Wednesday, December 26, 2012


When Barry Sanders played with the Lions, he was nothing short of amazing. Sanders had an impact on the city that few athletes had before him, and few will have after him. He retired as the second leading rusher in NFL history, trailing only Walter Payton. And when he retired, most sports fans wondered what he could have done had he played a few more years. Most Detroit fans wondered what he could have done with a decent offensive line. But the one exception to that line (for those who don't know about Kevin Glover, and that seems to be a lot) was Lomas Brown.

Brown was a very good lineman for Detroit. He anchored the Lions' line for eleven years, and created holes for Sanders to run through, which he did, a lot. He was hardly ever injured, missing only one game with Detroit. He made seven straight Pro Bowls at a point in his career. He was everything you want in an offensive lineman, a guy that represented your team and your city well; and then last Friday happened.

Lomas Brown blocking for the Lions photo credit:

Now Rob Parker set the bar pretty low for people (that associate with Detroit) to mess up on what they say nationally, with his comments on RGIII. But as any good competitor will do, Brown challenged him. When talking about a game against Green Bay in 1994, Lomas admitted to personally allowing quarterback Scott Mitchell to be in a position to get injured, which is exactly what happened. Mitchell broke his hand, Dave Krieg came in, rallied the team from a big deficit, and who would have thought, the Lions still lost. Then, on top of his idiocy to begin with, Lomas decided to say, "I've been out of the game since '02. I don't think that much can happen to me. Yes, America, yes, I did it." I don't feel like looking up my college notes on footnotes, so that's from the world-wide leader.

I like to take a pretty laid-back approach when writing these because I think when you mix humor with good content, your readers enjoy the piece. There is no humor in this article because it just isn't funny. Are you kidding me, Lomas Brown? Now I double checked just to be certain, and Lomas Brown did graduate from college, although you may not know it from this decision. Whether or not something can happen to him from a legal/financial standpoint, I don't know. Somehow my guess is we are going to find out soon. But throw that stuff out for a second, and consider something a lot more important than money. Brown does a lot of work with kids, whether it's through charity or coaching. Wonder what he's going to tell them about this little episode...

It's no secret Scott Mitchell wasn't liked in Detroit. He was overpaid to begin with; he didn't live up to expectations; simply put, he sucked. But as bad as someone is, you don't go out and hope he gets injured! Take Stefan Logan, for example. No person in their right mind wants Logan to get injured. You hope the coach takes him out, God yes. But hoping he gets injured? No. Give Mitchell a lot of credit through this whole situation. Lomas lobbed him a perfect alley-oop and instead of bashing Brown for his comments, perhaps the most disliked quarterback in recent memory has given everyone a reason to like him. Mitchell said to do that shows, "a blatant disrespect for the game," and he is right on the money, even if none of his throws ever were.

Scott Mitchell walking off the field after getting injured against Green Bay in 1994 photo credit:

I'll give credit to Brown for one little thing: he had the courage to speak his mind truthfully. Good for you. The same can be said about Rob Parker. They both were honest and these days that counts for something. But for everyone's benefit, keep it to yourself you idiot. You can think that. You can even say it, but say it to your wife, not to America. It sets an AWFUL example for kids who are growing up, and it sets an even worse example for those idolize YOU. It's not that difficult of a concept; think before you speak. Should I go on national television/radio and say how I actually tried to let someone get hurt? Right up there with should I actually pour my five year old cousin these shots of 151...

Sometime in the next few days, Brown will probably come out and apologize, not apologizing for his comments but for the setting in which he said them. It won't be heartfelt. He made sure of that when he clarified that what he said was absolutely correct. And he also clarified another thing for all of us. He made that question a lot more valid and a lot more mysterious. What would it have been like if Barry Sanders had a decent offensive line?

Monday, December 17, 2012


"If" is an interesting word. It normally provides a basis for completely irrelevant arguments. For example: if the Lions were really bad, they would have lost to the Cardinals yesterday. But the Lions aren't really bad, so they couldn't possibly lose to a team that had lost nine straight, and got blanked last week fifty-eight to zip. "If" only. But surprisingly, this article will not rip the honolulu blue and silver. No, we are going to give them a while to search for their competitive soul. Rather, this article will be used to make my boldest prediction yet, but only thanks to the word "if." This time though, the "if" will hinge upon events that have not happened yet, as opposed to those that have already happened. It's a little confusing, so I promise to explain it. But it makes no sense without having a base event, upon which I am going to make this prediction. That event happened last week. Welcome back, Anibal.

Mike Illitch has no fears, well baseball wise, at least. The owner dishes out money like it actually grows on trees. He may have set himself up to fail with this last one. Five years and eighty million dollars for Anibal Sanchez; mighty steep for a number four starter. But this time it makes sense. Sanchez proved down the stretch that he was indeed worth the money, if athletes can even be worth that kind of money. The problem that could arise is the contracts of the top three starters, when their contracts end. You can expect Verlander, Scherzer, and Fister to all approach/top $100 million dollars in value, with the taco bell monster probably approaching $200 million.

