Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are Interleague Rivalries Good for Baseball?

Simple question. Should baseball blindly rotate the interleague matchups each year, or should they work around the same home and home matchups year to year? Personally, I like interleague rivalries. It adds something to it for me. I’d like a system where I could watch the Dodgers and Angels play a home and home series against each other every year in something other than the spring training Freeway Series. Take a look at these primary interleague matchups:

Anaheim vs. LA (yeah, those not familiar with me, I never refer to the Angels as LA)
Tampa Bay vs. Florida
Boston vs. Atlanta
Chicago WS vs. Chicago Cubs
NY Yankees vs. NY Mets
Texas vs. Houston
Baltimore vs. Washington
Detroit vs. Pittsburgh
Minnesota vs. Milwaukee
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati
Toronto vs. Philadelphia
Kansas City vs. St. Louis
Oakland vs. San Francisco
Seattle vs. San Diego
Colorado and Arizona are left out and can play each other a couple more times.

Wouldn’t it add something a little extra to the game if we could count on these matchups every year? Some are already considered rivalries, but you’ve got to think that others would develop with consistent matchups.

My top 5?
1) Anaheim vs. LA (admittedly biased) (who could forget Chan Ho Park nearly karate kicking Tim Belcher, a former Dodger?)
2) NY Yankees vs. NY Mets (Clemens/Piazza)
3) Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs (Michael Bennett going facial on AJ Pierzynski; loved it!)
4) Kansas City vs. St. Louis (Don Denkinger’s call in the 1985 World Series)
5) Oakland vs. San Francisco (the earthquake of the 1989 World Series)

Tampa Bay vs. Florida (this one needs a few years)
Toronto vs. Philadelphia (I loved the 1993 World Series)

Want to see these annually?
Got any other favorites?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Michael Vick - Is He Worth It?

Ah, Michael Vick. There may not be a more controversial name in sports. The convicted felon was released from prison after nearly two years and will spend the next two months under home confinement. He’s permitted to leave the residence for work purposes, where he will earn $10 an hour doing construction work. Quite a fall from grace for a player who, at one time, was the NFL’s highest paid player with a $130 million contract. Now he’s bankrupt, and in a couple months you can bet your bottom dollar that he'll be in front of the Commissioner petitioning for his reinstatement.

Maybe it’s just the cynic in me, but I’m far from eager to give this ex-con a shot at once again being a millionaire. I won’t rehash the brutality and senselessness of the act in which he was involved because that’s been talked about at length. What is a big deal to me is that he had no problem lying about his involvement to his two employers, Falcons President Arthur Blank and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. To me that says everything about a person’s character. He obviously felt that he was smarter than the system and that he could get away with the crimes he committed. Then when he saw the writing on the wall, all of a sudden he was remorseful. Far more convenient than genuine in this guy's opinion.

Here are Vick’s comments prior to serving out his time in prison:

“Speaking softly and sounding neither rehearsed nor overly emotional, Vick stood at a hotel lectern and apologized to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Falcons and "to all the young kids out there for my immature acts."

"I offer my deepest apologies to everybody out there in the world who was affected by this whole situation," he said. "And if I'm more disappointed with myself than anything, it's because of all the young people, young kids, that I've let down, who look at Michael Vick as a role model.

"And to have to go through this and put myself in this situation . . . I hope every young kid out there in the world watching this interview right now who's been following the case will use me as an example to using better judgment and making better decisions."

He added: "I will redeem myself. I have to."

Again, I’m a cynic, but I very very very rarely put anything into statements like these. Show of hands for those who really think he sat down at a table with pen and paper and wrote this out himself? Nope, that’s where agents and PR firms come in. Why should anyone put one ounce of faith in that scripted apology?

I believe Michael Vick would still be committing the same sick crimes had he not be caught. IMO, he wasn’t sorry for what he did; just sorry he got caught. Isn’t that human nature? Hell, if he really felt bad about what he did to those animals and how his actions would let down those around him, wouldn’t you think that would be enough to dissuade him from committing those heinous crimes? Why did it take him getting thrown in prison for the apologies and remorseful speech to emerge? He obviously knew what he was doing was wrong but continued doing it anyways. Two years, five years, ten years later, is that someone you really want representing your company? Are we really to think he’s changed? Hopefully his dumb ass won’t get involved with anything like that again, but has less than two years in confinement really changed this guy’s mentality?

Once his home confinement period ends, he’ll undoubtedly approach the commissioner’s office seeking reinstatement to the league. I’m sure there will be plenty of “I’m sorry” and “I used bad judgment” statements, but how believable is it? Who’s going to want that PR plague on their team?
First, let’s look at the talent that is Michael Vick. He's a RB at the QB position who in 6 years couldn't establish himself as a leader or competent NFL passer.

