The NFL season is getting geared up as there are just two weeks left in the preseason and much to talk about. Time to get right to the notes (before I import any tables and crash the site again--whoops!).
In Philly, the big news last night was running back LeSean McCoy’s thumb on Thursday night. Initially what could have been a break was released as a sprain and should shut him down until opening day. Huge positive news for Philadelphia and fantasy football owners. McCoy is one of the best running backs in the NFL but the fear of injury is always a concern.
Their opponents Friday night was Pittsburgh and their pair of “Dopes” in the backfield. Former Bucs and Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount and last year’s top back Le’Veon Bell were arrested on Wednesday after a police officer on a motorcycle noticed the smell of marijuana and both were arrested after a traffic stop. The duo may now face discipline from the league and Pittsburgh may be shorthanded come opening day against Cleveland. Some nice preparation for the game, for sure.
Number one overall pick defensive end Jadeveon Clowney left practice Wednesday as he suffered an undisclosed injury but rumors were bouncing around it was a neck injury but not serious. That said, the kid has been fantastic to date. Moving from end in college to outside linebacker in the 3-4 under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s three time Super Bowl ring defense, Clowney has been explosive and disruptive to date. For Houston, they need to protect their investment and not rush him back. Clowney and J.J. Watt look like a dynamic pass rushing duo this season and beyond.
In Indianapolis, the Colts have to be wondering when running back Trent Richardson is going to break out. After trading a first round pick to Cleveland for the former #3 overall pick, Richardson did nothing but lose his job last season. With Vick Ballard injured and just a washed-up Ahmad Bradshaw behind Richardson, the Colts have a gaping hole on offense. They traded for Eagles back David Fluellen this week, but the undrafted free agent is likely just a depth option for the practice squad. The Colts are running out players like Zurlon Tipton, Deji Karim, and Daniel Herron at running back. Expect Indy to scour the waiver wire for some backs at cutdowns. Whoever thought Donald Brown would look so good and be missed?
The New York Jets lost their third and fourth round draft picks this week as cornerback Dexter McDougle and receiver Shaq Evans landed on injured reserve. The Jets were expected to lean on their rookies this season and losing two already does not bode well. Oft-injured former Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Patterson has been out and the cornerback position has been so thin that safety Antonio Allen was moved to slot cornerback. For a team that had one of the best duos in football at cornerback in Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, they now have flotsam and jetsam at the position. Wide receiver is not much better. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg (sorry Detroit fans to bring up that bad memory!) now has Eric Decker and...well, no one any good at receiver. David Nelson, Jeremy Kerley, Jacoby Ford, Greg Salas, and Stephen Hill look like a cutdown list, not a depth list.
In Arizona, the Cardinals lost a key cog in their strong defense when veteran nose tackle Darnell Dockett went down with an ACL injury during a non-contact drill. He is out for the season and backup Frostee Rucker is just not comparable to Dockett in the middle of the defense. The Cards also signed veteran Isaac Sopoaga last seen being beat out by undrafted free agents for playing time in New England. Big loss for Arizona.
A 2012 second-round draft pick was released this week as the St. Louis Rams dumped oft-injured running back Isaiah Pead after he tore his ACL last week. Pead has had injuries, suspensions, crappy play, and sixth-round pick Zac Stacy making him obsolete in St. Louis. The question becomes whether anyone wants to take a chance on him and stash him for a year and see if he can bounce back next year. Quite the long-shot, though.
Of course, the biggest news (as far as ESPN was concerned) was Johnny Football was told he will ride the pine week one. Of course, a quarterback who played in the shotgun, had no playbook, and was late for practices and looked terrible all preseason really should have had no shot to play at all. Great news for career backup Brian Hoyer as he gets a shot to play at last. For Johnny Manziel, hopefully he gets his head on straight and buckles down and gets himself ready to play in the NFL. Of course, I said all along this guy is just another Tim Tebow...he has time to prove me wrong, but I am not counting on it.
Finally, in Cincinnati the Bengals signed linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a four-year $20 million extension paying him $7.6 million this year. Burfict was an undrafted free agent who signed for a $5,000 signing bonus as no other team wanted any part of the troubled and slow linebacker coming out of college. The Bengals got two fantastic seasons from the big run-stuffer at NFL minimum contract level before re-upping him wisely now. If Burfict played again at the minimum contract this year he would likely have been looking for a new address as a free agent this offseason.
