Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Redeem Team defeats Spain, wins the Gold

Spain had just cut the lead to two on a Rudy Fernandez three pointer. It was gut check time for the United States, and Coach Krzyzewski called a timeout with eight minutes left to play in the Olympics. All the sacrifices this team of superstars had made, all the time they put into this Olympics, achieving the gold medal they had to have came down to eight minutes of basketball.

Doubt started to creep, would the Americans crumble? Would they start to play 1 on 1 basketball? Well, fresh out of the timeout team play was still emphasized. Kobe Bryant drove the lane, the defense collapsed on him and he kicked the ball to a wide open Deron Williams in the corner. Williams nailed an open three pointer, and the doubts started to fade away a bit.
On the very next United States possession, Kobe drove into the lane once again drew the defense and hit Dwight Howard with a pass for a dunk.

The tables had turned, as the U.S. gave themselves a bit of a cushion on their way to winning the gold medal and putting U.S. basketball back on top. After embarrassments in the World Championships and the Olympics, a lot was said about basketball in the United States. The players being too selfish, the caliber of basketball in the U.S. taking a hit among other things. So in an effort to become a power in basketball again, Jerry Colangelo sculpted this team three years ago, and it has been a commitment ever since then. They brought the best talent over here, arguably having the two best players in the world (James, Bryant), 3 of the 10 best point guards in the world (Kidd, Paul, Williams), the best center in the world (Howard) among other talent. It was getting them to play as a team that was the most important part, because obviously the talent is there. It all came together, and the Americans did it. They brought home the gold.

On a side note, I deserve a face full of crow for my stance on Dwyane Wade being on the Olympic team. As is documented in my initial entry about the U.S. basketball team I didn't think Wade belonged there, as I felt we had three bigger better versions of him. Well, Wade was the best player in the Olympics as no one could guard him and he played great defensively. So, Wade gets props, as he played wonderfully.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Umenyiora injures knee, out for season

Preseason injuries have sculpted or better yet ended a season for many playoff contending teams in the past. Another big name went down in season-ending fashion Saturday night as New York Giants standout defensive end Osi Umenyiora suffered ligament damage during the game against the Jets.

It is a significant loss to the Giants, as they lose 13 sacks and a major contributor to the defensive front that wreaked havoc throughout the postseason, making lives for QBs miserable. The front four was clearly the unit that made the Giants go last season during the stretch run, while thoroughly dominating one of the best lines in all of football en route to a legendary victory in Superbowl XLII.

While the loss is a significant one for the New York Giants, as it hurts the bread and butter of the team, I truly do not believe it is crippling. You have the possibility of bringing back a Hall of Famer in Michael Strahan, one who had a good year last season and proved his worth after a slow start. You have the option of playing Mathias Kiwanuka who is also a good pass rusher and has shown the ability to cause problems for offensive lines in limited duty.

I'm not saying that Osi is a bad player or that his impact on the SB team is overlooked. I just personally think that the Giants, even without him, can be effective as a unit since they have guys who can pick up the slack. I do think that they will sign Strahan, and once he gets his legs under him he will be a good replacement. I think we will see a lot of what we saw in the postseason, especially the Superbowl, when the Giants lined up the 3 DEs on the field during passing downs to maximize the pass rush. This worked, especially in the SB where Justin Tuck absolutely owned Logan Mankins up and down the field that day.

Losing a pass rusher of Osi's ilk is never good, and I am not portraying it to be that way. I just don't believe its really that big a blow considering they have people up to the challenge of replacing him and might be adding another in Strahan. I think if the Giants lose any of the following, Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress and Antonio Pierce they would then be in serious trouble. Without Eli Manning, I need to go no further than to say David Carr would be starting for the New York Giants in that case. Read that sentence again, it scares me just writing it. Plaxico Burress is the only thing that is even close to resembling a playmaker on the offensive side of the football. While the Giants can plug in a few guys who could play decent enough to keep the Giants from falling into an abyss, Burress' playmaking ability would be sorely missed. Look at how he abused Al Harris in the NFC title game for reference as to why Burress is vital to this team's success.