'06 (his sixth and last year in the league):
24th in completions
31st out of 32 in completion % (outdid only Vince Young)
28th in passing yards per game

He was an overpaid Wildcat QB before the Wildcat was in vogue. So aside from the fact that he's horribly inaccurate, can't read progressions or coverages, and has absolutely no pocket presence, he's a great QB.

Assuming someone still thinks he can play QB or at least run with the ball in his hands from that position, who would want him? He could be a 3rd stringer on a lot of teams, but for argument's sake, let's assume that whoever brings him in plans on putting him on the field. Wouldn't that make sense? Is a team going to take a ton of bad publicity just to have a guy hold a clipboard on the sidelines? Someone please find me a team whose QB situation is bad enough to bring in that PR nightmare.

New England (Brady), Indianapolis (Manning), San Diego (Rivers), Pittsburgh (Roethlisberger), and Cincinnati (Palmer) are set.

Miami (Henne), NY Jets (Sanchez), Baltimore (Flacco), Cleveland (Quinn), Kansas City (Cassel), and Oakland (Russell) all have young QBs in need of development.

Tennessee already has one QB who can't pass on their bench earning plenty of money.
That leaves Buffalo, Houston, Jacksonville, and Denver.

Dallas (Romo), NY Giants (Manning), Chicago (Cutler), Green Bay (Rodgers), and New Orleans (Brees) are set.

Detroit (Stafford), Atlanta (Ryan), and Tampa Bay (Freeman) have young QBs in need of development.
Philadelphia has McNabb, and if that saga again goes south, you'd think Kevin Kolb would still be in their plans. Vick seems like a horrible fit for that team anyways. Think that Philly crowd might be a little ruthless?

Minnesota just traded for Sage Rosenfels and is courting the immortal Brett Favre because they've grown tired of the QB of their own who can't pass.

Kurt Warner isn't a spring chicken, but you'd think they'd go with Matt Leinart or Neil Lomax before they experimented with having Vick try to complete passes to Fitzgerald and Boldin.
That leaves Washington, Carolina, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The Candidates
So in all, that would leave Buffalo, Houston, Jacksonville, Denver, Washington, Carolina, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Seattle as the teams with the "most unsettled" QB situations. Let's look further.

Even if they decided to part ways with David Garrard (who has 5 years left on his deal), is Vick going to help Jacksonville's attendance woes?

Denver just acquired Kyle Orton (and Chris Simms, yes I included him) and is high on the guy. Would there be room for Vick? Hasn't their new regime suffered enough of a PR hit this offseason with the way they handled the Cutler situation?

Carolina just gave Jake Delhomme (arguably, maybe) the worst QB contract in the league. Do they need to make that worse by bringing in Vick? I'd like to see it happen; simply to watch what goes down when he run his mouth to Steve Smith.

Where do you think Vick falls in with Mike Singletary's "cannot play with them, cannot win with them, cannot coach with them, can't do it." philosophy?

Houston is committed to Matt Schaub for four more years, and St. Louis would take a massive cap hit for dealing/cutting Marc Bulger anytime soon.

Is Vick the answer to Buffalo's woes? He and Terrell Owens beating each other senseless (insert joke here) is something I might pay to see, but how likely is that scenario? Is it time to give up on Trent Edwards? Personally, I think that would be a really bad idea. I expect a big step forward for him (17-20 TD) this season.

Seattle's QB situation is shaky. Matt Hasselbeck has two years left on his contract and is recovering from a back issue. They also have Seneca Wallace who is steady, yet unspectacular in a backup role. Still, would Vick be their first, second, or even fifth option if they were to be in the market for another QB? Paul Allen isn’t going to piss off half of Seattle with a move like that. Seattle is a big dog-lovers city; no kidding. Jim Mora and Greg Knapp, both former Vick coaches in Atlanta, would be taking a huge step backwards in going from a guy like Hasselbeck to Vick. I’m guessing been there, done that, and thanks but no thanks.

That leaves, yep you guessed it, Washington. I didn't write this with the intent of having the Skins as the only option, but that's what it looks like from my perspective. Wouldn't that be just up Dan Snyder's alley? Jason Campbell is having a hell of a time getting any love in Washington, and Todd Collins doesn't exactly inspire Super Bowl dreams. They do still have Colt Brennan, but would Snyder, a guy who could give a rat's ass about bad PR, pass up a chance like this?

Then there are the supporters (or anti-haters) who take the stance that since Vick has served his time, he should be permitted to return to what he does for a living. Playing professional sports for a living is a privilege, not a right. I'm not saying he should be banned from the sport, but the league shouldn't be obligated to reinstate him either. He has a very limited market of employers, and if that market should decide that he's not what they're looking for, then maybe that construction work becomes a full time gig.

