Call it an awakening, call in serendipity...call it what you will, but I've come to this conclusion: I am two steps behind...on everything. It's amazing, but I went for a walk today, and suddenly I just kind of realized than I'm just a little too slow catching up to everything. Sports trends, music, life in general. So, I'm hoping to think more clearly and freely, and to not be held up by how I have been in the past, at least this is my goal. I know this may make absolutely no sense to anyone. Think of it as an attempt to think outside the box. So, I'm going to attempt to tap into that...this should be interesting.
(also, I'm going to try headings, and while that's not completely outside the box, I think it will make this a little easier to read, because I don't know if you've noticed this, but I do hop around about a bunch of different topics...)
I know we're coming off of a football weekend, but let's be frank: The schedule was lame, and the results were about the same as well. Also, talking about a heart-breaking OT loss at home on Thursday and a 50-point meltdown on Saturday are two things I'm going to attempt to avoid talking about as long as I can. So, let's start with the sport that won't have any games for five months. Okay, so here's the latest:
Detroit seems to be interested in Julio Lugo. I don't think there has been a more despised player around this region since Ulf Samuelson. In any event, the deal would likely bring either Nate Robertson or Dontrelle Willis, two lefties coming off of big-time down years, and would probably cost in the neighborhood of $3-4 million a year to pay off Lugo to leave. This is a classic example of Theo Epstein stating with his actions, not words, that he made a bad move, and hey, here's the thing: He makes one bad move for about five good ones...since when is an 80% success rate a bad thing (parachute deployment)? So, he messed it up, but it could have been a lot worse. You're looking a a guy in Jed Lowrie who, in my opinion, is ready to step into action in 120 games next year. Granted, I don't think you can go the whole year with him simply because he has shown signs that he may not be ready for that kind of extended action. I hope he proves me wrong, but that's just what I picked up from after watching him in place of Lugo. Look, if you're the Sox, you have to do this. This is completely different from the Coco Crisp situation. Coco looked like he was on his way out after Jacoby's emmergence in the playoffs last year, but it turned out he may have been thrusted into the spotlight a little too early (speaking of too early, he signed up with Boras four years before he's arbitration-eligible), and when he slumped in the latter months, Coco was there to pick up some of the pieces and stabilize the center field production. I know I was already anticipating how much they would get back for Coco last off-season (this would be one of the disadvantages of having all my columns archived...totally ripe for second-guessing), but obviously, there is a need for a fourth outfielder that has occasional pop and plays a hell of a center field. Plus, it's not like the Sox are really dying for anything, so having a guy like that on your bench is not such a bad thing...that is if Coco can come to gripes with it all, which I'm pretty sure he has not done. Anyway, getting back to Lugo...he possesses absolutely no value to the Sox outside of running...have you ever heard of a pinch-runner making $9 million a year? I don't think so. So, for the Tigers to be offering one rebuilding project for another is not a bad compromise for the Sox. I'm not going to lie to you and believe that either of the two they are offering right now will win like 14-15 games a year, but this is a team that can take on a rebuilding project...in fact, they have an affinity of taking on such projects. So, with that being said, the thought of getting anything in return for Lugo doesn't seem that bad. And so what if the guy doesn't pan out? We already have a guy that we know will not pan out...you might as well try something different. We did this with Edgar Renteria, who turned into Andy Marte, who turned into...you guessed it, Coco Crisp.
(I was going to have my NC license plate say "IHATELUGO," but I could only go eight letters...awww shucks...)
There has been a lot of specualtion about Mark Teixeira around here...I don't really understand it myself...that is unless they're thinking Mike Lowell can't hold on. I mean here's a guy who, don't get me wrong, is a hell of a player...probably a top-20 guy at least, but where does he fit in here? With Youk at first and Lowell at third, that pretty much covers that. Where are we going to put a guy who is about to make $20 million a year? The fact is that this team, offensively is 8/9 set, with the obvious question mark coming behind the plate. Unless Teixeira is taking lessons from Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza in the offseason, I don't think he's the answer for this team. I think the only reason this is coming up is because his agent (hey, it's Scott Boras...shocking!) probably approached the Sox because, well, we spend a few bucks on payroll, and he wants to drive the price up on Tex's final landing spot...again, that's just me.
