Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Somehow Found Some Time

For what seems to be the fifth time in the past two weeks, I have just found out that I don't have all the necessary files to do my work. I had all intent to do work at home, but apparently I am a moron who can't remember everything I need. So instead, here I sit at Third Place Books with the youngest daughter asleep in her carseat (oh, yeah, I have a second daughter now) and the oldest playing contently with her mom and aunt. I can't think of anything better to do than make my post-baby return to the blog.

There has been a lot going on in the world of sports, but these are most on my mind.

-BountyGate. Ok, shame on me for adding 'gate' onto the end of this, but whatever, I don't care. When I got in the car and heard the news on the radio that Sean Payton had been suspended for a year, I was shocked. There was no way I saw that coming. We have seen players suspended in similar manner, but this is such a new concept that I'm not sure what to think. I mean, for all intensive purposes, Payton will be back in 2013. He will run the same type of offensive and defensive schemes, so the Saints are going to have to find someone willing to not just take the team for a year (with no intent of keeping the job longterm), but someone who is willing to do things the way Payton wants them done. The names being thrown around - Parcells, Dungy, Gruden - all make sense as they appear to have no ambition to get back into coaching full-time again. There is no way an up-and-coming assistant takes the position because it is essentially a dead end.

The other interesting aspect will be exactly how much contact Payton will be allowed. Will he be allowed to attend practice but not games? Will he be able to meet with interim coaches for film sessions? Will he be allowed to sit in the box with the owner during games? Will he be allowed to travel with the team and hold meetings in the hotel? Or will he be completed banned from any communication? Only time will tell, but I know this much for sure - the Saints will be the most intriguing team to follow in 2012.

-Tim Tebow in NYC is going to be a fiasco. I just don't get it from a football standpoint. I take that back - I get that he is the perfect guy for a Tony Sparano offense, but this is doomed to fail. As it is, there is tons of pressure and skepticism around Mark Sanchez. Now with Tebow in the fold, every incomplete pass will be scrutinized. Every 2 INT day will lead to fans chanting for Tebow. Sanchez will never feel comfortable and Tebow will never win games in NY. The only thing this signing does is take the spotlight off the defending champs and move it to their roommates. Oh, and of course, it will shut down the internet.

-The Sounders are 2-0 in MLS play, but I think things could start to get a little rocky for them in the near future. It appears that Jeff Parke is not happy with being benched in favor of Patrick Ianni the past two games. After practice, Parke talked to the media and finally broke his silence, essentially admitting that he is 'frustrated' and 'angry' with the benching. he says that he talked to Sigi after practice and that while there was no yelling, he did let him know he felt. Sigi apparently sat him because he felt Jeff's legs were tired from a long offseason.

I like Jeff and think he should be starting, but the fact remains that Ianni is a quality player and could be starting for many other teams in the league. He does not represent a huge dropoff - Parke needs to show Sigi that he is worthy of starting. As Sigi often says, competition is a good thing. It gets the guys working harder than if there status was unquestioned.

Here's the problem though - in order to have a healthy competition, you need to have players who are willing to compete and who don't sulk if they sit the bench. Again, I like Parke, but I often question his mental makeup. Let's quickly review his past. He got suspended by MLS for failing a drug test in 2008. He was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was chosen by the Sounders. He decided to test the European market but was unable to find a team and had to return stateside. He was unhappy with what he thought was an unfair offer by the Sounders and decided to sit out 2009 rather than play for less than what he thought he was worth. Since that time he has mostly said and done all the right things, but he never really seemed happy to me. He never said anything about not being happy, but I always got the sense that his ego was bigger than normal and that he perceived people to be constantly slighting him.

When the season is over, we might look back and laugh at this, but for now, consider me a little worried. We have never really had any problems off the field and it would be a shitty time for it to start.

-I am not a Tony Wroten hater. I am not a Tony Wroten lover. I am a guy who see his value but also a guy who sees all of his warts. I realize that this UW team needed Wroten in order to be successful, but I also know that he was going to have his share of groan-worthy moments.

Tuesday night in the NIT Semi-finals, Wroten had a performance he will be wanting to forget (not to mention one that all Husky fans will want to forget too). At the time, I called Wroten the stupidest basketball player I have ever seen. While I have definitely backed off that extreme opinion (afterall, the kid is still only 18 and from what I can tell has never really been coached before), I can't help but think how much he would benefit from another year in college. I know the big bucks will be enticing, but the fact is if he ever wants to fulfill his potential, he needs to stay another year in college to learn how to play defense and most importantly, to get meaningful late-game situations under his belt. These are not things he will learn in the NBA.

Point in case - 46 seconds left in the game against Minnesota (shot clock at 25). The Huskies have rallied back and now trail by either 2 or 3 points. I can't remember the exact number, but I know it was a 1-possession game. Regardless of the exact difference, any smart player should know that you don't need to foul. Instead, if the team can play solid defense and make their opponent take a bad shot, there is a good chance they will get the ball back with a chance to win or tie. It's basketball 101. Yet Wroten decided to be lazy and reaches in to go for a steal. The ref does what he does in 95% of those situations and calls a foul. He bailed the Gophers out. Oh, and did I mention that the guy he fouled set a record for highest FT% in one season? Ummm, yeah, that makes it even worse. Then the next time down the court he did it again. It was frustrating as all hell. Now ultimately the refs swallowed their whistles down the stretch and the Huskies were able to send the game to OT. But it should never have gotten to that situatoin. Wroten needs to do better than that. Period.