Anibal Sanchez inked himself a 5 yr/$80 million dollar contract. photo credit:

That's okay though. Yay for no salary cap. And when you've got the money (and Illitch clearly does), who dares to stop you? Illitch wants a winner so bad he appears willing to bankrupt himself to get it. I haven't seen his income statement, but I imagine its funds may be assigned elsewhere rather quickly.

So Sanchez is back in Detroit. The legend will continue to grow. The questions will continue to arise, many asking if Sanchez and Omar Infante are the same person. But what the Sanchez signing does for the Tigers is simple: no matter how much money Earvin "Magic" and the Dodgers plans to throw at free agents, no matter how many last minute, crazy signings their rivals across the freeway make, the Tigers are the favorite to win the World Series. Vegas's odds will likely change by the time opening day comes. But my first (way, way, way less bold) prediction is that the Tigers will have the best odds to win the whole thing. They have four All-Star caliber starters and a fifth starter with All-Star caliber stuff. I feel like a lot of people hear that term and don't know what it means, so I'll explain it (if you do know, skip down to the next paragraph). Drew Smyly's "stuff" is his pitching repertoire. And while he may not be ready just yet, his pitches have the ability to turn him into an All-Star.

So our series of "ifs" begin. "If" number one: if the Tigers make the right move in dealing Rick Porcello...

The Tigers now have the best problem in baseball: they have too many starting pitchers. You can count the teams with this problem on one finger. It doesn't happen in the big leagues except for every once in a while. That once in a while is very rare. But it's here. And now we get to sit back and watch Dave Dombrowski work his magic. There are a few options with Porcello, all of which hinge on a trade, and all of a which create our first "if." If I were Dombrowski, I would sit down Porcello, Brennan Boesch, Avisail Garcia, and Jhonny Peralta, put some ribbon around them, and send them in a gift bag to the Texas Rangers. I'd ask for Elvis Andrus in return. It may be a lot to give up. But Porcello's overrated, Boesch is...haha, and Peralta is old. He may be solid, but he's old, and an upgrade would be nice, if they can get it for the right price. Garcia is a tremendous young player, but so is Nick Castellanos, and there may only be room for one of them, anyway. Other moves concerning Porcello that would please me are acquiring either a nice young outfielder or a closer. Any of those three moves, and you can put a check next to our first "if."

"If" number two: if the Tigers starting pitchers stay healthy...

No one can question their talent. The top four for Detroit are better than any other in baseball. Don't give me the "there as good as any," because they are flat out better. Verlander is the best number one pitcher in the game. Scherzer is the best number two pitcher in the game. Fister is by far the best number three pitcher in the game. And Sanchez...well, they just spent eighty million dollars on a number four starter. He's the best number four in the game. Now the challenge is to keep them healthy, all year long. If those four stay healthy, then our second "if" is all set.

Justin Verlander's supporting cast (from left): Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez photo credit:

"If" number three: if the Tigers shore up the back end of their bullpen...

This can happen a few different ways. Bruce Rondon may be the answer. The fireballing kid could come in and be the closer, right away. Probably not going to happen without at least a few hiccups, but it's possible. More likely though, the Tigers will acquire a closer; or at least they will acquire a reliever who could take over if Rondon slips. This is the biggest need in my opinion. You could get by with Peralta, and you could get by with the outfielders you have on the roster. But Detroit needs back-end bullpen help. If they get it, well now we're cooking with fire.

That's it. Those three little things and my prediction is born. Now this is as bold a prediction as I've made. It doesn't make a lot of sense because only one of the players has accomplished the feat I think all of them will accomplish. Thank you for waiting patiently. If the Tigers make a good move with Porcello, if the starting pitchers stay healthy, and if the Tigers set the back end of their bullpen, then history will be made this year. My prediction is that the 2013 Detroit Tigers will join the 1971 Baltimore Orioles as the only two teams in big league history with four twenty game winners on one pitching staff. Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, and Sanchez would join Palmer, McNally, Ceullar, and Dobson atop the Mount Rushmore of pitching staffs. I guess we'll see "if" I'm right.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Angels In The Outfield

Josh Hamilton is reportedly taking his talents to LA. photo credit:

Turn the spotlight toward Los Angeles, rumor has it tinseltown just got a little more tatted up. Josh Hamilton has reportedly signed with the Angels. Let's hope the reports are right, cause otherwise this is a giant waste of time. And since it's on the internet, it must be true (insert french model "bonjour" joke here). Since the sports world doesn't spend enough time talking about LA already, this ought to do the trick. Even the Lakers are sick of the attention they've been getting. Hell, if the Pistons started the season 9-13, it may have been progress. The Lakers start the season poorly, they fire their coach. I guess there may be a difference in expectations.

