Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Greedy Quinn

I couldn't believe what I just heard on the radio. Brady Quinn, erstwhile 22nd pick of the 2007 draft, is demanding a contract that would pay him as a franchise quarterback in the latter years of the deal. You would think the man had been humbled by his draft tumble, but that's clearly not the case. Instead, he's decided to believe his hype from the past few years and in so doing, he's hindering his development as a pro quarterback. If I'm a Browns fan right now, I'm thoroughly pissed off.

Look, Quinn's supposedly a reasonably intelligent individual, right? Why, then, would he hold out? Rookie QBs have a lot to learn about their responsibilities in each play, what their teammates are doing on the field, and just how to be a pro in general. I don't think it's a stretch to argue that QBs, especially young ones, have the most to lose from a holdout. And what exactly is he holding out for, anyway? More money? Listen up, kid, this is the NFL, where contracts are ripped up quicker than Enron paper trails. If you overperform your contract, you'll be rewarded with renegotiation. If the deal calls for more money than you've proven yourself worthy of, the team won't hesitate to cut you. You should know this by now.

Besides, if what he's worried about is being paid like a franchise QB if he's the starter, then that's easy to arrange. All you do is just put in some incentive payments for reaching certain goals of percentage of team's snaps, passing yards, TDs, playoff appearances, and so on. I don't know what teams are able to do in terms of rookie contracts, but those types of options have to be available in some form. What Quinn needs to realize is that he'd only be delaying his ability to earn the massive sums of money that he's demanding by staying away from Browns camp. And in this league, if you don't earn what's coming to you, it's just a matter of time before you're out on the street. If he needs any proof of that, he can just go talk to Tim Couch. I hear he's not doing much these days...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Are You Ready for Some (Fantasy) Football?

The latter half of July is upon us, which means it's time to start thinking about fantasy football. For me personally, it's a chance to try to atone for my worst fantasy season ever. Football in 2006 was simply a debacle; there's no getting around it. I'm going to try not to repeat the mistakes of a year ago, but I'm well on my way to duplicating the biggest one already: trying to juggle a personal-record 6 teams. We're 6 weeks away from opening day, and already I'm halfway there. This year can't get much worse than last, though; part of the problem with having so many teams was that every single one of my players seemed to be made of glass, and I simply got overwhelmed trying to sub them all in and out. It's my job to overcome that, but I've got to believe my luck will be at least a little better this time around.

I've got high hopes for my team in the league I'm running. How do I know, you ask? It's true, I don't know for sure who my opposing owners will be, and I won't have a single player on my roster for another 5-6 weeks. I'm not even sure where in the draft order I'll fall, although it will probably be high since I royally sucked last year. My confidence has to do with the one thing I do know about my team: its name.

I'm calling my boys the Armadillos this year, which the observant ones among you will recognize from the underrated football classic "Necessary Roughness." The game plan is to stock the roster with the type of talent the fictional football team had before going on probation, and then instill the scrappy attitude that kept them in games after trimming down the scholarships. I'm even thinking of giving Ed "Straight Arrow" Janeiro a call; if he's not doing anything, maybe he can coach them. The real thrill, though, would be if one of my guys went nuts on the field and allowed me to quote the inimitable Rob Schneider: "I don't know what he saw on that play, that was a CLEAN kick to the facemask!" I think if we can get Joey Porter to randomly punch Levi Jones in Vegas months after a hotly-contested game, we can make this happen.

The other thing that gets me excited about "Armadillos" as a team name, besides the endless quoteability it brings to the table, is the abbreviation factor. Many dominant teams, such as the Yanks, BoSox, Celts, and Pack, have had the ability to abbreviate their name, thus drawing the fan base in and making the team feel more supported, always an important intangible. It even works for fantasy sports; for instance, a few years ago my brother Kevin ran away with the regular season baseball crown with his Isotopes, which he constantly referred to as the 'Topes. With that in mind, I think my 'Dillos are destined to bring home the hardware this year.