As for Pierce, I still think the guy is one of the most underrated players in the game. He is a stout player in the middle of the Giants defense, and a sound tackler but his value as far as his emotional leadership, being the captain of that defense and his knowledge of the game and the Giants defense as a whole. Pierce is the heart and soul of the Giants defense and there isn't exactly someone waiting in the wings who could take over.

All in all, the loss of Umenyiora certainly is a bad thing, but it could have been worse. The Giants at least have viable options who can step in and be production. The loss of Umenyiora certainly doesn't spell the end of the Giants season. They will still make the playoffs, and still have a relatively successful season.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The 'Redeem Team' defeats Argentina by 20

This entire Olympics, the United States basketball team has been on a mission. They have been on a mission to erase the bad memories of 2004, and bringing the gold medal back to the United States. They took one step closer to the gold medal, defeating Argentina this morning by the score of 101-81, placing them just one win away from the gold medal.

Argentina, the defending gold medalists, and the team that defeated the US in the last Olympics came into the game looking to send a message. They often delivered hard fouls, and seemed to be trying to get into the heads of the Uniter States players. Well, it didn't work as the US jumped out to a 21-4 lead, and held off Argentina the rest of the way for a relatively easy victory. It sets up a matchup on Sunday with Spain for all the marbles. Manu Ginobili left the game in the first quarter with the left ankle problem that has been bugging him. The U.S. was led by Carmelo Anthony who scored 21 points, and LeBron James added 15.

The US stifled Argentina by pressuring them relentlessly on defense and by attacking offensively, since the three point shot was not working for them. Luis Scola scored 28 points for Argentina who didn't go down without a fight. It just wasn't enough to derail the U.S. on this day. The crisp passing, the attacking the basket, the pressure defense was too much for Argentina to handle on this day.
Now this three year reclamation project comes down to 40 minutes, one game on Sunday.

The U.S. wins and they erase the bad memories of 2004, and represent this country with a gold medal. If they lose, it won't be pretty but losing for this team isn't very likely. They are too focused, and too hellbent on getting redemption. Good luck Spain, you'll need it.

Francisco Rodriguez for Cy Young?

Let me start this by saying I do not have a vendetta against Francisco Rodriguez. He's good at what he does, and is having a good year given his position and the main statistic correlated to that position (saves, which I personally believe is a very overrated statistic but that is for another discussion).

Now, I've heard Rodriguez' name in the discussion among analysts, and writers for the Cy Young Award. With all due respect to Rodriguez, mentioning him for the award is laughable at best. K-Rod is good at what he does, but the guy has pitched 53 innings this season. And I'm sure he has had several of the 'I have to get 3 outs before the opponent gets 3 runs' kind of saves, which is what makes the saves stat overrated in my opinion. I'm not saying that having a good closer isn't important, I'm saying when you consider the parameters for getting a save, the statistic is somewhat jaded. Given that, I think you would have to be borderline superhuman to win a Cy Young as a closer.

K-Rod, for all intents and purposes, has been a compiler this season. His numbers, outside of the save category, are good but they aren't anything that make you say 'Wow'. He has a 2.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and .201 Batting Average Against. Those numbers are good, but they aren't unbelievable. While a closer can be valuable, calling one the most valuable player in the league is somewhat of an indictment on the talent level of the league as a whole.
If K-Rod wins the Cy Young over the following two pitchers it is an absolute travesty:

C. Lee- 18-2 2.43 ERA 177.2 IP 26 BB 141 K 1.08 WHIP .249 BAA 3 CG

Halladay- 15-9 2.68 ERA 198 IP 34 BB 168 K 1.04 WHIP .233 BAA 8 CG

Personally I would give the award to Roy Halladay, since he has been phenomenal this season but Lee is also a very deserving candidate. Either way, if Rodriguez wins the award over these two phenomenal candidates there is something seriously wrong with the voting process. Again, no disrespect to Rodriguez, he has done what he has to do but him winning the award would be am epic travesty.