That's exactly what the Angels now have: expectations. The Angels have had expectations for a while, actually. They inked Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last year. They traded for Zack Grienke. They have the greatest general since Patton in Mike Trout (he does dominate WAR). And now (reportedly) they have Josh Hamilton. Ah the beauties of no salary cap. But what does this move do for the fightin' rally monkeys? At first glance, most immediate responses will gravitate in the direction of excitement, I'd think. If I were an Angels fan, I'd be excited. Lose Torii Hunter, gain Josh Hamilton. The Rangers have been stagnant so far, sans moving Michael Young. They've lost Mike Napoli. It looks like they are about to lose Ryan Dempster. And oh yeah, they lost that Hamilton fellow. Could the evil empire be heading towards the setting sun, not the rising sun?

Probably not...let's be realistic. The only person with more money than the Yankees is Warren Buffet. And since he doesn't appear to be interested in buying a baseball team, the Angels can firmly take the grasp as the other team in sports willing to stop at nothing until they buy a championship. I read an article this morning on Chauncey Billups. Now, admittedly, there is no athlete who I have a greater respect for than Chauncey; I absolutely love him and absolutely hate (still) Joe Dumars for that trade. Chauncey is not really relevant to the Angels. But the article brought up the point that the '04-'05 Pistons could end up being the last team in the NBA to win a title without a superstar, forever. I'm nearly positive there won't be another in basketball. And with moves like this, it's starting to cloud the future for a team like that to do it in baseball. With all of these things to consider, I don't think this makes the Angels the front runner for anything.

Baseball is weird. Teams like Oakland can catch fire in a mere second and before you know it...oh no, the Tigers eliminated them, just kidding. But seriously, start up teams make runs in baseball like no other sport. Take the Orioles, for example. Where did that come from? You can even use Oakland, since Baltimore didn't advance either. The point is, the team that just throws money at talent doesn't always win. There's something to be said for doing it the hard way. You draft players, build them in your system, hire the right manager, and before you know you raise a trophy. There are certainly counter examples. The Yankees have won twenty-seven world championships. That's a lot. But even the Yankees seem to be missing out on the highest priced talent these days. Maybe they're starting to figure out that isn't necessarily the best way to accomplish what you want.

The Angels are a weird case though because they won a title doing it the hard way not too long ago. They have a world class manager in Mike Scoscia, and they have developed talent in their system that has succeeded at the major league level. They drafted Trout. They drafted a guy like Mark Trumbo. So that's why this deal just seems to surprise me a little bit. Josh Hamilton is a great player, as is Albert Pujols. They can do things I can't even do in a video game. They're top tier talent. But they aren't going to be top tier talent for much longer. Pujols showed age last year (whatever his age may be), as did Hamilton. And while Hamilton did not get the super-long deal Pujols did, that's a lot of money for a guy who struggled down the stretch and isn't getting any younger.

Can the Angels win a World Series next year? Yes. Any team that has a top four of Trout, Howie Kendrick, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton can win it all. That's a guess on Kendrick by the way, someone has to replace Torii. But the Angels didn't even make the playoffs last year. Not only that, they had two teams finish ahead of them in their own division. They lost a lot of pitching. Yeah they still have Weaver and Wilson, and now Tommy Hanson, but what have those guys ever won? Wilson pitched in the World Series a couple of times, he gets that to his credit, but he isn't their ace. No, that would be the kid brother of the former Tiger great Jeff Weaver. This is a team who said they couldn't afford to go out and sign a big name pitcher like Zack Grienke, yet they go out and sign Josh Hamilton? For $125 million? Something is not right.

Josh Hamilton joins Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout in the LA outfield. photo credit:

The move makes the Angels better, no question. I'm just not sure how much better it actually makes them. Hamilton is going to be a similar player to Torii Hunter. He's going to hit more home runs, yes. His role is different than Hunter's. But I don't think he's better than Torii defensively. I don't think he is a better teammate than Hunter. That may not be fair of me to say since I'm not his teammate, but Hamilton doesn't seem to be in the news for his leadership. The move, for me, means the Angels are saying this: This is our chance to win it, and if we fail, oh well, we went down trying. It's a fine strategy and a lot of teams do it. The Tigers may even be doing it. But for Los Angeles, I'm just not sure it's warranted. The Angels have arguably the greatest young talent baseball has seen since ever. Why not keep that money and build around him? I guess you could still do that in the future, there is no salary cap, but $125 million? That's the kind of thing you give to a full-proof investment and that is not what Josh Hamilton is.

From a personal standpoint, I'm not about to criticize Hamilton. Everyone makes mistakes in life and I'm sure he's a fine person who just needed to grow up a bit. But from a business standpoint you HAVE to look at it more in depth. You are taking a guy who has drug and alcohol issues, who relapsed LAST YEAR after being sober for a long period of time, and you are going to give him $125 million to come play baseball in southern California? Temptation grows on trees out there, literally. I'm sure it's written in his (reported) contract that he can't mess up or it's night night. But I'd be just a little bit more cautious about that one.