Speaking of Kev, his victory in last year's playoffs gave him the right to choose the league name for this year. He promised to come up with an obscure name that only he would find amusing, and he didn't disappoint with "Flash Gordon QB, NY Jets." This is from the early '80's sci-fi flick "Flash Gordon" and was how the title character introduced himself to all of the extraterrestrial characters in the movie. Classic Kevin: a silly quote from an awesomely bad movie that you have to think about just a little bit too long for it to be truly funny. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea...

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Not-So-Cowardly Lion (But in a Bad Way)

Jon Kitna thinks the Lions will win 10 games in 2007, and more than that after checking the schedule. Rest of the NFL, your rebuttal?


Yes, I thought so.

I suppose you've got to give Kitna credit for...uh...trying to inspire his team and...uh...attempting to change the culture of losing that Matt Millen's worked so hard to instill. Still, if I were him, I wouldn't be checking my team's schedule as hard as I'd be checking the NFLPA health insurance policy for mental illness coverage. Yes, the NFL has had some crazy turnarounds in recent years for previously moribund franchises. Yes, the Lions did add Calvin Johnson and Tatum Bell to an offense that already showed promise in 2006 under Mad Mike Martz. Offense wasn't the problem nearly as much as that 27th-ranked defense was, though, and while Kitna seems impressed with new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, if the man doesn't have the horses, who cares? And I didn't see the Lions pick up anyone of note on defense this past offseason, unless Millen finally realized he's of more use to the team as a 49-year-old linebacker than he is in the front office. I lived in Detroit for two years and, believe me, stranger things have happened with that team...

By the way, who says "after looking at the schedule, I think we'll win more games", anyway? Does Kitna not realize that he's just become the first NFL player in history to instantaneously provide 16 WEEKS' WORTH OF BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL?!?! I mean, seriously, doesn't every NFL team hold mandatory meetings telling players not to do this sort of stuff? It's not as much of a moral issue as, say, "don't take steroids" or "try not to commit a crime", but it's just as basic from a common sense standpoint, is it not? And Kitna's even a veteran, for crying out loud! He must have gotten knocked around more than I thought last year.

I thought about also saying something about Kitna's "Calvin Johnson is going to do the same things for the Lions that Reggie Bush did for the Saints" comment, but at this point, that would just be piling on, don't you think? I'll leave poor Jonny alone with his illusions of grandeur, although I would like to point out that Mike Martz is, in fact, a genius. Apparently, he's found a way to make egomaniacal insanity communicable. Kudos to Mad Mike!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Kid Makes Good

Well, the local sports radio guys in Seattle asked for it a month or so ago, and today they got it. Ken Griffey Jr., in the final game of his "homecoming" series in Seattle, passed Mark McGwire on the all-time homerun list. I have to say, I've been touched to see the outpouring of appreciation for Junior during this entire weekend. As jaded as the relationship between players and fans has become, it's so refreshing to see an entire city embrace a superstar like that, and especially surprising in Griffey's case since he actually asked to be traded out of Seattle 8 years ago. Still, his star power in the 11 years prior to that is credited with helping Safeco Field get built and as a result keeping the Mariners in town, and for that he apparently will always be loved here. No smart aleck comments here; this is simply the best sports story I've heard in quite a while. Hurry up and get to 600, Junior...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Response to KG Wanting to be a Sun


What, that's not intelligent enough for you? Fine. Here goes....

The first thing that comes to mind is that everyone's thought process seems to make sense here. This is, of course, utterly shocking due to the involvement of Kevin McHale, who has brought you the Botched Joe Smith Signing as well as putting together a group of teams so putrid that Kevin Freaking Garnett couldn't get out of the first round with them more than once. And yes, I know all about the "he should have put his team on his back" argument, and even agree with it to a point. But the fact of the matter is, everybody and their brother has known that Garnett has needed a running mate capable of easing the scoring load and willing to take the last shot for years now. The closest they've come to fulfilling that in a dozen seasons is Latrell Sprewell. I'll let that sink in for a moment.

