

Is it just me, or does Roger Clemens somehow come off like Senator Joe Payne (the corrupt politician played so well by Claude Rains) right now and after an early round of skepticism from the masses, George Mitchell as the naive but well meaning Jefferson Smith?

Does that make we, the baseball fans, the boys for which Mitchell is trying to build a camp?

The Baseball Writers Association of America, which is looking at this as "The Steroid Era" as justification for enshrining a generation of cheaters, part of the Taylor Machine?

The bloggers who are expressing outrage reporter Diz Moore? (Diz Moore: [into phone] Throw out that last, take this. This is the most titanic battle of modern times. A David without even a slingshot rises to do battle against the mighty Goliath, the Taylor machine, allegedly crooked inside and out. Yeah, and for my money, you can cut out the "allegedly.")

Just some thoughts...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rules violations

Eat it steroid apologists who defend steroid usage by these players with the following argument - well it wasn't banned by baseball at the time. There are a number of reasons that it doesn't matter. Many which I have already addressed. One is that Baseball shouldn't have to make rules regarding substances that are banned by federal law. It should be understood that you can't administer anything to yourself that is banned by federal law without a prescription.

And there's one of the key words. Prescription.

Which brings me to 1971.

It's an important year for baseball.

MLB is within its rights to discipline players for steroids and HGH for the pre-ban time period because of 1971. According to the Mitchell Report a drug policy was written in MLB that prohibits using any prescription medicine without a prescription. From all reports, virtually none of the players named had a prescription from a doctor.

So, based on this 1971 rule, steroid and HGH users were in violation of MLB's rules and regulations.

In 1991, just to be safe, then commissioner Fay Vincent added steroids to the prohibited substance list.

All of the above notwithstanding, I put the following question to the steroid apologists out there - If administering these drugs wasn't really cheating because, as you like to say, it wasn't against baseball's rules (which, apparently it was), then why did the players do all of this in a clandestine manner? Why sneak around? Why deny it when caught if there's nothing wrong with what you're doing?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Excuses

"I did it to recover faster from an injury, not to gain a competitive advantage on the field."

That is the popular excuse being presented by athletes caught using HGH and other performance enhancing substances. "I only used it to recover from (insert injury du jour here)."

This is the excuse that San Diego defensive end Louis Castillo first made popular before the 2005 NFL draft. It is the excuse that Patriots safety Rodney Harrison used (in spite of the fact that records show he initially purchased it during a time that he had no reported injury - no one followed up on that and he offered no additional excuse) when caught, it is the excuse that Andy Pettitte is hiding behind and it is the excuse that former second baseman Fernando Vina.

It is the excuse that any number of athletes I expect will use in the future.

It is a complete crock.

For anyone who thinks it isn't, I put to you the following question - if star player from Team A and star player from Team B suffer identical injuries, and Player A goes through proper (ie: legal and legitimate) physical therapy and rehab to get back on the field and it takes that player five weeks to get back, but Player B uses HGH and is back in three and half weeks, then how is that NOT a competitive advantage?

This smacks of the same argument put forth by Bonds supporters of, "it doesn't help him hit the ball," but, in light of recent studies - they're wrong. There was a recent report stating that HGH appears to improve eyesight. Improved eyesight will help a batter see the ball. The hormone helps muscles rebound faster from workouts - which means that in that tenth straight game, when non-users are fatigued, the user is fresher and more apt to be able to turn on a ball. It helps them get stronger, resulting in balls hit farther, faster.

Make no mistake. None of this is just about "recovering faster." It's all about getting on the field and an unfair competitive advantage.

Just once, I would like to hear one of these athletes say, "I cheated, I was caught and I'm sorry. I have disgraced myself, my team, and my sport. I knew at the time I was doing something wrong, but I want so bad to be the best on the field that it drove me to do something stupid and unforgivable in the context of the sport in which I compete. I wish I could promise that I would not make the same choice had I a chance to do it all over again, but, given my competitive nature, I don't think I can make that promise. I'm sorry."

We'll never hear it. But it really would be nice to hear one of these athletes completely own up to their mistake rather than try to find a way to excuse it that they believe will be palatable to the general public.

