March is finally in the rear view mirror and with it I can finally put away the snow shovels and be free of winter for another few months. With that, there is Major League baseball on the television, the Final Four teams are left in the NCAA Tournament with March Madness winding down, the NFL is about done with major free agent signings and turns towards the NFL Draft, and the NBA and NHL wind down the regular season and ready for the playoffs.
I had a great Wednesday night of sitting on the couch watching TV and working the remote with the Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics all on the same night locally. Had some half-price pizza and Pabst Blue Ribbon beers at the local watering hole with my buddy and the kiddos (no beer for them!) before that. The only downer being the lovely Mrs. B. was stuck working that afternoon and missed all the fun.
A quick shout-out to O.H. whose blog yesterday got the wheels turning in my head--which is the reason we blog, right? He touched on the return of Milwaukee Brewers outfield Ryan Braun from his 65 game suspension for P.E.D.’s. Braun in Milwaukee, like Barry Bonds in San Francisco, received a powerful ovation from the home crowd and will soon be coming to the friendly confines of Fenway Park in Boston.
I had commented that I would not be among those booing Braun if I were at Fenway that night. Part of that reason is I am a big fan of Braun--a large part of that from him carrying various fantasy baseball teams of mine over the years. Another reason is he is a player who really seems to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to play baseball for a living. But another part of me has another reason not to boo him.
I was at Fenway for Roger Clemens’ first game back to Fenway as a Blue Jay where he dominated Boston’s lineup and famously pointed to General Manager Dan Duquette’s box as he left the mound. I was booing my lungs out at the Texas Con Man that day. Loudly and lustily. Not only because he was pitching so well for the opposition after having a few rough years allegedly out of shape here, but mostly due to rejection. He rejected the Red Sox. My team!
Fans boo for various reasons. Some is due to simply not liking the player/coach, etc for some reason or the other. Sometimes it is just the opposing team itself. Sometimes it is the player who scorned the team/franchise/city, etc. It may be respect for the player doing well against your team. Or it could be due to something the player did or did not do. There are countless reasons for booing.
But for Ryan Braun, he cheated the system and was caught and paid the price, but that is not the real reason for booing. He was so outspoken in his own defense prior to this suspension that it had a bit of a Lance Armstrong effect. Personally, I would think the fans of Milwaukee would be more likely to boo him: he hurt their home team last year with the stupid suspension.
Ryan Braun never did anything to me personally. In addition, he never hit a home run to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs (Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone); he never wasted my hard-earned money by taking the field overweight and out-of-shape (Roger Clemens); he never left the team in a messy divorce that came out before the biggest game in franchise history at the time (Bill Parcells); he never beat the home team with a game winning baby hook in the NBA Championship (Magic Johnson); and he never opened his big mouth and bad-mouthed the franchise I root for either (Rex Ryan).
Ryan Braun is an idiot. But I cannot boo him for using P.E.D.’s. In a way, it makes him a tragic figure. He was tempted and he gave into the temptation. As such it is very hard to fault him. If I were approached and told that taking something would allow me the opportunity to potentially secure my family financially for life and allow me to excel at the game I love for the price of some health issues many years down the road, it would be a difficult thing to say “no” to.
It is a deal with the devil, but everyday there are thousands of people give up so much more for so much less each and every day.
I guess I think of it now, and its not that I’m angry at Braun, or even feel upset that he succumbed to the P.E.D. pressure, but more sad for him that he gave in to the demon and was not strong enough to say “no”.
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The free agent signings are finally slowing down in the NFL, but as always there is plenty of NFL news each and every week.
The New England Patriots made an interesting move in bringing back safety Patrick Chung on Thursday after he signed in Philadelphia last year. Chung did not burn bridges on his way out of Foxboro, MA (cough-cough Brandon Spikes cough-cough) and after one injury plagued season miscast as a free safety playing deep centerfield on defense, Chung is back as a back-up and special teamer.
Per ProFootballFocus.com, Chung missed 13 tackles and allowed five touchdowns in only twelve games (ten starts). Opposing quarterbacks had a 129.8 quarterback rating throwing at Chung, who was paid $3 million last year in the first year of a back-loaded deal.
Chung lost his job in New England in 2012 as he fell hard after the team benched him in the playoffs. Primarily a strong safety for the Patriots, the 2009 second round pick had an up-and-down career in his first run in New England. He was likely cheap (no contract details released) but he knows the defense, has some perspective after a year away, and will be competing for a job.