This time, however, McHale seems to be getting it right, holding out for the moment for Amare Stoudamire in any KG deal with Phoenix. Of course, the flip side of it is that McHale would have the potential to take another young freak of nature-style power forward and mire him in mediocrity for a decade or more. Great times all around!

I guess if there's one thing I don't understand in all of this, it's why KG is so unwilling to even entertain the thought of going to Boston. Granted, they wouldn't have much else, but I've got to believe that with the declining of the Pistons and the aging of Shaq, a KG-Paul Pierce tandem by itself would run roughshod over anyone in the East except for the Bulls. And if the Bulls do consummate a deal for Kobe Bryant, they'd be pretty similar in composition to the Celtics, assuming Mitch Kupchak swings any sort of reasonable deal....you know, on second thought, I'm starting to see Garnett's point...

Monday, June 18, 2007

What in the Name of Don Majkowski is Going On Out There?

What's up with NFC North quarterbacking these days? Apparently, we've got Bears DE Tommie Harris making "Hopefully we get Donovan" comments and subsequently tripping over himself to retract those comments. After all, it just wouldn't do to have one more guy saying that Rex Grossman isn't an upper-echelon quarterback. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a player/coach/front office guy in any sport feels the need to take back a statement of the "breath of fresh air" variety. I mean, really, show of hands, who wouldn't take Donovan McNabb over Rex Grossman? I think even Grossman would, if you were ever able to get a straight answer out of him. Of course, he works for a professional sports team, so straight answers aren't part of the deal. Whatever. At least I know who Tommie Harris is now, so that's good, I guess.

Elsewhere in the former Black and Blue Division, Daunte Culpepper recently said that he'd like to end up in Green Bay when the Dolphins trade/release him. Ostensibly, he thinks he can get a starting gig after Brett Favre retires. Because, you know, the Pack would just love to go from a 38-year-old vaguely mobile, mistake-prone quarterback who takes too many risks and whose arm isn't quite what it used to be to a 30-year-old vaguely mobile, mistake-prone quarterback who takes too many risks and whose arm isn't quite what it used to be. The only reason Green Bay fans put up with Favre's up-and-down play is that he's built up so much goodwill with all of his accomplishments there. What does Daunte think will happen to him the first time he throws a floater over the middle of Lambeau Field into some random DB's waiting arms? And that's not even considering the possibility (actually, I'd say likelihood) that Favre could conceivably continue his hijack-the-team-each-offseason act for another 3 or 4 years.

At some point Daunte is going to have to realize that he's not going to get any NFL team to turn the reins over to him until he does something to show them that he's over his injury and decision-making woes. What's more (as someone who saw the first several years of his career from a close vantage point I feel knowledgeable on the subject), I think that Daunte is far too mentally fragile to handle the fallout of even the slightest mistake in a football-crazy environment like Green Bay. In fact, given the current quarterbacking landscape, he may have to put things back together in the CFL for a year or two if he wants to be assured of playing time. Despite the nightmarish end to his stint with the Vikes, I remember enough of the good times that it actually pains me to say that. I'm even still on a first-name basis with the guy, for crying out loud! How did that happen? Oh well. Anyway, Daunte, just say "nay" to Green Bay; it's not the right fit for you. Rehab, spend some time learning how to throw the ball to the guys in the right color of jersey, and with a little luck we might see you back in the saddle in a year or two.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

OK, Everybody Look At Kobe Now...

I suppose my lifelong allegiance to the Lakers forces me to comment on the inanity that is taking place in La-La Land, despite the fact that just writing this gives that egomaniacal self-dubbed "Black Mamba" exactly what he wants: more attention. Still, I feel honor-bound to put my two cents in, especially since I've been exceedingly lazy with the blog lately.

As much as it pains me to agree with the man on anything right now, I will grant that Kobe does have two good points:

1. This ship has been positively rudderless since Jerry West traded Hollywood for Graceland.
2. The above has caused 3 years of the prime of one of the top 20 players ever to be utterly wasted.