This may not be the situation that sparks it, but how much longer are fans, franchises, and sports in general going to keep putting up with the BS that these million dollar athletes get themselves into time after time after time? If it’s not steroids or other drugs, it’s DUI’s, domestic abuse, shooting others (or themselves) in clubs, getting 9 different women pregnant, or displaying basic behavior that would be intolerable in most avenues of employment. Sadly it won’t change, at least during my lifetime. Money is what makes the world go round, and as long as you can put butts in the seats (no, I'm not talking to you Anthony Mix), teams will always find it in their hearts, er pocketbooks to give athletes chance after chance after chance.

What’s the Endgame?
If he does play in ’09 and it’s not for the Redskins, then I’d say it would be for Al Davis’ Raiders. JaMarcus Russell is his QB, but you’ve got to think he’d find a way to get a guy with Vick’s athleticism on the field.

If I was Roger Goodell, I’d put Michael Vick’s sincerity to the test. I’d have him sit on the sidelines for the ’09 season and see if he’s humble, tough, and committed enough to make it through the year unscathed. Then if everything’s peachy a year from now, let him petition for reinstatement. If he’s reinstated and someone wants him, fine. I’d just like to see if he can live life as a normal human being for a year. If he can’t, then football obviously isn’t that important to the man.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

MLB '09 So Far - The Ugly

Yesterday, we had the good. Today we skip the bad and go straight to the ugly.

C – Jason Kendall (Brewers)
Every year it amazes me that this guy still has a job. He hasn’t hit .250 since ’06 and is sporting a sorry .234 average and zero HR total so far in ’06. He’s not that good of a defensive catcher.
(Worth mentioning – Dioner Navarro (Rays) – Good thing he is a solid game caller because he’s hitting 27 points lower than he weighs and has an 18-1 strikeout to walk ratio.)

1B – Mark Teixeira (Yankees) & Lance Berkman (Astros)
It’s hard to decide between these two sorry sluggers, so they both get the honor. Teixeira is hitting a little closer to .200 (.198 vs. 184), and while they both have 7 homers, they’re huge $20 million and $14.5 million disappointments.

2B – Dan Uggla (Marlins)
This one isn’t too tough. A strong BA has never been his forte, so while his .189 is bad enough on its own, his 4 homers are well behind his usual 30. If it weren’t for the free swinging Ricky Weeks, Uggla would have the most strikeouts at the position too.
(Worth mentioning – Howie Kendrick (Angels) – He’s hitting homers, but his .245 BA and .272 OBP are far below his usual numbers. If he can finally play more than 92 games, maybe he turns it around.)

SS – Jimmy Rollins (Phillies)
What the hell happened to him? Rollins, behind his .195/.231/.268 split and meager 7 extra base hits and 9 RBI, is probably the most disappointing player in the game. It might help if he were at least stealing bases, but he’s only got one on the year. Great use of $8.5 million he’s been so far this year.
(Worth mentioning – Alexei Ramirez (White Sox) – He’s following up an impressive rookie campaign with a shoddy .198 BA and barely gets on base more than Rollins. With only one homer, he’s got quite a ways to go to top last year’s 21.)

3B – Adrian Beltre (Mariners)
It’s not right, but the Dodger in me takes a bit of delight in watching him struggle. Beltre’s an old 30 and his 11 years of big league experience might be catching up on him. He’s on pace for the lowest HR total and the sixth 100 strikeout season of his career.
(Worth mentioning – Kevin Kouzmanoff (Padres) – I wouldn’t care if the kid didn’t still have a ton of potential. Hitting .222 with only 1 homer and 8 RBI isn’t helping him realize it. This is a possible .325/25/100 hitter here.)

LF – Matt Holliday (A’s)
He hasn’t been quite the asset Billy Beane was hoping for. Holliday’s got quite a bit of improving to do if Beane’s going to be able to flip him for anything at the trade deadline. He could still come close to matching his power totals, even in spacious Coliseum, but his .226 BA is a full 100 points below what he’s used to. The dip in production was expected once he quit playing half his games at Coors Field, but I think the A’s expected a bit more for $13.5 million.
(Worth mentioning – Conor Jackson (Diamondbacks) & Carlos Guillen (Tigers) – Both are brutally bad. Guillen’s having the worst offensive year of his career, hitting .200 without a homer, and Jackson is hitting a full 31 points under his weight (.184) and has only one homer.)

CF – BJ Upton (Rays)
Ok, so maybe Jimmy Rollins hasn’t had the worst year so far. Upton is a guy expected to explode talent-wise any year now, but apparently ’09 ain’t the year. You know things aren’t going well when BJ Upton is hitting 18 points below his weight (.167). It’s hard to imagine the Rays making it too far if he doesn’t get on base more than 28% of the time and keeps striking out twice as many times as he gets a hit.
(Worth mentioning – Grady Sizemore (Indians) – Someone forgot to tell Grady that this was the year he was supposed to reach 40-40. Well, he’s nearly at 40 strikeouts and is on pace for a disgusting 186. A .227 BA and OBP barely over .300 isn’t going to help the Indians much.)