Here's what I can't get: Why is Ortiz talking about how the Sox need another 30-homer guy? First of all, don't run the front office if you're playing...that never works (see the Lakers), and secondly, ummm...what happened to Jason Bay? Yeah, remember him? There's your 30-homer guy, who with the parts already in place, would be the fifth member of that club (of course, this is all based on potential, but Bay, Ortiz, Youk, Lowell, and Drew could all be there...I'm not saying it's going to happen, but they all have that kind of potential). Again, power is something the Sox are not lacking in. What they need is an heir-apparent to 'Tek, because it is slipping away for him, and a #3-4 starter who can get you 170-180 innings and 10-12 wins. Other than that, what else can we do? The team already parted with Mike Timlin, so there goes that. I think if anything, you may want to sure up the bench some. Alex Cora had a bad year last season, so he is likely gone, and if Sean Casey and Mark Kotsay can get starting gigs somewhere else, then they're gone too. I think that should be the main focus for this team. Focus on what you need, then, if you have enough left over and you want to go after an extra piece, then go for it, but I really don't want to hear about all these big-time free agents potentially coming here. The bullpen will be fine, trust me (the depth in pitching in the minors is staggering), so a catcher, a #4 starter, and filling the holes on the bench should be the top priorities.
The MVP voting comes out tomorrow...I think he should win it, and it's not just because I'm a Sox fan, but I really think Dustin Pedroia should win the award. I understand that Josh Hamilton had a breakout year, K-Rod set records, and Youk had a career year, but we're talking about a guy who played almost every single game, whether it be against a lefty or a righty, and beat the crap out of all of them. Guys who are my height and my weight should not be hitting as well as he does. He defies all logic everytime he steps on the field not only offensively, but defensively. Plus, he's a great presence in the clubhouse (from what I hear)...he does everything...how does he not win? Hamilton had gaudy numbers, which led his team to not making the playoffs (I know they weren't going to win the division, but that's why we have a wild card right?). How could a non-playoff making player win the MVP anyway? You're taking the "V" out of that award, and giving it to the guy who had the best numbers. To me, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Here's a guy who put up big numbers...and was on a team that went to Game 7 of the ALCS. Plus, he performed well in the playoffs as well (I know that the playoffs do not factor into the decision because they are unofficial statistics...but come on! Shouldn't how a player performs at the highest level make it into some of the criteria for these awards. If they didn't want to factor those things in, why are we handing these awards out in November? If it's all about the regular season, then hand the awards out right after it ends instead of waiting until after the World Series is over. That makes a little more sense, no?). So, list time:
Fav Five AL MVP Candidates:
- Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston
- Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas
- Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Boston
- Carlos Quentin, OF, Chicago
- Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Anaheim
So Obama went on "60 Minutes" last night and told the interviewer that he wanted an eight-team playoff system...I think it may be time to start listening to the President (hard to believe that for a third of my life, you couldn't say that). Florida...yeah they're good, and sure, we gift-wrapped about 21 points to them, but we never really had too much of a shot in that game despite everything (I was convinced of this when Harvin broke off the 80-yard run that we would have got beat real bad no matter what). The BCS is shaping up to be a total disaster if Tech and/or 'Bama lose in the coming weeks (a very real possibility), because you are going to end up with a couple undefeateds in Utah and Boise St. along with six one-loss teams that deserve a shot ('Bama, Tech (of course assuming they both lose), Texas, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, and yes, Florida). Yeah, this might be the last hoorah for the BCS. The +1 system was a good idea in theory...one more game, two more teams getting in the BCS race, but I'll tell you this: If you think Florida will be satisfied playing in the Sugar Bowl as opposed to having a shot, just a shot, at the title, you're dreaming. If you play for any of these powerhouses, the goal of making bowl games is one that is a lot further down on the totem pole than most teams in the country. They are out to win national titles. Bowl wins are nice, but if you're a team like Southern Cal or Florida, you've been there and done that...pretty much every year, and when Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer go out recruiting, they probably are not talking about the Orange Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl...it's national championship talk. Now, I've been thinking about this for awhile now (ever since Auburn went undefeated and got shut out of the title game), and here's what stands in the way:
- Tradition: It seems like the big bowl games have been going on and on forever, and a lot of traditions would get fouled up because the games "would not have the kind of emphasis in a playoff system." The Rose Bowl has tradionally been the landing point of the Pac-10 and Big-10 champs, and that would probably be lost in the new system.
- Sponsors: It's not just the Rose Bowl anymore, it's "The Rose Bowl presented by AT&T," and it's not the Fiesta Bowl, it's the "Tositos Fiesta Bowl." A playoff system would no doubt put the chairmen of these bowl games in a hard spot in terms of losing money from those sponsors.