Speaking of the Eagles, Philadelphia finally had enough and released their mercurial and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson was raked across the coals with a report of gang ties in an NJ.com story right before his release which does not help out much in free agency. Either way, he found a home in the NFC East in a hurry with Washington. For the Redskins, they are able to get two motivated games from Jackson at least (visiting Philly and Philly at Washington DC), but even more importantly he upgrades a wide receiver group in need of another playmaker for franchise quarterback RGIII. Will he behave? Will he produce? That is the big question. Three years for $24 million and $16 million guaranteed means presumably the ‘skins get a year of Jackson before he starts moaning about wanting a new contract.
For Jackson, the best landing spot would have been San Francisco with the 49ers top defensive unit and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. San Francisco with Jackson and Seattle with Percy Harvin and their defense would have made the best match-ups in the NFL into absolute must-see prime-time games. What a pity.
For the Redskins, having new head coach Jay Gruden get a new toy is a big deal. Pierre Garcon gets a little less attention and fellow new receiver Andre Roberts gets more single coverage as these three wide receivers should give running back Alfred Morris a few less defenders in the box as well. I understand where Philadelphia is coming from with all the issues off-the-field with Jackson despite his excellent on-field talent.
The New York Giants continued a busy off-season of moves in free agency as they grabbed offensive tackle Charles Brown and defensive end Robert Ayers and cornerback Zack Bowman to shore up the defense at value prices. Earlier in free agency, the Giants made a splash signing underrated cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and took a flyer on former Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond. Adding further to the secondary they brought in safety Quintin Demps from the Chiefs. They also brought back wide receiver Mario Manningham on offense and signed Dolphins guard John Jerry and Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz. The Giants even brought in return specialist Trinidad Holliday from the Broncos.
For all the talk of teams like New England, Denver, and Seattle loading up in free agency the G-men have flown under the radar this offseason. They have a number of solid veterans to step in and the team back into the playoff picture. Their offensive line and secondary were their Achilles heel last season, and they are reloading there with a vengeance.
OK, that’s all I have for this week. Have a great weekend, all!
Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. I know that many find Mark Cuban to be a loud mouth and generally an obnoxious ass. I have always enjoyed his outspoken nature and appreciate his obvious business acumen. I read with interest this week when Cuban poked the suits in the NFL with his comments about the NFL being in danger of over saturation. Honestly, is this any different than what many of us have been writing about the NFL? In case you missed it, the NFL is now talking about bringing an NFL game to Saturday night. I loved this Cuban quote: "Just watch. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I'm just telling you, when you've got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That's rule No. 1 of business." I love that saying about pigs getting fat. I used this often when talking about folks trying to grab the lowest interest rate on a loan. The NFL is sitting pretty now, but things can change and change quickly. Saturdays are for college football. Friday is for high school football. Maybe the NFL believes that they are too big to fail, but they are not. Hooray for Cuban for speaking the truth…even if some don’t want to hear it.
I think I have a solution for the Redskins. They can keep the name and just change their logo. Everyone wins...Seriously though, why can't people leave this alone. I am certainly no Daniel Snyder fan, but it really is ridiculous the way this will not die.
The NBA cracks me up. I admit to not paying too much attention to the game of late, but I was amazed to learn that the Spurs were on a 13 game winning streak (make it 14 after Tuesday night’s game). Many believe the Spurs are an old team, but if you take a look at their roster, they are loaded with young players. Pop has quietly built a very solid roster. I admit that I sort of expected the Spurs to fade away once Duncan and Ginobli retired…but now, I am not so sure. Pop does an amazing job of finding players that fit the mold that he requires. He sort of reminds me of Belichick that way. The NBA obviously is not crazy about San Antonio and the lack of flash…but it wins games. So…with the Heat, OKC, Indiana and others getting the press, it is the Spurs that are fighting the good fight. Damn, I may have to start paying attention to the NBA again.
Did you hear about Shaq having assault charges brought against him by a TBS employee? Apparently what Shaq considers horseplay, is not much fun for normal sized people. Shaq reportedly tackle/punched the employee then fell on him, injuring his back and neck. For all of Shaq’s faults, I truly have a hard time believing that Oneal would intentionally hurt someone. Of course, it would not be a stretch to think that a falling Shaq might cause damage to a “regular” sized person. Maybe this guy is really hurt, but I have a hard time buying it. The bad thing for Shaq is that intentional or not, he will probably have to pay. How much is a Shaq tackle is worth? I suppose we will soon see…
Maybe Shaq should sue Charles to recoup his money?
