Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thoughts and observations

Evidently in football terms it's five strikes and you're out.

The Bengals finally cut troubled wide receiver Chris Henry after what is really his sixth run-in with the law, fifth arrestable offense, since being drafted in 2005. That included four arrests in a twelve month period.

Henry, a player with an enormous amount of potential, has not been able to stay on the field in any of his three seasons due to legal and behavioral issues. In three seasons he has averaged 11.67 games per season, each year - playing in fewer and fewer games each progressive season, going from 14, to 13, and finally to eight games.

The latest charges, essentially assault, are added to a list that includes corruption of minors, DUI, concealed weapons, and possession of marijuana charges.

Bottom line, Henry is, for all intents, the offensive version of Pacman Jones without having shown quite the same talent level. Will he get another chance? Possibly, but it is likely that chance will be, like Pacman's, his last.

T.O. Redux

Over the years there has been a lot of defense of Chad Johnson's antics because he hasn't been the divisive force in the locker room that Terrell Owens has been. I've always felt they were closer in personality than most of the apologists did.

It could be seen at times on the sideline last year as the Bengals struggled, and Johnson, at times took shots at Carson Palmer during the post-game.

Now Johnson appears to be trying to engineer his exit from Cincinnati a-la TO from Philly.

For my money, I hope the loudmouth gets suspended. I'm sick of these spoiled players - wide-outs in particular - whining about the contract they signed and the situation they put themselves into.

This is a problem the NFL needs to address at some point.

The Pawtuckett Express...

Pitching insurance policy Bartolo Colon had a more than solid outing in Pawtucket facing one batter more than the minimum in a five inning start. He gave up only one hit.

With the Red Sox poised to activate Josh Beckett for a Sunday start, two things happen. The Sox once again have depth in the rotation with seven potential starters -


I expect that Clay Buchholz will be the odd man out with Beckett about to be activated. That puts Buchholz on the Pawtucket express unless someone like David Aardsma has options left. Otherwise expect Buchholz to head to Rhode Island for more seasoning while Julian Tavarez takes the fifth spot in the rotation.

It would surprise me if the P.E. wasn't active early and often this season as Theo Epstein and Terry Francona work to get the right mix between the pen and the rotation.

Just a wild guess, but if Kyle Snyder doesn't work out his issues, I believe that we're looking at Snyder designated or released, Tavarez going back to the pen and a rotation from one to five of Beckett, Matsuzaka, Colon, Wakefield, and Lester by the end of May.

Puzzling Predictions...

Sports Illustrated and a number of other outlets have picked the Yankees to win the American League East this season.

After what the team did last season with a suspect pitching staff, I will not rule them out for post-season contention. However, I have to question the wisdom of picking a team to win whose best, most consistent pitcher, Andy Pettitte, against whom opponents batted over .280 for two consecutive years.

Their potential ace, Chien-Ming Wong, has put up back to back 19-win seasons, but has been plagued by inconsistency, getting smacked around at times by the better teams, or failing to come up big when needed. Number three starter Mike Mussina, once an innings eater and solid number two, has approached 200 innings only once in the last four seasons, had an ERA below 4.40 only once during that same span, and seen opponents bat below .276 only once in that span, with a high of .311 last year.

The other two pitchers are Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy who may or may not be ready for the glare of the bright lights of New York.

Even with the line-up the Yankees have, that's a lot to overcome.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

East Coast Bias

There is, quite often, an accusation leveled at the national sports press of an East Coast bias in the corps' reporting.

There is probably some truth to favoritism of the East Coast teams, not because of proximity to the New York offices of Sports Illustrated, or the Connecticut offices of ESPN, but because the teams on top of the pile draw the most attention. East Coast teams in the major team sports, except for basketball, have won or represented more than half of all championship contenders for an extended period of time.