For Hamilton though, the move makes total sense. He's going somewhere where he doesn't have to be the guy. Pujols and Trout have that covered. He doesn't have to play centerfield anymore. If he strikes out, there is someone in the lineup who can pick him up. He left a sinking ship for greener pastures. The Rangers have apparently decided to sail the Bermuda Triangle, because they could not seem more lost at this point. For Josh Hamilton, his expectations of winning a championship are now more realistic than they were yesterday.

It all goes back to expectations. This move makes the Angels better, yes. It gives them a great chance at a winner. I don't think it makes them better than the Tigers. I don't think it makes them better than San Francisco. And in a sport where tradition rules, that division belongs to the Rangers until the season is over and they didn't win it. One thing is for sure though. You can keep that spotlight in the exact same place, cause it's not going anywhere.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time Is Ticking

I checked the stats. Jimmy Howard's goals against average actually is the lowest in the NHL right now. So for my critical piece of the week, it's time to analyze the other most scrutinized player in Detroit sports: Matthew Stafford. If Sunday night was any indication, the Lions may be in trouble. Who are we kidding? Substitute "motor city" for "river city" and the music man has been singing about the Lions all year long. This year for the honolulu blue is as lost as Atlantis. That said, there is everything to gain in the next three weeks.

Matthew Stafford loses his grip on the ball in Sunday's loss to the Packers photo credit:

The Lions are bad. Get rid of the argument that goes, "they've lost a bunch of close games, they aren't that bad." Good teams win close games; it's what makes them good. Good teams have a quarterback who drives the ball down the field in the fourth quarter, a defense who makes the big stop when they need it, and a coach who makes the right calls. Quick synopsis of Sunday night: no, no, and no. All three aspects, all failed with grounded colors. It shouldn't be a surprise at this point. The Lions are 4-9. Any hope of the playoffs vanished with the illegal challenge flag. They probably vanished before that. So here's the question now: is what we have good enough to get us to where we want go?

That's a question for Martin Mayhew. No matter how many times fans can scream "draft defense you moron," the final decision is his. I'd argue that almost 50% of Lions' fans think they can do a better job than Mayhew. Some of them might be right. But you're not going to get that chance. Mayhew drafted Stafford. For one year, he played with a cocky attitude, he was healthy, and he threw touchdowns. Apparently that means go ahead and fling the ball with your wrist whenever you want because you are God's gift to football.

Matthew Stafford celebrates his first quarter touchdown in Sunday's loss to Green Bay photo credit:

It's not ALL Stafford's fault. However, this loss points the finger right at number nine. That fumble changed a lot of people's views on Stafford, whether they are willing to admit it or not. The Lions were up 14-3 and the snow. That doesn't even happen in the movies. They had a chance to stomp on Green Bay's throat. Instead they held the door open for the Packers and seated them in first class. I get it was a fluke play, it doesn't happen very often, and it probably doesn't happen if it's not thirty-three degrees outside. But it happened. And again that play didn't lose the game for Detroit. But when you lose a game like that, you look to the quarterback. That's how it has always gone and that's how it will continue to go...forever. At the end of the day, he's the one with the ball in his hands the most. He's the one who can bring his team back from that awful moment and win the game. And in this case, he's the one who didn't.

Stafford has an immense amount of physical ability. It's scary how good this guy could be. He has an AK-47 attached to his right shoulder. Yet for some odd reason, he doesn't seem to use it. Stafford flips more balls up in the air than any quarterback I have ever seen. I'm tired of it. He looks like a pansy when he does it. He looks like he's afraid to step up and be a quarterback. Sometimes he has to do it. Most times he doesn't. It's a huge problem for Stafford. If he doesn't fix it, I'm not sure he should be the long term quarterback of the Lions.

Difficult to agree with me after the dude racked up 5,000 yards last year, isn't it? Well, when you throw it forty-five times a game, you are likely to pick up some yards. But why are we anointing him as the answer after one good year? They went 10-6 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. That's a bad year for Tom Brady. If you really want the Lions to exit the rut they've been in since, oh I don't know, forever, then maybe it's time you start holding them a little bit more accountable. They had a nice year last year for where they were as an organization. Now they're back to the same bad habits of losing leads and losing fans. It starts with the quarterback, and Stafford has to figure it

It seems lately that for every good throw Stafford makes, there is a back foot lob ten feet behind Tony Scheffler. STEP INTO THE DAMN THROW. I've screamed it at my television far too many times. He's too talented to be making mistakes that are expected of a high school signal caller. This is the NFL, son. People make bank to laugh at those throws and take them to the house. If you want to be the franchise quarterback, then you better make a better effort to look like you belong. Right now Stafford does not look like he belongs. That is harsh and true, it is. He looks out of place, minus two or three drives per game. He doesn't make the right decisions, he throws balls that would sail over Shaq, and he can't even celebrate a touchdown the right way. Okay the last one was a joke, but he really should learn not to slip before the celebration. The first two points I stick by, though. He has to make better decisions and learn that you can't fling the ball up ten times a game. Two or three times, okay sure. But ten times? No. Not now, not ever.

