Thursday, April 30, 2015

Rondo, The Cash Crusher

Item: The Dallas Mavericks have opted not to give Rajon Rondo a playoff share.

When I was a child, there was a short-run citrus soda that launched and died, because, well, it was awful. The name? Rondo. I kid you not. Lo and witness.

Your reaction to that commercial should be fairly similar to the reaction to this news, because, well... the Mavs just decided that their starting point guard in the first two games was of less value than guys who never got on the floor.

Keep in mind here that the players divide this, not the team. So Rondo's injury issue, and his excuse for getting out of the last three games of the playoff series against the Rockets, washed so little that the club decided to cut it 14 ways, rather than 15.

Now, seriously -- think about this for a minute, because I'm fairly sure that Rondo is going to think about it for a lifetime. Every active member of the Mavericks decided to stiff Rondo. Every active member of the club felt that his contributions were so negligible, if not out and out negative, that they would risk retribution later...

For a little more than a thousand bucks a man, for players that generally make millions.

In other words, a rounding error, or maybe dinner, drinks and the tip at one of the restaurants that these guys normally frequent.

But it goes far behind the $14K or so that doesn't go to the Rondo checking account. Think, instead, of the massive damage that's been done to the man's earning potential now that he's finally in free agent status, something he's clearly been agitating for since Boston stopped being a real contender.

Rondo is 28, owns a ring, supposedly plays top-tier defense, has been a top assist man in the Association. He's also worn out his welcome twice in six months now, and was such a bad guy to have around that his teammates in Dallas just chose to insult him in a way that, frankly, seems nearly unprecedented in recent NBA history.

Now, *someone* is going to sign this guy, even if, for nothing else, defensive bench depth. (Probably the Lakers; they certainly seem dumb enough.) Which means there will come a time, and probably no more than 6 to 8 months from now, when Rondo will be on a basketball court with his ex-teammates.

Technical fouls cost $2K. Flagrant fouls cost up to $35K.

Somehow, I get the feeling that this bill isn't entirely paid yet...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Brief And Obvious Point About Dion Jordan's One Year NFL Suspension

(Announced an hour ago.)

If you believe the rumors, Nero Kelly really wanted to take this guy at #4 in the 2013 NFL Draft, instead of T Lane Johnson, but Miami moved up 9 spots to take his former player at Oregon.

He also was supposedly going to trade for him again, now, for a presumably lower price, before the NFL banned his ass.

Jordan has had three NFL sacks, or as many sacks as he's had suspensions.

He has been a near total washout in the league.

Kelly also speaks, often, about Character.

We now return you to your franchise immolation, which is already in progress.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Brief And Obvious Point About The Spurs Winning Game 3 Against The Clippers Without Big Contributions from Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili

Not Always Needed
(Yes, I made the mistake of turning on the World Wide Lemur this morning and getting a fresh blast of Stupid A. Smith...)

The Spurs have more than those three players.

Most specifically, they have the Defensive Player of the Year in Kawhi Leonard, the best coach of his generation in Gregg Popovich, and a bench of guys who would have qualified for the playoffs in the East, so long as Popovich was the coach.

They don't actually *need* Parker, Duncan and Ginobili to be their old selves to win playoff games.

Especially when they are at home, and facing a team whose bench is one offense-only scorer (Jamal Crawford), one guy who is only in the NBA because his dad is his coach (Austin Rivers), one power forward with the coordination and lift of a drunken seal (Glen "Big Baby" Davis), and the least intimidating 7-footer since Brad Sellers (Spencer Hawes)...

Chris Polk, We Hardly Knew Ye

I'm sure these are Gang Signs
> Eagles rescind restricted free agent offer to RB Chris Polk.

Consider this to be yet another in a long series of Andy Reid's Picks Need Not Apply. Polk's only -- repeat, ONLY -- failing as an NFL running back is a relatively slow recovery pattern from injury. In terms of speed, blocking and catching, he's all league average or better. He's also young, not on the downside of his career, Not Small, and has a track record of high production in limited carries. While some saw him purely as a short yardage back due to Franchise Nero Chip Kelly's use of him last year, he's also taken kickoffs the distance, and scored on long runs. He's got wheels. In short, he's everything you want your RB2 to be. In Nero Kelly's Eagles, he's RB4, and hence, gone.

What this reminds me of, on a lesser level, is when the franchise pissed away Charlie Garner in the mid 1990s. The fan base loved Garner as the young speed back to Ricky Watters, who was the veteran power guy. Management saw Garner as too small to stay healthy. Garner wound up being a poor man's Brian Westbrook for the better part of a decade, most of which was spent in Oakland during the last years that franchise was worth a damn.

Anyway, back to Polk. If you want to defend the move... you can't. He had to go because Nero Kelly had to have expensive small back Darren Sproles a year ago, and Sproles didn't age out last year. He had to go because trading LeSean McCoy, the best RB in franchise history, was necessary because McCoy was an uppity Reid guy, and Nero Kelly had to have his Oregon guy in Kiko Alonso. (Hope he's healthy! Oh, wait, I forgot, I don't hope he's healthy. I hope the Eagles go 0-16 next year with Tim Tebow getting all the starts.) He had to go because letting DeMecco Ryans and his aged-out knees go wasn't possible, because Ryans is Nero Kelly's personal binkie. He had to go because Nero Kelly had to replace McCoy with overpriced injury-riddled guys in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews.

In short, it's just another bad move, predicated by the dozen-odd bad moves made before it. Quick, someone find out if any of his friends growing up have ever been in a gang.

And honestly, given the injury history of Murray and Mathews, and the size of Sproles... he might have been RB1 by the second half of next year's Disaster Team. But Nero Kelly has Magic Smoothies, so I'm sure all of the hurt guys will be fine.

Have a great rest of your career, Chris Polk. I know that being let go sucks, and that it's all kinds of worrisome about where you'll play next, and how you'll make your money. But trust me, getting away from Nero Kelly will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to your career...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Homey Don't Eat That

So I was watching Chris Rock's treatise on HBO as to how baseball has become a sport that's more or less ignored by African-Americans, which transfers to a sport that is more or less ignored by Young Americans. You can see it here, and it's pretty great. (Warning: it's a little blue.)

Rock's got an awful lot of good thoughts to think about here, but I can't help but wonder if he missed a few . The first is that this change in the makeup of the game is part of the reason why offense and home runs and general excitement is all down, down, down. (Not that there haven't been a bunch of great black pitchers, but, um, more great black hitters.)

Which sounds like I'm slagging the Asian, White and Latin talent that has taken their place, but that's a too-simple way of looking at things. It's more that the overall talent level isn't as high, because the pool of players that are feeding it isn't as vast. Consider, for a moment, just how many preternaturally young players have managed to come up and dominate recently. That's evocative of what happened a long time ago, when you had guys as young as 16 have use at the major league level. A similar point can be made about how truly bad teams now are much more likely to lose 100+ games than they were a few decades ago. Deeper talent pools make for smaller differences between good and bad teams.

Finally, I want to bring it back to the actual stadium experience itself. Rock ties this into a comically sinister desire to revisit a world before integration, where the crowds, like the players, are just overwhelmingly white. And while there's easy humor in this, I think there's actually a point to be made.

When I went to games 20 and 30 years ago, it was affordable... not just to get in the building, but also to eat there. You could bring your own food, for one thing. And baseball isn't like other sports; you are more or less expected to eat, and you are going to, because the game is three hours long and leisurely, and it's just so much in the culture of being there. No one is singing songs about concessions at hoop, hockey or football...

And all of that was fine when the concessions were cheap and democratic.  But when the stadiums got better, so did the food. Now, the park is better seen as an upscale food court where if you don't have bank, you probably feel bad as you watch people all around you tucking into oversized insanity and nouveau riche stuff.

That can't be a comfortable time out, especially if you've got kids, and the kid is wondering why they can't have the big monster hot dog. Along with the overpriced merch, and these seats are really far away, and suddenly this really doesn't seem like such a great time out, amirite?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Most Attractive NBA Coaching Vacancy Ever

Buh Bye
With the possible exception of when the Warriors ran off Mark Jackson last year, there may not be a more attractive NBA coaching job in recent memory.

You walk into a situation where you've got...

1) One of the most athletic point guards in NBA history, and a guy who nearly dragged a team to the playoffs by his own damned self, in Russell Westbrook.

2) The probable return of the best defensive power forward in the league in Serge Ibaka.

3) The probable return of ex-MVP Kevin Durant, who, if healthy, will be unbelievably motivated for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that he might have the biggest Free Agent Contract Year ever.

4) A full season to integrate C Enes Kanter, the franchise's first low-post offensive threat from an actual honest to God big man.

5) A reasonable first round pick in a deep draft.

6) A thoroughly useful nasty young big in Steven Adams, a very promising benchie big in Mitch McGary, a decent three and D benchie in Anthony Morrow, a decent offensive point benchie in DJ Augustin, a talented but troubled gunning combo guard in Dion Waiters...