RF – Milton Bradley (Cubs)
Yeah, can’t say I regret that Bradley-Ethier trade. It was a steal when it went down, and now it’s just laughable. Doesn’t take any of the sting out of the DeShields-Pedro blunder, but that’s epic failure for another day. When Bradley’s not pissed off at the world and busy blaming everything on everyone else, he’s piling up a whopping .179/1/4 split. Yeah, that’s a .179 BA, 1 homer, and 4 RBI. I’m sure they couldn’t have found a minor league to do that at 10% the price right? What a wonderful use of $7 million. I very rarely wish ill will on anyone, but this is one guy I wouldn’t mind seeing a blimp fall on.
(Worth mentioning – Magglio Ordonez (Tigers) – I know he’s 35, but dude’s got only 3 extra base hits in 108 AB. His .241 BA is 70 points off his career average, and he’s on pace to strike out more than 100 times for the first time in his career.)

Starting Pitcher – Josh Beckett (Red Sox)
His recent performance against the Rays wasn’t great, but it did help his numbers. Beckett’s off to a 3-2 start with a 6.42 ERA and has struggled in each of his outings since his season debut against the Rays. Since then, he’s given up at least 3 earned runs a contest, hasn’t pitched more than 6 innings, and had three starts in a row where he surrendered 10 hits. Has he lost it? Is his arm tired?
(Worth mentioning – Gavin Floyd (White Sox) – He seemed to be getting it together last year with 17 wins, an ERA under 4, and a major career high of 145 K’s. This year, despite his 2 wins, he’s pitched 6 innings or less in five of seven starts, and has give up at least 6 runs in three of those starts. He’s not going to pitch any deeper in games if he keeps up giving hits and walks at this rate.)

Closer – Joel Hanrahan (Nationals)
Their whole bullpen has been garbage, but Hanrahan’s been especially sucky. He’s saved as many games as he’s blown (3) and has given up 9 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings.
(Worth mentioning – Brad Lidge (Phillies) – His ERA (8.53) is more than double his save total (4), and he’s given up a stunning 12 runs in 12 1/3 innings. Are we back to the “old” Brad Lidge again?)

That's a LOT of money going to waste. Can you field a poorer performing team?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Did Manny Lose His Mojo?

I was reading an article in the LA Times by Bill Shaikin that talks about how Manny had planned to appeal his suspension. That part of the article was a lot of fluff and political-speak, but I found the last part of it pretty interesting/telling.

Although anti-doping experts have said HCG is commonly used to replenish testosterone after a cycle of steroids, sources close to Ramirez have suggested the HCG was prescribed to combat issues surrounding sexual performance.

Ramirez is 36. Among men ages 30-39, about 2% have significantly low levels of testosterone, said Dr. Glenn Braunstein, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Braunstein, an expert in reproductive endocrinology, said such patients generally would be treated with testosterone, not with HCG. "There's no reason to use it in healthy male adults," he said.

In rare cases, he said, HCG could be prescribed. In the case of a healthy male in Ramirez's age group, he said, the odds of such treatment would be less than 1 in 1,000.

1 in 1,000 huh? Those are about the odds of Manny and his camp telling the truth. What do the doctors know? Been lied to enough yet baseball fans?

MLB '09 So Far - The Good

We're about 20% of the way through the baseball season, and I figured it would be a decent time to see who's doing what so far. We'll start with "the good" today. Here are the guys I think have had the most impressive '09 so far, by position (numbers prior to Monday's action):

C – Victor Martinez (Indians)
Sure he splits time between catcher and first base, but he has logged 65 AB so far behind the plate. Overall, he’s hitting .376 6/19 with an impressive .456 OBP. His numbers are pretty even across the board at both positions, but his BA “drops” to .369 as a catcher.
(Worth mentioning – Kurt Suzuki (A’s) – His 11 doubles leads all ML catchers.)

1B – Albert Pujols (Cardinals)

This one is pretty close, but I’ve got to go with the best hitter in the game. He’s the most dangerous AB in the baseball, every pitcher knows it, yet he’s still second in the game with 12 homers. (At 1B) He’s tops in runs scored (by 9), first in RBI, and has a whopping 5 steals already.
(Worth mentioning – Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox) – Before going out with oblique and back issues, Youkilis compiled .393/.505/.719 (BA/OBP/SLG) numbers which are tops in each category.)

2B – Aaron Hill (Blue Jays)

He came into the year a bit underrated IMO, but he’s shed that label for good. After missing most of last year recovering from a pretty rough concussion, Hill leads all second basemen with a .353 BA and is third in homers (8). Although this year’s numbers don’t show it, he’s a fine fielder as well. He’s a big reason the Blue Jays lead the AL in wins.
(Worth mentioning – Ian Kinzler (Rangers) – He started off blazing but has only 2 homers and 8 RBI so far in May. Still, he’s second in homers, RBI, and steals.)