Hey y’all. Sorry, had to go the Paula Deen route. Hey, I figured while Sully was away, I'd have a little fun. Not funny? OK, on to the sports, where today I want to talk about Baseball:
“The one constant through all the years (Ray) has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”
James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams (1989) (imdb.com)
I was reminded of this quote recently and it’s amazing to me how accurate it truly is. As a kid, I couldn't get enough of Baseball and maybe it's a bit melancholy or whatever, but Baseball kinda did represent what was once good and now what can be again, as we witness what I call the rebirth of the sports since about 2010. No matter how down we get on the sport, we watch. We pay to travel nearly 2000 miles and watch a game between two teams that you really don’t know or care about. We go to Spring Training because we missed the game so over a long cold Winter – as if Ole Man Winter moves aside for the game. We get fired up in late March, early April for Opening Day, some going as far as taking the day off. You get the sense that Baseball is on the upswing…
But I also worry. When the LLWS outdraws MLB in TV ratings by nearly double, that’s a sign. I worry when I read and hear about casinos and sports books taking action on Little League games. I worry when folks care more about NFL training camps and preseason football then they do about compelling races, and that leads me to this:
MLB Commish. There is a lot of complaining from many places on the selection of Rob Manfred to replace Bud Selig by saying that it will be the same type of “leadership.” Look, I don’t know Manfred, so I’ll reserve judgment on that, but what I do believe is that MLB needs a tweak to its vision. Baseball has a lot going for it – tradition, fantastic Minor League Baseball that many fans eat up (both figuratively AND literally), and vastly improved MLB product in terms of competitive balance (on the field), but at the same time, I think it’s time we all look at the bigger picture and start to try to bring back the casual fan.
We’ve all talked about what we would do if we were commish, and from the outside looking in, this is what I would do (revised):
1. Enforce the pitch clock per Rule 8.04 of the MLB Rule Book, but tweak the rule so that the batters are penalized for delay of game just as much as pitchers are.
2. Joe Morgan has or had an excellent program where he was trying to get baseball back into the inner cities. MLB needs to partner up with him if they don’t already.
3. This one isn’t realistic, but what I would summarily do as commish would be to put feet to the fire in Miami, Tampa, and Atlanta where fan support is minimal at best. I honestly would look at relocation and/or contraction with these three teams and warn these markets that they are at risk of relocation or demotion to AAA – after all, it’s a business and something is not right if you can’t get fans to games. Personally, I would look at Portland and San Antonio as relocation outfits.
4. If Gambling is such a HUGE issue for Baseball, if it is true that there are casinos and sports books taking bets on LLWS, I would pull my support of those casinos who partake and shut down their right to take bets on MLB.
5. I would hang my foot in San Francisco’s ass with their continuous blocking of Oakland trying to get into San Jose by charging SF a fee to MLB for their continued demand and claim of that area. Then I would hang my foot in the Oakland owners ass by demanding they and the city of Oakland either build a new stadium downtown, in the South Bay near Fremont, or in the East Bay valleys and give them three years to commit to it. If there is no agreement by 2018 with a scheduled groundbreak date, I would announce plans to move the team by having a previously written, binding agreement with either Portland or San Antonio to bring the franchise there in 2019.
6. Throttle back on the greed by 14.28% and make it more affordable for a family to go to a game and reasonably enjoy it one day a week. Now look, I don’t begrudge clubs for making their money, but can you at least take one day and cut the prices? Surely you can afford a 14% cut one day a week? Hell, maybe you could sell out a game or two?
Example: If you’re Minnesota and you have Cleveland or the New York Mets coming to town on a Wednesday, that won’t draw much interest, right? Drop the prices in advance, advertise it as a one-day a week special, and fill the place with the noise of families and kids. Wouldn’t that make sense for teams who are out of the race in September to bring in some fans?
7. I would also look at using “best interests of the game” caveat to go after organizations with poor ownership. By that I mean this, I would hire experienced and successful people to go in and consult on how to make their product more interesting to the organization in their city, and if there was no improvement over the years, well, like any other business, I would adjust in some way.
MLB. Colin Cowherd is like Keith Olbermann, a pompous, arrogant big city ass, the very embodiment of today’s media. But at the same time, he does have some fair takes. First off, he says he goes to MLB games every year, and he doesn’t go to NFL games – which I find interesting and a comment like that while only from one talking head should have the NFL at least thinking. Secondly, he talks about Bud Selig talking about his dinners with old MLB legends such as Al Kaline and Frank Robinson, to which Cowherd says “Spend dinners with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper”. Thirdly, he talks about the “regional” issue by saying yes, it exists, but he rightfully points out that the New York teams have problems getting people to go to games.