- Time: To do a three-week playoff, it would require the NCAA to figure out how to shorten the regular season and add time to have a lengthy playoff happen that would not cannibalize the other bowl games already put in place...bowl games that already have TV contracts in place mind you. Plus, would it be dragging the season out too much? Kind of like what the NFL does in its preseason to gain a little more revenue?
- TV: FOX already has a pretty sweet deal going to broadcast the BCS ($82 million per year for the next three years), and with word now that ESPN is looking to get a hold of the BCS rights after 2010, it will be extremely difficult to change the system, but if were to be changed, it has to be before a new deal is struck.
- College Chancellors: Ummm...yeah, they don't want to do it...and they kind of run everything, so it's going to be tough to change their minds.
GIVE EVERYONE A PISS-LOAD OF MONEY!
(Everyone = TV, Colleges, Sponsors, Bowl Committee Chairmen...you know...everyone)
The only way this will ever get resolved is if you throw money at the problem, because believe me, that's all that these people really care about. It's not about the spirit of competition, it's about money. That's what drives everything in college sports. Colleges are even worse than the professional ranks at times. It makes me sick, but hey, this is something that has been going on for years and years because, well, it was allowed to happen. If someone had adopted a playoff fifteen years ago before the BCS was even a glimmer into some greedy college chancellor's eye, there wouldn't be nearly the kind of resistance that you're seeing right now, and that's because everyone is getting paid, and why mess up a good thing? If there was an eight-team playoff, the emphasis on every game but the title game would not mean as much, which means you would lose some interest from the pedestrian sports fan, which means less money, and God forbid there be less money. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's not going to happen with the current regime in place (not a lot of Obama votes coming from here), and until there is a complete overhaul, which may never happen, talking about a playoff is pretty much a waste of your breath, or 15 minutes typing (you prefer).
Okay, again, quite a lame week in college football. USC...Clemson in two weeks...must win...give me something to forget about Saturday please. BC won a huge one at Tallahassee against the Seminoles. Tell me this is the year they win all their meaningful games in the regular season and then win an actual bowl game. Seriously, how many years in a row is this team going to pull of this charade? Win a bunch of nice games during the season, lose an easy one at the end, go to a crappy bowl game, and beat a team that is nowhere near their caliber. Last year they went from #2 in the country to the Champs Sports Bowl. Come on now! The Troy Trojans will never get a chance to pull off a meaningful game like they could have done on Saturday. That went from being one of the most memorable upsets of all-time to one of the biggest choke jobs. So now, I guess their claim to fame will be "we were beating LSU for three and a half quarters...and DeMarcus Ware went here." The Big 10 had five games on Saturday...the favorite covered exactly zero of those games...which brings me to my original point: that is an incredibly sucky conference. Not saying the SEC is blowing anyone away, but the Big 10 has not been relevant since Maurice Clarett scored that winning TD in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami (speaking of which, I know this seems crazy, but you can actually call it the University of Miami, and not just "the U"...I know, wild). Not a lot of movement in the polls, again solidifying how lame this weekend was. Here are the Heisman candidates, as well as some games I'm looking forward to checking out this weekend, in what hopefully will be a bounce-back week for the NCAA, especially with the biggest game of the year kicking off at 8 on Saturday:
Fav Five Heisman Candidates:
- Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech
- Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
- Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
- Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
- Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
- #17 Ball St. vs. Central Michigan (7:00, Deuce)
- #23 Miami vs. Georgia Tech (7:30, ESPN)
- Yale vs. Harvard (12:00, VS)
- Michigan vs. #10 Ohio St. (12:00, ESPN)
- Ole Miss vs. #18 LSU (3:30, CBS)
- BC vs. Wake Forest (3:30, ABC)
- Air Force vs. #16 TCU (3:30, VS)
- #15 Michigan St. vs. #8 Penn St. (3:30, ESPN)
- #14 BYU vs. #7 Utah (6:00, No TV)
- #21 Oregon St. vs. Arizona (7:00, VS)
- #20 Pittsburgh vs. #19 Cincinnati (7:00, Deuce)
- Florida St. vs. #25 Maryland (7:45, ESPN)
- #2 Texas Tech vs. #5 Oklahoma (8:00, ESPN)
Well, I've had a few days to process the Pats game...it still hurts really bad. Not only was that a loss, but it was a loss to a division opponent, and it bumped us not only out of the top spot in the East, but the playoff picture all together (Indy and Baltimore lead the Wild Card right now)...and it was the freggin' Jets...at home! I literally am grimmacing uncontrollably right now (Norv Turner-esque). Well, here we go again. We get Miami down there this week...what are the odds they run the Wildcat? I'm thinking it's like Secretariat at the Belmont odds, so who knows about that one. Anyway, here's a recap of other things that went on this week:
Detroit...yup...by the way, how has that coach not been fired yet? He's approaching the boiling point in the postgame interviews...can we spare this guy (Rod Marinelli) a couple years of his life, because I think with each passing week, it's taking off like six months.