Friday, August 15, 2008

5 most easily twisted/meaningless statistics

We all have argued about sports at one point or another, and we all have had that argument where someone uses a statistic that makes you say 'What?' or 'Man, why do people use that statistic to justify their arguments? Now I'll go through my 5 most insignificant, deceiving or just flat out meaningless statistics.

5. Field Goal Percentage (NBA)- I am not, by any means, saying that FG percentage is meaningless. I am just saying that this statistic can easily be bent and twisted to suit your argument. For example, LeBron James had an impressive 48% FG percentage last season. Folks will use that to say well LeBron is improving his jump shot and or his range which isn't necessarily the case. As twisted as this is going to sound, FG percentage doesn't really indicate how you shoot the ball in some cases. Dwyane Wade is the same way, he had a 47% FG percentage last season. Does that mean he's a good jump shooter? Not really. Does that mean he has good range of some kind? Not really. I'm not saying that those two literally drive the basket every single time down the floor, I'm just saying because you have a good FG %, doesn't mean you have a good jumper, when it comes to talking about perimeter NBA players. Now in some cases it does (ie Steve Nash, Ray Allen), but in a lot of cases it doesn't.

4. Interceptions (NFL, defensive backs)- Now this one is tough to put here, but I believe it deserves a spot. I'm not saying interceptions are meaningless. I just don't think its a fair evaluation tool, especially when you speak about defensive backs. There are so many different factors when talking about interceptions. What kind of interceptions were they, who is in your front 7, who is on the opposite side of you, besides the interceptions how did you play? I don't think its as cut and dry, using interceptions to support the argument of someone being good. I still remember in 2005, every Jets fan I knew used to argue with me telling me Ty Law was good for us because he had 10 picks on the season. The thing is, when Ty Law wasn't intercepting a tipped ball or a wounded duck he was committing an illegal contact penatly or getting smoked. Deltha O'Neal had 10 picks a few years ago as part of one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Now, obviously interceptions can be a part of a good CB, but in a lot of cases interceptions can be a result of luck, or a result of being thrown at a lot. And if you don't get thrown at you won't get many picks (see: Mathis, Rashean)

3. Wins- Losses (MLB, pitcher)- Now this statistic, I believe is truly meaningless. There are a group of pitchers every year who have a lot of wins because the team around them is providing them a lot of run support, and there are pitchers out there who battle and are great but have barely any wins to show for it because of a variety of reasons (bullpen, no hitting), like Jake Peavy and Johan Santana. What does this truly indicate? Does it indicate how good a pitcher is? No, WHIP, K/9, BB/9, ERA, H/9, those statistics do it. Wins and losses basically indicate how much each pitcher's supporting cast does for them. To put it simply, you can have one pitcher with 12 'wins' and another pitcher with 20 'wins', and the pitcher that has 12 wins can be argued as better, so in that case what is the point of the statistic?

2. Winning percentage (NFL QBs)- This one drives me up a wall. This one is used quite a bit for the QBs who aren't good but just happened to be on good teams (see: Young, Vince and Pennington, Chad). Then comes the famous 'he just wins' nonsense. First of all, there are very few players in this league who can singlehandedly will a team to victory. A QB with a 1:2 TD:INT ratio who happens to have a good team around him isn't one of those guys. A QB with a career 7:10 TD:INT ratio isn't going to carry anything. On the flip side a QB who leads 17th and 18th ranked offenses to the playoffs doesn't "just win anything".