7) A roster that looked, for weeks in the second half of the season before Ibaka went down, like the most terrifying 8 seed in NBA history, and...

8) A situation where, if Durant leaves, you just cut the chutes and get the hell out of town your own damned self, because the franchise would go straight to the lottery and worse, and will never, ever attract a real FA. Because, um, Oklahoma.

If I'm an NBA coach of anything but the top 10 situations, or with very high security in my job, I'm asking my people to ask Thunder GM Sam Presti for a confidential interview, before I pull a Jason Kidd In Brooklyn.

If I'm a college coach that wants out, I'm sending Presti hot meals, and seeing if there's any way I can cozy up to Westbrook and Durant.

Because this franchise could be in the NBA Finals next year... and taking over from a coach who never seemed to have a bigger plan than let Kevin or Russell Play Hero Ball late?

Dunking on six foot rims.

While trying hard not to giggle, or make Mark Jackson Cookie Monster noises.

The Best First Round NBA Playoff Series Is Being Ruined By Idiot Rules About Fouling

Goddamnit, NBA
Tonight in Los Angeles, the Clippers trailed in the fourth quarter. The Spurs intention- ally fouled C DeAndre Jordan relentlessly, destroying pace and racking up the bad karma... but the Clips kept grinding, getting loose balls, forcing turnovers, and eventually taking a 2-point lead in the final minute. One last steal gave the Clips the ball with 30 seconds left, Chris Paul pounding the dribble with a 2-point lead. All he needed to do was score or get to the line, get a make, and seal up highly deserved doom for the karmic misery that was relentlessly intentional fouling... only karma is a story and stories aren't facts, so Paul turned it over, then fouled in the transition game, and the Spurs tied it, with Patty Mills doing the honors. Then Paul missed an end of regulation jumper, and hey, more basketball.

In overtime, the game got good again. The Spurs didn't foul, made some shots, played actual defense against Jordan, and took the early lead. Paul fed JJ Redick for a tying three. Tim Duncan made an absurd shot while falling, part of an unreal throwback night, then Mills leaked out beautifully for a fast break to make the lead five. Blake Griffin turned it over twice in overtime, Kawhi Leonard snuck in for a backdoor layup, and the road team lead by six with a minute left. Paul made a hero three, but Redick missed a tying three attempt in transition with 15 seconds left on Leonard's late contest. Mills made more big free throws. Redick hit a three. Mills made two more to ice it, Griffin missed a too-late three, and the Spurs escaped with a 4-point overtime win. This is your only 1-1 series in the first round.

In short, the overtime was everything the fourth quarter should have been, and probably wasn't watched by anyone on the East Coast or Central time zones. Because it all happened past 1am EST, and after a half hour of Cover Your Eyes, teeth grinding misery.

Please note that I have no dog in the Spurs-Clips fight. San Antonio wins too often to be lovable, with their fans being way too fat and happy. I've never had love for them based on appreciation for a fantasy guy, since coach Gregg Popovich spreads the minutes too much to make that a winning play. The Clips have been difficult to love for a generation due to their ownership, and even the current renaissance has been spoiled by the presence of ex-Celtics. My only hope for this series is Good Basketball, and I'd be getting that...

Except that the NBA hasn't fixed the utterly reprehensible intentional fouling rules.

This should be about Tim Duncan. The man is about to turn 39, and was the best player on the floor for most of the game. He's the best power forward ever, played 44 minutes tonight and had 28 points. It should be about Mills, who was huge when the team needed him the most, and might have to be that big the rest of the way if Tony Parker is hurt. It should be about Leonard, so good defensively, so much of a team player on offense that he never demands touches, and always seems to come up big.

Instead, it's about fouling.

Look, I don't care, and no one who actually watches the games should care, about the strategic merits of this. And if you seriously want to argue to me that Jordan should just be better at shooting free throws, all that tells me is YOU DON'T WATCH THE GAMES. Because Jordan is a wonderful player with the exception of this one damned thing, so you don't care about how it looks. Besides, there is no other sport where everything stops because one guy isn't good at one small thing, and the other team can make the entire game about that.

Basketball is art and sport, with athletes from every continent coming to play here, at the highest level. You can't say that about any other sport. No one who plays this game is at risk for their future health. Franchises all have the same amount to spend, and small market franchises can keep their superstars if they are smart about it. The playoff season is fantastic.

But I just spent 3+ hours watching a game that should have ended in 2, and watched a team win that spit in the face of the Basketball Gods...

Because of the damned fouling.

Please, NBA, for the love of the game... fix this. Make the rules for the last two minutes the same as the rest of the game. It would end this in a heartbeat, and make everything better.

I don't care that you aren't supposed to change the rules in mid-year. Just tell your refs to tell the coaches, the day before the game, that if you do it, they are going to call illegal defense and technical fouls to compensate, and 2X every infraction. Also, that there will be punitive fines and the removal of draft picks if they go to the media about this.

Just. End. It.

Because there is no absolutely no excuse for the post-game to be about stupid fouling, and for a great 2-hour game to be hidden in an unwatchable 3-hour game.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dirk Nowitzki's Waterloo

Is Dirk Still Seven Feet Tall?
Tonight's Mavs - Rockets Game Two was all kinds of fascinating and enter- taining, but on the off chance that you didn't see it, let's get into the grist.

The story is that Rajon Rondo more or less looked like he didn't want to be there tonight, and the team more or less gave him a DNP-CD in the second half. This led to a long discussion post-game in which Charles Barkley threw him under the bus and said he would not play him anymore... and it's not as if Dallas doesn't have other options, what with JJ Barea, Ray Felton and Monta Ellis able to take the point guard role.

I don't like Rondo's game right now at all... and I'm not sure anyone but a Houston Fan would disagree with that. He's reprehensible at the line, so much that he shies away from contact. He gambles for steals on defense, and I don't think he's even very good there any more. Add that into the fact that the man's body language is just screaming out that he doesn't want to be here, and I completely get with Rick Carlisle can't wait to get him out of town.

As for the remaining 2 to 5 games of the Mavs' season, I get that Barea is a spark / benchie, and Felton is years past his not good enough height, but you just can't have a guy on the court that can't get out of his own head. But the real reason why Dallas isn't going anywhere is because...

Dirk Nowitzki can't play anymore.

This goes beyond a rough shooting night, and Dirk couldn't put it in the ocean tonight. And hes never been a particularly tough rebounder for a 7-footer, so much so that even he's joked about it when passing a recent milestone.

But man alive, Houston ran a dunking contest in the second half of this game, with Josh Smith looking like Magic Johnson. And you can't put all of that on poor Tyson Chandler, who basically spent the second half trying to guard the guy throwing the lob and the guy dunking the lob. because Dirk's not quick or strong enough to impede either the dunker or the passer.

Dallas might win some games in this series. Houston still has to rely on Dwight Howard and Josh Smith to be the second and third best players on the team. They aren't killing them at point guard (every other team in the Western playoff would, by the way). Howard and Smith might disappear on the road. James Harden could shoot them out of a game, and Dallas has had strong stretches of the first two games when they were just ripping off points, because Houston is filled with athletes with ADD. Similarly, Houston seemingly can't put five guys on the floor who all shoot free throws better than high schoolers.

But Houston just won a game, by double digits, when Harden was more or less a spectator. They did it by dunking them out of the gym, because the best player in the history of the Mavericks' franchise, the guy they owe their championship ring to, is now their worst rotation player.

It's sad beyond words, but it's what happens.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Getting Off The Eagles Bus

Emperor Chip
I'm 45 years old, and have been watching the Eagles play football, to the point of remem- bering games, since the mid 1970s. I remember Bill Bergey, and Roman Gabriel, and how bad those teams were before they brought in Dick Vermeil, and built things up to the too-soon moment of Wilbert Montgomery going untouched on the coldest day ever in Philadelphia, against Dallas, to go to the Super Bowl.

I saw that team fall apart under Vermeil's failure to adjust, then become utterly terrible under Marion "Swamp Fox" Campbell, because any fox that's smart enough to be in the genus is smart enough to not live in a swamp. I saw Buddy Ryan come to town, build the most fun defense ever, then ruin a generational talent at QB in Randall Cunningham through some of the least imaginative play-calling ever. Ryan never won a playoff game, since that required some form of scheme, then passed things over to Rich Kotite, who got a win (over the Jim Mora Saints, no less) before his incompetence and ownership's inability to keep talent blew that team up. Ray Rhodes came in with smoke and mirrors for a little while, then fell apart, and the franchise was back to its lowest point.

I still watched. I cared less, but I still watched every game.