-Peyton Manning to Denver is the perfect marriage. He wanted to continue playing and get paid a lot. John Elway wanted to end the Tim Tebow Era and not get run out of town. It worked out perfectly as I'm pretty sure even the most irrational Tebow fan could not argue with replacing him with a 4-time NFL MVP. Manning is not Orton. He demands respect. Elway knew that and pulled the trigger. Time will only tell if he is even close to the same guy he once was, but I have a feeling that even though it was super convenient, Elway would not have signed him had he not been pleased with what he saw from Manning's throwing session as well as his physical. I think this has the potential to work out nicely, especially in a weak division.

-Now that they have lost, I will offer some mild congratulations to Lehigh. As you may all know, the 15th seeded Mountainhawks upset 2nd seed Duke in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament. While I hate to admit it, it probably as impressive as Bucknell's win over Kansas a few years ago. Many BU alumni that I talked to were rooting for Lehigh to go far, saying it was good for the league. I get the thought, but can't fully support it. Before Bucknell ever beat the Jayhawks, I would have agreed. The Patriot League needed a win to gain some credibility and attention. When the Bison won, they not only got both, but the league did as well. No PL team had won since and I must admit that I enjoyed being cocky about it. I knew American and Holy Cross couldn't get the job done - only the Bison were good enough to win. Having Lehigh beat us in the PL Final and knowing that we should have been the one beating Duke did not and still does not sit well with me. It should have been Bucknell and I will not apologize for hating on Lehigh.

-Justin Dentmann recently signed a 10-day contract with the San Antonio Spurs, bringing the total of former Huskies in the NBA to 6. I am really happy for all of them, but most happy for Dentman and his former teammate Isaiah Thomas. Thomas, who many thought was making a mistake by entering the draft after his junior season, was the last player selected in the 2011 NBA Draft but is now starting and averaging 12.2 points per game for the Kings over the past two months. Jimmer got all the press coming into the year, but Isaiah is having the better season by a landslide.

-My poor Nets. They wanted LeBron and he went to South beach. They wanted Carmelo and he went to NY. The traded for Deron Williams in hopes of getting Dwight Howard, but Howard (after much public flirting with the Nets) decided to stay in Orlando for another year. No one wants to come to NJ/Brooklyn. And it's a real shame.

Call me crazy, but right now I don't think they have the worst team. D-Will is a superstar. Kris Humphries is quietly having another monster season on the boards. MarShon Brooks looks like the biggest steal of the draft (not named Isaiah). Gerald Green has been a great find out of the D-League. Together the form a decent core and combined with newly acquired Gerald Wallace and I think they are solid. Notice I didn't even mention Brook Lopez who would make the starting five (Lopez, Humph, wallace, Brooks, D-Will) playoff worthy.

Too bad they are almost 20 games .500 and about to lose D-Will, Humph and Lopez all in the same offseason. Uggghhh...if there is an NBA God, please let us win the Anthony Davis lottery.

-Finally, I just bought tickets to a Sounders women's game in June. I wanted to go when they signed both Hope Solo and Alex Morgan, but what made me actually buy the tickets was the signing of Meghan Rapinoe. She might not get the press that the other two do, but damn she is a quality player who was my favorite during the 2011 WC. It is common knowledge that the trio will only play 8 games (3 exhibition, 4 home regular season and 1 away regular season games) so I am praying that they will be there for the match I bought tickets for.

UPDATE - I forgot one thing yesterday. Kudos to the Sounders Front Office for their brilliant idea regarding tickets for Portland and Vancouver games. It was recently announced that the team would be opening the entire stadium up for those games. It is a smart move because both games will definitely sell out. The problem of course is that the Sounders wouldn't be able to control who bought all those extra tickets. It is entirely possible that the Timbers Army could get their hands on 10k-15k tickets. So what did the FO do? Well, they included those games in a 4 game pack with games against LA and Chelsea. So that means unless you have season tickets, the only way to get your hands on Cascadia Cup tickets is to buy tickets for 3 additional games. I suppose it is possible that some Portland fans will take the hit and buy all 4 games, but I can't believe it will be an overwhelming amount. As for Seattle supporters, what a better way to spend your hard earned money than to see 2 Cascadia Cup matches, the star-studded LA Galaxy and one of the EPL's top teams, Chelsea. It doesn't get any better for non-season ticket holders wanting to get to some games this year.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It Can't Get Any Worse

And just like that, the worst 24 hours of my college basketball eternity has come and gone.

I'm still not sure what happened or how it happened, but both schools that I attended and graduated from are now going to the NIT. Both schools won their regular season titles and choked in the conference tournament.

