Monday, December 28, 2009

Resting your players

As the NFL season winds down, we hear the same arguments every year about those teams that have clinched playoff spots and don't have much to gain in the last few weeks.  Do you rest your players?  Do you go for the undefeated season?  To me, it's a no-brainer.  I don't see ANY positives in "resting" your players.

Here is the main argument for resting players:  We need them healthy for the playoffs.  Ok, so, play for 13-15 weeks with the same regiment, same intensity, and get your body used to the hits and brutality of football.  Then, take a few weeks off, take your bye and go into the playoffs close to a month removed from when you and your team were at your peak.  Great.

Looking at the last decade, 4 of the 9 Super Bowl champions have not had a first round bye.  Of the 5 winning teams that had a first round bye, only 1 was a top seed.  The equation there is resting your players after you have secured top seed does not equal winning.  This decade there has not been a Super Bowl of two #1 seeds.

What about the paying fans and season ticket holders?  Do they pay ridiculous money to watch a game with Curtis Painter at quarterback?  Do they want to see the team go undefeated?  Do the fans want to see history made?  I seem to recall a few years back (2005?)when the Colts rested their starters after clinching the top seed.  They lost first round to the Steelers.  Let's see what happens this year.

I guess the bottom line for me is you work from May or June to get into a great rhythm, hit a stride and peak at the right time.  You get there, you're team is hitting on all cylinders, good enough to clinch a first round bye, but don't ruin your rhythm and 'rest' players.  The reason I use quotes for the word "rest" is because who actually knows what these players do when they should be 'resting.'  I know Tony Romo went on a tropical vacation a few years ago with a high profile celebrity then lost.  And from the rather disturbing news from around the league as to what players do in their free time (Vick, PacMan, Henry, Burress) I don't necessarily know if free time is good for the players of this league.

There isn't much to gain, financially, in terms of chemistry and in terms of winning by resting players.  


Monday, December 7, 2009

Iverson Returns to Philly

Allen Iverson laces up his shoes tonight as a Philadelphia 76er for the first time in 3 years. Unfortunately, the Sixers are in such an awful situation as a team, that they had to resort to a player that even the Memphis Grizzlies couldn't get along with.  So what does this mean for Philadelphia?

In a four-sport city, with fans that live and die for their teams, this move was just that, for the fans.  The Sixers are 4th out of the 4 professional teams in Philadelphia, without much looking positive for the future either.  Iverson, certainly, is not the future either.  But, as all sports columnists and bloggers have been saying, this will sell tickets.  I believe I saw somewhere that this game has sold more tickets than any other game of the season, including the first day tickets began being sold.  

What this all tells me is that the Sixers franchise has given up.  It was a statement (if thats waht you want to call it three years ago (amongst other reasons) when the Sixers abided to Iverson's trade demands.  Iverson, who refused to play a 4th quarter, had worn out his welcome.  Iverson could not mesh with Larry Brown, one of the greatest coaches of all time and could not mesh with Maurice Cheeks, the greatest point guard the Sixers have ever had.  Couldn't mesh with Denver and George Karl (another all time great coach) couldn't mesh with Detroit and couldn't mesh with Memphis, who desperately needed any help they could get.  So how is Iverson going to mesh with Eddie Jordan (a pushover as a coach anyway, who has the team off to one of the worst starts in franchise history)?

Keep in mind, Samuel Dalembert, Andre Iguodala, and Willie Green, all major components of the team this year, were on the team when the Iverson cancer spread.  All of them are still there.  Sure all will be great and fine when Iverson returns and smiles and hugs will follow.  But the minute that the first turmoil hits, memories of 2006 will surely return.

Back to my point about the Sixers giving up.  Iverson's return to Philly will show great rewards financially for a few games.  But he won't be with the team for long.  At best, through next year.  At worst, Iverson might not make it past three games like he did in Memphis.  Therefore, Iverson is a temporary effort at a fix to a huge problem.  The Sixers tried rebuilding three years ago, using their draft picks and trades to get younger and cheaper and rebuild a franchise that has given up on paying for half time performances.  Even Elton Brand comes off the bench now.