Then the team hired Andy Reid, drafted Donovan McNabb, and went on a rapid rise to being an every year pretender for the Super Bowl. The fact that they only got there once, and didn't get it done against the corrupt Patriots, remains one of the more profound sports disappointments in my life. The signature player of the age, Terrell Owens, couldn't control his mouth or mind long enough to be the local messiah he could have easily been, and eventually, Reid would walk away from most of what we had known and enjoyed, but only after it had become hideous.

Enter Chip Kelly. His first year, while incredibly lucky in some respects, was fun, since the team did some very innovative things and won the division. Last year, the team was less healthy, but some guys developed and the club failed to win down the stretch with a QB2 that Kelly picked, despite being a turnover machine; the team lost because he was, well, a turnover machine. Not fatal to my fandom, but not wildly encouraging, especially since the difference might have been as little as the failure to get any return from the self-destructed asset that was WR DeSean Jackson...

And now we've had the off-season from Tabloid Hell, in which the entire roster has been turned inside-out for a GM direction that seems more driven by the day of the week, or a Jets-esque need to win the media air cover war, than any kind of sane long-term plan.

This has been the worst time of my life to be an Eagles Fan.

Worse than Bobby Hoying turtling up against pressure that didn't get there. Worse than run defense that couldn't stop fullback dives from going for big yardage. Worse than the Last Days of Reid, where the club seemed to be trying to figure out the most exasperating ways to turn the ball over. Worse than Campbell, worse than Kotite, worse than, well, anything.

And the fact that there hasn't even been games to watch has made it all, well, somehow worse.

The offensive line is not better. The team's best healthy young LB, Mychal Kendricks, seems on the way out, for no good reason. The team's best interior OL, Evan Mathis, same story. The corners, so bad in this scheme last year, were replaced for guys that might be better, but were also scooped up by the defending conference champions... which says that teams that know talent think they are fixable, and that the coaching (especially DC Billy Davis, whose refusal to adjust for single coverage against WR1s for CB Bradley Fletcher, repeatedly torched at the end of the year, might have been the most exasperating coaching decision in years) was to blame.

So we have these following points to take on faith, and faith alone.

1) Paying for top dollar RBs (DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews), a philosophy that *no* other winning NFL teams followed in 2014-15, or indeed in this century, is going to work.

2) Paying for a top dollar RB with injury and fumble issues (Murray), who is coming off the most carry-heavy season in years, is going to work.

3) Paying for a relatively top dollar RB2 with ridiculous injury issues (Mathews) will be a great insurance policy if  RB1 (Murray) gets hurt, rather than just a stopgap that won't hold.

4) Diminishing the prospects of retaining your best young and healthy LB (Kendricks), while insisting on retaining the services of your oldest and least-versatile LB (DeMeco Ryans), is going to work.

5) Bringing in a divisive media sideshow (Tebow) who has washed out in his last two NFL stops (NY Jets and New England, who didn't retain him afer pre-season), and has been out of the league while every other NFL team passed repeatedly on his services, is going to work. (Oh, and he's going to work despite failing the Eye Test or Math Test of anyone who has ever watched NFL QB play without wearing Go Jebus Go Team Glasses.)

6) Trading for an injury-prone QB (Sam Bradford) who is going to make 6X more than your own significantly less injury-prone QB (Nick Foles) is going to work, because the scouting reports from three years ago on both guys when they were coming out of college says the 6X guy is the shiznit.

7) Letting a Pro Bowl speed WR walk (Jackson) for no return is fine, because that guy was small and wasn't part of Your Culture.

8) Retaining a divisive media sideshow at WR (Riley Cooper) is fine, even though that guy hasn't put up numbers outside of a single hot month of lucky deep ball catches, because he is Big, and presumably, part of Your Culture, which is such a win for the black guys in the locker room.

9) Past FA whiffs like James Casey, past draft whiffs like Marcus Smith and Jaylen Watkins (not even good enough to get on the field when Fletcher was hopeless), and a fixation on filling the end of the roster with Oregon Guys who contribute nothing that shows up in actual games, is fine because it is and shut up.

10) Retaining a turnover machine at QB2 (Mark Sanchez) for more money than anyone else seemed interested in paying him is better then developing younger and cheaper talent, because working with guys who have shown over a very long sample size that they can't get the job done... just haven't gotten enough exposure to your coaching.

11 Through I've Lost Count... trying to go all-in on the last gasps of Frank Gore, not getting a safety of any kind in FA when you desperately needed one, treating Chris Polk like hot garbage when he's young, good and cheap, starting Mike Vick over Foles in 2013 (defensible at the time, but plainly the wrong decision on the merits later), not giving TE Zach Ertz a full complement of snaps last year when he was clearly a vastly superior option to Cooper, because Ertz is a TE and Brent Celek blocks great and I don't know what else...

And the reason why all of the above is OK and we're going to be swimming in ice cream, playoffs wins and parades is Kelly, who has never been an NFL GM before, is Just That Much Smarter Than Every Other GM In The League.

Ignore the fact that he's not been all that much smarter than Every Other NFL Coach, by the way.

Oh, and the fact that Coach/GM is almost always a disaster is OK, because Kelly.

* * * * *

I've tried to be patient with this.

I've tried to not be the guy who just flies off the handle.

I've tried to say that you have to wait out the entire process before judging the off-season, and that the past regime of No Playoff Wins During The Obama Administration isn't exactly repainting the roof of the Sistine Chapel.

But there's patient, and there's being quiet in the back of the bus when it's going off a cliff.

When, well, you can just get off the bus.

The 2015-16 Eagles are not going to be better than the 2014-15 team. The draft is not going to save the secondary from being a below-average unit. The FAs are not going to ensure better health or production from an offensive line that is on the wrong side of history. The HC is not going to get better at in-game decisions, and the league is not going to get worse at adjusting to the HC's pet plays and strategies that, well, started to lose effectiveness in Year Two. The turnover and injury vagaries are not going to just swing their way, and they are not going to be better than draft-grown and more cohesive teams in Arizona and Dallas, let alone truly elite teams in Green Bay and Seattle.

And in some small but potent way, I'm OK with all of that.

It's mid-April. There hasn't been football on the air for 10 weeks, and won' t be for another 20.

I don't miss it all.

I don't really care who the Eagles draft now.

That's because I don't think the Eagles' GM is smart enough to make good decisions, and that the Eagles coaches are good enough to put them in a position to succeed.

I'm not planning on going to a  road game in 2015-16. That's been an annual ritual for me and my mom for years now, but money's really bad right now, and the travel possibilities for this year (AFC East, yuck) do not entice.

There's a real possibility, for the first time in forever, that I might not play fantasy football, or pick games against the spread. And if I'm not doing that, I get back hundreds of hours of my life, all of which might be needed to try to alleviate the money situation.

And even if the Eagles were making sane moves, and caring about the team is the equivalent of saying wow, what a view we're getting as we're going off the bridge...

It's still football.

Which is to say, a deal bathed in blood, death and head trauma, where I put money into the hands of  some of the worst people in America. (The owners, much more than the players.)

And spend all of that time away from my family, who do not, thank God, like football.

So... thanks, Chip Kelly, for wrecking my team, and giving me the air cover I needed to step away from an abusive relationship.

But I need you to do more, just because I'm weak, and might backslide into this relationship again

Put Jebus crosses on every player. Big ones. Have them talk about it in every interview.

Whiten up the team further by running off any remaining Reid Era stars. (Just imagine what you could get for Fletcher Cox. I bet Miami would give you Dion Jordan for him, and that would give you another Oregon Guy.)

Change the jerseys to be more Oregon-like. If the team doesn't look at all like what I spent my life watching, that might also help.

Pivot away from the innovations that I've actually liked about your teams, and start caring about time of possession, and slower tempo. Explain that this is the new hipness, and that you did all of that stuff because you were giving the rest of the league false info.

Waste your timeouts to avoid delay of game penalties.

Kick lots and lots of field goals, from deep distances, because yay, field goals.

Trade away years and years of draft picks for more QBs, or RBs, or anything else you already have too much of.

In short, finish the job you started, and burn the place to the ground.

Then salt the earth, and poison the wells, and go to some other place, and win championships there, while doing everything that you didn't do here, preferably for a franchise with a wildly spoiled and hateful fan base. (Dallas or New England, or even better, Washington, still with a racial slur for a name.)

Have all of this happen while the Eagles keep the same ownership, who then thanks you for your service, then hires someone else who is as bad, or worse, than you.

Make me feel, in short, not just happy to no longer be a fan, but give me survivor's guilt for everyone else in my life who still roots for the laundry.

And hey, thanks again, for being the Eagles' Nero.