For Bucknell, the loss was unbelievable. In a rare show of cockiness, I was so confident that they were going to win that I told everyone about it. No way would Mike Muscala let this team lose I said. And yet somehow even with 30 points and 14 rebounds, I felt like he could have done so much more. Credit to CJ McCollum for getting his points - 29 in all - but I think the real difference was the 23 points and 7 rebounds put up by some guy named Gabe Knutson. No disrespect to Knutson, a 12/6 guy during the regular season, but there was no way he should have put up those numbers against Muscala. I know most will point to the lack of production by Joe Willman, Cameron Ayers and Brian Cohen, but Muscala couldn't lead the team when they needed him the most. It sucks that I am putting a lot of blame on his shoulders, considering the great numbers he put up, but when it came down to it, CJ McCollum showed why he was the 2012 PL POY and not Muscala. he got the job done when his needed it. Bucknell came out flat and never led. It was a gut punch because we essentially wasted away a golden opportunity.

As for UW, man what can you say. I said how a single win over OSU would not mean they were any more deserving than they were the day before, but a loss? Man, that hurts. The committee was looking for a reason to keep them out and I think they found one. I still believe in my heart that they deserve a bid, but wow, you CANNOT lose to OSU and expect to make it in. Credit the team with coming back from a 13 point halftime deficit. They could have easily folded up shot. Instead, Tony Wroten showed us all why he is so highly thought of. He dominated the Beavers and wrestled back the lead for the Dawgs. Up by 6 points with as little as 3:22 to go in the game, it looked like the Dawgs were going to escape. Up to that point Wroten had hit 9-12 free throws including 7 straight and they looked in control. Then they got a little sloppy and pooof!, the game was out of their hands. A turnover, 4 missed free throws from Wroten, a few fouls and all of a sudden OSU was up 1. I didn't get to watch the game, but I did intently study the play-by-play and I'm not sure you could draw up anything worse. In the final 1:03 the Huskies shot 0-1 from the field, 1-5 from the line and committed 5 fouls and 1 turnover. Amazingly they only lost by 1 because OSU in that same time only shot 1-1 from the field and 2-7 from the field! 2 for freaking 7 and somehow they won. That is simply amazing and a HUGELY damning mark on the Huskies resume. This team still deserves a shot, but damn they dropped the ball.

So yeah, two losses by #1 seeds in the past 24 hours. I have never felt so worse about college hoops as I do right now. Thank goodness the Sounders won or you might never have heard from me again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's a No Brainer: UW Deserves At-Large Bid

I'm not gonna lie. This is the start of my three favorite sports weeks every year. It's not just the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it's Conference Championship Week that makes it so good. Ever year, there is a team that gets hot at the right time and wins its conference tournament with a losing conference record. Some might not like it (ie - fans of the teams that get upset) because seemingly more deserving teams are left home, but the fact is that America loves underdogs.

For one-bid conferences, upsets don't really mean anything to the entire field. But for other leagues, such as the Missouri Valley, an upset will have major ramifications for the entire field. You see, Wichita St and Creighton are locks for the tournament. Even if neither had won the MVC tournament, they both would be going to the Big Dance. Had Illinois St pulled the upset over Creighton in the finals, the league would then have 3 bids rather than 2. And that of course means that someone was going to get squeezed. Or more appropriately someone's bubble would be burst.

Now most pundits are suggesting that UW is actually one of those teams on the bubble. They would suggest that UW needs the Creighton's, Gonzaga's, Murray St's of the worlds to win their conference championships. They would suggest that I shouldn't be excited about upsets.

Here is the thing - I think they are absolutely out-of-their-mind crazy. I'm sorry, but UW just won the Pac-12 conference with a 14-4 conference record. Let me repeat that, they won the outright conference regular season title in a Power 6 conference. I know all of their warts - no wins over top 25 teams, a 4-8 record against top 100 RPI schools, a home loss to South Dakota St and Pac-12 runner up Cal and road losses to Nevada and St Louis. But the biggest wart is something they have no control over - the Pac 12 simply sucks this year. Back when I was writing blog entries on a regular basis, I would have looked up the exact specifics, but right now I'm just winging it. Pac 12 teams went something like 1-30 against the other Power 6 conferences. They have no teams even close to the Top 25 and it is ranked something like 10th in conference RPI.

I know the conference is down, but they finished 10 games over .500. I know the Big East and Big 10 are better conferences, but how can you tell me that Seton Hall, a team with a 8-10 conference record is more deserving than UW? I know they have some quality wins, but I am absolutely sure that UW could have a few quality wins on their resume if they played the same schedule. I know they had their shots against Duke and Marquette in December, but they are simply a better team now. If they had the opportunity to switch February schedules with the Hall, I think they would have a signature win as well. I'm not saying they would go 14-4 in the Big East, but they could definitely have won 9 games. If these two particular teams are the same, I think the edge should rightly go to the conference winner. I'm not sure the same should count for a team like Cal, but certainly the conference winner. (btw - I love you Seton Hall, you just helped me make my argument...Jersey pride).