SS – Hanley Ramirez (Marlins)

It’s a two man race here, and Ramirez comes out on top. His .348/.421/.598 split along with 6 homers and 19 RBI are very impressive numbers for one of the game’s best youngsters. I guess he doesn’t mind hitting third. He may not see 50 steals this year, but he’ll hit well over .300 and smash his career RBI high (81).
(Worth mentioning – Jason Bartlett (Rays) – He’s the only SS with a higher BA (.351) and is an impressive bottom of the order catalyst for the Rays.)

3B – Evan Longoria (Rays)

No contest. The guy has a .358/.410/.748 split (the latter blasting the rest of the field by at least .150). Add in his 11 homers and 44 RBI which dwarf the rest of the field, and you’re looking at the future AL MVP (IMO). I think he wins it running away this year.
(Worth mentioning – Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) – He’s riding a solid 28 game hitting streak and is well on the way to smashing his career power and average numbers.)

LF – Ryan Braun (Brewers)

You lose points when you’re suspended for cheating, so sorry Manram. Braun’s numbers are just as impressive as Ramirez’s anyways, with a .345/.463/.627 split. He also has two more homers (8 vs. 6) and 8 more RBI (28 vs. 20). Imagine how good he’d be if he had a decent BB/K ratio.
(Worth mentioning – Carl Crawford (Rays) – His 22 steals lead the majors by 7 (a real lost art of the game if you ask me); he’ll put up 100 this year if he feels like it. Getting on base nearly 40% of the time helps.)

CF – Adam Jones (Orioles)

He’s tied for the ML lead in runs scored (33) with his teammate, Nick Markaikis, and has taken his game to a level a lot of people thought he could reach. It’s still early, but a .358 BA at the age of 23 is something to keep your eyes on. I smell perennial All Star. Jones is in a great spot in the O’s lineup, hitting between Brian Roberts and Markaikis. I seriously think he’ll be a 30-30 guy in a year. That .358 BA will be tough to maintain, but he’s off to a great start.
(Worth mentioning – Carlos Beltran (Mets) – He’s scored 14 less times than Jones, but a .371 BA and .463 OBP are hard to ignore. That and his 6 homers and 24 RBI tell me he’s adapting quite well to Citi Field.)

RF – Nick Markaikis (Orioles)

Surprised? He leads all RF in RBI with 30 and his .352 BA has given him a comfortable lead in that category. He’s another young (25) Oriole slugger who didn’t quite make the leap many expected last season. Though like Zimmerman, Markaikis is well on his way to setting career highs this year. Now, if only the Orioles didn’t have the AL’s 3rd worst ERA (starters and bullpen well over 5), 2nd fewest quality starts (11; KC has 18), and worst BA against (.294), they might not be in the AL East’s cellar.
(Worth mentioning – Justin Upton (Diamondbacks) – He might not be a popular pick, but after a .250 April BA, Upton’s hitting over .400 and getting on base literally half the time in the month of May. I expected a big year from him, and he’s definitely getting on track.)

Starting Pitcher – Zack Greinke (Royals)

It took a 1-0 loss against the Angels to break up his undefeated (6-0) start. He was expected to take it up a notch this year, but no one expected him to jump out to a 0.51 ERA in his first 7 starts. That’s nuts. He seems like a lock to top his career high of 13 wins, could make a serious run at 25 if he keeps this up, and has early dibs on the 1st inning of the All Star game.
(Worth mentioning – Johan Santana (Mets) – Prior to Monday’s game, all 6 of Santana’s previous starts on the season were 1 run contests, with the Mets never scoring any more than 3. He’s 4-1, but with a little support, he would have numbers approaching Grienke’s fabulous start.)

Closer – Frank Francisco (Rangers)

He’s 9 for 9 in save chances and has yet to give up a run on the year. That’s quite an accomplishment on its own, but it means even more when you consider he’s pitched half of those innings in Arlington. Those numbers should come back to earth a bit, but no one can argue with his start. They’ll need him to maintain if they want to continue leading the AL West.
(Worth mentioning – Jonathan Broxton (Dodgers) – Gotta mention Johnny Double D. Dude throws 100 mph and doesn’t mind telling you it’s coming. He has 8 saves and one slip up on the year and is far and away the leader in strikeouts with 27.)

How would that lineup look?

1) Hanley Ramirez, SS
2) Adam Jones, CF
3) Albert Pujols, 1B
4) Evan Longoria, 3B
5) Ryan Braun, LF
6) Nick Markaikis, RF
7) Victor Martinez, C
8) Aaron Hill, 2B

I think that 8 could win a few games. Got a better lineup?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Baseball's Latest Black Eye

So Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. Supposedly, he was taking hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a female fertility drug taken by steroid users when coming off a cycle.

Ramirez is saying that he was given medication from his doctor for a personal issue and denies taking “steroids”. Well, in my world if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s a stinkin’ duck.