I needed to get the hell out of Rome anyway.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Top 10 reasons why the Eagles are signing Tim Tebow

Tebow's Eagle Bandwagon (Future)
10) Tebow hasn't been in the NFL for 2 years, which means he's fresh as a daisy

9) Making opponents plan for special Tebow plays worked so well for the Rex Ryan Jets

8) Having Tebow around always brings out the best in Mark Sanchez

7) Like everything else that has been done in the past 10 years for the franchise, all part of a Marcus Mariota deal

6) Chip Kelly really wants to show how his system can win with damn near anything

5) It's all part of a cunning plan to make Matt Barkley incredibly motivated... to suicide

4) Like many of Kelly's moves, it's secretly all about special teams

3) This off-season has been so dull and bereft of things to write about, Kelly decided to throw the media a bone

2) Just hated him so much on SEC games, would do anything to change up those telecasts

1) It's part of an elaborate test to see just how far Eagle Fan will take before throwing up his hands and waiting for Kelly to scamper back to college

Top 10 NBA Playoff Saturday Takeaways

What Pierce Sings During Games
10) Paul Pierce really should just make it a little less obvious, and tear up a Canadian flag while punching a moose during the player introductions

9) Dallas and Houston took turns being terrible basketball teams, with Dallas going last to earn the loss

8) When Anthony Davis gets a real team around him, he's going to be absolutely terrifying

7) Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry missed a month's worst of free throws, just to make sure the Warriors didn't win by enough to feel comfortable before Game 2

6) Derrick Rose played well, just to tease Chicago Fan with dreams of what can never be

5) Raptor Fan is so numerous and earnest that it's just, well, a shame, really, that his team can never win Game One

4) Curry banked in a layup off the very top of the backboard, just to show Davis that even his hops and reach were not going to be good enough

3) Rajon Rondo was just good enough on offense in the first half to help ensure some utterly terribly new deal as a free agent

2) It's almost impossible for the Rockets to put five guys on the floor that don't make intentional fouling a good idea

1) Every home team won except Toronto, because if the weather wasn't enough of a clue, God Hates Canada

Thursday, April 16, 2015

NBA First Round Playoff Preview: Finally, The Later Rounds Will Be Better Than The Early Ones

Too much to get into, not enough time to do it. No preamble, let's go.

The lEastern Conference

1) Atlanta vs. 8) Brooklyn

Honestly, we don't get to see four to seven games of Russell Westbrook trying to will the Thunder with their all-in fans, but we do get four games of the Nets before they shuffle off to wherever dreadful basketball players go? That fact alone should absolutely make the NBA blow up the conferences and divisions in the off-season, just to make sure this can never happen again.

Oh, right, I guess I have to actually talk about what will happen on the court. Atlanta is well-coached, deep, athletic, smart and efficient. They are having one of the best seasons in franchise history, and should make it to the conference finals before running into serious opposition, when their No Stars approach could be fatal. Not having G Thabo Sefalosha due to the insane efforts of the NYPD is also going to do them no favors. But Brooklyn might be one of the worst playoff teams in recent memory, and when you can discourage C Brook Lopez and PG Deron Williams, they are an absolute wasteland, especially on the bench. Atlanta sweeps, maybe never trails in any game, and manage their minutes in ways that you just shouldn't be able to do in any playoff.

Atlanta in four.

2) Cleveland vs 7) Boston

It's just like old times -- Boston Fan getting as ugly as his team as James leads Cleveland above, around and through the ghosts of NBA Past. This Celtic team is gritty, very good defensively in the back court when Evan Turner is able to hide, and can go deep into the bench for useful minutes. Coach Brad Stevens has gotten full buy-in from his men, has gotten borderline Coach of the Year honors for getting these results out of these guys, and PG Isaiah Thomas has been money.

This Cavs team was vulnerable, but hasn't been for many months now, as C Timofey Mozgov has turned them around defensively, and helped a great deal to hide the deficiencies of PF Kevin Love. (To be fair, Love's been a lot better with rest and might be having back issues, which is one more brick in the wall for the Cavs to be better in the post-season.)

I think the Celtics get one game, and then get rolled, because, um, LeBron James is on this team, and he's not losing to an 8 seed that's just happy to be here. It's winning time for the eternal MVP, and a nice little story ends when that happens.

Cleveland in five.

3) Chicago vs. 6) Milwaukee

Potentially an intriguing series. The Bulls are capable of clanking out bad games at any time, and do not have the continuity they should, due to the constant injury woes of PG Derrick Rose and C Joakim Noah. PF Taj Gibson getting hurt the other day is also a big damned deal. Chicago might be better with PG Aaron Brooks on the floor, and Brooks can't guard anybody, which means they could be vulnerable in ways that will sap their bigs.

Milwaukee HC Jason Kidd has done yeoman work with a cast of vagabonds and athletes, and the Bucks can be downright frisky for long stretches of time, especially if they can get out and run. They are also downright tough on defense with their athleticism. But playoff hoop. especially in the sluggish East and against the tempo-controlling Chicago bigs, isn't about just being good on one side of the ball... and these Bucks aren't going to get, or make, a lot of clean looks.

Instead, it's going to be a lot of long clocks and PG Michael Carter-Williams forcing things, while the Bulls win with vastly superior bigs. In other words, it's going to get ugly, and sad, and won't make you want to watch. Oh, and the Bulls will have home-court advantage in all games, due to the proximity of the fan bases, and the vastly bigger Bull market.

Chicago in five.

4) Toronto vs. 5) Washington

The only lEastern first round series to go long, this will be a tidy little war among teams that saved their best ball for fall. Toronto PG Kyle Lowery hasn't been right or healthy since his Wow, Really, The East Is That Bad All-Star game start, and the bigs tend to be injury and foul prone. Great home-court advantage, though, and the bench is a real edge over DC.

The Wiz should walk on this one in terms of on the court talent, seeing how they have the best C, PG and PF, with John Wall and Nene doing damage. But they've also been zombies for the second half of the year, and the bench has been horrid. They are the better team on talent, but they just haven't gotten it done for months now. (And if you are looking ahead, this is just giving the Hawks the best possible path to the Conference Finals.) Give me...

Toronto in seven.

And now, the Only Conference That Matters.

1) Golden State vs. 8) New Orleans

The Dubs' magical season continues, as they avoid the grenade that would have been the Thunder, who I was kind of convinced were just going to be magically healthy for Game One of a playoff run. Instead, the best long-range back court in NBA history will work the Pels' like a speed bag, while the underrated Dub bigs will limit the damage that PF Antonio Davis can do.

Oh, and just on the off chance that the Pels think they can steal a game early and make things go long... well, Golden State was 39-2, with an average margin of over 16 points a game (!), at home. This used to be the biggest home court advantage in the league, and now that's matched to the league's best team. I know it doesn't make for nifty prognostication to like the team that won the most game sin the regular season, but honestly, the Dubs are amazing. The Pels? Not so much.

Warriors in four.

2) Houston vs. 7) Dallas

Maybe the most visually appealing first round series, even though I suspect it's not going to go on for that long. Houston has had an amazing year despite injuries, due to the heroics of would have been an MVP in any normal year James Harden, and they can take you out of the building with three point shooting. Theoretically, C Dwight Howard can do big things, and while they seem like they should be vulnerable at PG due to the injury suffered by Patrick Beverly, it hasn't shown up on the court. I still don't love this team, because it's hard to accept the idea that Harden is now good on defense, but you can't argue with the won-loss record.

Dallas should profile as a very dangerous team. They were the only team to threaten the Spurs last year, they have proven playoff hammers in G Monta Ellis and PF Dirk Nowitzki, they've played the Rockets tough before, and the travel isn't going to have any kind of impact. When things are clicking, this is one of the best offenses in the league, and C Tyson Chandler gives them relatively effective defensive beef. But PG Rajon Rondo is just an absolute mess, the bench PGs are no better, Nowitzki is a terrible rebounder for a 7-footer now, and there's been nothing to like about this club for months now. I think they've got a win or two in them, but are one of the easier outs in the West.

Rockets in six.

3) LA Clippers vs. 6) San Antonio

Wow, this is just too good of a series for the first round, especially given how injuries have trimmed the potential of many of the other teams in the West; if I were to seed teams just on how good that I think they are right now, you are looking at the second and third best teams in the NBA. The Spurs have been great for months now, have a great bench, the best coach in recent NBA history, and the best wing defender (Kawhi Leonard) in hoop. They also have 1 on 1 issues with athletic bigs, the usual hangover issues with clubs that have trouble getting full buy-in from defending champions, and will need to overcome a lack of home court.

The Clips have been dominant for much of the second half, with C DeAndre Jordan playing out of his mind when PF Blake Griffin was down. They hit their threes, PG Chris Paul is fully healthy for once, HC Doc Rivers has had success in big games, and they have lots of guys who can hit free throws in close and late situations... but Jordan really isn't one of them, and the Spurs aren't afraid to toss the game aesthetics in the dumpster and put him on the line 40 times. The Clipper bench is also more than a little troubling, because Spencer Hawes is involved, and Spencer Hawes is completely incompatible with winning. It's a real problem... but I just can't shake the notion that maybe its finally time to turn the page on the Spur starters, and that you shouldn't win a series with the worse starters and no home court. There's also the idea that, as per last year, the best round to take on the Spurs is the first.