But then he gets stupid and says that San Francisco has been abysmal to watch the last four years. Hey Colin, I hate to burst your bubble in whatever alternate world you live in, but San Francisco has won two of the last four World Series titles. Idiot.
Baseball – Seattle. Should we be surprised by their performance this season? Ten games over .500 and making a good run towards the playoffs despite the naysayers who keep wanting to bury them?
Hitting. With every stat I could find, Seattle is consistent – they rank between 18 and 21 in every hitting stat. Seattle as a team is batting .246. I don’t care what anybody says, Robby Cano IS NOT a disappointment in Seattle (.329 BA, 11 HR, 69 RBI, 10 SB) and should be on his way to a 200 hit season. SS Chris Taylor was brought up recently and is hitting .338, though he is cooling off hitting .269 in his last ten.
Pitching. It’s pretty clear to me that pitching is carrying the Mariners to this point. As usual, King Felix is tearing it up, but this kid Hisashi Iwakuma isn’t too far behind at 12-6, 2.57 ERA, with 120 strike outs, while he has gone seven innings or more eight of his last ten games. Meanwhile Chris Young is 12-6 with a 3.07 ERA.
Future. #1 Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker has apparently made it to the bigs as a closer, though shoulder soreness is slowing him down, though I’m not sure why Seattle rushed to bring him up as he was struggling at AAA level. #4 Chris Taylor (SS) is having a strong 2014 at AAA (.314, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 14 SB) and has been brought up as well. In fact in 302 AB, has had 34 extra base hits. Yet another SS prospect doing even better? That would be #10 Ketel Marte who was tearing up AA and started off AA real strong. In 2014, he has a .306 BA, 51 RBI, 26 SB). Carson Smith is another RP AAA guy whose expected to be brought up soon, and #17 OF Xavier Avery has folks hopeful if he can remain consistent. Oh, and there is this guy Danny Hultzen who was taken overall #2 in the 2011 draft who will be coming back next season from a torn rotator cuff. If he’s healthy, you might see him in Spring Training with an outside shot at making the team.
With my sidekick Shorty back where he came from and our NFL prognostications done it’s time to face the fact that Summer is winding down .
NOT THAT FAR DOWN...
The various parts of the country where each of you are from see seasonal changes a little differently from the Southern New England area a few of us call home.
At the time of this writing it’s a cool 68 degrees out side and the forecast is sunny and a high of 78.
But with the fading sunshine and shorter days along with brisker wind and turning leaves comes the most watchable sport on the planet
The sweet aroma of Football is in the air.
Soon the fantasy football aficionados will be drafting the best players available.
The final pre season games will be under the belts of our favorite teams
The rosters will be cut to 53 and a practice squad will be assembled
Every team will be tied for first and last
Every team will have high hopes and aspirations
And soon an explanation for failure
Some teams rely on an aging formula for success because it always seems to work
Some teams rely on a young guy for improvement
Some teams rely on
Home field advantage
Some teams assume they will always be in the mix
And some teams realize that their hopes are really based on
…hopes and smoke and mirrors and the past
Some teams think that maybe change is good
Some teams insist that what they have should work
As unpredictable as the NFL seems
Some things never seem to change
But then, some things do
Following Football is like owning a Jeep.
Any of you that has or has had a jeep will know what I mean.
You love it, you drive it, you break it, you fix it, you drive it, you love it, you break it, you fix it and on and on it goes…even though it seems like it’s a hole in the driveway that you just throw money in…you keep it and you love it
And compare the NFL game with any other sport available and as mad as your team makes you…you will watch…you will hope…they will get better.
The Bird is the Word… over the past week or so in the world of sports, the bird has indeed been the word. Hello folks, and welcome to Thursday, Friday’s annoying little brother. I’m filling in for our good friend Lanz today, as he’s out of town with the littlest Lanz for some travel baseball. Hope it’s a great trip my friend, and we’ll see you back here next week.
Back in 1976, a different type of Bird was sweeping the nation… as Mark Fidrych was using his unusual mannerisms to create a cult following for the Detroit Tigers ace. Unfortunately, that’s not the bird we get to talk about today…
A few years back, we had a bird flu scare. This, of course, came off the heels of mad cow disease, which came off the heels of upset horse disease, which came off the heels of swine flu, which came off the heels of disgruntled goat disorder. Again, not the bird we’re going to discuss today…
Of course the Trashmen had their moment in the sun thanks to the bird back in 1963… but we’re not talking about any Surfing Birds here.