I'm not saying abandon ship on Stafford. He's too good when he wants to be. But it's time we started looking at the Lions as what they are, not what they were a year ago. They are a bad team with little to no leadership. They have no one who has ever won anything. Their games seem to have a pattern to them. Calvin Johnson is double teamed from the start, so they try and stay away from him. Then, before you know it, they are down ten with four minutes to go. Next they force the ball to Calvin, and as insane an idea as it is, holy s*it he catches it...almost every time. And then they lose. That's not how every loss goes, but more than a few have gone like that.

Whoever decides the plays (Scott Linehan) at the end of the game needs to figure one thing out. If you are going to throw the ball to anyone other than 81, that player better be wide open. I'd rather have Calvin against two or three defenders than anyone else on the Lions against one defender. I really believe that. And on fourth and ten with the game on the line, the ball needs to go to 81. If it doesn't, then you need to be fired. Or better yet Matthew, how bout you make a decision for once. How bout you say, "I've got the best non-qb in the league, and if we need a play he's going to get it." That would go a long way for me. But I'm gonna sit here and criticize you for as long as you are going to take shots down the field, and throw it behind Scheffler, when we have one play to get it right.

Time is ticking Matthew. As most analysts will tell you, NFL means "Not For Long." You've got all the ability in the world. You've got the tools to get yourself to Canton, and to get this team to a Super Bowl. Start acting like it, and start playing like it. There's three weeks left to start doing things right, and gain some steam going into next year. No better time than the present.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

A good article normally stems from a good introductory paragraph; it's that way with almost every essay, paper, or report ever written. You learn it at a young age and you practice it over and over until you finally think you have it mastered. I'd like to think (for the most part) that my intros have been decent enough to keep you reading. That is the goal, after-all. Unfortunately you don't get an elaborate intro today because there's really no nice way to dress this up other than just coming out and saying it: Manti Te'o should win the Heisman Trophy.

Manti Te'o looks up to the sky after beating Michigan State the week he lost both his grandmother and girlfriend photo credit:

Tonight in Manhattan, college football will once again be center stage. Not surprising, it is Saturday night. Instead of uniforms you get suits, in place of broadcasters you get Chris Fowler. It's a shining night for three student athletes who all deserve to be there and probably all deserve to win, yet only one will. It's probably going to be Johnny Manziel. It's difficult to argue with his resume. The numbers are there. The moment is there. Even the nickname is there. The dude pulled a cat out of traffic, come on. The only thing this guy can't do is legally drink. He's a very talented football player and I get he's a freshman, but if he wins the Heisman tonight, then change the award.

By now you've probably heard of Manti Te'o's hard times (gotta love the back to back apostrophe, don't get to do that every day). Te'o lost both his girlfriend and his grandmother earlier this season, right before he and the Irish were to take on Michigan State. Now, you can be ready for a lot of Charles Woodson comparisons tonight, so I'll start you early. It was the Michigan State game for Woodson that was sort of his coming out party. It was the game where people and looked around and said, "you know what, this guy has an outside shot to win the Heisman." It was that interception that still defies everything humanly possible. For Teo, it was a spirited performance against the Spartans (twelve tackles, two pass breakups, and a fumble recovery) that gave people the sense that this guy may actually have a shot at the Heisman. The thought crept in, after that game, and slowly got bigger as the season went on.

What is the point of the Heisman trophy if Te'o doesn't win it tonight? He's the best story in college football. He came back to Notre Dame for his senior season, kept his mouth shut (unlike Matt Barkley), and made ALL of the plays. He is the best player on the best team in the country. Oh they aren't the best, Alabama is better? They're number one, and if you want to say that Manziel is the best player because of his numbers, then Notre Dame is the best because of their number. All of a sudden, we're back to baseball and the MVP debate on numbers, and how Johnny Manziel has a better WAR than Manti Te'o. Save can't judge an award on numbers, you have to look at more than that. You are picking the winner of the most prestigious award in sports. It's nice to win an MVP or a Conn Smythe, but this is the Heisman. You may have never heard of Roger Crozier but you've almost certainly heard of RGIII (if you haven't, thank you for reading something that probably doesn't make a lot of sense to you).