Here is one thing that annoys me - people say that UW needs to win a game in the Pac-12 tournament in order to make the Big Dance. I understand the idea, but the presentation is all wrong. They don't need to win a game - there is no difference between 21-9 and 22-9 with the 22nd win against Wazzoo - they simply need to not lose the game. If they were to lose to Wazzoo (or OSU) that would be damning - a sign that they don't deserve an at large bid. Somehow 0-2 in their final 2 games means much more than 10-3 in their final 13 games or 16-5 in their final 21 games. The Pac-12 tournament is actually a no-win situation (unless they actually do win). When I see a top seed lose in the first round, my first thought isn't that they don't deserve a tournament bid. Instead, I tend to think that it could be a sign that they won't go very far in the Big Dance. One game isn't enough to wipe away 20 games. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Reward the team that was best in the regular season.

I can handle a 11 seed - that is fair, but to imply that there are 37 better at-large teams than UW is simply insane. They don't need to be given a birth at the expense of a team from the Atlantic 10, Mountain West, Colonial, West Coast or Missouri Valley. No, they need to be in because they are a good team that won a Power 6 title. It shouldn't be at anyone expense - it should simply be because they are a better team than the Big East's 9th best team. You want to know why the 9th Big East team has a high RPI? It's because their Strength of Schedule is so damn good. Every week they play a top-10 team. That doesn't necessarily mean they are any good or more deserving than the Pac-12 champion.

Don't reward teams for simply being in the same league as some damn fine teams. That says nothing about the tea, but rather the league. Take UW. Keep Seton Hall at home.


On a totally unrelated note, my Bucknell Bison play Lehigh for a birth to the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday night. Normally I would be very complimentary of their opponent and very scared of the game, but I have 100% confidence that we are going to win. Part of it could be that I am officially becoming a snob due to their recent success (remember, we are the only league school to win a NCAA Tournament game...and we did it twice!), but the real reason is simply elementary.

Lehigh came to Bucknell a few weeks ago and knocked us off on a last second 3 pointer. We won at their place. They won at our place. Now we get Game 3 at home. Some will say that Lehigh has a chance because they know that they can do it, but I see it the other way. Bucknell is the superior team. After they lost to Lehigh they dropped one at Holy Cross. No disrespect to the Ass Crusaders from Wochester, but they didn't beat us - we had a letdown. It was a mental lapse and they took advantage of it. I believe in Mike Muscala, the should have been 2-time defending Player of the Year. He is going to take the team on his shoulders and will them to victory. He will not let them come out sluggish. In fact, I expect them to be pissed off and focused. They know what happened the first time around. They are not scared of it happening again - I truly believe they are angry and motivated to show that it was a fluke. I think we not only get the job done, but we win by at least double digits.

[Now with all that being said, let me channel my inner 2005 self and say that we could use all the support and positive vibes. 'Ray Bucknell]

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wow. I Didn't See That Coming..

It was a few days ago when I heard that Eddie Johnson would be returning to MLS. I didn't give it any thought until I heard that Colorado was a potential landing point. Then I got giddy knowing that I would be able to give my cousin Jason some shit for signing a player who has not only always underwhelmed, but one who I felt had a serious attitude problem. Having just lost their back-up striker and with their franchise striker still battling injuries, it reeked of desperation.

I got on the bus today assuming Johnson was going to Montreal or New England after hearing that the rapids were no longer interested. Then in an instance, the guillotine dropped as I learned that not only was EJ coming to the Sounders, but that they somehow were duped into giving Montreal both Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle. I know I speak for the rest of the supporters when I say I was shocked. There was NO indication at all that either fucito or Neagle would be traded. Hell, there was every indication that they could be opening night starters.

I didn't go to the message boards or blogs for the next two hours as my 2-year old told me what to do and how to act. Instead, I thought it over in my own head and consulted my boy J-Will for his thoughts. And you know what happened? I somehow talked myself into this. First, let's get his history out of the way.

Most US soccer supporters know about Johnson's past. He entered MLS as a potential savior. He scored 41 goals in 7 seasons. He has played in a World Cup and has represented the National Team 42 times (scoring 12 times). But after MLS, he has bounced around Europe with 4 different clubs. He hasn't scored since 2010. He flirted with MLS last year but never signed. Then this off-season he was set to sign with Mexican side Puebla only to have them publicly say that he was out of shape. Somehow, his career had derailed and it seemed that he only had himself to blame. Lazy, out of shape, malcontent were all words I had heard to describe him.

So how the hell am I feeling ok about this? Well, let's count the ways.

1. I believe in Sigi. Going into last season I was a little skeptical, but after seeing him masterfully guide the team to 2nd in MLS, CCL Quarterfinals and a 3rd straight US Open Cup title, I was reminded about how damn good he is. Let's face it, the guy is a good coach and he seems to have a great relationship with the front office. There is NO way they make this trade if Sigi didn't see something in EJ. If you listen to EJ, he has not only been working out in California for the past 2.5 months but he never failed a physical because he never took one. If you listen to Sigi, he says that EJ will play a role in the Santos Laguna series. Time will tell if he does, but I have never seen Sigi hold back in press conferences. He obviously has seen EJ and believes him to be in shape. Otherwise there would be no way he even is in the final 18 for the tie against Santos Laguna.