Julie and I made another mad dash for the valley last Friday afternoon. The starting catcher banged up his knee and it looked like Blake would be playing all three games. If you know college baseball, you realize that the best pitcher works on Friday night. The Broncs Friday night pitcher is a very good one…Sam Street. He really is one of the better arms in the country. He may not throw heat like the big boys at Vanderbilt or Texas, but he is a very advanced pitcher. He works in and out and changes speeds very well. At 6 and 0 with 4 complete games…he is a great college pitcher. Friday was UTPA’s first conference game against the New Mexico State Aggies and Street was money again. As we pulled into the parking lot in the 4th inning, the Aggies had loaded the bases. A walk, a missed call at 1B and a bunt single was the scenario as I turned off the car. As we walked into the stadium, the crowd reaction indicated a happy conclusion to the inning. As I quickly glanced at the scoreboard, the 0 under visitor confirmed my hunch. An infield fly and a double play allowed Street to work out of the inning. Street did not have his best stuff on Friday, but he pitched well enough to grab a win and another complete game. In our travels around the state this year, we have seen some very nice stadiums. I realized that although there may be more grand venues, but sitting in the front row behind home plate watching your son play is not all bad. Blake played pretty well. He was certainly not perfect, but is finally beginning to settle in. Here is the head coach Manny Mantrana discussing the weekend games.
Did you happen to see the fight between Florida State and Florida? The pitcher has to make that play…
It seems that each week that I find something to say about the Cleveland Indians. I am not sure if this is some kind of sign, but the video I saw this week was too good not to share. I can only imagine how cool it would be to watch your son take his first at bat in major league game…even a spring training game. Tom Hamilton is a lucky man!
I refuse to acknowledge those two games in Australia as opening day. I know that the games count, but not for me. Opening day is next week…in the US. There were two baseball things that really stood out for me this week. Don Mattingly publicly calling out Yasiel Puig and Max Scherzer turning down a 6 year contract worth slightly more than $25 million per…wow. Why am I not surprised that Scott Boras is Scherzer’s agent. I learned that Scherzer wanted to stay with the Tigers, but wanted an 8 year deal. Obviously Tiger management is pissed that Scherzer turned down this offer and I can’t blame them. The thing that is sad about this is that this incident could seriously impact how the Tigers play this year. How are Scherzer’s teammates going to look at his refusal? Is it just a business? Or will it be taken personally? One thing I know is that he probably won’t get a warm reception at home this year.
Yasiel Puig’s nickname is “wild horse”. Given his game, it is an apt nickname. What surprised me is Donnie Baseball making light of Puig’s injury with an implication that he exaggerates his aches and pains…a whiner if you will. I guess what is more surprising is that Mattingly went to the press with his comments. I get that Mattingly may be somewhat frustrated with Puig, but it is not even April yet. The Dodgers and Tigers are two teams that could be playing in October, but unless they can put aside these distractions…they may find the season to be a troubled path.
That is all I have this week, but will leave you a bit of Jack Handey…
It's easy to sit there and say you'd like to have more money. And I guess that's what I like about it. It's easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting that money.
I wish I would have a real tragic love affair and get so bummed out that I'd just quit my job and become a bum for a few years, because I was thinking about doing that anyway.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own…
1 in 9.2 quintillion. Of course, you’re reading this because your bracket was busted and you had no chance at the Quicken Loans 1 Billion Dollar prize. How do I know? Out of all the submissions, there were 3 left standing on Friday, but each of those dreams ended when Memphis beat George Washington. Unless, you’re Brad Binder - he’s still got a perfect bracket (as of Sunday), but it seems he failed to enter the challenge - he only entered Yahoo! Sports brackets. Ooops. Brad, if you happen to be a Gabber, I’m sorry man. Really, I am.
