Thursday, March 26, 2009

Digging the hole ever deeper

So Michael Vick is back in the news again, and yet again, it's for the wrong reasons.

I have linked to a reasonable, but incomplete AP article on the fact that Vick is being targeted by federal authorities again. This time for illegally dipping into MV7's, his company's, pension plan to the tune of $1.7 million in order to benefit himself. Those benefits included using at least a portion of the money to pay restitution ordered as part of his dog fighting conviction/plea.

As the trustee of a company's pension plan, this is a big federal no no.

The AP story fails to mention how. So let's address that...

When Vick entered his plea to the dog fighting charges, he was a first time offender, and as such, got off with a light sentence based on sentencing guidelines. Now the U.S. Department of Labor is alleging that Vick, in order to address one federal offense, committed a second one. The law that Vick allegedly violated is US Code: Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 31, Section 664 and reads as follows -

Any person who embezzles, steals, or unlawfully and willfully abstracts or converts to his own use or to the use of another, any of the moneys, funds, securities, premiums, credits, property, or other assets of any employee welfare benefit plan or employee pension benefit plan, or of any fund connected therewith, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

As used in this section, the term “any employee welfare benefit plan or employee pension benefit plan” means any employee benefit plan subject to any provision of title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
It is interesting to note that Vick's bankruptcy does not absolve him of his fiscal responsibility to any pension plan he set up for his employees. And, if the allegation is true, Vick, in essence, stole $1.7 million from his employees, apparently with the aid of two of his fiscal advisers.

This severely complicates things going forward for Vick. According to the AP report -

Vick's plan for paying his creditors is based largely on his intention to resume his NFL career. Vick was suspended indefinitely after his 2007 indictment, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he will review Vick's status after he is released.

The Falcons still hold the contract rights to Vick but have said they will try to trade him. Vick's bankruptcy plan would allow him to keep the first $750,000 of his annual pay. After that, a percentage would go to his creditors based on a sliding scale.

In essence, Vick's future earnings are already being garnished to pay off his debts and the plan is based on the idea that he will return to playing football. As if Goodell didn't have enough ammo in regards to Vick between the dog fighting, lying to the NFL, and getting nailed for drug use while awaiting trial, now there's this. With this additional violation of federal statute, not only does it allow Roger Goodell to extend the suspension, it also looks like there may very well be additional jail time for Vick, whose stupidity seems to know no bounds.

And before I have the occasional meat-head that yells that it's a racial thing and the government is just trying to keep a black man down, let's remember that Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Warren Moon have all done quite well in spite of their bone-headed moves, and none of them ended up in jail.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rapid fire again

It's been released to the press that the pedestrian struck by Donte Stallworth was not in the crosswalk at the time of the accident, nor was Stallworth driving excessively fast at only ten miles per hour over the speed limit. In spite of reports of intoxication, those two facts might be enough to keep Florida authorities from pursuing the most serious of possible charges - vehicular manslaughter, and it's likely those two facts will keep the wide receiver our of jail.

Anyone else see OLB Clay Matthews III, as a strong candidate for the Pats' first pick in the draft if he's still around at the 23rd pick? The guy's a 6' 3" 246 pound outside backer with sterling blood lines, being the son of former NFL linebacker Clay Matthews, Jr (19 seasons for the Falcons and Browns - including time playing for Bill Belichick), grandson of Clay Matthews (four seasons in the 1950's as an offensive tackle and defensive end for the 49ers), and nephew of former offensive lineman Bruce Matthews (Oilers/Titans, 19 seasons).

It's just a hunch that we'll see him in a Pats uni this year, but I also thought there was a fair chance that the team would make a run at Zack DeOssie given Belichick's familiarity with the family. So, who knows?