2. EJ will not be commanding DP money. In fact, he will only be making $100k in 2012 with a club option for $150k in 2013. I believe that this is still more than Fucito and Neagle combined, but the importance of his low salary cannot be understated. Besides the obvious salary cap issue, it is important that he gets paid less than Fredy. There is a pecking order in sports. it doesn't matter what level you play at - players know where they stand amongst their peers. Fredy Montero is the most talented (and most frustrating) player on this team. He needs to be paid like it. If the Sounders were to pay EJ more than Fredy when clearly he is not better than Fredy, then I guarantee the disenchanted Fredy will return (just ask DeRo who was getting paid less than Julian DeGuzman in Toronto but was clearly the best player in the league). I actually believe in Fredy this year. I think he is hungry to show he can lead a team. I think he believes that he is the best player. I think EJ's skills match up nicely with Fredy. I think it can be a nice partnership.

3. Fan favorites are often not the best players on the teams. We loved Mike Fucito because he was an underdog. He is shorter than my wife. He was drafted in the 4th round. He joined Sounders camp as a nobody. He worked his way up and gave it maximum effort at all times. We loved him for it. but the stats speak for themselves - while he has scored at a high rate in CCL matches, he was never able to find his form (or his luck) in MLS matches. He was overmatched and and an overachiever. Lamar Neagle was another underdog. After being drafted and released by the Sounders, he paid his dues in the USL. When he signed with the Sounders the following off-season, not even his own mother could have imagined what was in store. Not only did he start to see some quality minutes, but he scored some of the biggest goals of the 2011 season. It wasn't always pretty with him, but he worked his ass off and of course, he was a local boy.

But they weren't the best players on the team nor were they players that could carry the team once the current core leaves for greener pastures. Think about it...Montero, Mauro, Flaco, Ozzie, Zakuani, Parke, Johannson and Hurtado are more valuable to this team. Some might even suggest Ochoa and Evans. While we hate to see them go, it's not like we traded away our franchise.

4. This team is in win-now mode. Sigi hinted to it the day they were eliminated from the playoffs. He believes in this core group of players, but it is time they got over the hump and won MLS Cup. All the moves this off-season were made to make the starting 11 stronger at the expense of some of their depth. They lost a lot of quality players but were able to replace with some higher end parts. Fucito and Neagle were not going to win MLS Cup for the Sounders, but it is entirely possible that EJ can. It is a big gamble, but if somehow EJ can find his form from 6 years ago, he could score 10-14 goals. It is a big if, but he has that potential.

5. Again, I think Sigi knows what he is doing. I don't think this trade was solely about getting EJ. I think he felt that he could replace both Fucito and Neagle with guys who are already on the roster. First and foremost, I think Cristian Sivebaeck is going to have a really really nice year. The guy is a physical freak and even at a young age brings a lot of experience. He will fill the back-up wing role just fine. Another guy having a nice spring is David Estrada, who appears to be in line for minutes not only at wing but striker as well. Add in Mike Seamon, a hopefully returning Steve Zakuani and possibly even Michael Tetteh or Cornell Cato and I think there is some talent there. Oh, and call it a hunch, but I have a feeling that draft picks Andy Rose and Babyele Sodade will see the field this season.

6. I am going to believe that EJ is actually motivated. Here is what I am going to believe (and you know what, I could be totally wrong). I am going to believe that EJ did indeed have a bad attitude while in Europe. He has been told how awesome he is his whole life. When he went to Europe he struggled and instead of reacting positively, I bet he became a malcontent. He was shipped around but had not hit rock bottom until this past off-season. He said that he was torn last year when he decided to bail on an MLS offer at the last minute. That is totally believable - he probably felt that he could be a star in Europe and that going back to MLS was below him. Then he couldn't find a team to play for and a Mexican team declined signing him because they said he was out of shape. Now I don't put much stock in what Puebla said, especially considering Mauro's experience with a Mexican team last year, but the public comments were totally damning. I mean, EJ was officially more of a bust than Fredy Adu. I think it finally hit him that his European stay was over and that MLS offered him the best shot at making the National Team again. We aren't talking about a 35 year old. EJ is a 27 year old striker who at one point had a great future with this team. You don't play for your national team that many times without being good. EJ saw the opportunity to come back stateside and get starters minutes - something new coach Jurgen Klinsmann said is a must. I truly am going to believe that he is motivated as hell to show that he be a big time goal scorer in league play, but that he deserves a shot at the 2014 World Cup. I really really think that is the case.

7. I think he just fits well and will let Fredy try to be the playmaker that he wants to be. When Fredy entered the league, he was purely a goalscorer, but over time you saw him want to be more of a playmaker. I think he is still good for 10-12 goals this year, but I also think he can have 8-10 assists as well. Fucito wasn't scoring last year, but I think EJ will. Questions about his emotional state aside, the kid physically gifted. While not huge, he is no Fucito - opposing defenses won't be able to treat him the same.


Ok, so there are the reasons I have not jumped out a window. However, I do want to take the opportunity to voice my concerns.I am obviously concerned that EJ has duped the front office into paying him $50k more than he is worth. While the FO has generally done an amazing job, there have been some poor decisions - Ljungberg, Nkufo, LeToux. This could certainly be one.