Johnny "Football" is seeking to become the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy photo credit:

Being the best player on the best team doesn't always mean you should win something. There's probably a lot of examples where the team is the greater than the individual, and Notre Dame and Teo may even be one. Chauncey Billups shouldn't have won an NBA MVP in 2004, but he was the best player on the best team. Te'o, however, should win tonight. Teo has 103 tackles and is second in America in interceptions. He's a linebacker. That doesn't happen. So he definitely has the starts part covered. A lot of people say Johnny Manziel will win because of his moment, beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Now, I don't have a lot of friends who like Notre Dame. I do have one good one though, and he was quick to point out Te'o's performance against Oklahoma when I said Te'o doesn't have a moment like that. Twelve tackles and an interception in Norman to beat the Sooners? Alright Jack, fine that counts. So he's got the moment covered. It's not rolling the Tide in Bryant-Denny, but it's not celebrating after beating Uconn, either (see Spartan fans, I take shots at Michigan too). Beating Oklahoma in Norman is not easy, I don't care what kind of year they are having. And the story? Losing both your girlfriend and grandmother in the same week, playing, playing exceedingly well, and leading NOTRE DAME to an undefeated season and a birth in the BCS Title game? Cue Booby Miles's uncle saying, "...and he can pass!!" Yeah, he's got it all covered.

So there's the resume. Now I don't believe in the argument that Te'o should win because he's a senior and Manziel will have his moment in the future. That's about as predictable as Craig Sager's next suit. Who knows what will happen with Manziel in the future. No, the voters should throw class standing out of the equation, and I'm sure they did. Manziel has a wonderful resume too. But do you think he'd even be in this conversation if not for beating Alabama? Hell no. He got hot at the right time, and beamed brighter than the sun on national television when he got his chance. That's what good players do. But everyone forgets about Johnny Manziel's bad games because of his good one, and that's where I have an issue. Twenty-four out of thirty-one for 253 and two scores is great against Alabama. But twenty-three out of thirty for 173 and no scores in a loss against Florida is pretty pedestrian. Should you be allowed to have a bad game and win the Heisman? Probably. But how bout twenty-nine out of fifty-six for 276 with no scores and three picks against LSU? How bout seventeen out of twenty-six for 191, a score and two picks against Ole Miss? Point is Manziel has had plenty of average games. Heisman Trophy winners are not supposed to be average. Now you're thinking, "well, he's a freshman, cut him some slack." You're right, he's a freshman so I will cut some slack on the bad games. I'm not going to give him the Heisman Trophy though in cutting him a break.

That takes a look at Manziel's numbers in the big games. That's really what matters isn't it? That's how Woodson won it: a huge pick against Michigan State and punt return to the house against the Buckeyes. Te'o's worst statistical game came against Wake Forest; he had six tackles. He had six tackles, and Notre Dame won thirty-eight to zip. He had five tackles against both USC and Boston College, but he had an interception in both of those games. He had six tackles and a pick against Navy and he didn't play the whole game. So let's look at what I think are the six biggest games on Notre Dame's Schedule: USC, Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Oklahoma, and Miami (yeah, you're point about Notre Dame not having to go through the rigors of the SEC is now useless). In those six games combined, Te'o had fifty-seven tackles, and four interceptions. Oh yeah, and Notre Dame won every one of the games.

All of that said (sorry Collin Klein, find a corner), Manziel could still win the award and he would be deserving. That's the beauty of having two great players up for an award. But if Manziel wins, then the Heisman trophy should be given exclusively to offensive players, because you're not going to find a defensive resume and story like this one ever again. You're going to see history tonight one way or the other. It's either going to be the first freshman or the first exclusively defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. The intro might have sucked, but how's that for a finish?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Last Chance

Comebacks rarely work in sports. Unless your name is Jordan or Favre, it's unlikely you'll be successful engaging in a return trip to glory. Every once in a while though, the first comeback will be successful. Occasionally, even the second comeback can produce some results. But the third comeback is normally similar to MJ and the Wizards. It very rarely scratches the surface of being anywhere near a success. So now, as the bell begins to toll, this is it for the NHL.

A lot of fans remember the last debacle that commissioner Gary Bettman enacted on the NHL. Of all the commissioners in sports, Bettman seems to have the greatest Napoleonic complex. So maybe he thought that lockout was a success. After all, it brought a little publicity to the NHL, and also allowed the NHL to claim the title of first professional sports league (in North America) to cancel an entire season due to a labor dispute. A week ago, David Stern took the lead down the back stretch as to who can claim the title of worst commissioner in sports, as he decided to fine the Spurs for doing what Major League Baseball teams call "Sunday." It was a tough task, and it must have been thought out by Stern, because I was sure Bettman had the title on lock. Who would have ever thought that the commissioner most absent from the news would be Bud Selig? Not I, that's for sure. With that said, Bettman will firmly regain the lead (and may never give it up) if these oh-so-fruitful talks we keep hearing about between the NHL players and owners come up empty.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman photo credit:

The NHL somehow was lucky in 1995. It experienced the first of Bettman's mistakes, yet somehow managed to come back stronger, at least in Detroit. Hockey was great and fun to watch. For the first time really since the original six days, the NHL had a rivalry it could put up there with the best in sports. Colorado and Detroit HATED each other. There was no love between those players at all. Aside from maybe four or five of them, there was no respect either. I always found it weird that players from the Yankees and Red Sox would go play for the other team, i.e. Johnny Damon. Think about it, who do you know that has played for both the Wings and Avs? Anyone? I can think of Uwe Krupp and Kyle Quincey. If you know more, that absolutely earns you a beer for tonight. But that's the point. The NHL had maybe the most bitter rivalry in sports. Bold, I know, but just think about Darren McCarty. The NHL was on ESPN, Gary Thorne and Bill Clement were a great broadcasting duo, people still watched Hockey Night in Canada, and on top of all of that the Wings were far and away the standard. So much for that.

The 2004-2005 NHL lockout is still affecting the league today. Now when the Wings and Avs play each other, it's on Fox Sports Detroit Plus if there is a Pistons game the same night. What's the best rivalry in hockey? Probably Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, but there's no rivalry worth putting in prime-time. Arenas aren't nearly as full as they once were. Even a Hot-N-Ready is $20 at the Joe, come on. The NHL is still paying the price for the greed of a few. Cue Bachman Turner Overdrive cause if the NHL misses another full season, well, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Darren McCarty gets revenge photo credit:

There is fault on both sides of this equation. The owners are greedy businessmen who want to control the majority of their investments and clients. The players are greedy athletes who want to control their ability and everything it yields. Both sides think they are right and the other is wrong...sounds like politics. The difference between the two is the word fiscal: in politics you hear about the fiscal cliff, whereas if the NHL loses another season, it's going off the real cliff.

I've been a long time believer that playoff hockey is the most exciting time in sports. I don't think there's a close second. Playoff hockey is the only sport (that I wasn't playing in) that ever caused me to skip a class in college. Woops. How bout that, still got a degree! Jokes aside playoff hockey is intense. It's as fast paced as the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. And there is a lot of hitting. It's where names like Kronwall become names like Kronwall. Most importantly for hockey though, it's the place that brings the most fans.

Professional sports are not about athletes and they aren't about owners, either. Sure, those two sides run the show and yes, they make the rules as well. But the engine that is pro sports runs from fans. It's the fans who are willing to spend hundreds of dollars every time they go to a game that keep the ship afloat. That's where the money comes from, period. Do the owners have a lot of money anyway? Yes. But do you think Mike Illitch can afford to go buy Prince Fielder if nearly three million fans don't show up to Comerica Park a year? Probably not. I really question if the NHL executives understand this. I think the players know. I think the owners know. I really don't know if the commissioner knows. Common sense says of course he knows, but come on...three lockouts in less than twenty years? Are you trying to get rid of your fan base?

There may be hope on the horizon. Hopefully by the time you're reading this, the lockout is over. The last couple of days have supposedly been full of good conversations. They better have been, because if they lose this season, you can expect hockey to lose a whole bunch of fans. If Gary Bettman messes this one up, the NHL is in a bunch of trouble, not to mention Bettman will forever be known as the new Buzz Killington. There will be the diehards who stick around, of course. But even Michael Jordan couldn't sell out the MCI Center in his last days as a Wizard. What makes the NHL think their comeback will produce different results? No matter how many times you come back, if you lose that excitement and those fans, you might as well lose everything.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Starting To Finish

The time has once again come to discuss baseball. No fear Tiger fans, I will go nowhere near discussing the World Series (at least the last one). No, with the Hall of Fame vote coming up, the issue on everyone's mind in the baseball world will be steroids. Nothing like some good juice to get things going. I'm also going to stay away from Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for now, but if you've followed baseball in the last fifteen years or so, then you have undoubtedly heard the name Alex Rodriguez. Whether he was dating Madonna or getting booed, A-Rod made headlines like very few before him. And as the news breaks that A-Rod will have to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair his left hip, the nighttime soap opera that is the New York Yankees may be losing a key cast member.

Rodriguez with the Yankees photo credit:

Let me begin by saying that Rodriguez does not deserve half the criticism he has been given throughout his illustrious career. He may not deserve a quarter of it. But that comes with the territory; if you play for the Yankees and make $25 million a year, you damn well better produce. If you don't, well, you'll get booed when you strike out. New Yorkers have the temper of a senile old drill sergeant. Couple that with the patience of a six year old and you have a prototypical Yankees' fan. I realize I'm buying into stereotypes here, but it's only a stereotype because it's true. In the world of New York sports you can throw out the, "what have you done for me," and insert, "what have you done for me lately?" The answer to that question, in Rodriguez's case is, "I gave some girl my number when I get yanked out of the game."