Scouting reports from the WBC say that Daisuke Matsuzaka was pounding the strike zone with his fastball and pitching less tentatively than he did during last season. The Diceman wasn't the most dominant pitcher in the tournament, but he wasn't far off in posting a 2.45 ERA over 14.2 innings. He gave up only four runs on 14 hits along with five walks and 13 strikeouts (making his WHIP 1.30). Not bad for going against (theoretically) the best that the world has to offer.

Should Matsuzaka build off of this, and stay aggressive during the season, the Sox likely have at least four starters that will win at least 12 games between Dice, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Wakefield. If Penny can stay healthy and return to pre-Dodger form, we could be looking at a staff that has four starters winning at least 15 games and a fifth winning at least 12. My guess is that Beckett, Dice and Lester all end up between 16 and 20 wins, Penny between 14 and 16, and Wake at around 12 or 13 (assuming the staff remains reasonably healthy). That means that from the rotation alone we could be looking in the range of 80 wins.

I liked what I saw of George Kottaras in last night's preseason match up against the Yankees.

It looks like Lance Armstrong's come-back bid has been slowed down severely. Armstrong, the single most dominant force in the sport of Cycling - ever - broke his collar bone during a recent stage of the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon race in northern Spain. Some had speculated that this might keep him out of the sport's premier event, the Tour de France.

He'll ride in it, I just don't know that he will be in top form and that he will be able to compete for the yellow jersey.

According to literature, his injury will take six to eight weeks to heal. That would put him on schedule to possibly be healthy, but not particularly competitive in the Giro d'Italia on May 9th - the last major race he can possibly use as a tune-up before the grueling TdF.

Given I thought he, despite his age and the time he had taken off, was the likely favorite going into the Tour before the accident, I think this makes the race more compelling.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rounding up loose ends...

By now I'm sure anyone who reads this blog is aware that former Patriots receiver Donte Stallworth was involved in an unfortunate incident recently wherein he struck and killed a pedestrian. At this writing charges have not been filed, but given that his blood alcohol level was well over the legal limit, it is only a matter of time.

At the very least this will result in a suspension for Stallworth, and probably jail time. This is the sort of thing that can potentially serve from 5 to 15 years, depending on what they have determined the degree of the offense to be. I expect a deal to be cut that will either allow Stallworth to stay out of jail, or to serve a minimum amount of time - meaning I don't believe he will be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter as provided by the Florida State Penal Code.

And here are five things I think based on what I have seen the last week -

  1. For all the injuries the Celtics have suffered, I think they have happened with plenty of time for the Green to get healthy. Once healthy, I think that it was more important for the Cavs to get the one seed than the Celtics. Should the current seeded positions remain constant, I believe we'll see the C's play the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. If the C's steal a game in Cleveland early in the series, then I think the series favors them.
  2. I firmly believe that Junichi Tazawa will make his big league debut this season as a back of the rotation/middle reliever.
  3. This is a guess, but it seems to me that Theo is giving George Kottaras the opportunity to show the organization that he is the heir-apparent to Jason Varitek. My bet would be, given the glut of pitching prospects in the minors, if Kottaras struggles, or at least fails to even show flashes during the regular season, then and only then will we see a trade with Texas consummated for one of their catchers.
  4. I don't think that the Patriots are done with the defensive overhaul - I've said it before and will say it again: Jason Taylor is the most logical and Belichick-ian choice to play opposite Adalius Thomas. He is likely to be signed by the team sometime after the draft and will take less money to go to the Pats just for the chance to win. I also think that Shawn Crable will get a long look in training camp as the future at that same location.
  5. I think Yankee fans are going to have a tough April. The team's best early season player, Alex Rodriguez, is likely to miss the first month of the season, CC Sabathia has huffed and puffed his way to a Spring Training ERA that is dwarfed only by his Michelinman-like physique and their big-name in-the-field acquisition, Mark Texiera, is a notorious slow starter (.259 career hitter for the month of April, his next lowest monthly average - .282 in July). I firmly believe this is a team that's on track to be playing catch-up again, and they will be chasing both the Red Sox and the Rays.