But the biggest concern I have is with the fans. The attitude expressed towards both Jaqua and Noonan last year was toxic. Every time they touched the ball the crowd groaned. I don't have inside knowledge, I've never met Jaqua before and the most we get to see of him is a few 30-second interviews, but I'm pretty sure it affected him. It in no way should - he is a professional athlete - but I'm sure it did.

I am afraid that the fans will not give EJ a fair shot and will boo him on opening day. I know that it hurts to lose Fuciro and Neagle (hell, Mar Neagle was my 2-year olds favorite player) but we need to get over it. Part of what makes sports so great is the emotions we feel. But sometimes we need to take a step back and think objectively. I may not have been overly objective in convincing myself this was a good trade, but I guarantee I will give EJ every shot to become a favorite of mine. I will not hold it against him and I hope the rest of the fans don't either.

For all we know, EJ might have a career revival. He might mix perfectly with Mauro and Fredy and score 13 goals. Alvaro might finally step in and play the attacking central midfielder role we all want him to. Zakuani might be back to 90% in August. We might score more goals than we did last year. There is some history saying this won't happen, but the ceiling is unlimited with EJ in our attack. I applaud the front office for at least taking the initiative and trying to upgrade our team. Last year fans got on Adrian for not bringing in a player at the transfer deadline. While bringing in EJ wasn't as splashy as signing a Prince Tagoe or a Michael Ballack and while it did cost us two players, it shows a plan and the confidence to act on it. Let's see the season out. If EJ ends up being a bust, if Fredy turns unhappy and leaves for Spain and this team gets tossed out of the playoffs again, then we as a fan base have every right to riot. But for now, let's move aside the emotion of one's lost and look forward to a great season.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

One More Thing

I forget one last thing for this week:

Am I the only one who thinks it is ridiculous that recently retired Tony LaRussa is going to be managing the NL All-Stars next year? Look, if the game meant nothing then it would be a great idea to have some of the games greatest coaches come back for a day. But the thing is, this game means something. It is for home field advantage in the World Series. We can debate until we are blue whether determining home field in this manner is a good thing (here are my thoughts), but I don't think anyone can argue with me on this one.

No matter how informed LaRussa stays during his retirement he won't know as much about all the players as he did if he was coaching. It just doesn't work like that. He won't be able to monitor everyone from the opposing dugout. He won't be able to have access to the same scouting reports. He won't get to physically see on the field. AND he won't have anything at stake. If he loses it's no big deal: he can go home and put his feet up (btw - the thought of LaRussa at home is an equally boring, equally curmudgeonly thought) and watch the World Series on tv. It just won't be the same. If my team makes it to the World Series and they don't have home field advantage because some retired manager made an uninformed decision, I would be pissed. This is ridiculous.

Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm Back...Again

Ok, I'm back again. I'm starting to think that a weekly post might be completely doable. Who knows, we'll see how it goes. For now, though, let's get to it.
  • When I was growing up, Rutgers football was a laughin stock. You wouldn't admit to liking them because the reality was, there was no way you could like them. It wasn't that they were bad, they were terrible.

    In 2001 when Greg Schiano was hired to be their new head coach, I was stoked. The truth is - I was excited because he is a Bucknell alum. That was it - I knew nothing of him besides that he was the Miami DC at the time. I always assumed that if he was successful in his first few years that he would leave for a bigger program and he never did. Even when the Miami and Penn St jobs became available, he didn't bite.

    He turned the program into a winner and actually made it cool to support Rutgers. When they beat Louisville on national TV a few years ago I openly bragged about being from Jersey. It was a great moment - one that I never thought I would see. Anyways, in his 11 years in Piscataway, Schiano was 68-67. In his past 7 years, he had 6 winning seasons, 5 bowl victories and a .629 winning percentage.