Unfortunately, there are many in the general public that are part of the problem - also making excuses for why, when their sports heroes are caught red-handed, we should take their less-than-heartfelt apology at face value. I'd like to thank Lisa at A Red Sox State of Maine for providing a link to the following from the New York Sun -

Corrupt in conception, inept in execution, this is in general a vile report. What decency there is in it comes from, of all people, Andy Pettitte. The ostentatiously religious Pettitte, who deserves and will receive a rousing ovation the next time he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium, will be scorned by many as a hypocrite, but according to the second-hand accounting of this report, he decided to use HGH because he thought it would "speed his recovery and help his team." And what could be nobler than that?
This reporter's defense of Pettitte is that he's "ostentatiously religious." First, I have to question whether or not this reporter knows what the word ostentatious means, or if he's just using big words to try to make people think he's intelligent. Because he comes off as an idiot. Were I Pettitte and truly religious, I would be offended by someone who described me as ostentatiously so.

For people wondering - it means rich and showy: marked by a vulgar display of wealth and success designed to impress people. So this dude is saying that Pettitte is showing religion only to impress people.

But I digress.

His argument (I will leave the whole "noble" thing to Lisa who handled that quite well) is that we should give Pettitte the benefit of the doubt because he's religious and, in essence, religious people would never do bad things. To that I give two names that are just the tip of the iceberg: John J. Geoghan and Ronald H. Paquin.

For those of you unfamiliar with those names, they are both priests - a profession that most would agree has some fairly religious people. These two were part of the Catholic Church's long running conspiracy to conceal child molesters within its clergy. Geoghan died in jail after convicted, Paquin plead guilty to the crime, claiming that he himself was a victim at the hands of a member of the clergy while a boy in Salem.

By reporter Tim Marchman's reasoning, this couldn't be true because these men are religious.

What an idiot.

On a lighter note (pardon the pun) - down to 184 this morning, a total loss of 4.5 pounds.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Signs your team is headed in the wrong direction

  • When ESPN promotes your game, they announce, "watch the Bears led by returner Devin Hester take on..." Let's face it, if the biggest star/most exciting player on the team you root for is the kick/punt returner, your team is in trouble.
  • Matt Millen is the general manager of the team you root for. This needs no further explanation.
  • Your general manager decides, in spite of all the other glaring weaknesses on the team, to let the team's leading wide receiver go in free-agency, and replaces him in the draft with a an injured kick returner that's not projected to be a number one receiver in the league. To make it worse, the GM let's him go to a division rival.
  • Pundits struggle to justify why your team took a third-down back with a top five pick over a defensive end with nine-and-a-half sacks in his second year...and continue to claim that they still would have taken that running back over the defensive end if they re-did the 2006 draft today.
  • The best excuse your defense can come up with for why they lost a game is that the refs were against them. Not that their own coordinator called a time-out, not that they killed themselves with obvious and blatant penalties - no, it has to be the refs' faults.
  • Your franchise quarterback cops a guilty plea to a federal offense, players publicly feud with your new head coach on the sideline, and then said coach bails on the team 13 games into his contract. Quality judgement there by that front office.
  • The best thing that can be said about a team's season is that they got their first win before the Dolphins.
Let's see - that would be, in succession: Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, Baltimore, Atlanta, and St. Louis. Combined, those teams have a 29-69 record (aided greatly by the Saint's 7-7 record, and overall a rip-roaring .296 winning percentage). Are there other teams with problems? You bet. Are all of these teams heading in the wrong direction? You bet.

On a different note...

Over Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law noted some guy in the press bitching about the way Belichick dressed. If it bother people, fine. Is it Belichick probably thumbing his nose at the deal the NFL has with Reebok? Yeah, it probably is.


Here's the funny thing - my wife was scanning the Patriots on-line store, presumably for a Christmas gift for me. While there, she noted something interesting - the Pats are marketing a Belichick hoodie as well as a Belichick throw. For the hoodie they're charging $75.00 and $45.00 for the throw.