There are 52 other players out there with him, and in the cases of a few QBs you can think of (Trent Dilfer, Rex Grossman 2006, Chad Pennington in 04 and 06, Todd Collins last season, Jake Plummer before Cutler stepped in) they really don't have an impact on the game. They "protect the football" (by this point I hate that phrase), play not to lose and basically hope that the defense is good enough to bring home the victory. Bottom line is, the only time you ever hear about the Wins- Losses in defense of a quarterback and the intangibles nonsense that comes with it is when the QB's statistics stink, or he just doesn't have the tools to succeed in the NFL. I mean think about it, saying Vince Young 'just wins games' is like saying to a lesser extent that Trent Dilfer 'just won games' in 2000 when the Ravens had that legendary defense on the field. Teams win games, one player doesn't, especially players who's statistics rank among the worst in the NFL.

1. Quarterback rating- The number one spot couldn't be reserved for anything other than the vaunted QB rating. As a Jets fan I've been in a debate about this very statistic 1 or 2 million times over the course of the last six years. In my opinion, QB rating says nothing except if you played a great game or if you played a horrific one. And since at the end of the season, basically no one is going to have a QB rating of 140 or 32, the stat is meaningless. The Quarterback rating is more about efficiency than productivity. Here's an example of that very theory. Let's look at 2 performances by QBs last season

Performance #1- 16/21 167 yds 2 TD 0 INT 10 Yards Per completion, team scores 14 points, 130.7 rating

Performance #2- 22/32 272 yds 3 TD 1 INT 12 yards per completion, team scores 31 points, 113.0 rating

So as you can clearly see, performance #2 was better than performance #1, yet the QB who produced performance #1 had the better QB rating. Why? I have no idea. Why QB rating is used to evaluate anything? I have no idea. There are many, many examples like the one above as well. QB rating is more worried about completion percentage, and not throwing any interceptions. It is more about efficiency than it is about productivity, which is exactly why it deserves no merit, since it doesn't actually indicate much.

Honorable mentions: Completion Percentage, Saves, QB interceptions

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

10 Players to Watch in 2008

With the season coming soon, I'll give 10 players who I feel are under the radar who will have significant impacts on their teams.

-Devin Thomas, WR, Washington Redskins- Granted, I don't know TOO much about this kid, I like the little that I saw. He seems to be a big, physical guy who can win the battle at the LOS with CBs, and can create after the catch. In that sense he reminds me of a bigger Laveranues Coles. Unfortunately for Thomas he is behind as far as trying to gain confidence from his coach and playing time due to a bad hamstring. I do think that once the games start and he gets into the flow, especially considering Coach Jim Zorn should be using a lot of spread sets, that Thomas will have a bigger impact than a rookie WR normally would.

-Kenny Phillips, FS, New York Giants- I'll be honest with you. As a Jets fan, though I like the pick of Dustin Keller, I was absolutely screaming at my TV for the Jets to take Kenny Phillips when we traded back into the first round. I like this kid's game a lot. His versatility in being able to cover, tackle and run with most people along with his prototype size. I think he will be the best defensive rookie in the NFL this season, and down the line I believe he will be the best pick of this entire draft. That's how good I think this kid will be.

-Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers- This is Vincent Jackson's 4th season in the NFL. Last season was his best yet as he had 41 catches for 652 yards and 4 TDs. He averaged an impressive 15.2 yards per catch. Jackson has the type of size and speed you look for in a WR and he is part of a good offensive unit that features weapons such as WR Chris Chambers and the best TE in the game Antonio Gates. Not only does this guy have a very nice skillset he also has complimentary players to help deflect attention off of him. Look for Vincent to have his breakout season this year.

-Greg Olsen, TE, Chicago Bears- Yes I know that their QB situation is unsettled to say the least. That being said, with the departure of Berrian and considering that their #1 and #2 WRs as we speak are Marty Booker, and Brandon Lloyd, Olsen will see a lot of looks. He has all the necessary skills to be a good player and as of right now you can actually make the argument that hes the Bears best offensive position player. He has the speed, the size and the hands to make an impact and I think he will.

-Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets- Last year, Revis had a very good rookie season, as he was relied on to face the #1 WR on every team, week in and week out. Facing the likes of Chad Johnson, Lee Evans, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, Revis held his own. Revis has good footwork, he anticipates like a veteran CB does, he has the speed to keep up with most CBs and is good with his hands in bump and run coverage. In his second season, with a full training camp under his belt, I expect Revis to establish himself as one of the top ten CBs in this league. Even with all the new acquisitions and Kerry Rhodes still being there, I firmly believe Darrelle Revis will be the best player on the Jets in two seasons.

-LaRon Landry, S, Washington Redskins- Landry played very well last year in a tough year for the Skins, with the death of Sean Taylor. His athleticism, his hitting ability, his speed and natural instinct all make him a special talent. He is a little undisciplined at the current moment and will make the boneheaded penalty, as well as trying to do too much at times. All that being said, he has a year under his belt, and I expect him to be even better this year. As I've said to friends and family before, I I believe that after this season LaRon Landry will be at least in the discussion when it comes to discussing who the best safety in the league. I personally believe he'll have the best season of any safety in the NFL. He's that good.

-D.J. Hackett, WR, Carolina Panthers- Last season, D.J. was on his way to a good season before he hurt himself. With Steve Smith out for the first two games, and no legitimate option at TE for the Panthers, Hackett should get a lot of looks the first two games. Once Smith comes back, he will have his usual bullseye on his back, and should be the focus of the defense, and that will create space for Hackett who has the skills to exploit most #2 CBs in this league. If Delhomme can get back to his 2003 form, expect D.J. to put up big numbers.

-Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers- While I realize Holmes had a good year last year recording 52 catches for 942 yards, averaging 18.1 YPC and 8 TDs, I still think he has room for improvement. With a declining Hines Ward and a rookie WR Limas Sweed playing alongside him, Holmes should have a lot of opportunities as Roethlisberger's main big play thread. Last season, Holmes had 21 catches of over 20 yards. This is his third season in the league, and the third season is normally when a young WR sees a spike in his production. I fully expect Holmes to break 1000 yds this season and 10 TDs.

-Jerious Norwood, HB, Atlanta Falcons- This is a bit of an oddball pick since Norwood is still listed as the 2 back, and they just spent a lot of money on likely FA disappointment Michael Turner. I don't believe Turner will do enough to keep Norwood off the field, and when Norwood is on the field he produces as evidenced by his 6.2 yard per carry clip. I believe he will see an increase in carries this year, and have a good year for the Falcons. With a rookie QB potentially starting, the Falcons should rely on the running game a lot, which means Norwood should see plenty of opportunities.

-Tony Scheffler, TE, Denver Broncos- This kid has been impressive in the time he's been on the field, and has a chemistry with standout young QB Jay Cutler. Scheffler had 49 catches for 549 yards last season and 5 TDs. In those 49 catches, Scheffler made a lot of difficult catches in traffic and with guys draped all over him. Considering Brandon Marshall is suspended for the first three games of the season, and Denver doesn't have anything else worth noting at WR, I expect Scheffler to get a lot of looks in the first three weeks of the season. Considering Scheffler and Cutler already have a chemistry I expect that chemistry between the two to grow as Cutler relies on him more during the Marshall suspension. I can see Scheffler being a Cooley type of TE, and I believe he will have a rise in his numbers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pennington to Dolphins

Concluding a whirlwind sequence of events for the New York Jets, their former QB Chad Pennington signed on with the team's most hated rival, the Miami Dolphins. Pennington, who was unceremoniously released after the Jets traded for Brett Favre, signed a 2 year, 11.5 million dollar deal to presumably start for the cellar dwelling Dolphins.

Pennington caught on with the Dolphins quickly, after reportedly drawing lukewarm interest from other teams, signing his deal within 24 hours of being released. With this signing, Pennington is reunited with the guy who originally drafted him in Bill Parcells as well as his first offensive coordinator, Dan Henning. Miami, who went 1-15 last season, has drafted a QB in the second round in each of the last two seasons. The signing of Pennington along with the drafting of Chad Henne, is an indictment on QB John Beck, who won't be a Miami Dolphin for much longer I imagine. Beck, who often looked lost on the field, was drafted in the second round of last year's draft presumably to be the future franchise QB. Now that the coach who drafted him (Cameron) was fired and there is a whole new regime in town the writing seems to be on the wall for Beck.