    I have nothing good to say about Schiano. And yet, I can't help but think that his decision to become the Tampa Bay Bucs coach is bad one on so many levels. First, college coaches never succeed in the NFL. And most of those who have tried are/were better coaches than Schiano. Second, Rutgers is now in a really bad positoin. They are coming off a 9 win year when they predicted to finish last in the Big East. They have a good recruiting class and have kept the best two Jersey high schoolers in state. They suddenly had some positive momentum AND were playing in a depleted Big East. Winning the conference would not have been sexy, but it would have gotten them a BCS birth. Now, a week away from Signing Day, Rutgers is without their coach. That sucking sound you hear coming from jersey is the sound of rival programs sucking out the talent. The timing just sucked. You can't fault him for taking the opp, but wow, it could have come at a better time.
  • When I was in college, I would occasionally stay up to watch the midnight WCC game between Gonzaga and Pepperdine (who at the time was their big rival). I really loved those Zags teams. Now I love that I don't have to stay up until midnight to watch them anymore - thank you West Coast!
  • Bucknell is now 6-0 in the conference with only one test remaining. I'm not gonna say what I'm thinking, because I'm sure you know what it is.
  • I feel like the Winter X Games were a competition put together to simply make Americans feel better about themselves. I mean, seriously, freestyle snowmobiling? What other country than the US would that be popular in?
  • Jeff Parke got his first cap for the US Men's National Team on Wednesday. He came off the bench for 35 minutes of action. I don't think that he is in their long-term plans, but definitely deserved a look. Good for him.
  • Here is some news that I know you are unaware of. In an attempt to get younger, the Seattle Storm recently traded Swin Cash and Camille Little to Chicago for the 2nd pick in the WNBA Draft. There is a very good chance that Delaware's Elena Della Donne will be the pick. She is leading the nation with 29.8 points a game and can do it all. It would be an amazing pick...or would it? Della Donne signed with UConn after being the top ranked recruit but only stayed on campus for 2 days before going home. Some people called her a spoiled quitter with emotional problems. The real reason was that she missed her family and her sister Lizzie who is blind and deaf and has cerebral palsy. It truly is a great story. I respect her for that and think she is probably a quality person. BUT, if living in Connecticut was too much for her, how the hell would she handle living in Seattle? I'm not sure that the Storm can take that chance.
  • I have not watched Sportscenter since Sunday. I simply don't want to watch the Tyree catch or listen to all the hype surrounding the Super Bowl.
  • UW hoops picked up a nice win on Thursday. It wasn't as convincing as most Dawgs fans would like, but at the end of the day, it is a win. I really like what Seferian-Jenkins has brought to the team and if they can just get CJ Wilcox back to full strength then suddenly they will have a bench. They still have long road ahead of them if they want to make the tourney, but finishing 7-3 down the stretch (13-5 overall) might get it done.
  • Last year, the NHL thought outside of the box and came up with the very creative idea of having two captains pick their teams for the All-Star Game. Even though certain players and GM's spoke out against the idea, it was one that was met with very positive reactions from the fans. I was certainly one to applaud the idea, but now a year later it seems old and boring. I don't know what it is, but after watching 2 minutes of the Fantasy Draft last night, I was ready to go to sleep. Maybe it was the lame attempt to bring in some hot blond to discuss what was trending on Twitter or maybe it was seeing hockey players in suite, but something was just wrong. Oh wait, I know what it is. I just can't get behind something where Erik Carlsson and Jason Spezza were the first two picks for one of the teams. I understand that these two fine gentleman were teammates of the Captain and I understand that they represent the hometown team, but come on. That just throws credibility out the window. I want the captains to put together the best possible teams, not to be loyal. (an interesting fact - Alfredsson then picked another teammate in the 12th round. Apparently Milan Michalek doesn't mean as much to Alfredsson as the other two...)
  • Have I ever told you how much I love Maria Sharapova?
  • I don't have tons of time to discuss all the new international signings in the MLS, but I definitely see a positive trend. In an effort to improve the quality of their roster, MLS teams are really hitting Central and South America hard these days. While some may say that it is unfair for the league to be poaching talent from the Colombian League in light of the countries financial problems (6 signings alone this year to go with established stars like Fredy Montero, David Ferreira and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado), but the simple truth is that soccer players will go where the money is. MLS can't afford to lure rising European talent, but it can certainly flex some muscle in this part of the world. Getting the big names like Beckham, Henry and Keane might be good from the publicity side of things, but it is going to be young players from North, Central and South America that really improve the quality of this league. I am very happy about this.
  • Let me see if I have this right. Victor Martinez is out for the year, so the Tigers decided to sign Prince Fielder...for 9 years?!? Forget 5 years from now, he hasn't even played a game yet and it is a bad contract. Oh well, at least he isn't in Pinstripes.
  • By the way, the Mets signed ... um, they signed ... hmph. They signed no one. They trimmed about $50 million off their payroll.
  • To follow up from before, from 1987 to 1997, aka my informative years, Rutgers won an average of 4 games a season including 0-11 in 1997. Now that I actually did the math, it doesn't seem too bad.
  • Speaking of not seeming too bad, I looked at today and found out that none of UW's losses this year were against teams with RPIs>100. Yes, amazingly, St Louis (42), Nevada (72), South Dakota St (66), and Colorado (69) are all below 100.
  • Let's get this Tim Thomas controversy out of the way. I won't lie - I had no problem with Theo Epstein skipping his version with Bush a few years back, so I'm not overly objective on this one. I have two issues. First, how can you say this isn't about politics and then rail on the politicians and big government? Second, sometimes you just have to do shit that you don't want to. That's life. You and your teammates were being honored for something you accomplished together. The president of the US was taking time out of his amazingly busy schedule to get together. If you can't give the president sometime, at least go with your teammates to be honored. You might never get that moment back.
Ok, I'm out. Have a great weekend and enjoy the pro Bowl. Oh, speaking of Pro Bowl, check out my post from last year when I gave Roger Goodell some ways to fix it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I'm An Addict

It's been 10 days since my last post. I have missed it, but at the same time feel a little free. It has been nice not to force out posts just to stay current. Of course, that doesn't mean I haven't had stuff on my mind. In fact, it is the exact opposite. All I continue to think about all day long is sports. I'm an addict.
  • All the talk on KJR in recent weeks has been what the Seahawks are going to do at the QB spot. Will they trade up to get Robert Griffin III in the NFL Draft? Will they throw a boatload of money at free agent Matt Flynn? Or will they stick with Tavaris Jackson for another year? I have listened to all the considerations and I think the decision is an easy one: they need to throw the money at Matt Flynn. Now I realize it is risky to put that much faith in someone who is a back-up QB and has started only 2 , albeit really successful, games in his career. I mean, the dude is a back-up for a reason. Given the situation each of his monster games occurred in, I am not going to put too much faith into either. The thing is though - we don't know what he could be. Sure, he could be the next Rob Johnson...but he could also be the next Matt Hasselback. They need to take the risk because it could be better than what they already have. Here's the biggest thing though - if they trade up to get RG3 they will be mortgaging their future. They are really really close to being a playoff team. They CANNOT trade away any draft picks to get the right to draft RG3. If Flynn fails, the team is out of money. If RG3 fails, they are out money and picks. Whiffing on a rookie QB will put them back years. They won't be able to recover. They need to go the Flynn route.