What other team is able to market clothing under the name of the coach? Sure, you'll see the "like the polo worn on the sidelines by Mike Holmgren," or one of the other coaches, but you won't see it listed as "Holmgren Sideline Polo," it will be listed as, "Coach's Sideline Polo."

Welcome to Patriot Nation. It love's its coach.

Texas Toast

No player was hit harder by the release of the Mitchell Report than Roger Clemens. Sure, Barry Bonds is (the only player) mentioned more often in the former senator's report, but let's face it, the damage was done there long ago.

Following the release of the report, the Rocket's lawyer Rusty Hardin issued the following non-denial, “It is very unfair to include Roger’s name in this report. He is left with no meaningful way to combat what he strongly contends are totally false allegations. He has not been charged with anything, he will not be charged with anything and yet he is being tried in the court of public opinion with no recourse. That is totally wrong. There has never been one shred of tangible evidence that he ever used these substances and yet he is being slandered today."

Essentially, Hardin called Mitchell's witness against Clemens a liar without ever directly denying any of former trainer Brian McNamee's allegations of steroid use (he never said I didn't do it, he just said McNamee's allegations are false - what? That McNamee administered the steroid injections? That it was those specific steroids? What exactly is false?). Hardin made no indication that he would be filing any sort of legal action against the report (and the last time I checked, Major League Baseball, which has assumed indemnity for any legal action, has very deep pockets).

The biggest problem for Clemens and his legacy arose this weekend when former teammate and long-time friend Andy Pettitte, who was named in McNamee's testimony, lent the report a whopping dose of credibility by copping to the use of HGH - a year after he denied ever using the hormone (his name came up with the Jason Grimsley incident).

While Pettitte's apology was offensive to anyone with half a brain - "If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize...If I have let down people that care about me, I am sorry, but I hope that you will listen to me carefully and understand that two days of perhaps bad judgment should not ruin a lifetime of hard work and dedication." Where's the actual apology there? IF? There are more qualifiers in that statement than they have at the Olympic Trials for Track and Field.

This is tantamount to saying, "I'm not sorry for what I did. I'm sorry I got caught, and I'm sorry YOU'RE offended. But, no, I'm not sorry for what I did."

I think that Dan Graziano from the Newark Star-Ledger (Yankees country by the way) said it best when he put the following to paper -

If he truly felt bad about what he did, why didn't he answer Mitchell's questions as earnestly as he's always answered ours? Every player Mitchell named in the report was presented with an opportunity to see the evidence against him and respond. But the final lines of page 176 say about Pettitte what Mitchell says about almost every other player in the document.

"In order to provide Pettitte with information about these allegations and to give him an opportunity to respond, I asked him to meet with me," Mitchell writes. "He declined."

Brian McNamee, the personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte, told Mitchell that Pettitte asked him about HGH during the 2001-02 off-season. McNamee told Mitchell that he discouraged Pettitte from using it, but that Pettitte brought it up again while on the disabled list in 2002 and McNamee flew to Tampa, Fla., where he injected Pettitte with HGH "on two to four occasions."

McNamee also told Mitchell that Pettitte asked him, in 2003, "what he should say if a reporter asked Pettitte whether he ever used performance-enhancing substances. McNamee told him he was free to say what he wanted, but that he should not go out of his way to bring it up. McNamee also asked Pettitte not to mention his name."

Pettitte knew what he was doing was wrong and he sought advice on how to get away with it. And when Mitchell found out, and tried to present him with the evidence, Pettitte ignored him. Only now that he's been caught does he come remotely clean, and he does so in the way of a cornered criminal, angry at his pursuer for catching him. Why should we believe there's not more to the story? What reason do we have to take his word that he's been clean for all but two days of his life?

The wheat from the chaff

After a weekend that saw weather play a significant factor in several games for playoff bound teams, and a whole lot of wild-card eliminations, there are a number of things that can be taken from the games played from Thursday through yesterday. Sorry guys, but tonight's tilt has no bearing on the post-season (unless Chicago somehow upsets Minnesota - which I have a hard time seeing).

Here are some of my thoughts.

The Patriots (contenders) - They played a different type of game yesterday in the bad weather, pounding the Jets and winning the battles in the trenches. This led to a solid running game by the team that included 104 yards on 26 carries (4 yard per carry average) by the often maligned Laurence Maroney.