Clippers in six.

4) Portland vs. 5) Memphis

Due to the Grizz owning the tie-breakers, Memphis has home court. They also benefit immensely from facing a Portland club that's down multiple wing starters due to injury, and just haven't looked like themselves for months now; they have also had some injury issues. The poor Blazers don't have a reasonable 2-guard on the roster, despite having two pretty good ones just a couple of months ago. And while their home court is good, it's almost as if people in Portland are just too happy to bring real fire to the gym with them. (Not an issue for the Grizz.)

It's just wrong that one of these teams will move on while the loser of Spurs-Clips is done, because both of these clubs are going home in the next round... but give me the Grizz due to the home court, and I'm just so sad that the Spurs and Clips couldn't have taken out both of these teams and set up a better second round.

Grizzlies in seven.

Enjoy the games, everybody. And for once, the second round will be even better than the first...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Top 10 reasons why Yasiel Puig is cutting down on bat flips

10) If you show emotion in any way, that means you are showing disrespect, especially if you aren't so very young anymore

9) Knows that with all of the new Cuban emigres in the league, he's got to find some other way to stand out

8) Got a note from MLB that younger fans enjoyed this, so it had to stop

7) Just can't summon the joy needed to do this in a world without Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez

6) Sensed that Vin Scully was less than sincere in his appreciation of the art

5) If he keeps doing it, the drug testing frequency is just going to keep going up

4) Was told this was more of a Josh Hamilton thing to do

3) As soon as he stops flipping the bat, will stop running the bases like a runaway beer truck

2) He's sure that as soon as this is eliminated from his repertoire, Don Mattingly will never yank him from the lineup again

1) Bat flips showed the audience that offense is about to happen, and MLB 2015 can't have that

Monday, April 13, 2015

Five points about the NBA's five worst

Knick Fan Sees Truth Always
Thanks to my usual dumpster-diving into the freely available talent in my NBA fantasy league -- honestly, it's a sickness -- I've spent way too much time looking at terrible teams this spring. And it's been wildly enjoyable, kind of the perfect appetizer before one of the most anticipated NBA playoff seasons in recent memory starts up. But before we get into that, one small point.


Seriously, there's been nothing better in recent years than being able to give the early hours short shrift, since they were worse games on the much worse network for hoop. But this year, the World Wide Lemur has gotten wind that the lEast is to be avoided, so they've swapped things up with TNT and gotten the better games. Which means that we won't be able to ignore such luminaries as Mark Jackson, so good that he kept the Warriors from winning 65+ games by doing things like starting David Lee and being surprised that defense was a problem, or thinking that religious discussion was a better idea that, well, offensive playsets, practices, or defensive scouting. Steve Kerr is dunking on six foot rims, people. Doing it beautifully, but still. And thanking the stars above every day that his ownership didn't saddle him with Kevin Love, aka the much more expensive David Lee, instead of getting better all the time Klay Thompson. Crap, Jackson comes tethered to whatever van Gundy isn't employed! And I don't get late night loopiness out of TNT's Atlanta studios? DO. NOT. LIKE...

Anyway. Sorry. Tangent over. Let's get back to the dregs.

New York -- If there was ever a case for relegation, it's the Knicks. They started the year trying to contend by maxing out Carmelo Anthony, then grafted the triangle offense on a collection of "talent" that included no one who would try on defense, shoot for a good percentage, or pass. Shockingly, this didn't work, so they then dragged out Anthony's "injury" for a day after an All-Star Game in the Garden, then abandoned all pretense of playing basketball while bringing in the world's itinerant players to try a little more than the front-line guys. All while more or less selling out one of the most expensive arenas in the world. Nice work if you can get it.

Unlike other clubs (heh heh, see below), the Knicks have discovered nothing -- honestly, not a single asset -- from this exercise. Andrea Bargnani has provided some empty calorie numbers, and Langston Galloway tries real hard, and Alexey Shved might belong on someone's bench for no good reason; eveything else on this roster should be balling overseas. (Yes, not even the D-League.) They'll get a top pick in the lottery, welcome Anthony back for 20-30 games of quasi-effort at full price, and lose 60+ games again next year, when they discover that free agents are not attracted to Manhattan even with Phil Jackson in tow, because Phil Jackson is older than dirt, and works for Jim Dolan, and Jim Dolan is the new Donald Sterling, only worse, because he's not dying or going away.

And here's the best part... the arena will sell out again next year. And the year after that, and the year after that, and...

Minnesota -- The second happiest losers in the league, because man alive, have you seen Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine recently? It's kind of like watching Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant before they were beasts, only Durant in this case is conventionally sized, and Westbrook isn't so combative that he's always shooting his team out of games in an Iversonian assault on sensibilities. The Wolves even have some other pieces, mostly squirreled away on the disabled list, and some other guys who are known, but also not-so-secretly terrible (Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio).

They are going to have a miserable time trying to attract any free agent of note to the frozen frozens of Minnesota, but playing with Neo Westbrook and Durant might convince someone to take the plunge, and while everyone involved isn't thrilled to watch a team that's going to lose 66 games (likely), the simple swap of Wiggins for depressing FA to be Kevin Love makes the entire year a mulligan. Especially when you add in LaVine, who won the Slam Dunk Championship, and then spent the last two weeks making everyone involved realize that a future Sans Rubio is going to be wildly more encouraging. If they hit on another lottery pick, this could be everyone's favorite 30-win team next year, and then the #8 seed that flat out terrifies a #1 in 2017. It's not that far off, honestly.

Philadelphia -- The poster children for how to dumpster dive, as well as how to move overrated assets, even in a situation where no one should ever be overrated. This year's Sixers have reclaimed and developed a handful of guys who will play for cheap on future good teams, gotten away from a PG (Michael Carter-Williams) that would have doomed them moving forward, developed a PF (Nerlens Noel) who keeps raising the ceiling on what he could develop into, found a benchie three and D guy in Jerami Grant, a benchie scoring point in Isaiah Canaan, willing benchie bangers in Furkan Aldemir and Thomas Robinson, and an honest to God three-point shooter in Robert Covington. And that's not even counting Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, their own damned pick in next year's draft, and the still-to-be calculated goodness from the Laker, Heat and Thunder conditional firsts.

Sure, attendance is still low -- but better than last year -- and TV ratings aren't good. But it's been impossible to hate the product on the floor, or the thought process involved... and if Embiid is anything like Noel next year, this could become a top-5 defensive team, with more blocks and run outs than can be easily imagined. I've enjoyed watching this team more than any Sixer club since the first year of Doug Collins, and agreed with them more than any club since Larry Brown trapped lightning in a bottle and got Iverson and Effort to the Finals. If this works, the Association will never be the same, and will probably be much worse for it, but hey, hate the game, not the player.

Los Angeles -- Want to see what truly horrific hoop really looks like? Turn your eyes to the Lakers, where the fan base is plainly unprepared for a famine that everyone with a pulse and non-purple and gold-tinted glasses could have predicted for years, and, well, did. California will break its drought, maybe with desalinated ocean water, faster than the Lakers will. These clowns weren't tolerable when Kobe Bryant was trying to Westbrook them to wins earlier in the year, and as soon as Bryant's body broke, they've regressed to beyond unwatchable.

The bench is filled with names like Jeremy Lin, Nick Young and Carlos Boozer -- i.e., utterly inept on defense and nothing to write home about on offense, either -- while the starters are either future D-League washouts or other team's failed draft picks. They've found nothing of lasting value, don't play hard, don't have a coach (Byron Scott, the last guy in the NBA to realize that long 2-point shots are a powerful evil) with a clue, and still seem to think that free agents are going to flock to town to play for that magic shirt. It's Knicks West, in other words, and a golden age to hate the Lakers. Any wonder why I've enjoyed this regular season so much?

Orlando -- Looking for a team that should be getting much more grief for being terrible, but flying under the radar with three of the nation's top six media markets in the teens in wins? Then cast your eyes to Orlando, who are my actual choice for Most Likely To Still Be Horrible in 2-3 Years. Nicola Vucevic is the team's best player right now, which is to say a soft 7-footer who racks up popcorn numbers by playing big minutes and never getting blocked shots (aka, the Love Way to Overrated), while the backcourt of Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton prove that athleticism without shooting ability is an express route to awful.

The rest of this unit is cover your eyes terrible, with Tobias Harris and Evan Fornier proving that potential doesn't have to be realized, Aaron Gordon and Channing Frye proving that one-way players are death in hoop, and why's he employed guys like Ben Gordon, Willie Green and Luke Ridnour adding to their pensions, and little else. There isn't a single guy on this roster that I'd really want on my team in any role of importance, and the fact that this is where they are while still *winning* the Dwight Howard deal is just kind of jaw-dropping. And the fact that they swapped Payton for Saric and gave up a first round pick in the process? Further proof, not that you needed it, that Sam Hinkie is a Dark Genius. (After the Andrew Bynum fiasco, I'm fine with treating Orlando like a rag doll for a few decades.)