Starting from the low end of the totem pole, over the last 14 seasons in the NHL the East Coast has been represented in 12 of the 28 potential contestants for the Stanley Cup. Teams from states that abut the Atlantic (in the US) have represented six of the sport's winners. Those totals go up when eastern Canada is in the mix.

Since the Bills started their run of four straight appearances in the Super Bowl there have been 34 teams that have vied for the Lombardi trophy. Twenty teams from the states on the Eastern Seaboard have been among the 34 fighting to raise the silver trophy each January or February and nine of the winners have been from the East.

Since 1994 in Major League Baseball 14 of the 26 teams that have made it to the 13 World Series held over that span. Nine of the winners have been from the East.

Out of the 44 pro championships noted above, 24 have had a champion from the East - 54.5 percent of all the winners. Forty-six of the 88 contestants have come from the East accounting for 52.3 percent of the teams represented in the games. The teams have won at a rate of 52.2 percent.

In recent years divisions like the NFC West and the NL West have cycled into down periods, sometimes producing division champions that barely breaking a .500 winning percentage.

A simple rule in sports has always been that winning garners attention. The more you win, the more attention you get. It is why great players on bad teams have difficulties with Hall of Fame recognition.

There are players and teams off the East Coast deserving of attention, but until the winning percentage swings the other way, the focus is going to stay on the old powers like New York and Boston.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The quick and the dead...

There's a lot to be said about setting up a salary cap structure for Major League Baseball.

Even with one in football, there's a lot of dead money under the caps of a lot of teams. Sometimes it's because of players no longer on rosters, sometimes you can consider the money dead even with the player on the roster.

The San Francisco 49ers project to have $3.64 million in dead money under their cap next season.

Those are players no longer on their roster.

The Patriots will consistently put players on IR for the season, starting at the end of training camp. That's money that counts against their cap, not counted as dead, but it may as well be.

Then there are those players who just take up space on rosters. Usually they don't stick around
and the dead money hit on an NFL team is minimal.

Baseball is different.

In MLB there are players that just don't live up to their contract, sometimes receiving contracts they haven't earned. Other times demonstrating the requisite talent, however, fail to stay on the field due to injury issues or a lack of toughness.

JD Drew will come to the mind of Red Sox fans - a player who received a fat contract from the Sox who essentially were in a bidding war with themselves for his services.

While the owners need to be protected from themselves. Fans need to be protected from the owners. Teams like the Marlins should not be allowed to spend fewer dollars than they receive from their cut of the Yankees luxury tax.

Teams and fans of teams that aren't the Red Sox or Yankees whine about the spending of those teams, but the Orioles are carrying $11 million in dead money into this season over one player. Just before the season started, the team cut oft injured outfielder Jay Gibbons. While it's admirable that the team would cut its losses with a player that has a hard time staying on the field, it should be noted that they evidently feel they can eat an $11 million salary without a problem.

If that's the case, then why can't they spend in a way that keeps them in the neighborhood of their division rivals?

Honestly, other teams have proven it's not the spending itself, but how you spend.

That said - what about the ridiculousness that the Brewers engaged in during this off-season...

Gagne, baby Gagne...

After a season during which Eric Gagne, once the premier closer in the majors, blew a number of hold for the Red Sox down the stretch, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Gagne to a one-year $10 million contract. This signing happened before the Mitchell Report essentially said that his couple of years of domination came out of a syringe.

On opening day Gagne blew the save in a 3-0 game, getting smoked on a three run shot by a rookie. Gagne later got the win, but showed nothing to merit the Brewers' $10 million worth of faith in him.

If Gagne doesn't break, at the very least, the 20 save margin,or a combined 30 saves and holds, that's just more dead money on a major league roster.

The people that look at contracts like this and don't think it's time for a salary cap should go get professional help. Lord knows, if I'm a fan of a team like a Kansas City or a Milwaukee that decides to go out and make a big splash in free agency by signing someone like Gagne, and then hearing the party line that my team can't compete with the big-markets...well, I'm just gonna be really pissed.