Tennessee just keeps on doing it. When the Jags had the early lead, I think everyone was thinking "well, it was bound to happen sometime," but then a funny thing happened...they came back...and won again. I'm kind of becoming miffed as to how this team keeps doing it. Jeff Fischer has to be given a ton of credit. Before this year, he was known for two things: Being the longest-tenured coach in the NFL, and being the guy who coached the team who performed the "Music City Miracle." Now, he's got a 10-0 team...that's pretty impressive. He's the coach of the year, no doubt about it. This win also keeps in tact my dream matchup of Daunte Culpepper and the winless Lions against the unbeaten Titans on Thanksgiving. I want it!
I'm not going to lie, I took Philly in the Eliminator this week (didn't pick the first two weeks, but reeled of eight in a row...while not doing the whole thing, still a fairly impressive mark). First, the idea that they allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard!) to take them to overtime is ludacrous. Then, to not be able to put up anything in an additional fifteen minutes is downright embarassing...and they almost lost if Shayne Graham put that kick through in the OT! What?! Anyway, I'm not sure if I'm out yet (they let me pick next week...I took Pittsburgh over...guess who?...the Bungles!), but if I am...dude, what a sucky way to go down.
Speaking of the Steelers and sucky ways to go down, you may never see a finish like that ever again. There is a firestorm of controversy, and none of the rumblings are coming from either team. Seriously, how do you botch that call at the end? The play went to replay for God sakes. How do you botch that? They ruled that the replay showed that it was a touchdown, and then they reversed the call anyway? I was one of the fortunate ones to not be affected by the outcome, but honestly, the NFL needs to do something about this. First of all, the refs acknowledged they messed it up...yeah, thanks for the update, but here's the thing: the whistle never blew, and there was no time left, meaning the NFL can go back and credit the Steelers with a touchdown and call the score 17-10. If they don't do that, then basically, they are showing that they have no authority over the refs, which, at last check, they do. Not that I condone gambling to anyone, but seriously, if you had a three-team parlay, and gave the five points, this has to be one of the most crushing defeats in gambling history. It was a garbage TD...but it was a touchdown. They called it a touchdown on the field...twice! NFL referees have shown a certain...I don't know...incompetence this season especially, going back to the Hochuli call in the Broncos/Chargers game (another last-minute call where replay was used...ineffectively, but still used). So that's two Chargers games that have been botched where the spread was affected directly by a botched call at the end of the game (San Diego/Denver was a pick 'em). Not throwing any accusations or conspiracy theories out there...just an interesting coincidence...and hopefully that's all it is.
Tonight's game between Cleveland and Buffalo is much like the Dallas/Washington game yesterday...two teams at the crossroads of their seasons. Say what you will about Cleveland, but they still have a shot, albeit an outside one, of getting back to playoff relevance. The Bills have looked terrible lately, but have a primetime game at the Ralph in an attempt to get back in the division hunt thanks to what happened Thursday (you're welcome). I'm kind of fascinated by this game.
Lastly, Dallas/Washington...what a disappointment for the 'Skins. Playing at home, they got outplayed for the second week in a row (Pittsburgh), and now find themselves going in reverse while the G-Men (the best team in the NFL, not just the NFC) keep winning, and the Cowboys, with Romo back behind center, may have found new life in that win. Plus, while he was limited in action, they did have Clinton Portis run 15 times, and Deangelo Hall got his first INT in DC (although he was burned by TO on the play). A total unwillingness to go deep last night was one of the things that was puzzling to me. The Cowboys have been ravaged by injuries in their secondary, and yet they were content to dump the ball in the intermediate range...I don't get that. Also, Marion Barber just wore down that defense. They could not stop him at all, and it kept the defense on the field for that much longer. Tough loss for them.
Fav Five MVP Candidates:
- Brett Favre, QB, New York Jets
- Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona
- Jay Cutler, QB, Denver
- Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants
- Clinton Portis, RB, Washington