While good to see them move the ball on the ground, it was done against a moribund Jets rush defense that is currently ranked 30th in the league giving up an average of 141 yards per game. That average lowered with the Patriots 131 net yards from scrimmage yesterday. So, as nice as it was to see the Patriots pound the ball on the ground, they were still below what is average for this team to give up.

I like that Maroney runs hard, but I have to question his vision...or maybe it's just the coaching instructions he receives. I like that he seldom takes negative yards, but he often runs into clogged lanes when there are openings elsewhere. That won't cut it in the post-season against better run defenses than the Pats faced yesterday.

The Colts (contenders) - After struggling mightily after their mid-season loss to the Pats, Indy seems to have collected itself and managed to right the ship, clinching their division and the other AFC bye with their win over the Raiders (the best Jacksonville could do is tie their record, but Indy has the tie-breakers).

This Colts team appears built for bed weather better than team of the past, with a greater reliance on the run - although, it's not as if they lacked quality running backs in the past, it hasn't helped them in bad weather, and the Colts won't be playing in truly bad weather until they possibly rematch against the Patriots at Gillette.

Also, the fact that even depleted the Colts should have destroyed the Raiders should be some cause for concern.

The Jaguars (contenders) - They went to Pittsburgh and handed the Steelers their helmets in decidedly un-Jacksonvillian weather. This team could be very dangerous to anyone in the playoffs. If there was one team that could put together three road wins to get to Arizona, these are the guys.

The Steelers (pretenders) - See the Jaguars. Really, unless this team fixes what is ailing them, which seems to be the defense, they might be on the road to Cleveland or San Diego the first weekend of the playoffs, and they're not playing like a team that can win three in a row on the road. Hell, they've only won two of the six road games they have already played. Sure, the final two are against the Rams (3-11), and Ravens (4-10), but they lost on the road to the Jets (3-11), Cardinals (6-8), and Broncos (6-8).

The Chargers (pretenders) - Yes, they are playing better than they did early in the season, and yes they demolished the Lions 51-14, but they still have Norv Turner calling the shots and their only wins against winning teams were at home against Indy after they were beat up by New England, and at Tennessee. With the exception of their win against the Colts, they have lost to every other playoff contender they have faced - New England, Green Bay, Minnesota, and Jacksonville - by an average of 14 points per game.

The Browns (pretenders) - Cleveland is one of the great NFL stories this year. With games left against the Bengals and the 49ers, and the Steelers struggling, the Browns could go from worst to first with the potential of an 11 win season - a far cry from the 4-12 fourth place 2006 campaign (if Romeo Crennel isn't a coach of the year candidate, then I don't know how they're defining the award).

As great a story as this is for Cleveland, the fact remains that the Browns defense is 29th overall, and that doesn't get you far in the playoffs.

I'll deal with the NFC contenders/pretenders later in the week.

Other thoughts on the weekend -

Tony Romo's thumb injury and Terrell Owens suddenly playing like...well Terrell Owens (short arming, giving up on routes, not hustling on turnovers) could cost the Cowboys home-field in the playoffs, and any real hope at a Super Bowl berth.

Speaking of issues from Cowboys/Eagles - Brian Westbrook might have made one of the most heads up plays I have ever seen in the NFL when he decided to forgo the touchdown and sat down at the Cowboys one yard line with just over two minutes to play. The move allowed the Eagles to run out the clock. Had Westbrook run the ball in, the Cowboys would have gotten the ball back at the two minute warning, down by 11 - plenty of time to score and try an on-sides kick. It really was a thing of beauty.

Dick Jauron has done a great job with Buffalo this season, keeping the Bills in the playoff hunt until their loss to the Browns yesterday. Like Crennel, he will be a candidate for coach of the year.

After Brian Billick's spitting the bit against the formerly winless Dolphins, one has to wonder if the Ravens braintrust is regretting that extension they granted to Billick. To not try to punch it in and go for the win on the half-yard line against a team like the Dolphins who haven't stopped anyone all year is just unjustifiable.