Of course, the obvious retort to any of Kobe's complaints about the team is that he set its demise as a championship caliber squad in motion with his childish feud with Shaq. As someone who grew up watching Magic become the team leader while Kareem willingly turned into a role player, I would have hoped to see something similar with those two. And of course, the obvious reason it did not happen is that while Magic took every opportunity to respect "the Big Fella," Kobe worships only at the Altar of Kobe. We have all the evidence we need that Shaq would have played the circa 1987 Kareem role had Kobe been the type of guy that, for instance, Sir Charles keeps on speed dial. However, #8/24/whatever number might best serve his "legacy" next year decided that he wanted to be The Next Michael Jordan and win a championship as the unquestioned lead guy. And now that his cap-crippling contract is preventing the team from getting more than 3-4 players that could be in the rotation for an upper-echelon team, he wants to leave? Michael Jordan may have also abandoned his team while in his prime, but only because David Stern ordered him to let the gambling allegations die down (or to chase a lifelong dream, if you believe the official story). I don't see Stern anywhere ordering Bryant to avoid cleaning up the mess he created.

You know, I didn't anticipate going here, but isn't it kind of funny how all of the Next Michael Jordans, while certainly talented, are looking like disappointments right now? Kobe was the first in the wave, but his leadership skills are clearly nonexistent. Vince Carter is the only current NBA star whose penchant for quitting on his team rivals Kobe's (I can't wait to see what he does if the Nets, say, ever do trade Kidd). T-Mac can't get out of the first round of the playoffs. The jury's still out on the "Global Icon," but he didn't offer up much to recommend himself during his first Finals appearance. Thinking about all the Jordan wannabes out there (and by the way, we're now 9 years removed from his last memorable season, for those scoring at home) makes me think wistfully about one of my favorite Steve Prefontaine quotes. Shortly after getting to Oregon, Pre said of then mile record-holder Jim Ryun, "Forget Ryun; he's done. I want to be the first Steve Prefontaine." Whoever decides to take that mentality is going to be the dominant player of this generation. At the moment, your leader in the clubhouse is the previously referenced Dwayne Wade, although if he really wants to do something impressive, he could try winning a championship where he doesn't get foul shots for being breathed upon.

Oh shoot, I didn't talk about Kobe for most of the last paragraph. There, there, Kobe, we haven't forgotten about you; don't cry...

Friday, March 09, 2007

"Boy, that escalated quickly...I mean, that really got out of hand fast."

Installment 3 of the Burgundians fantasy baseball league is here, and so am I, to do a live blog of the draft. It's a keeper league, so be prepared for some picks to look a little out of order. The league is named after the legendary Ron Burgundy, so every draft blog's title will be a line from "Anchorman." This should be a good time all around. Anyway, let's get drafting...

3/9, 6:43 AM: The draft kicks off with the first pick in league history to be sent in from foreign soil. That's right, we're international this year, baby! It's cool to say, but does complicate an email draft, given that time limits aren't applicable when the drafter's local time is between midnight and 8 AM. I now have to do calculations of the pick deadline in 3 different time zones...arrgh. Anyway, Kaichi picks David Ortiz, which is a pretty unassailable pick given who's been kept. That sucks, because not having a smart-alecky thing to say about the first pick really messes with my rhythm.

7:06 AM: Vern's up next, and he goes with Carlos Lee. Again, doing the best he can with what's available. Kind of like Lee's first team last year, the Brewers. Too bad Vern's not sponsored by a beer company, too; that would be cool.

1:08 PM: I'll bet you're wondering why I chose that particular "Anchorman" quote as the title for this post. Well, wonder no more. Between wish lists submitted by drafting owners and keeper picks, we got through 14 picks after I was unfortunately forced to autopick for Logan for running through the time limit. Didn't think I'd have to do it that early. Anyway, here's what happened: Logan autopicked Miguel Cabrera, Kevin kept Albert Pujols (more on that later), Dad picked Edgar Renteria, Eric picked Manny being Manny, Amanda picked K-Rod, G kept Alfonso Soriano, Mike kept A-Rod, I kept Johan (yes, I'm on a first-name basis with him; I feel like I built his bandwagon 4 years ago) and Chase Utley (according to G, the whitest-sounding name she's ever heard), Mike keeps Jose Reyes, G keeps Carl Crawford, Amanda keeps Vlad the Impaler, Eric picks Jason Bay and Dad picks David Ross.