  • I have no problem with the M's trading pitching for hitting, but I'm not quite sure that Jesus Montero is the answer for their struggling lineup. Look, I know that Montero is one of the top prospects in the game, but a prospect is a prospect until they become a star. He has only played 18 games so far and while the results have been good, I'm not sure how they will extrapolate to an entire year.

    Now I get the risk that Jack Z took might be a good one. He traded away a strength to strengthen his weakness. They have a shitload of pitching in the organization - I just thought that trading King Felix and building around Michael Pineda might have been the better move. Obviously that is crazy talk because of what King Felix means to this team, but you know Boston and the Yanks would have given an arm, a leg, a kidney and a liver to get his services. They would have hurt the fans, but helped the team.

    Ok, so they didn't trade Felix. They traded Pineda instead. I think the Yanks actually won the trade - not because I think Montero will be a bust but because they simply had to move him. He isn't a catcher - he is a hitter. The only thing is that he can't DH for the Yanks because of A-Rod and Tex. Instead of sitting in the minors, he gets to play every day AND the Yanks get a damn good pitcher. Here is the thing though - I think there is a good chance he throws out his arm. He is only 22 years old and he threw 171 innings last year. He needs to be on an inning count this coming year - something I don't think the Yanks will be willing to do. Do you actually think that they will shut him down in September if he gives them the chance to beat the Red Sox for the division title? I'm calling it now - he blows out his arm

  • Let's talk a little Hall of Fame. One of the guys on suggested that Mike Piazza won't make it in next year on his first year of eligibility. He felt that he will get in eventually but that the writers will make a statement in year 1. Let me tell you something - that is absolutely crazy. If Piazza, the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history, doesn't make it in on his first try, then the voters are assholes. I don't care about his admission of PED's early in his career...hands down, he was the best player at his position during his career (not to mention that he 'captained' a NY team before and after 911).

    Speaking of being the best at his position, Edgar Martinez, the best player at his position, got only 36.5% of votes in his 3rd year of eligibility. It is not looking too good. This is a tough one for me. I mean, I'm an NL guy who doesn't believe in the DH. I don't think you should be able to hit if you can't play the field. It just goes against everything you are taught in the schoolyard. BUT, I can't argue that it is a legitimate position. And Edgar was the best at it. You might not believe that kickers or punters belong in the NFL Hall of Fame, but they are pro athletes who play an important position. They deserve some credit...and unfortunately the same holds for the DH. Put Edgar in.

  • I don't know who will make the Super Bowl (although I claim the Giants to be the favorites), but all 4 possibilities are going to be the media's dream. Giants-Pats is obviously the most intriguing because of the Super Bowl from 3 years ago. Giants-Ravens is another Super Bowl rematch. Ravens-49ers will be the Harbaugh Bowl. Pats-49ers will be a match-up of the Team of the 80's vs the Team of the 2000's. I will get sick of all the build-up, but know they will be happy.

  • The Nets suck. Really Suck. D-Will is as good as gone. Howard is not coming. They will win 8 games this season and go to Brookyln as the worst team in the league.

  • I applaud both the USSF and CONCACAF for the changes to the US Open Cup and Champions League. The Open cup will now consist of 32 teams including all 16 domestic MLS teams and home field will now be based on a random draw. The best part though is knowing the dates of each round prior to the season. Champions League has also changed for the better, eliminating 2 games from the round robin part. Now instead of a 2 game playoff for 16 teams followed by 4 groups of 4, the 24 qualifying teams will be placed into 8 groups of 3. Only the winner of each group will advance. Whereas before the Sounders were playing 8 total games (4 home, 4 road) they will now play 4. Flying from Dallas to Central America might not be terrible, but Seattle to Central America was killing us. I also like that in order to advance to the Quarterfinals, teams must be the best team in at least 3 of the 4 games. If you advance, you know you earned it

  • Finally, terrible job by MLS in scheduling the Sounders on the road for 4 Cascadia Cup games in 2012. I find it completely unfathomable that in a year when they want to promote local rivalries, they allow 1 Cascadia team, regardless of whether it was Seattle or not, to have to be on the road for 4 of 6. This wasn't rocket science guys - it could go one of two ways: 1. Seattle home twice vs PTL, PTL home twice vs VAN, VAN home twice vs Seattle OR 2. PTL home twice vs Seattle, Seattle home twice vs VAN, VAN home twice vs PTL. Ok, two simple ways. Way to eff it up.
I think that's it for now. Hope everyone is doing well.