With Holliday, Williams, Green, Dalember, Iguodala, Smith and Young, the Sixers have no real need for Iverson in their future plans.  They are young (no pun intended) and have their rebuilding mission.  This mission is failing.  Miserably.  They can't find a decent coach.  They cant win a game.  They can't fill the seats.  Here you go Philly, we gave up.  Here's Allen Iverson.  But we can't even begin to think about getting through the first round of the playoffs.  Hopefully this will keep you occupied for a bit...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Concussions in the NFL

As I watch the ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown bottom line, I confirmed what I have been conjuring up in my head for the past few weeks.  Let me start by saying, take this blog with a grain of salt, especially if you are one of those modern 'safety first' hypochondriacs that take your kid to the doctor when they sniffle or tell everyone 'I haven't eaten in weeks' or 'I'm still getting over my head cold' (a month later) or you put hand sanitizer on 7 times a day.  Oh what did we do before hand sanitizer!?!?!  Ok, so those people who read this, read with caution or maybe don't read at all.  Anyway, there certainly are a lot of concussions all of a sudden in the NFL.

This leads me to believe that concussions are the new hamstring pulls of the NFL.  Remember a few years back when certain star players played every Sunday, but missed a whole bunch of pre-season and in-season practices because of a 'tight hamstring' or a hamstring pull.  Keep in mind now, that this is one of the most arbitrary injuries in sports.  There is no x-ray, there is no CT scan, there are no symptoms.  A hamstring pull or tightness pretty much comes down to what the player tells the physician.  And when a player limps over to a trainer and says, "I think I pulled my hamstring" well then by golly the trainer responds with "This player (T.O., Chad 'at the time' Johnson) has a pulled hamstring.  Leave them out of practice.

Yes, unfortunately, this is what I am suggesting is happening with concussions.  Its a disease.  One player, and I believe that Clinton Portis would be my guinea pig for this blog, misses a game or two for an arbitrary injury, then all of a sudden I count more than a handful of concussion injuries in the injury report.  This didn't happen years ago.  (Kurt Warner, Clinton Portis, Ben Roethlisberger, Jamal Lewis, Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson etc)

Now, I understand and truly believe that there are more precautionary measures being taken for the safety of the players.  Based on the average lifespan of an NFL player (around 58 years I believe), this needs to be done.  However, as in elementary school when 1 kid uses the bathroom pass, all of a sudden 7 more kids need to pee, the bathroom pass is still going around the NFL.  I'm not suggesting that all of these kids don't have to pee, I'm simply suggesting that they could wait until lunch or recess instead of interrupting class.  Translated- In a sport where you are getting speared with helmets and landing head first on the ground, you are going to get your bell rung.  Where before, a player would miss a play or two, shake out the cobwebs, then get back out there and play, today it means 4 days off of practice and sympathy (whether real or fake it doesn't matter) from coaches and the league.  

But then again, if I were Clinton Portis and I was on the Redskins, I would have more than a few 'concussions.'

Friday, November 6, 2009

Why Lebron Should Stay in Cleveland

After Lebron walked off the court in Madison Square Garden in New York tonight, victorious in convincing fashion, landing nearly a triple double, it left many to wonder, is this where he will play next year?

In the sports era we live in today, it is very rare that someone finishes what they started on their own. KG went to Boston and won a ring with a trio of superstars. A-Rod goes to NY and wins a World Series with the help of possibly the greatest baseball lineup of all time. But who were the Cavaliers before Lebron came to town?

We see too much of the best players in the game going to the highest bidder then winning a championship. The Red Sox (Beckett, Ramirez) and Yankees(A-Rod, Damon, Teixeira) do it in baseball. The Lakers (Gasol, Odom) and Celtics (Garnett, Allen) do it in basketball. None of the players mentioned save Beckett (on the Marlins) have been a main component on their original team.

Lebron was drafted in 2003 by the Cavs with the first overall pick. The season before his debut the Cavs were 17-65 finishing last in the conference. They hadn't made the playoffs in 4 seasons. It has only been uphill from there. There is still some hill to climb; the summit has yet to be reached. The last #1 draft pick to lead their team to a championship was Tim Duncan, drafted in 97, championship in 99. Duncan has been and probably will be a Spur for life. His legacy is still growing, but he will be known as one of the best power forwards in the history of the NBA.