Wanna know how they can offer a BILLION DOLLARS? The odds against hitting a perfect bracket are 1-in-9.2 quintillion (or 9.2 billion multiplied 1 billion times)...or something like that. See, that number is a straight math problem - 2 to the 63rd power. According to an old USA Today piece I found, looking behind the straight math and figuring in some real world logic, the number is something like 1 in 128-Billion. At that number, someone could conceivably get it once every 400 years. Back to how they can offer that kind of cake - the insurance against something like that happening (we’ll use the once every 400 years number) has to be insanely small. I mean like a couple of us guys here at the Gab could probably roll some left over change and buy a policy like that. That is if a few of us had about $10-Million laying around.
I work with sales people all week. I can’t imagine how giddy the dude who wrote that policy must be.
1 in 16. These are my odds that Michael Vick could actually land the starting job in New York - he signed a $5-Million, 1 year deal with the Jets - and make it through the season healthy. We all know the Jets do like a good QB sideshow. I mean we’re 2 weeks into free agency, a mountain of teams in need of a Quarterback have already gotten one, and the Jets jettison Sanchez to pick up Vick. Ouch. Could Mike Vick really be that much of an upgrade over Sanchez? Why leap so late in the game? Meanwhile Sanchez will now sit and wait for someone to go down.
Now, Vick has been a talented guy, but he reminds me of a video game I used to play back in the day - anyone remember “Glass Joooooe!!”?
Now it’s been reported for sometime that New England is a potential landing spot for the disgruntled wideout, and it makes me wonder if he’s already working the NYJ company line or if he’s just trying to help his buddy out by increasing the possible market, or quietly making the push to be the starter - or some combination thereof. The prospect of Jackson to NYJ could up the ante for Belichick, and to create a little movement - the other teams expressing interest are in the NFC, probably not something Philadelphia would be wont to do. I’d love to see Jackson in New England, and I feel reasonably comfortable in the idea that he’d behave. Brady’s window is closing and he can’t be overly happy about how the last 5 years or have played out. Hard to say if there’s anyone in New York saying “We Need Jackson,” other than Vick, but it’s also hard to see how the Jets could see the value there - I mean they need a few more pieces than a receiver. See the introductory sentence regarding quarterbacks.
BONUS: Buttfumble. To pay homage to the Sanchez era in New York, I give you one of my all time favorite memories of the Patriots/Jets rivalry.
Baseball Season is Nigh!7-1 vs 50-1, Gone are the days that the Cincinnati Reds opened the season with the first game of the year. I’ve said many times that MLB is a bit of a prisoner to its tradition, and that it has quietly gone about pulling apart the vestiges of the olde game so they can go about modernizing (read here further monetizing) the game. And so it goes in recent years the Red Sox have opened the season in Japan, The Rockies and Padres have played in Mexico and this year the Dodgers and Diamondbacks opened the year in the Australian outback (presumably they were also used to search for the missing 777 - every extra man helps!). The Dodgers won both games and thus have 2 wins under their belt a full week before anyone else gets to play a meaningful game.
I guess I appreciate the chance to expand horizons, but I’m trying to figure out just how baseball would fit in with Australian culture - a country of cricket fans. The NFL tried to build NFL Europe and has played a novelty game in London every year that the fans embrace...but it’s just that, a novelty. Baseball is huge in Japan, but the game was introduced in the late 1800’s there and developed a following over the course of time. I don’t know that MLB has the patience to wait 100-years for the continent of Australia to figure this game out.
Have a great week, and don’t buttfumble! BTW, the Red Sox are 12-1 odds of winning the 2014 World Series...as are the Yankees.
Happy Friday! I know I am excited for a weekend of March Madness!
The final week of winter has passed and in the Northeast and with that spring beckons. The green grass of infields, ballpark hot dogs, overpriced watered down beer, and sunshine seems far away, so close.
Of course, March Madness is kicking off right now with two of the craziest days in college basketball (wishing I called out of work for some quality time with the couch, beer, and college basketball). I will admit, my attention span waned on college basketball this winter. This year I was too caught up in the NFL all off-season and over-extended myself a bit with time commitments.
The mad first week of free agency is over and the signings are just trickling in slowly now. The battle for bargains is in place. The big signing on Thursday saw Atlanta overpay for a kick returner (Devin Hester). At 31, a three year deal for nine million dollars is a lot. Yes, the Bears had stuck him at wide receiver and cornerback in the past, but he is a pure special teams player.