So Manny’s not eligible to return until July 3 and will lose over $7 million in salary during his suspension. Yes, I’m a disappointed Dodger fan, but I won’t rant that they need to dump the guy. Why? First, there’s absolutely no chance it’s going to happen. Second, I (like many other sports fans) have become pretty numb to the steroid issue. I now expect things like this. Baseball’s become the joke of the sports world with all the bad publicity surrounding this issue. Let’s look at some numbers:

Post-Hank Aaron, here are the top 15 home run hitters in the game:
(1) Barry Bonds
(2) Ken Griffey Jr
(3) Sammy Sosa
(4) Mark McGwire
(5) Rafael Palmeiro
(6) Reggie Jackson
(7) Alex Rodriguez
(8) Mike Schmidt
(9) Jim Thome
(10) Manny Ramirez
(11) Frank Thomas
(12) Eddie Murray
(13) Gary Sheffield
(14) Fred McGriff
(15) Carlos Delgado

Nearly half of the top 15 players have been linked to steroids. How many times are we as fans going to get burned? How much longer will fans continue to spend hundreds of dollars at the ballpark knowing that many of the game’s top stars (who knows how many) are cheating the system; cheating each other; cheating the fans; cheating the history of the game?

Bonds was basically blackballed by the league. Sure he was over 40 following the ’07 season, but the guy hit 28 home runs and had a .480 OBP in his last year. He couldn’t have DH’d for someone in ‘08?

Sammy Sosa forgot how to speak English real quick when he was under the spotlight. He also looked noticeably smaller in his stints with Baltimore and Texas. Check this out: 40, 36, 66, 63, 50, 64, 49, 40, 35, 14, 21. Those are his home run totals from ’96 to ’07 (sat out ’06). Quite an odd drop off there in ’05. Two years separated from 35 homers, the best offer he could get for ‘06 was a minor league deal by the Nationals.

Mark McGwire doesn’t want to talk about the past. People wanted to blow off Jose Canseco's claims at first, but he doesn't look like such an idiot now. If you don't want to believe Canseco, what about Mark's brother Jay?

Rafael Palmeiro likes to demonstratively deny his use of steroids. 5 months later he was suspended for steroid use.

Gary Sheffield “unknowingly” used a steroid cream in ’02. Yeah, “unknowingly” and only in ’02, gotcha.

Then you’ve got Rodriguez and Ramirez.

This doesn’t even include Roger Clemens and all his drama. Between these last three guys, you’ve got the two best right hand hitters of our time and arguably the most dominant right hand pitcher of our time. What other sport’s top stars have been embroiled in such scandal?

So sure I’m disappointed as a Dodger/baseball fan, but I can’t say I’m that upset. Again, it’s something I’ve gotten used to as a baseball fan. Another unfortunate element of the equation is how all will be forgotten for many fans if either Manny or A-Rod is able to lead their team to a World Series title. I guess rules and responsibilities matter only when things don’t go well.

Now until July 3, the Dodgers will have to find a way to stay on top of the NL Weak without their best player. Some can’t wait for him to return, some can’t wait for him to retire, and some can’t wait for the game of baseball they once knew to show its head again. The accomplishments of guys like Harold Baines, Robin Yount, Dale Murphy, Andre Dawson, Joe Carter, Ryne Sandberg, Tim Raines, and Paul Molitor are looking better and better every day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Franchise Quarterbacks: Allen/Gruden vs. Dominik/Morris

How fortunate Raheem Morris must feel for being able to draft his personal mancrush, Josh Freeman (“an athletic, big, giant human”), in his first draft as head coach. The new regime has bought themselves (at least they think) a few years to see if the Bucs finally have the franchise QB the organization has never produced. Some professionals disappoint me in taking the stance that a big reason Gruden was fired was his inability to develop a franchise QB. If Morris and Dominik were able to attempt to address this in their first draft, what was Gruden’s and Allen’s problem? Why didn’t they ever get a young franchise QB? Well…

Let’s take a detailed look at just what franchise QB options the Gruden/Allen regime “missed out on” during their time at One Buc Place:

Free Agents / Trades:
Tony Banks (Houston)
Charlie Batch (Pittsburgh; 1 yr, $525,000)
Jeff Blake (Baltimore)
Drew Bledsoe (traded from New England to Buffalo for 1st)
Chris Chandler (Chicago)
Trent Dilfer (Seattle)
Jay Fiedler (Miami)
Gus Frerrotte (Cincinnati)
Shane Matthews (Washington)
Jim Miller (Chicago)
Rick Mirer (Oakland)
Rodney Peete (Carolina)
Mark Rypien (Seattle)

Picks traded for Gruden:
1st = Daniel Graham (#21; pick to New England via Oakland)
2nd = Langston Walker (#53)

QB’s taken in the draft:
David Carr (#1, Houston)
Joey Harrington (#3, Detroit)
Patrick Ramsey (#32, Washington)
Josh McCown (#81, Arizona)