Lebron can do this. He will win an NBA championship before his career is over. It seems as if he is maybe 1-3 years away. He brought the Cavs from nobodies to certain somebodies. It would be reassuring to see a star as enormous in all realms of the sport (basketball skill, social skill, marketing skill) to stick with what he started, the the same market, with the same fans and beat the rest of the league to be the best. Don't jump ship like so many sports stars do and take the easier path to a championship.  Sure the lights of New York would be nice, the fame of LA, the beaches of Miami.  But thats what everyone does.  Don't be everyone Lebron.  Your legacy will thank you.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

5 reasons it doesn't feel right the Phillies lost

In the wake of watching the New York Yankees celebrate their 27th World Series Championship, something just doesn't feel right about it. It really did seem as if the Phillies were going to repeat this year. Not that the Yankees didn't deserve it, (moral arguments aside) because they clearly played better than the Phillies. But here are 5 reasons why the it felt like the Phils were going to repeat.

1- Philadelphia had the best starting pitcher in the postseason. Cliff Lee went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in the postseason. Last year, it was Cole Hamels with similar numbers. It felt as if the Phillies were riding their ace to postseason series victories this year, just like they did last year. If one pitcher gets you two wins the World Series, one would think that team could somehow muster 2 wins in the other 5 games. If you were to be told Cliff Lee would win 2 games in the World Series and C.C. Sabathia would win none, who would you think would have won the series? The Phillies haven't lost to C.C. in both postseasons, last year with Milwaukee and this year with New York. Philadelphia rode Cliff Lee this year like they rode Cole Hamels last year. It just seemed as long as they had the best pitcher in the playoffs, it would be very difficult for them to lose a series. Wrong.

2-NLCS game 4. Last year, it was a clutch 3 run home run by Matt Stairs that capped a wild victory and put the Phillies up 3 games to 1 and all but guaranteed them a World Series birth. But it wasn't only the World Series birth it guaranteed. It also guaranteed that this team would come out of nowhere to win games and their heart would not allow them to lose. This year, Jimmy Rollins 2-out 2 RBI double in game 4 proved exactly the same fate in the NLCS. That hit won the game, put the Phils up insurmountably at 3 games to 1 and all but proved that the same style team was back again this year, ready to win the World Series. There would be no such comebacks in the World Series.

3-Up until the World Series, the Phillies hadn't lost more than 1 game in the past 5 postseason series. This is a well known fact that even minute sports fans would know. Also that they always lost game 2. But looking deeper into this, it seemed the Phillies always had the confidence that there wouldn't be a problem. They seemed to make all the right adjustments to keep themselves out of harms way. Same thing this year. Losing game 2 to the Rockies and losing home field advantage could have hurt them badly. Then they won the next 2. No problem. Losing to the Dodgers game 4 after losing game 2 and potentially losing the recently gained home field advantage looked problematic. Nope, won that game and the next one. 4-1, no problem. Losing game 2 and jumping to an early 3-0 lead against the Yankees in game 3, it felt as if they were going to continue their pattern. But as Cole Hamels was a different pitcher this postseason than last, as was the Phillies World Series results.

4-Comebacks. Game 4 against Colorado. Crazy. Game 4 against LA. Crazy. Game 4 against New close. After being down 2-0, the Phils came back to tie it. After being down 4-2, the Phils game back to tie it with Utley and Feliz home runs, the latter coming in the bottom of the 8th and making it a fresh battle of the bullpens in the 9th. This just seemed as if another great Philadelphia late game victory was in store. Similar to last year against the Rays where the Phils had a 9th inning walk off in game 3 and back and forth battle to score the winning run in the 7th inning in game 5. Game 1 and game 4 against the Dodgers, both come from behind wins. This year in the World Series, it just didn't happen.

5-They weren't supposed to win. Last year Manny and the Dodgers were supposed to be just too much. Last year the Rays had already beaten the best team in the postseason in the Boston Red Sox. The Phillies would be easy. This year the Dodgers were different. They had the best record in the National League. They had a young, potent lineup that walked through St. Louis. Certainly, the Phillies and their bullpen struggles couldn't compete with LA's great bullpen and homefield advantage. That storybook feeling was coming back. No way could they beat the Yankees, the best record in baseball, $423 million dollar offseason, a lineup of all-stars. Then, Philly takes game 1 in dominating fashion. It was happening all over again. Except, it just didn't continue that way.