Just one more week until the playoffs, folks. When the best regular season in NBA history flips the page to the best playoff year... if only because we're going to see the feel-good Celtics turned into pudding when they realize that Evan Turner is on the floor, and the world sees true team ball (Atlanta, Golden State, San Antonio) triumph over Star Power (Cleveland, LA Clippers, Houston), in the course correction the NBA has needed since Michael Jordan overcame the Blazers, Sonics and Suns. Stay tuned, or tune in. It's going to be great.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pete Rose Forever, Or Stuff No One Wants To Say Out Loud

And to bet on it as well
> While he was great as a player, he wasn't nearly as good as his supporters think.

The reason why Rose is known to this day is simple; he has more hits than anyone in MLB history. But the actual positive impact that he had for his team was a lot less useful. When you take in the ridiculously long decline phase where he was one of the worst everyday hitters in MLB, you wind up with literally hundreds of guys who did more damage with the wood... and even Rose's most ardent supporters don't make the claim that he was helping teams with the leather. He's got the most hits in MLB history, but he's also made the most outs.

> He was bad for a fantastically long time.

By WAR, the last great Rose year was 1976, and the last adequate one was 1979, at age 38. He played until he was 45, with some 3K ABs where he hit 5 home runs -- yes, five -- while playing first base. The man played the better part of a decade while hitting for less power than Ben Revere, while playing first base. Seriously. The maniacal chasing of Ty Cobb dragged his WAR down to 64th all time, and as he was the manager for a lot of that death march, he bears an even higher amount of responsibility for it.

> He has the most double plays (247) in MLB history, and again, it's not close.

By combining marginal power (Rose hits 160 HRs in his nearly 16K ABs, and didn't get past a career high of 16 in his age 25 season) with low strikeouts and walk totals, and by playing his entire life in plus offensive parks and conditions, he took his team out of a phenomenal number of innings.

> Short of murder or rape, he did the only thing that can keep you out of the Hall.

I get that Rose was railroaded by MLB, and signed a deal that no competent lawyer would have let him sign. I also get that he's spent the past two decades trying to figure out the exact words to say to get over, and into Cooperstown, before he kicks. (Rose is 73 now, by the way. Life moves fast.)

But gambling nearly *ended* baseball after 1919, and it remains the game that's the easiest to throw, because fielding errors, grooved pitches and poor lines on fly balls (or "losing" things in the sun) is just something that can happen whenever anyone on the field feels like it. Heavy favorites lose to heavy underdogs roughly 1 out of every 3 games, and everyone in baseball knows this, as well as the absolute intolerance of gambling.

And there's no excuse in the misbegotten idea that Rose, like the biggest homer goober on the planet, only ever bet on the Reds... because the games that he didn't became de facto less important, and polluted the others. It meant that he managed his bullpen differently, was more or less aggressive with his subs, more or less willing to extend a starting pitcher or rest a regular. It just can't happen, and Rose did it anyway. I get that this is a nation of forgiveness, but honestly, maybe there are some things we shouldn't forget, just to make sure that no one ever makes this mistake again.

> Rose's supporters are never, ever, going to give this up. And neither is Rose.

From mocking commercials to periodic books and signings and PR moments, and maybe just the plain old He's Going To Die At Some Point, So Just Induct Him Already moment... well, Rose represents the childhood of any number of people. And the idea that Charlie Hustle isn't in the Hall is, like Shoeless Joe Jackson before him, the cause celebre of a generation, and the proof that the Hall of Fame is just filled with big old meanies. (At least Jackson had decades in disgrace to avoid the HOF issue, as it didn't exist back in 1919.)

I can see why people want to just say bygones, induct Rose, and get on with their lives. On the playing merits, he deserves it, though the counting stats overrate him by a lot, and screwing over Dan Driessen, Nick Essasky, Kal Daniels and Paul O'Neill on playing time, while still dirty, didn't keep anyone out of Cooperstown on their own. The public mood and MLB's tolerance of gambling has softened dramatically in my lifetime, with nerd nit betting (AKA fantasy) doing most of the heavy lifting.

But the plain and simple is that Rose gave up any shot at the Hall by breaking the only real rule that was more or less guaranteed to keep him out of it. He only admitted it when he was caught. His apologies have been conditional, his redemption tied entirely to whatever helps him sell books or merch or his continued candidacy.

If he never enters Cooperstown, that's OK to me, as a baseball fan.

And if he does?

Well, it's not as if he'd be the worst guy in there.

And honestly, if someone wants to go down the path of blowing the damn thing up and starting over?

Works for me as well.

Just so long as we say yes or no on Rose once and for all, rather than spend another 30 years saying the same stuff...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Josh Hamilton Issue Isn't About Money; It's About Choices

Despite all their rage...
I haven't really said anything to date about the Josh Hamilton situation, because, well, I try not to say things that are obvious on their face... but if there's a bigger black eye for a franchise, I can't recall it. And the fact that most people aren't going to see it this way says something profound about the nature of addiction, and how our national attitude towards the War on Drugs has been such an unmitigated failure.

First off, the disclosures. I'm an A's fan with no love lost for Hamilton; he's just a guy who timed his contract year perfectly, and is a guy who might have been DFA'd if not for his contract, just on the realm of league average performance. The fact that he plays for one of my team's biggest rivals is a nice thing, in that he hurts their competitive situation, but honestly, the A's are much more likely to beat themselves, rather than by someone else.

So Hamilton ended last year badly, and hasn't been a good contract for the Angels. He's 34, with three more years and $83 million left on his deal. He's also had a history of substance abuse issues, and had a relapse while in an injury rehab -- an issue he reported, which should have remained confidential, and has not, because the Angles are ready to do just about anything to get well and truly clear of Hamilton and his contract. MLB hasn't suspended Hamilton, because that's not how this works.

And well, it's also not how contracts work.

The plain and simple fact is that the Angels can release Hamilton if they so choose... but they still have to pay him. Which isn't what Angels' owner Arte Moreno says, of course. "It's not about money. Nothing about money."

So, Arte, what is it, then? Blaming the victim in a relapse case, and the only reason you care enough to do that is because of your own bad judgment of ignoring the risks involved in signing him in the first place. Which is, to say, showing the world that addicts are just people you can blame for their problems, and break your word to, because They Are Bad People. You played a game, you lost, so the game is not fair and you're not going to accept losing. Very mature.

I have no idea if Hamilton is a Bad Person. That's pretty much left to Hamilton and his circle. But I do know that people who break contracts while claiming the high ground are flat out toejam. They deserve karmic retribution and free agent avoidance and understated umpire censure and all-too-eager DL visits by their own personnel, and all of the other maladies that teams that are toejam should suffer.

A final word about addiction. The way in which we understand such things is fundamentally flawed. We tend to think in two directions about drug addiction. The first is that humanity is powerless in the face of spectacularly powerful chemicals, and that addicts are basically helpless or blameless in the face of such power. This is inherently flawed by the simple fact that medicinal grade drugs are much more powerful than what addicts receive on the street, and yet recovering patients do not generally become addicts. The second is that addicts are flawed people who prefer misery over success, and whose poor choices and lack of personal responsibility deserve judgment, censure and incarceration. Which also doesn't work, since we've done that for as long as anyone can remember, and the only thing it's done is create a remarkably large and repeating prison population.

This all follows from animal experiments with addictive narcotics, where a caged animal drinks drug-laced water over clean until death... but the bigger point is that animals do *not* drink the drug water if the cage in which they reside is highly interactive and, in short, a good cage. In short, better cages make for better choices. Which is why those patients don't all become junkies. They leave the hospital and go back to their lives, and their lives are not miserable enough to make addiction any kind of choice.

I get that it's politically and socially impossible to have empathy for Hamilton, who will make, in one year, a great deal more than almost everyone on the planet will make in a lifetime.

But it's still the right thing to do.

Addicts are addicts; making the cage worse destroys them and lessens us.

And signing an addict, then refusing to show them basic human compassion and empathy because they haven't pleased you before that relapse, let alone trying to shirk your legal responsibilities to them?

Makes you worse -- much worse -- than the addict.

Since you, at least, are presumed to be in your right mind when you are making terrible choices...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

One Saints Super Bowl Ring For Sale, One Million Stories To Tell

There's an article in the Internets today over how a 2009 Super Bowl ring from the New Orleans Saints is now up for sale on Craig's List, with a listing price of $45K. You can see it at right. There was also some back and forth as to which player is likely selling it (there's also an autographed helmet with a number on it, which means it's probably one of three guys).

That's the sum and substance and extent of the story. At which point I made the tactical error that you would probably be better off never making... I scrolled down and read the comments. And got the following...