Free Agents:
Charlie Batch (Pittsburgh)
Steve Beuerlein (Denver)
Jeff Blake (Arizona)
Todd Collins (Kansas City)
Scott Covington (STL)
Eric Crouch (Green Bay)
Woody Dantzler (Atlanta)
Jake Delhomme (Carolina)
Koy Detmer (Philadelphia)
Ty Detmer (Detroit)
Jim Druckenmiller (Indianapolis)
Gus Frerrotte (Minnesota)
Jason Garrett (NY Giants)
Trent Green (Kansas City; 7 years, $50 million)
Brian Griese (Miami; 2 years, $7.5 million)
Doug Johnson (Atlanta)
Rob Johnson (Washington)
Danny Kanell (Denver)
Cleo Lemon (San Diego)
Jamie Martin (NY Jets)
Rick Mirer (Oakland)
Neil O’Donnell (Tennessee)
Rodney Peete (Carolina)
Jake Plummer (Denver)
Kordell Stewart (Chicago)

Pick traded for Gruden:
1st = Tyler Brayton (#32)

QB’s taken in the draft:
Carson Palmer (#1, Cincinnati)
Kyle Boller (#19, Baltimore)
Rex Grossman (#22, Chicago)
Dave Ragone (#88, Houston)

Bucs signed Brian Griese to a 3 year deal.

Free Agents / Trades:
Steve Beuerlein (Carolina)
Jeff Blake (Philadelphia)
Mark Brunell (traded to Washington for 3rd round pick)
Mark Bulger (RFA, signed 4 year deal with Rams)
Quincy Carter (NY Jets)
Chris Chandler (St. Louis)
Kerry Collins (Oakland; 3 years, $12 million)
Tim Couch (Green Bay)
Ty Detmer (Atlanta)
AJ Feeley (Miami)
Doug Flutie (San Diego)
Jeff Garcia (Cleveland)
Drew Henson (traded to Dallas for 3rd round pick)
Brock Huard (Seattle)
Doug Johnson (Jacksonville)
Shaun King (Arizona; 3 years)
Jon Kitna (Cincinnati)
Tommy Maddox (Pittsburgh)
Rick Mirer (Detroit)
Kordell Stewart (Baltimore)
Vinny Testaverde (Dallas)
Billy Volek (Tennessee)
Kurt Warner (NY Giants; 2 years, $3.8 million)

Pick traded for Gruden:
2nd = Jake Grove (#45)

Bucs picks:
#15 overall - Michael Clayton
#79 overall - Marquis Cooper

QB’s taken in the draft:
Eli Manning (#1, San Diego)
Philip Rivers (#4, NY Giants)
Ben Roethlisberger (#11, Pittsburgh)
JP Losman (#22, Buffalo)
Matt Schaub (#90, Atlanta)

Free Agents:
Matt Hasselbeck (Seattle; re-signed for 6 years, $47 million with a $16 million signing bonus)
Drew Brees (San Diego; franchise player)
Drew Bledsoe (Dallas)
Jeff Garcia (Detroit)
Kelly Holcomb (Buffalo)
Jay Fiedler (NY Jets)
Gus Frerotte (Miami)
Mike McMahon (Philadelphia)
Charlie Batch (Pittsburgh)
Josh McCown (Arizona)
Jeff Blake (Chicago)
Jim Miller (NY Giants)
Doug Johnson (Cleveland)
Kordell Stewart (Baltimore)
Dough Flutie (New England)

Bucs picks:
#5 overall – Cadillac Williams
#36 overall – Barrett Ruud
#71 overall – Alex Smith
#91 overall – Chris Colmer

QB’s taken in the draft:
Alex Smith (#1, San Francisco)
Aaron Rodgers (#24, Green Bay)
Jason Campbell (#25, Washington)
Charlie Frye (#67, Cleveland)
David Greene (#85, Seattle)

Bucs signed Jay Fiedler

Free Agents:
Drew Brees (New Orleans; 6 years, $60 million)
Aaron Brooks (Oakland)
Brian Griese (Chicago)
Kerry Collins (Tennessee)
Jon Kitna (Detroit)
Josh McCown (Detroit)
Charlie Batch (Pittsburgh)
Gus Frerotte (St. Louis)
Mike McMahon (Minnesota)
Anthony Wright (Cincinnati)
Dave Ragone (Houston)
Ken Dorsey (San Francisco)
Damon Huard (Kansas City)

Bucs picks:
#23 overall – Davin Joseph
#59 overall – Jeremy Trueblood
#90 overall – Maurice Stovall
#122 overall – Alan Zemaitis

QB’s taken in the draft:
Vince Young (#3, Tennessee)
Matt Leinart (#10, Arizona)
Jay Cutler (#11, Denver)
Kellen Clemens (#49, NY Jets)
Tarvaris Jackson (#64, Minnesota)
Charlie Whitehurst (#81, San Diego)
Brodie Croyle (#85, Kansas City)