After all that this team went through this year, from Cole's struggles, to the Ibanez off-season signing and the Lee mid-season signing to the Myers, Hamels, Romero DL stints, it just seemed as if the Phillies and Charlie Manuel were going to find a way to do it again. But this wasn't the same team. Brad Lidge wasn't the same. Their offense sputtered where they thrived last year. Howard didn't show up to the World Series, neither did Rollins or Victorino. Cole Hamels collapsed physically and mentally and with him went any chance of a 2nd dominating pitcher. As real as it felt that a repeat was bound to happen, the team just was not the same as 2008's heroic ballclub.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What's Wrong with the NFL pt 2

For those of you that are not familiar with the English Premier League, here is a quick overview of their ladder system. Keep in mind, there is no excitement of the playoff bracket system, which, in my opinion, hurts the league. The champion is crowned by who is on the top of the ladder at the end of the season, with the most points as a team for wins and ties. Now for the fun part...there is no safety in going, say 0-16 like the Lions. The bottom 3 teams in the Premiership are out of the Premiership at the seasons end. The top 2 teams from the 'B' grade or 2nd tier league and the winner of a playoff from teams 3-6 move up and take the last 3 spots. How cool is that?

It's this cool. We wouldn't have to watch the Rams, Chiefs or Lions this season. (They were the three worst teams last year) By the way, those three teams have a great chance at finishing as the three worst teams again this season. When will this terrible football stop?

The UFL could be considered a "B" league for football. It's purpose is to showcase the future stars of football. I know its a wild idea and will never happen. Right now it just doesn't work financially. But the AFL-NFL merger of 1970 was a pretty wild occurrence. Whats to say the NFL and UFL or any other league for that matter don't merge and form an "A" league and "B" league with teams jockeying for position in the first tier league. At worst, it keeps it interesting for the worst teams in the "A" league. They have to play out every game to win. In my opinion, which is what a blog is in the first place, it will add much more excitement to the NFL. There won't be any more 'scrimmages' as Antonio Pierce put it, with teams walking through inferior teams, pulling their starters early, and padding their record with uncontested games...

I'm just saying, who wants to watch the Rams, Lions, Chiefs, Raiders, or Bucs play another game this year...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Whats wrong with the NFL???

As the sports day today winds down, there is so much to write about that I find myself asking a simple question. What happened to the NFL?

Larry Johnson forgot how to play football and remembered how to get himself into trouble since signing the highest running back contract in the NFL two years ago. See you in 2 weeks Larry.

Tom Cable got cleared of his allegations. Apparently, his assistant couldn't muster the courage or evidence to properly prosecute. 3 of his ex's aim to prove his violent nature in the near future. Good hire Al Davis. Not that your image is impeccable as is, but you're not even halfway through your dreadful season and here comes some more negative attention.

I glanced at the ticker at the top of the screen during the Giants Eagles game and saw a 10-2 score for the Rams Lions game late in the 3rd quarter. That had to be a great game.

The Bucs are 0-7. The Rams got their first win in 17 games (1-7)...against the Lions (1-6). Those two teams are a combined 3-43 in the last two seasons. That's right...3-43. The Browns are 1-7, the Chiefs are 1-6 and somehow Cable punched out half as many wins as newsworthy battery accusers to show a 2-6 record. The NFC West is just as awesome as last year. And oh yeah, the Patriots beat the Titans 59-0.

If you haven't figured out where I am going with this yet, then we will let Tatum Bell of the UFL's Florida Tuskers do the rest. Bell said that his offense would put up MORE than 24 points and his defense would give up LESS than 14 against the Bucs. This point has been argued through and through by all kinds of analysts, columnists, broadcasters etc. Truth is, we won't ever know. But why not?...

Where am I going with this? Come back tomorrow. Here's a hint...English Premier League

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Video Replay in MLB

After the Phillies Yankees World Series Game 2 umpire blunders, the argument for video replay has picked up some steam. There seems to be a trend however, which to me, allows for a rather simple solution. I must be missing something.