> How dumb and sad it is that athletes can't mange their finances

> What the price is, what it should be, and what the commenter would pay

> How the seller is clearly on drugs, about to be homeless, in hock to baby mamas or has been bled dry by his parasitic posse

> That the seller should have gone to eBay, and is clearly stupid with a capital Oopid for not doing that

> How sad it is that a man would be reduced to selling this, the biggest thing he'll ever do in his whole damn life

Or some combination of the above.

When the entire sum and substance and FACT of the matter is that a ring -- a ring that might not mean an awful lot the recipient, since it's not exactly something that looks comfortable to wear on a routine basis, and not everyone likes to wear rings anyway -- is up for sale.

The rest is story, folks. Your story, and maybe not the player's.

Maybe he finds this ostentatious. Maybe he knows someone at eBay, and doesn't like them, and doesn't want their site to benefit from the sale. Maybe it's all part of a cagey PR strategy, and the news of this sale has been leaked for maximum viral benefit (worked, in the case of this post). Maybe the Saints were privately horrible to him, and getting rid of this thing will be one of the best things that ever happened in his life.

It's all story.

And making up stories, and treating them as facts, is what people do...

Sometimes, to their enduring embarrassment.

Five Brief and Obvious Points About LeSean McCoy's Latest Comments

McCoy's Yelp Rating of Chip Kelly
> Not to put too fine a point on this, but if you are a star player, shouldn't you have a playoff win in your history?

(The Eagles have not won a playoff game during the Obama Presidency, which is to say, the entirety of McCoy's career.)

> DeMarco Murray isn't a star? Odd, considering he was a better RB than McCoy last year... and, unlike McCoy, won a playoff game last year...

> Does this mean that Nick Foles is a star, and Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez are not, because I think we need to clear up the whole definition of "star"...

>  Given that McCoy was replaced with a three-headed RB attack of guys who have all been to the Pro Bowl, isn't it more that he doesn't respect star WRs?

> Why is McCoy still talking about his old team, town and coach, other than the fact that no one really wants to think too hard about being in Buffalo, near Rex Ryan, and inevitably beaten over the head and shoulders by the Patriots?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Top Ten Takeaways From MLB Opening Day

Note the empty seats in the outfield
10) If you started Kyle Lohse against the Rockies in your fantasy league, you've already lost the year, and if you started Kyle Kendrick, shut up, no one started Kyle Freaking Kendrick

9) It was an absolutely beautiful day in Philadelphia, at least until the Phillies took the field

8) Yankee Fan cheered A-Rod in what can only be described as future trolling

7) ESPN2 chose to show the Astros to a national audience, just to prove that yes, this is a very new year

6) Matt Kemp had his vengeance on the Dodgers, but in what is likely to be a recurring theme, it wasn't enough

5) Atlanta dealt away Craig Kimbrel, then got 7 outs, no base runners and 3 strikeouts and a save from Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli, because Small Sample Sizes Are Fun

4) Oakland let go of Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzjia, who both got hammered, because Billy Beane Is A Genius (Until The Playoffs)

3) Cub Fan learned that watching the Cubs lose in a shutout can actually be more painful and unpleasant through the simple removal of working bathrooms

2) David Price ran out of gas just in time to get Joe Nathan the cheap bunny save that he needs to convince clueless people that the Tiger bullpen won't be a monumental problem

1) As the NBA only played one game, the NCAA was playing its championship game with 50% Duke Content in The Gay Hate State, and Chip Kelly was medically sedated, a lot of people actually noticed Baseball Is Back

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why Stephen Curry Is The MVP

Smile If You Are The MVP
There are four clear candidates for the Most Valuable Player in the NBA this year, and some folks seem to think it's still up for debate. Let's look at each in turn.

4) LeBron James.

Reasons for:
He's the best player in the world. He does more on both ends of the court, and to some degree, the general manager position, than any player in his generation. While he's not the explosive above the rim player that he used to be, he's also less prone to shooting his team out of rhythm, not that this was ever a big issue. You can vote him for MVP every year and not be wrong, or at least, not very wrong.

Reasons against: Durability is the first ability, and he's missed games this year. The ref whining is getting more pronounced over the years. Played in the lEastern Conference by choice, which is padding the win total, lessening the number of minutes he has to play, and ducking the challenge of the world's best players until the Finals. His freeze-out of Dion Waiters, push for the Kevin Love trade and subsequent hard behavior towards the flawed asset, and thinly disguised antipathy toward rookie coach David Blatt are doing his team no favors. It's difficult to make the case that you should be the MVP when your team's won-loss record is lacking.

Prognosis: You have to mention James, just as in past eras, you had to mention Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. That's just how good he is, and if he can add another ring this year, the drumbeat for Best Player Ever is going to move another rung away from present day hyperbole.

But none of that is about the 82 games of the 2014-15 regular season, which is what the award is about. Pass, and watch him use the "slight" to tear through the lEast in the playoffs like Sherman going through Georgia.

3) Russell Westbrook.

At 27.5 / 7.2 / 8.6 in the three main popcorn stats, plus 2.1 steals per game, it seems impossible to *not* make him the MVP. Career highs in points, board, assists, and free throw percentage. Ridiculous string of triple doubles certainly has the air of an MVP. From the eye test, might care more about winning than any guard since Allen Iverson, and no, I don't say things like that without care.

Against: He's shooting less than 42% from the field, and the turnover count is also off the charts, to the point where he's less than a 2 to 1 ratio to assists. Has missed a good chunk of games. Team is barely on the periphery of the playoff picture. It's one thing to vote for an Iversonian candidate when they are at the top of the standings, in a year were there are no other historically amazing candidates. It's quite another when they are, maybe, an 8th seed, and there are better players ahead of him.

Prognosis: What's happened with Westbrook this year is simply usage, and that's not a perfect comp for value. With the rest of the Thunder missing time hand over fist, he's strapped this club to his back and dragged them up... but the percentage and turnovers show that he's not quite there.

2) James Harden

27.5 / 5.7 / 7.0, but with 44% shooting and 86.5% from the line. Harden offers a better version of Westbrook, in that he hasn't missed time, shoots for a better percentage, and his team has a far better won-loss record. Career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, free throw attempts (likely) and free-throw percentage. Playing dramatically better defense that last year's matador routine.

Against: Not much, really, though 4 turns a game is also a career high and a little worrisome with the Rockets not having Patrick Beverly to close the year. As good as he is, can shoot you out of rhythm, particularly from 3-point distance, where it sometimes feels like he's doing you a favor. He's playing 37 minutes a game, which takes a touch of air out of the raw total numbers, and the Houston pace also adds a little more to that. Better than last year on defense is not going to get him on an All-Defense team; still "conserves" there, if you catch my drift.

Prognosis: Would be the MVP in many, many years, and will feel jobbed for not being in as major a media market, or not appearing on as many commercials, when this one doesn't go his way. But in the final analysis, he's just not....

1) Stephen Curry

The best player on the best team, and that best team isn't a small thing, as Golden State is on pace to have the second-best record in NBA history, in what might be the toughest conference ever. Shooting 48% from the floor, 43% (!) from 3, and 91% from the line, and the scary part of this is that it's not even a career best in any of those ratios. Career high in assist to turnover ratio and steals per game... and all of that in less than 33 minutes per game, because the Dubs have blown so many teams out that being on the floor in the fourth quarter is relatively rare. Worlds better on defense than in past years, and the handle is now among the league's best. Hasn't missed any real time. Honestly, it's hard to imagine someone playing better at the point guard position.

Against: Some will look at the line of 23.6 / 4.3 / 7.7 and wonder how on earth he's ahead of Westbrook and Harden in the conversation, because they aren't getting that the minutes drive such things. From the eye test, a little timid / deferential at times, particularly when trying to get others involved, and can be denied the ball from sheer physicality. As with all guys of relatively normal stature in hoop, rarely seems as valuable as the bigs.

Prognosis: Look, the rules of this award are simple -- most valuable player in the regular season. Not Best Player (James), Doing The Most With Least (Westbrook) or Coolest (Harden). Most Valuable is Curry, and it has been for a really long time. His efficiency is off the charts, his team has been one of the best in NBA history, his numbers are not lacking and downright amazing given the minutes played. Seriously, you can add 10% more to his popcorn numbers just to equal them out with Harden and Westbrook, and now he's right there, while still lapping them in the ratios. And from the eye test, the Dubs are just one of the most watchable teams ever.

To me, it's Curry, and the only reason it seems close is because people aren't watching the games or the standings.

Or just need something to write about.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Equality comes haltingly, with a whistle

Sarah Plain And Striped
In one of those small moments that will seem like a much larger one to far too many people, the NFL has hired its first full-time female ref, the at right Sarah Thomas.

Thomas has been around the top end of the college football scene for five years now, and has done the single best thing a ref can do - not get in the way of the damned game. Congrats to her, and to the NFL for breaking this news on the Friday before Easter, where it will hopefully sink under the waves with a minimum of troll aided comments from the Great Unhinged.