I love how the New York Jets have had to put on a media dog-and-pony show to deal with the incessant criticism over their lack of activity in free agency despite a boatload of cap space. Their big news is that Michael Vick may come in and...well, what exactly? Cornerback Antonio Cromartie just signed in Arizona where he will team with Patrick Peterson to make a dynamic one-two punch. All the top corners are gone and there are no great quarterbacks available in free agency.
The Jets now are thinking about Vick to allow them to release Mark Sanchez and free up another $10 million in cap space they won’t spend? The best line by Ryan may have been about how his cornerbacks went from obscenely talented (Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie) in 2011 to...well nothing. Ryan said a lot of stuff about first round pick Dee Milliner and bust Kyle Wilson as part of his media show. But this line is just for the Patriots fans to make them smile:
“And there’s another guy, Ras-I Dowling, a guy that we really thought a lot of. . . . I’m happy with the guys that we have.”
Yup, the one and only Ras-I Dowling. From Revis to Ras-I...nice work, New York.
The highest profile free agent left is Jared Allen and he appears to be close to going to Seattle. Adding Allen would make an elite defense even stronger. Initially there were some frantic tweets that he had signed, but now it appears Allen will decide this weekend.
Over the years, we’ve developed the distinct impression that the NFL prefers to avoid shining too bright of a light on the irregularities of the injury-reporting system. The procedure is aimed at creating the impression that there’s no inside information to be obtained by gamblers. Obsessing over the various violations of the letter and/or the spirit of the rules would serve only to highlight that, indeed, the truth doesn’t reside on a piece of paper filled out by the team — and that it can possibly be obtained by offering small, green, rectangular sheets of paper to persons who are in position to pass along accurate information about who’s really injured, and who really isn’t.
The involvement of the Patriots serves only to complicate matters for the league. As legend has it, the Spygate-related information given to the NFL by the Patriots that was destroyed by the league office consisted of evidence of cheating not only by the Patriots but also by multiple other teams in multiple other ways. As the folklore also goes, Patriots coach Bill Belichick vowed to go public with chapter-and-verse detail about cheating throughout the league if the league were to mess with the Patriots again.
Wow. I would have loved to have seen Belichick roll out the tape on all the other NFL teams that were also “guilty” of “spying”. Damn, that would have been fun to see.
I had my first fantasy baseball draft Thursday night as well. I am really cutting down on the fantasy sports. I am in a hockey league that I have been negligent of and probably won’t return to next year; I had an even dozen NFL fantasy football leagues that was just a bit too much for me and needs to be cut down; this year I am in only three fantasy baseball leagues and have made a point to keep it at that number. Of course, one of them is the Gab league as I have to make up for my terrible performance last season.
Still, baseball is in the front of my mind. It keeps calling to me more and more each day. I already got some bleacher seats for the end of April at Fenway for cheap (well, the wife got them for me). Did not get to Fenway the last two years, but am excited to get back there at a more reasonable price. The last two years the wife and I have dragged the kids to minor league baseball as there are great local products in Pawtucket (AAA Red Sox affiliate) and the Collegiate Summer League team the Brockton Rox. Paying MLB prices for tickets, parking, food, drink, driving (gas money) and/or riding the rails, etc has killed a lot of the joy, and for a family of four it is an afternoon ballgame for the price of a vacation.
I have been following the Red Sox preseason games trying to get as many looks at the young arms that should be on display in AAA Pawtucket this summer. Drake Britton and Brandon Workman look like they are in position to start the season in the bullpen, but it may be in their best interest to be stretched out starting in Pawtucket. That said, there may not be room in the rotation.
Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster came to the Red Sox from the Dodgers when the Sox fleeced them by unloading Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez. Both had opportunities for a stretch in Boston but need polishing. De La Rosa looks like a better fit in the bullpen and Webster had some rough starts in Boston but has a lot of promise.
Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, and Henry Owens are all starters who may be called on to step up during the season if need be for a spot start or due to an injury. The trio has been flying up the minor league system and all project to be starting in Fenway in the near future. Barnes is the 2011 first round draft pick from UConn with a major league fastball and but has to polish his off-speed stuff. Owens is a big lefty who was also a 2011 first round pick with a mid-90s fastball and devastating change-up. He projects to be a solid starter. Finally Ranaudo is the most interesting case. He fell off the prospect watch after injuries slowed him in 2012. He bounced back with a big 2013 that saw him land in AAA. Still only 24, he could be in Boston by the end of the season.
OK, that’s all I have for today. Enjoy the March Madness and have a great weekend!