As far as Pennington's impact on the Dolphins, he turns them from a one win team to a potential four or five win team. He is just keeping the seat warm, for maybe two seasons, until Henne can step into a decent situation. He is a sacrificial lamb of sorts, as he is just in there so they don't have to throw Henne into the fire too soon and potentially set him back. Pennington's ability, while it is among the worst of starting NFL QBs, and his style of play, while boring and often times unproductive can beat the cupcakes of the league. In that sense Miami does gain from him starting, but Pennington won't be working any miracles. This Miami team is VERY bad. While I think Ted Ginn will be a pretty good WR in this league, once he learns the ropes, he is nowhere near a #1 WR. Now factor in the fact that the starting QB is limited as far in his ability to throw a deep ball, and you have a situation where Ginn will probably end up being misused (see: Moss, Santana). They have no threats outside of Ginn as far as pass catchers, and their best offensive player is coming off of serious knee surgery. Miami finds itself in a situation where they are going to probably have to rely on Ricky Williams. That isn't good.

This signing, while I don't agree with it, makes sense. Obviously Parcells feels his team is a winning team, and Pennington brings veteran leadership. I don't think given Pennington's limited skills, and his unproductive career that he does much for the Dolphins for the present and the near future. I think starting Beck and sending him to the proverbial wolves would have been the better option. Then when the team gets into better shape, start Henne.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Brett Favre to Jets

I got the call at 11:49 last night. It was my cousin on the line. I was watching the George Lopez show. Then I heard the words 'Brett Favre got traded to the Jets'. It took me about five minutes after repeatedly saying, "Stop lying, you are not serious, '' to finally change the channel to ESPN. I saw the words on the screen, "Breaking News, Favre traded to Jets and something unusual happened. I became speechless, I didn't know what to say. It was surreal, seeing those words on the screen. Brett Favre is a New York Jet.

Considering that I am not too fond about Brett Favre, I didn't think I would be too excited. But you know what I am excited for a few reasons. My love and excitement for my favorite team this season is back, as this means Chad Pennington, the black cloud of neutrality that hovered over this team is gone. We have a QB who will make life easier for all of our offensive players. I'm sure Thomas Jones is happy. How could he not be? He won't be running against the whole state of NY in the box anymore. I'm sure Jerricho Cotchery is excited, as this is the first time he is playing with a legit quarterback, and his numbers stand for an increase. Laveranues Coles might not be too happy considering his best friend on the team is a casualty in the matter, but this is the first time he's played with a legitimate QB in his eight year career. Maybe we will see what Coles can do deep down the field.

From an entertainment standpoint, this should be a great season. Watching Favre launch the ball to our two solid WRs, watching Dustin Keller develop (if everything goes as planned this kid could be the Offensive Rookie of the Year), as well as watching the defense confuse and sometimes flat out brutalize people.

The Jets have a lot of good young talent. They have CB Darrelle Revis, S Kerry Rhodes, LB Calvin Pace, LB Vernon Gholston, WR Jerricho Cotchery OL D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, HB Leon Washington. Basically the only gaping hole on this team was QB, and they managed to get a top 10 QB in the league to fill this spot, which is good even if Favre is 39.

Am I convinced that this team can win a Superbowl? No, I am not. Do I respect the fact that Mike Tannebaum and Eric Mangini seem to be trying? Yes. They have done so much to improve the team this offseason, meanwhile the critics call us desperate among other things. I love that when the Jets make a lot of moves, they are desperate while the Patriots (last season) and the Saints (this season) make moves and they are "on a mission". Anyway, back to the point, the Jets have improved their running game, they improved the pass rush as well and now the QB position. On paper (and yes I know the games aren't played there), this was a good move for the Jets. Its a ballsy move, as Tannebaum obviously believes this team is capable of big things, or they were just as sick of Chad Pennington as I was while Clemens isn't ready or isn't the answer. It's a low risk, high reward move for the Jets.