I promised more on Albert Pujols, so here it is: an email conversation between my brother Kevin and I from when Kev sent in his keeper list...

Kev: Albert Pujols of course, Julio Lugo, Bobby Abreu, Brian Roberts and Aaron Heilman
LNM: Thanks, Kev! Although, I have to say that Pujols at #4 overall is a bit of a stretch. You sure about that?
Kev: I don't know, I just have a feeling about the kid. This could be a breakout year for him. (Of course you know with me being cocky like this he's going to get deported or something right after we draft...)
LNM: Since I’m feeling nice, I’ll go ahead and reverse-jinx Poo Holes for you: I wouldn’t worry about him being deported as much as I would about the propensity for some Latin players to doctor their birth records to appear younger than they are. After all, Prince Albert was acting very cantankerously and curmudgeonly towards the end of last year. I’m just saying, if he has the statistical drop-off you might expect from, say, a 37-year-old, don’t be completely shocked…

Of course, all of the above provides no insight whatsoever and was simply an excuse for me to refer to the guy as "Poo Holes." Freaking Cardinals....

4:11 PM: Kev's up again, and he goes with Ichiro. That brings us to Logan, who's now home from work (hardly an excuse for missing his first pick) and gets Joe Mauer. You know, teaming the reigning AL batting champ with the best 3rd baseman in the business (or at least, the best one that we're sure won't be put on the Emotionally Disabled List) is a good way to not have pick in the top half of the draft next year. That's followed by Vern's keeper pick of David Wright.

4:44 PM: Kaichi apparently gets up earlier than I do on Saturdays (it's not even 9 AM there now). He grabs BJ Ryan (who, apparently, wouldn't have been a terrible idea for me to keep in the 6th round, as I had the option to do). On the snake pick, Kaichi keeps the best DH only- eligible player on the planet in Travis Hafner, one of four Cleveland Indian keepers on his team, appropriately named "Tribe." This is followed by two more keepers, with Vern holding onto Derek Jeter and Logan locking in Mark Teixeira, who I found out a few years ago was a Georgia Tech teammate of a guy from G's and Logan's high school.

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Monday, February 26, 2007


Maybe "3 yards and a cloud of dust" is supposed to be a football analogy, but once again we saw that it works almost as well for Big 10 Basketball. The most recent example: the 49-48 survival of my beloved Buckeyes over those equally scrappy Badgers from Wisconsin (hats off to you guys, and I hope we never see you again this year). I was relieved on a couple different levels after that game. Sure, it was nervewracking watching Ohio State blow that 8-point 2nd Half advantage and spend the last few minutes crawling back from behind, but there was something far greater on the line than that or even the regular season conference championship. The young Bucks have finally beaten one of the big boys. Granted, it was at home, but they had to have this one more than any other squad I can recall at present (although it is late right now; maybe I'll come up with something by morning).

Three times this season, Ohio State has gone into the lion's den, and UNC, Florida and Wisconsin all chewed them up and spit them out. After Sunday's brutal contest, however, I think it's safe to say that the shell of this team has hardened enough to resemble its namesake. Make no mistake, this group is still a work in progress, as evidenced by a few sloppy passes here, a few Greg Oden travels there and of course that helter-skelter sequence with about 45 seconds to go trailing by 1 that at the time I was 95% sure had cost them the game. To their credit, however, they collected themselves enough to pounce on the opportunity provided by Wisconsin's Kammron Taylor missing the front end of a 1-and-1. Then, Mike Conley Jr., who continues to improve every time I see him (although I wish he'd inherited a little of his dad's jumping ability; dunks would have looked really nice at the end of those couple of runouts he had), made a clutch runner in the lane. Last, but certainly not least, there was the monster block by senior leader and erstwhile bunch scorer Ron Lewis. If the Buckeyes end up the year cutting down the nets at the Georgia Dome, I think we'll look back on those final minutes as the catalyst, because it was a convergence of so many things crucial for a young team: finally getting that first top-quality W, clawing back from a late defecit after blowing the lead, winning a hard-fought defensive struggle in the final 15 seconds, having the freshman floor general take over when he was needed most and seeing the veteran leader simply refuse to let his team to go down.