Bucs signed Jeff Garcia

Free agents:
Byron Leftwich (Atlanta)
David Carr (Carolina)
Damon Huard (Kansas City)
Joey Harrington (Atlanta)
Anthony Wright (NY Giants)
Marques Tuiasosopo (NY Jets)
John Navarre (Indianapolis)
Jim Sorgi (Indianapolis)
Kerry Collins (Tennessee)
Brad Johnson (Dallas; 3 years, $7.5 million)

Bucs picks:
#4 overall – Gaines Adams
#35 overall – Aaron Sears
#64 overall – Sabby Piscitelli
#68 overall – Quincy Black
#106 overall – Tanard Jackson

QB’s taken in the draft:
JaMarcus Russell (#1, Oakland)
Brady Quinn (#22, Cleveland)
Kevin Kolb (#36, Philadelphia)
John Beck (#40, Miami)
Drew Stanton (#43, Detroit)
Trent Edwards (#92, Buffalo)
Isaiah Stanback (#103, Dallas)
Jeff Rowe (#151, Cincinnati)

Free agents:
Byron Leftwich (Pittsburgh)
Daunte Culpepper (Detroit)
Cleo Lemon (Jacksonville)
Todd Collins (Washington)
Trent Green (St. Louis)
Chris Redman (Atlanta)

Bucs picks:
#20 overall – Aqib Talib
#58 overall – Dexter Jackson
#83 overall – Jeremy Zuttah
#115 overall – Dre Moore
#160 overall – Josh Johnson

QB’s taken in the draft:
Matt Ryan (#3, Atlanta)
Joe Flacco (#18, Baltimore)
Brian Brohm (#56, Green Bay)
Chad Henne (#57, Miami)
Kevin O’Connell (#94, New England)
John David Booty (#137, Minnesota)
Dennis Dixon (#156, Pittsburgh)
Erik Ainge (#162, NY Jets)
Colt Brennan (#186, Washington)
Andre Woodson (#198, NY Giants)

Just who did the Bucs miss out on? Which QB would you have taken? Drew Brees when he went to New Orleans? You need cap space to pull off a move like that. Thanks Richie!

’02 – Patrick Ramsey?
’03 – Trent Green? He wasn’t getting $50 million from the Bucs.
’04 – Kurt Warner? He was 13-22 from ’04 to ’07.
’05 – Matt Hasselbeck? He wasn’t going to leave Seattle for less $ in Tampa; again, no cap space.
’06 – Who else aside from Drew Brees? Tarvaris Jackson?
’07 – Kevin Kolb, John Beck, or Drew Stanton over Aaron Sears? No thanks.
’08 – Would Booty, Dixon, Ainge, Brennan, or Woodson have been better picks than Josh Johnson?

The only ones I see as even remote possibilities are three draftees: Matt Schaub in '04, Brady Quinn in ’07, and Brian Brohm in ’08.

Schaub - At the time, the Bucs had just signed Brian Griese to a 3 year deal, giving them Griese (29), Brad Johnson (36), and Chris Simms (24) on the roster at QB. Johnson was on his way out, but there were hopes/plans for Simms. Hindsight is nice and all, but at the time, would it have been the right move to completely give up on Simms, who is only one year older than Schaub? Schaub himself has only started 24 games in his 4 NFL seasons, has thrown for at least 10 TDs just once, and is 10-14 as a starter. Now I know all of that isn't his fault, but should we be kicking ourselves as Bucs fans? Again, the guy went with the 90th pick in the draft, so he was passed over 89 times already. I also think it's safe to say they didn't have enough to trade up for Manning, Rivers, or Roethlisberger (and that's assuming one of those teams would have even considered moving down).

Quinn - The Bucs weren’t the only team to pass on Quinn as he fell from an apparent lock to the Dolphins at #9 to the Browns at #22. The jury is still out on how successful he’ll be as a pro.

Brohm - Here's the guy I wanted the Bucs to take last year, and I wasn’t alone. Gruden also liked Brohm but was overruled in the war room. The Bucs ended up taking Aqib Talib and traded down past where Brohm was selected by the Packers to take (gulp) Dexter Jackson. Still, Brohm sat behind Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn last year.

Aside from those three (which are very iffy), who are all these QBs Allen and Gruden supposedly missed out on?

Looking at who was taken in the drafts, the Bucs are actually better off not having reached for any of the QB’s listed below near where they selected.

David Carr (#1, Houston)
Kyle Boller (#19, Baltimore)
Alex Smith (#1, San Francisco)
Vince Young (#3, Tennessee)
JaMarcus Russell (#1, Oakland)

Bottom line? I think it’s sloppy reporting/"fanning" to use the “couldn’t develop a franchise QB” card when listing faults of the Gruden/Allen regime. How far back would the Bucs have been set if they had spent such early picks on one of these guys above? Well folks, we just might find out the answer to that question with Raheem’s BFF. Again, I really hope I’m wrong.