Okay maybe that criticism he deserves. The rest of it you can throw out the window. Every player in major league history (with more than 100 at bats) has made an out. No one bats one. No one fields every ground ball. No one gets every single bunt down. You mess up, a lot. Baseball is a game that is ruled by failure. You've heard the adage that you can fail seven out of ten times and still be successful in baseball. Hell, you can fail seven out of ten times and make seven million a year. In terms of the players who have failed a lot in major league history, and there are a lot of them, Rodriguez is one that belongs in Cooperstown.

Let the debate begin. He took steroids, HGH, crystal meth, and ate krypton. Great. I don't care, and you shouldn't either. In a league where it seems a player is admitting to steroid use as often as Dwight Howard misses a free throw, my thoughts on the whole issue have quickly become, "who cares?" Melky Cabrera had to sit out the majority of the second half of last season for the Giants after failing a drug test, and he was rewarded with a fat contract in the off-season. You understand that if the executives of the game don't care about steroids, then nothing will change. So about the breath you're thinking about using to dispute my argument? Well, you might as well keep ir to yourself and save it, because nothing is going to change.

Rodriguez may not get elected to the Hall of Fame, I'm not sure. Does he pass the eye test? No. The history of voters seems to be harsh on those who played in the so-called "steroid era," and I imagine Rodriguez's fate will be similar to that of Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire. This is only relevant though because I feel we have all seen the last of a good Alex Rodriguez. He may stick around for a few more years in the sun, I don't know what his thoughts are. But he's not twenty-two any more. He's old, and his body doesn't respond the way it once did to injury. So with that said, what a damn career.

A lot of people will look at Alex Rodriguez as a Yankee, missing his AL West years with Seattle and Texas. It's easy to do that; it's New York. I don't think the city sleeps, so neither does the spotlight. It's always on when you play for the Yankees, and you better be prepared to have your legacy carry on from what you did in pinstripes. Is it fair? Probably not. Is it realistic? Absolutely. With that in mind, I'm going to revisit the younger, simpler days of Alex Rodriguez. After all, had he not gone to New York, I firmly believe we are talking about the greatest shortstop ever.

This is the part where if you don't really follow baseball, you now know that Rodriguez was in fact a shortstop before taking his talents to the hot corner. And in doing so, I present to you reason number one for Rodriguez not deserving most of the criticism: he gave up personal accolades for rings. Sounds like someone else, who took his talents to South Beach. Congratulations to LeBron by the way, Sportsman of the Year, that's a nice honor. I would have chosen Tim Tebow, but apparently you have to actually be good to win the award. Anyway, Rodriguez was pretty good himself, and he was a lot better before he put on pinstripes.

Every baseball fan remembers the greats. Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, all of them are immortalized through stories, videos, and numbers. Alex Rodriguez started his career in Seattle, a place that for some odd reason bred two of the most "what could have been" careers of all-time. When Rodrgiuez joined the M's in 1994, he was not the top dog. No, the top dog was the man who had more talent than perhaps anyone else to ever play: Ken Griffey Jr. Immediately Jr. and A-Rod became the marquee combo, putting the Seattle Mariners on the map, a place they haven't been since the duo left. After Texas gave Alex 252 million reasons to leave Seattle, he did. Griffey Jr. unfortunately was not as fortunate, and injuries ruined his career much earlier than A-Rod's.

Rodriguez in his early days photo credit:

Rodriguez went to Texas and flat out dominated the game of baseball. He was the best in the game, by far. He could run, he could hit, he could field, he could throw, and he could flirt; the five tools necessary for a superstar. He had it all, both the fame and the fortune. He was missing just that one thing that drives athletes: a championship. You don't play to finish second. Rodriguez understood that, so much so that he switched positions. The best shortstop in the game, going over to play third base? Better be Derek Jeter playing shortstop for his new team...oh, it was, okay. Rodriguez's position switch would be like Shaq switching to small forward. The premiere position in the league, and you are the best at it, but you're going to switch for someone else just to win rings? Unselfish. And it worked. The Yankees won, and they won with a featured Alex Rodriguez. But then they didn't win after that, so everyone in New York got upset and forgot about the good times...only in sports.

Now Rodriguez may be down for the final time. I just don't see him coming back and being anything more than a glorified pinch hitter. It's a shame, because baseball will be missing one of its greatest talents ever. We are talking about one of the five greatest shortstops/third basemen/whatever to ever play, perhaps one of the top ten hitters to ever play. Five years ago, Rodriguez seemed a lock to shatter the home run record. Then he got hurt. Maybe it was because he was off steroids. Maybe it wasn't. I'm mot sure, and more importantly, I'm never going to be sure. So let's just cherish what we got. Few have been as feared as Rodriguez was and few have been as disliked. Many portrayed him as the villain in Major League Baseball. So I find it only fitting that less than two weeks after the death of J.R. Ewing, the ultimate TV villain, Rodriguez's career too may be coming to an end. Time to find a new star to fill the void in New York.