On an unrelated note, is anyone else getting tired of any reference to the 1962 team (the last Buckeyes to end as AP #1 and the last to play for the NCAA title) ending with "and a sub named Bob Knight" and the like? I've seen it at least half a dozen times this year. That is all.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Back In the Saddle

With my basketball team hopefully on the road to recovery (currently 5-4 against the league leaders this week), I'm starting to turn some attention to fantasy baseball. As the commissioner, defending champ and husband of the only other champ in league history, the pressure to dominate my fake baseball league couldn't be higher (I'll pause while the gravity of that sentence, and what me making a statement like that implies about my sanity, sinks in). The first order of business is to see who's coming back. Within six hours of sending out the email to invite everyone back, 5 of the usual suspects already responded, including G's and my friend Kevin in Taipei. (that's right, we're international, baby!) He lost to G in the inaugural league championship in 2005 but fell on hard times last year, missing the playoffs. That hasn't diminished his trash-talking ability one iota. As the all-time league leader in this category (and it isn't even close), you can always count on Kevin to spice things up a bit. In this case, he's vowing payback to the rest of the league for his 2006 struggles. He tends to load up on Cleveland Indians, so they're going to need to avoid underachieving (as they did last year) if Kevin is to follow up on his pledge.

This is a keeper league, so I'm going to have some interesting decisions to make pretty soon here. The league hasn't voted on how many players we get to hold onto, but one thing's for sure: I won't be able to keep everyone I want. Johan Santana's a no-brainer, but beyond that, about half of my team is roughly on that next level of guys you want, but may not be slam dunks depending on how many guys get to stick around and what you need to give up to hold onto them (last year, we regarded keeper picks as slotted into the team's Xth-round draft pick, and we'll probably do something similar this year). Do I lock in 2006 slugging revelation Chris Duncan (22 HR in 280 AB)? How about a proven power hitter in a walk year (Jermaine Dye)? Steals are rare, so do I hang onto breakout thief Hanley Ramirez, who had 51 last year? Speaking of scarcity, what about Chase Utley, a power source at an unlikely position (2B)? Then, you go to pitching. I loved last year's bullpen (in particular veterans BJ Ryan and Scot Shields, plus my sleeper closer du jour, Chris Ray of Baltimore), but in large part because of my historical success with guys like Ray, I'm likely to cut down my keeper list here first.

Finally, Jered Weaver presents a uniquely interesting case (hence, he gets his own paragraph). If you project his numbers over an entire year, you end up with something like 21-4, 200 K, 2.60 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Of course, you can't really do that; he could hit a wall in his first full big-league season, hitters could figure him out, he could figure them out more, he might get more or less support from the Angels this year, he's likely to go up against opponents' #1 and #2 starters where he faced #4 and #5 guys last year, and there's probably at least half a dozen other factors I can't even think of right now. Even though a lot of those are negative, you can't ignore the potential this guy has. I'm likely to keep him, since the fact that I got him on waivers last year as opposed to in the draft will likely make him a bargain, but Weaver's one of those guys that could make or break my season. If he puts the type of numbers up that I mentioned a couple sentences ago, combined with yet another solid season from Johan (I've been on his bandwagon since he was a part-time starter in 2003, so we're on a first-name basis at this point), then my team will go quite far in the pitching categories. If not, my season might not be toast, but it will put more pressure on me to mine for a solid but heretofore unknown or unremarkable starter in the regular draft.

Well, I think I just set the record for talking about a fantasy league whose members aren't even set yet, so I think I'll shut it down for now.

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