As far as the negatives for this deal,it looks like Kellen Clemens won't be playing for the Jets until at least next season, or he might flat out not be the answer. Our QB of the future, by the looks of it, still has to be found. You have to wonder if Favre will have his heart into it, since New York was his absolute last choice by all accounts. He has three weeks to learn the offense, and he isn't used to any of our guys. All that being said, Brett Favre running an offense straight out of a football movie is better than Chad Pennington. This is a big time move and finally our Front Office and our coach grew a collective pair of balls. My joy and love for football is back as I can watch this team again. Thank you Mike Tannebaum.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Steve Smith suspended two games after pre season scuffle

You know how the say star players get special treatment, and can get away with 'murder' so to speak. Well with Panthers superstar WR Steve Smith, this isn't the case. The Carolina Panthers made an example of Smith by suspending him two regular season games for his role in a scuffle with Panthers CB Ken Lucas. There are always scuffles in preseason as playing in pads in the oppressively hot weather seems to get to some guys. While some other guys are just, well, rather annoying.

The scuffle between Smith and Lucas reached its height after both players had removed their helmets during a break for the starters in the middle of a special teams drill. Smith then gave Lucas a cheap shot right in the face. The blow broke Lucas' nose and now he is listed as day to day. As a result of the skirmish, Smith was kicked out of practice and sent home to Charlotte. He was also suspended the first two games of the season.

A message was sent loud and clear through this suspension. No player, even our best, is above the team. Smith is obviously the Panthers most indispensable player as he is the Panthers loan threat (though I think Jonathan Stewart could change that very soon), and has been the Panthers lone source of consistent offense for a few years now. He is one of the most feared offensive players in the NFL, and his production will be missed.

I think the suspension was warranted but I personally think it should have been a game's worth along with a $500,000 fine. While I understand that Smith's conduct was reprehensible the league is still about winning. He is going to miss two games against two pretty good defenses (Chargers and Bears), and in the NFL EVERY game is important. Smith missing two games doesn't benefit anyone. Now, if the team takes this as a message of accountability, it may help with team chemistry. I know its a long shot but you never know. Seeing as how the star player is being treated like everyone else, might help unite the team. I don't really think its going to make a difference with Smith, as he seems to be a hotheaded little guy with a short fuse. This isn't the first time something like this has happened, as he also punched someone else in the face during film session. Man that guy must have REALLY ticked off Smith to get clocked during a film session.

Smith: 'I was wide open up the seams'
Player: 'No you weren't, don't you see the two guys right there, are you blind?'
Player: YOU HEARD ME!!

**Smith goes off and hits player**

I personally wouldn't have suspended Smith for two games given his importance to the team, but I do feel like they sent a message with this suspension. I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being the turning point of the Panthers season. Considering John Fox has a lot on the line this season, this is ballsy. Apparently he isn't concerned about saving his job, he is concerned about this year's team. Eric Mangini should take notes.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Teixeira traded to Angels; Angels prepare for playoff push

On Tuesday the Braves traded 1B Mark Teixeira to the Angels for 1B Casey Kotchman and a mid level minor league relief pitcher. This trade boosts the middle of the Angels lineup as now they have a nice combo with Teixeira and Guerrero in the middle of the lineup. This adds to a lineup that was previously averaging 6.5 runs per game, since the All Star Break. Teixeira is hitting .284 on the season with 20 HR and 79 RBI as he was as a terror for National League Pitching all season. The Angels have already separated themselves in the AL West, so this can be classified as a 'playoff' trade. They already have arguably the best starting rotation in baseball that features John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, and Jered Weaver. And now they have solidified the middle of their lineup. This is a good deal for Anaheim.