Oh, and to the people who are bound to react to this with horror and whatever... you do know the NBA has had female refs for, like, years, and hasn't had the game changed in any material way at all, right?

Your turn, MLB...

MLB 2015 Predictions: New York's Irrelevant, Chicago's Recovering, And Los Angeles Rules

Baseball Yes, Water No
Baseball's opening day hasn't exactly snuck up this year. Spring training has been long, there's no World Baseball nonsense to ruin lives, and for once, there's no Stunt Casting of games in some Asian theater to mess up Opening Day. There's been a bunch of bummer pitching injuries, but with the leveling of the money field and less of a clear advantage to constantly contending MLB+ teams, the year seems more inviting. Unlike past years, you can't just scratch off a third of the franchises as for having no hope; it's more like a sixth, and most of those got there by incompetence, rather than salary tanking. It's encouraging, even though the lack of good NY teams this year will make the national media narrative go back to the Baseball Is Dying motif.

Having said that, there's still less competitive parity here than in most leagues, and the continuing Death Of Offense has made the real game and the fake ones a lot less fun than they used to be. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great game, and always will be... but only if your team is great. If your team is a boring drudgework of low scoring losses, it's just a good place to waste time and get your eat and drink on. But only if you can afford it, which is why the crowds are older and whiter and less likely to come very often. But enough of that... let's get to the prognosticating.

AL East

1) Baltimore
2) Boston
3) Toronto
4) New York
5) Tampa

The Orioles will miss Nelson Cruz, but not as much as they'll appreciate the continuing growth of Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop in the infield, and Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman on the mound. People forget these guys won 96 games last year, and that was with a fair amount of injuries. Boston will be a popular pick to continue their first or worst pattern, but the lack of a front-line ace on the mound and too many injury risks in the field will keep them from full potential.

Toronto can mess you up with their offense with increasingly rare true power all over the board, but the rotation has way too many questions for long winning streaks. New York is not so secretly terrible in the field, with an equal mix of guys that won't hit (2B, SS), stay healthy (C, 1B, RF) or overcome the increasingly toxic Bronx atmosphere (3B, LF, CF). The pitching staff will keep them from falling through the floorboards, but this looks like an 80 win team to me. Tampa may have a historically bad offense, with only 3B Evan Longoria looking to be better than league average at his position, if RF rookie Stephen Souza isn't real good, real fast. Look for a depressing year of 3-1 losses, half of them played in an empty warehouse.

AL Central

1) Cleveland
2) Detroit
3) Chicago
4) Kansas City
5) Minnesota

Maybe I'm overrating the Indians' emerging rotation, but there's just an awful lot of swing and miss here, and in a hodge-podge of a division, I think they'll make the difference. The club also got Brandon Moss for cheap to go with sneaky MVP Michael Brantley and solid pieces like C Yan Gomes, 2B Jason Kipnis and 1B Carlos Santana, and I think there's a reasonable chance Moss gets healthy and gives them real power. Detroit's rotation has fallen off a cliff recently, with Justin Verlander going to the DL with He's Not Good Anymore Itis, Doug Fister still in DC for no good reason, and Max Scherzer joining him there for big dollars. They'll still compete like mad, especially if Miguel Cabrera can stay healthy, but the bullpen stinks and the Tribe will be better. 

Chicago will be the division's breakout team for much of the year, especially if the 1B/DH combo of Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche can combine for 60+ HRs, but the back-end of the rotation and bullpen won't hold up to late-season innings. Kansas City's level of delusion following an 89 win year and hot October is charming, but they still don't hit enough, and teams built around dominant relief pitching fall apart faster than any other kind. The players on the next winning Minnesota team aren't ready to contribute at the major league level, but they're coming. Check back in 2017.

AL West

1) LA Angels
2) Seattle
3) Oakland
4) Houston
5) Texas

LA won this division going away last year with a tsunami of pitching injuries; this year, they'll do the same without, especially now that the bullpen is good from the start. Seattle is still a bat or two away from being truly dangerous, but the rotation could be the best in a playoff series. The bullpen, not so much. There's always a thought that whatever Billy Beane's doing in Oakland will work out, but sometimes it's just buying time until other things develop, and that's what's going on for 2015, especially when the offense looks this power compromised, and the pitching has too many guys with innings issues. Losing LF Coco Crisp for the first two months is also a real problem. For all of the man's genius, the drafting has been discouraging.

Houston could go higher, especially if OF George Springer emerges and stays healthy, but the back end of the rotation for the next +.500 Astro club is still in the minors. Texas has angered the Injury Gods, especially on the pitching mound, and needs Prince Fielder to be his old self. Not exactly great bets. Atonement will be long and painful.

NL East

1) Washington
2) Miami
3) Atlanta
4) New York
5) Philadelphia

The Nats will run away with this, because their rotation is absurdly good, and the offense is going to be better than last year. Watch for them to spend most of September coasting to a title and messing up their momentum, because they like to overthink things down there. Miami is the surprise team here, with the game's best young outfield overcoming their park and dragging the rest of the team to prominence in a weak division. Atlanta still has a lot of talent, but they can't seem to stay healthy, and no one knows why manager Fredi Gonzalez still has a gig. I'm also really not fond of the new-look OF.

The Mets could have been dangerous if Zack Wheeler had stayed healthy and if the corner OFs weren't big contract old guys (Michael Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson) who aren't going to perform better than league average. Philadelphia will be the worst team in the majors, and it won't be close, to the point where even the spectacularly negligent ownership will have to run off hopelessly failed GM Ruben Amaro Jr. With 3B Maikel Franco now looking like a Quad-A wind machine, there is absolutely no reason to watch this franchise, assuming that 2B Chase Utley and SP Cole Hamels get sent off out of mercy.

NL Central

1) St Louis
2) Pittsburgh
3) Chicago
4) Milwaukee
5) Cincinnati

Picking the Cards to be good is like picking the tides to come in, but so be it; baseball's best franchise just keeps rolling along, with a meat grinder OBP line up backing up a no nonsense pitching staff and power bully. When things go wrong, they always have an answer in the minors, too. It's maddening. Pittsburgh has a killer young OF and an ace in the making in SP Gerrit Cole, but 3B Josh Harrison will regress, 1B Perdo Alvarez looks broken, and not being as good as St. Louis is hardly a crime. Chicago should miss the wild card by the number of April games they will punt by not starting 3B Kris Bryant in the majors, because that is how karma works. If they were in the East, I think they'd make the playoffs as a wild card.

Milwaukee will hit enough to not fall through the floorboards, especially if OF Ryan Braun's spring thumb is the real deal, but a SP rotation where Kyle Lohse is your ace is not nearly good enough. Cincy brings up the rear with an offense that's more name than production in too many places (2B, RF, 1B) and a pitching staff that falls apart fast if Homer Bailey isn't healthy and great, which is to say, two things he's not. Closer Aroldis Chapman is an absolute beast, though.

NL West

1) Los Angeles
2) San Francisco
3) San Diego
4) Arizona
5) Colorado

It's cold comfort to Dodger Fan to know that his team was a half dozen games better than the world champs last year in the regular season, and are likely to be again, so long as SP Clayton Kershaw's arm doesn't fall off. OF Joc Pederson is going to be everything they could hope for, and look for the new DP combo of Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins to be surprisingly helpful. This rotation is unfair. In San Francisco, the loss of 3B Pablo Sandoval will hurt all year long, and the rotation depth might make them slide further if Matt Cain isn't really good really soon. San Diego's off-season shopstorm gets them to relevant, but they didn't pick up much in the way of defense, and the park isn't going to be enough to cover all of the leaks. It's going to be a lot more fun to watch than last year's punchless chuckleheads, though.

Arizona will be more fun this year, with the return of 1B Paul Goldschmidt, some promising new arms for the rotation (Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa), and the potential that Cuban import 3B/OF Yasmany Tomas will be a great big load of sunk cost (15Ks in 66 spring training ABs, defense at third that's shaky at best, new manager Chip Hale threatening him with the minors despite his contract). At least they won't be Colorado, where Kyle Kendrick (!) takes the hill on opening day. No, seriously. What do you get when you combine the majors' worst pitching staff with its best hitting environment? Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez getting hurt from a barrage of line drives, rather than their own devices, is what I'm guessing.

Surprise teams: Indians, Marlins

Disappointing teams: Yankees, Braves

Rookies of the Year: Dalton Pompey and Kris Bryant

Cy Young Winners:
Felix Hernandez and Stephen Strasburg

Most Valuable Players: Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen

AL Playoffs: Seattle over Detroit in the wild card, then LA over Cleveland, and Baltimore over Seattle. LA over Baltimore to get to the WS.

NL Playoffs: Miami over San Francisco in the wild card, then LA over Washington and St Louis over Miami. LA over St Louis to get to the WS.

World Series: Angels over Dodgers, with traffic ending just in time for Spring Training 2016

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