The common trend is that most errors are made at first base, with reason. Most quick, bang-bang plays are at first base because most ground ball outs are made there and more runners are there than any other base during a game. So how about video replay at first base only?

I am going to backtrack now for a bit. The argument I am making is to not turn this into an NFL type deal with 5 minute breaks in a game that already has enough breaks. The argument is that baseball is a game that lives and dies through human error. And its still here. Not dead yet. So it is still living through personal reference decisions. That being said, the strike zone should certainly remain up to the umpires discretion. I think that is part of the challenge between hitter and pitcher: to know and read what pitches are balls and strikes for one umpire and balls and strikes for another. Not every strike zone is the same and that is part of what keeps the game interesting.

Keeping it interesting and keeping it fair are two different things. Balls and strikes were meant to be judgment calls. Plays at first, home runs and catches were not. Just live video replay is implemented for home runs, video replay should be implemented for plays at first and other out/safe debates in the field.

Just to site an example, the wrong call was clearly made in the ALCS Game 4 matchup between the Yankees and Angels where clearly both Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano should have been called out on a confusing run down play. Neither player was on a base when tug. Seems like a simple call to me.

But how about the Red Sox Angels Game 1 of the ALDS miscues. C.B.Bucknor made two pretty horrific calls at first base. Both calls went against the Red Sox and Howie Kendrick has a new favorite base ump. After replays showed just how wrong the calls were, and when I say this I mean wrong, not just questionable, but blatantly wrong, it was rather obvious that something needed to be done. Then there is the age old argument that it didn't affect the outcome of the game. The simple response is how do you know that?

Watching ESPN's PTI yesterday, an argument was raised that its not the NFL, there's no red challenge flags. Well...why not? 1 wrong challenge a game. Unlimited right challenges. But what about the length of the game, its long enough as it is. How long is the average stroll from the dugout by MLB managers to go argue with umpires, kick dirt, take off their hats, yell in the faces of the umpires, throw bases, draw lines in the dirt, kick dirt over home plate and even after being tossed out the game, continue the tirade? Not much of a difference to me.

Replay won't hurt baseball. It won't make the game longer. It won't take away a key component of a game that has gotten as far as it has based on human decision making. If home runs can be reviewed, so can calls at first base. Maybe we can stretch it to the foul lines as well. But thats for another day...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Poor Charlie

Not that Fox or TBS has ever shown any sort of admiration or likeness towards the Philadelphia Phillies, but it is hard to sit and watch and listen to the commentators continually question good ol 'Charles Junior.'  

The profound disapproval by Tim McCarver with Charlie Manuel not sending the runners (Jimmy Rollins from 2nd and Shane Victorino from 1st) with 1 out and Chase Utley at the plate in the eighth inning, made my teeth grind.  Fair enough, Chase grounded into a double play with Ryan Howard (at the time, 0 for 3 with 3k) on deck.  Using a cliche sports phrase, hindsight is 20/20.  I'm proud of you Tim McCarver.  You figured out that it didn't work out and then adamantly showed your disapproval for Manuel.  

Chase Utley hits the ball hard, even on his outs.  He hits line drives.  And even before Charlie Manuel said this in his post game interview, most knowledgeable sports fans/writers/commentators whatever, know Utley doesn't hit into hardly any double plays but does hit many line drive outs, which would make a double play much easier.

So what is the purpose of my commentary?  To say this:  What will it take for Fox, TBS, ESPN and anyone else out there save than the city of Philadelphia, to give Charlie a little credit as a dominant Major League Baseball manager?  The guy has brought this team from a joke to a powerhouse, with, of course, the efforts of Ed Wade, Pat Gillick and Rueben Amaro Jr.  The Phillies in the past 2 seasons haven't lost more than 1 game in a postseason series.  They are in back to back world Series after not seeing a 163rd game in 13 seasons.  Charlie Manuel will shock you when watching his interviews.  How does this guy become a Major League manager with a diction like that?  If the job description were to not say the words 'like,' and 'you know' and 'well' then he would fail miserably.  The job description is to win games and thats what he does.  He wins games.  It's rare occasion you hear them question Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox or Terry Francona.  None of them has a team in this years World Series.  None of them had a team in last years.  Let Charlie be Charlie and let the Phillies keep on rollin.