As far as the Braves, this trade screams 'White flag'. Why would you trade a player this productive unless you were clearly deemed yourself out of the race? When you consider what they traded for him originally, and what they received back once they traded him just a short year later, the Braves didn't get the good end of the Teixeira exchange. In the context of the current deal, however, I don't think it is too bad for the Braves. Since they were not going to re-sign Teixeira anyway, they now have a nice 1st baseman to replace him with in Kotchman, a guy who could potentially produce similar numbers over the course of the next few years.

Would it have been better for the Braves just had let him walk and received the compensatory picks? Who knows, but it could have been worse for Atlanta. At least they did get a viable option to replace Teixeira, which means they at least salvaged Major League ready talent. All in all, a good deal for the Angels and an understandable one for the Braves. Everyone wins.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Manny Ramirez is gone, and I am a happy camper

When you hear the name Manny Ramirez what do you think? Personally I think intimidating, fierce, powerful right handed bat, Hall of Fame hitter. How good Manny is cannot be understated. The guy is probably the best right handed hitter in the last decade, and the best I have ever seen. The guy simply is a machine at the plate. Bad pitching, mediocre pitching, great pitching alike, Manny hits them all. He has made life for Yankee fans such as myself a living hell.

Yesterday Ramirez was traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers in a deal that netted the Sox Pirates star outfielder Jason Bay. Manny had more than wore out his welcome in Boston as he was now 'dogging' it on some plays, took games off with fluke injuries, and was almost unanimously voted out of his clubhouse. Out of 25 players, 24 voted yes when asked if Manny should be moved. The one that voted no is, you guessed it, David Ortiz.

The Sox were apparently eager to deal him as they sent away two decent prospects away in addition to Manny, and volunteered to pay the rest of his salary for this season.

Ramirez, a clear first ballot Hall of Famer, has owned the Yankees. In 200 career games against them, Ramirez hit .321 with 55 homers, 163 RBIs, a .411 on base percentage, a .618 slugging percentage and a 1.029 OPS. Save to say, the guy ate Yankee pitching for lunch. I won't miss, him coming up in a big spot against the Yanks and knowing the inevitable is going to happen with Manny sending a rocket somewhere for a game-changing base hit of some sort.

Unfortunately for the Sox, despite this man's immense talents, he was a total malcontent off the field at times, with it growing to an unbearable level this year. Many think this is a ploy by Manny's new agent, Scott Boras. The Sox have a team option this season, and if they had chosen to pick it up they would have paid Manny $20 million for next season. The thing is, Boras feels he can get Manny 4 years at $80 million, and if he successfully does that, he gets the commission from that contract. Whereas, if Boston had exercised the team option, Manny's previous agent would have earned the commission. It looks like it was a ploy by Boras, who is arguably the most powerful man in baseball. Manny then started his act and wore out his welcome. Manny was worth every penny of his $160 million contract as he has been the Sox best hitter since he arrived, and combined with Ortiz to provide the most feared 3-4 duo in the last 5 years, and one of the most feared duos in team history.

I don't think Ortiz' numbers will suffer, but I don't think he will he will end up with as many clutch hits in the past. I honestly believe Manny's presence is what enabled Ortiz to get this reputation as the best clutch hitter in baseball. If you want to walk Ortiz, you can't because an even BETTER hitter is in the on deck circle, possibly the best right handed hitter in baseball. Therefore Ortiz sees pitches to hit whereas otherwise he would not. Now, no one and I repeat no one will pitch to Ortiz in a big spot unless you absolutely have to do so. Mike Lowell is going to have to step up big time. He's no Manny, but he is pretty good. He will have a lot of opportunities, that's for sure.

Manny has haunted the Yankees for years, and the Sox have been trying to get rid of him for years, even to the point of placing him on irrevocable waivers. I've been waiting for this for years, and my ultimate reaction to Manny being traded is:

"Amen, its about damn time"

That is all.