Nope, the bird this week takes many forms. There’s the good ol’ fashioned, in your face variety…
The double barrel…
What’s this in my pocket…
There’s something in my eye…
The girly, over the shoulder as I run away bird…
The hidden message chin swipe…
No matter what way you use it, the bird has been the word recently. Last week, the Tigers were mired in the middle of yet another rough stretch, and closer Joe Nathan was in the midst of shitting the bed once again. Fortunately, he avoided disaster, and got a double play ball to close out the game. Unfortunately for him, after that he decided to go with the ol’ fashioned under the chin swipe directed at fans… and he took a lot of heat for the gesture locally. He has since apologized, and many of his teammates have backed him up, but the gesture paired with his ERA of 5.28 and six blown saves… the same number as he had combined in 2012-13, means fans are not likely to forgive this guy any time soon. Want some forgiveness, Joe, get your fucking ERA under four and quit shitting the bed on a nightly basis!
Then, of course, there is the performance of Johnny Football on Monday Night… evidently someone on the Redskins sideline said something that got him all butthurt, and he responded like this…
Dip shit move by someone who has proven to be a major dip shit over the past few months. The camera is ALWAYS on you dummy… I would have thought you’d realized that by now, especially after your little bathroom photo incident. At this point, I don’t know of anyone who isn’t rooting for this guy to fail. Maybe a season on the bench will give the little twat some perspective; but somehow I doubt it. ESPN will continue to cover him, build him up, and revel in the eventual teardown… like they’ve done with numerous players before and they’ll do many times in the future. When Johnny finally gets a shot as a starter, he'll be a hunted man. Seems that veteran players don't like little shits like Johnny Manziel coming into the league as cocky as this... and somebody will take him out.
But the real question here… why are people so offended by this gesture… much like profanity to begin with? We live in a world full of famine, suffering, war, with disgusting, unspeakable criminal acts being perpetrated against innocent people every day. So somebody used some foul language around you and you’re upset about that? Well, I’ve got one thing to say about that…
That’s all I’ve got for today folks. Thanks for reading, and for any comments you leave on the way out.
That was me at dinner last night, only with wings.
Happy Wednesday, Gabbers. Summer came back for the week. We got close to 90 here. According to the Pittsburgh news stations, we haven’t hit 90 yet. I think we have in places. Still, I won’t complain about a cooler summer.
Did you hear what happened again? A group of Alabama hunters caught another monster gator. A 5 person team pulled a 15 foot, 1011.5 lb beast out of the Alabama River. The good news is that could mean that the wetlands down that way are doing better if they can support any gators approaching that size.
Further on that topic, did anyone hear that people have been catching bull sharks in the Potomac River near D.C.? One of the catches was an 8 footer. Let’s encourage Congress to go swimming!
The ice bucket challenge is huge now. Everybody is getting behind this trend and all the videos have generated millions for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) research. Former Tennessee Titan and Penn State player Tim Shaw recently posted a video with a twist; he announced he was forced to retire due to a positive diagnosis with ALS.
I met Shaw a few times. I played with his brother Peter Shaw at Albion. On average, people can live 3 years after being diagnosed. I know Tim, Pete, and that family will make strides to do a lot of good in that time.
On a positive note, the Tigers pulled out an 11th inning win well after I went to bed. When last I was awake, J.D. Martinez hit a solo shot in the eighth, which was quickly countered by the Rays later in the inning. It was looking like our bullpen would be shinning again, but we managed to hold into the 11th.
Kinsler led off with a triple. The next three batters were walked, plating Kinsler. Torii Hunter scored on a wild pitch. The final run scored on a sacrifice fly. Joe Nathan was brought in to close. He got the save, even though he gave up a run.
Did you guys happen to catch Nathan’s chin flick to the Tigers crowd? Apparently he was upset that fans had the audacity to boo him. Nathan apologized, kind of. He brought up his kids, but noted they were too young to know what was going on. I don’t get why he’s upset with fans pointing out the obvious: he’s having the worst season of his career.
That’s all for today. Thanks as always for stopping in. We ran into a guy casting for an NFLSHOP commercial at our local bar last night. You could see AFD hawking for the shield. I just hope they don’t want my wife to wear a Ravens jersey.