Saturday, February 28, 2009

Warming Up: KEEP IT REAL!

From "Starbury" in The Bean, to Tiger back on the Green, KEEP IT REAL FRIDAY is warming up for the month of March, the World Baseball Classic, March Madness, and two months away from the NFL DRAFT. GET READY TO KEEP IT REAL!

Disclaimer: I understand this is being released on a Saturday morning, but that was planned. Of all the things that went on this week in the world of sports, I wanted to see Stephon play with the Celtics before I released this weeks installment of KEEP IT REAL FRIDAY!


I'm a Boston Celtics fan, you know that. But this one is a little hard for me to accept. When the Celtics won their 17th championship last season, they had a team with guys like P.J. Brown, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, you know, guys who wanted nothing more in life than to bring that banner to the new Garden. While they are still on this team, so is Stephon Marbury. Like Marbury's game, can't stand Marbury. Would it really be fair if this Celtics team came back and won a second straight championship with this guy on the bench? The guy who refused to play for Mike D'Antoni and the Knicks, probably caused a couple front office guys to smoke a few more butts, and just added to the general dislike of Isiah Thomas and the franchise that plays at MSG, could now potentially be playing in June for a shot at a title? I'll tell you one thing, it isn't going to have the same feeling as watching guys like P.J. Brown and Kevin Garnett hug the gold basketball, it'll be different. In game perspective, Marbury helps this team, I watch the Celtics every night and the only thing they were missing is a back up true point guard who can make his own shot, that's what Marbury does. When you have a starting point guard in Rajon Rondo having 17-assist nights, all you need Marbury to do is give him a breather once in a while and inject some offense into the second team at the end of quarters. Steph displayed that on Friday night. Secondly, you've got to remember who he'll be playing against, other teams backups, and Marbury still has starter potential in those legs, as tired as they looked last night. I can't stand the guy, but if it's only for a few months, I'll deal with it. KEEP IT REAL!

True. Tiger Woods won't be playing come his first weekend back from knee surgery. Your next door neighbor, Tim Clark, ousted Tiger on Thursday afternoon in match play. Fear not, Tiger is prepared to pull on his 5th green jacket come the first weekend in April, put it in the bank. Now let me make it clear, I'm no expert on golf, but in this case, Tiger has something to prove. Like Jordan after his baseball stint, like Josh Beckett in the 2007 postseason, psst (like Tom Brady come the 2009 NFL season), Tiger Woods will arrive in Augusta with a chip on his shoulder, or knee. When big game athletes like Tiger Woods have that proverbial chip, the field better watch out. Tiger Woods is chasing down golf records, tearing them down when he gets there, if you think a knee injury will stop him, I've got something for you: KEEP IT REAL! He's the biggest athlete since Michael Jordan, by the time it's all said and done, between Nike and Gatorade, he'll be the biggest athletes since errrrrrrrr, EVER. I only watch golf when Tiger is involved, I'm "that" fan, and when El' Tigre was on the shelf, so was golf. Get ready, Tigermania is back, and Augusta awaits.

Some things in life are going to put that weird "who farted" look on your face. This week, it happened. The Washington Redskins inking free-agent, defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth, to a record setting deal which includes $41 million dollars in guaranteed money and then signing free-agent cornerback DeAngelo Hall, to a deal that includes $22.5 million in guaranteed. Gentlemen, may I say it again, we are in the midst of the worst economic down turn, in this country, over the last THIRTY YEARS! Washington Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, has to be feeling the money pinch like the rest of, right? Apparently not. The All-Pro defensive tackle, Haynesworth, could possibly make up to $115 million dollars with the seven year deal he was just handed. Over the next thirteen months, Haynesworth will receive $32 million dollars, no matter what. While the economy continues to fall, and we debate how to fix it every day, Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, seriously has more money than we could ever imagine, and isn't afraid to spend it. The NFL-free agency season started midnight on Thursday, and Snyder has already spent the $41 million guaranteed on Albert Haynesworth, and under-the-radar $22.5 million on free-agent cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Two players, $63.5 million dollars, one day. The bad part (as if the money wasn't enough) Haynesworth received the largest penalty for an on-field act, purposely stepping on Andre Gurode's face with his cleats, in NFL history. DeAngelo Hall, is a known locker room cancer, for crying out loud he forced his way out of Oakland, and you can't get more dysfunctional than OAKLAND! $63.5 million doesn't buy you what it used to, and Daniel Snyder doesn't care. KEEP IT REAL!

While were on the money thing, because it seems to have taken over most of our lives, (especially when my employer is about to be nationalized and my 401k will be worth negative dollars, but I digress) Where are the Manny Ramirez fans? Because I've got a few things to say to them. This guy is too much. If I'm the Los Angeles Dodgers, I walk away and never look back. Listen, when the Mets, Yankees, and Red Sox say no thanks to a 40-homer, 100+ rbi guy, maybe you should listen. The Red Sox had Ramirez locked into what basically was a 2-year, $40 million dollar deal, that would force Ramirez to play for a contract, and play well, for each of the next two years. That is on one end of the spectrum. The Dodgers offered to pay him $5 million more dollars than the Sox would have given him, and at the end of year 1, he could work out a better deal with someone else if he wanted to or just return to the Dodgers at his choice and on their dollar. That's the other end. Good enough for Manny? No. This guy is a villain, how do you defend him in any way? While banking $20 million a year, he refused to play hard for the Red Sox in what became his final year in The Hub. He turned around, threw an entire franchise on his back after forcing his way out of New England, and managed to get what he wanted in the process. He turned into Willie Mays over the last three months of 2008 while with the Dodgers, and now he refuses to play with them for $45 million dollars. The unemployment is about to hit double digits in this country, and Manny Ramirez is holding out for what? $50 Million? You want to justify paying $50 million dollars to a guy who bats three times a game? So what if he got them into the playoffs last year, he was hungry then, what happens if you give Manny what he wants, you expect him to do what he did last year, again? I wouldn't have offered him the $45 million, but now? I'd pick up my things and walk away from the table. KEEP IT REAL!

. . . . .I hope you enjoyed this weeks installment of Keep It Real Friday! Check back every Friday (Or in this case, Saturday morning) for more KEEP IT REAL!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Draft Questions: From The Readers

The readers have been furiously writing in questions regarding my 2009 NFl mock draft. I've decided to respond to the questions . .here you go!

You haven't mentioned any running backs yet, but if you were going to, Knowshon or Beanie? -Chris, Columbus

I'm not a big guy on running backs early in the draft. However, in 2008 we saw rookie running backs like Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Jonathan Stewart, and Teshard Choice & Felix Jones to a lesser extent, make a major impact on their offenses. With that said, like Mendenhall and Stewart were are 1 & 2 headed into 2008, Beanie Wells and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno are this years 1 & 2 respectively. The Buckeye, Wells, isn't as durable as you would want, when we watched rookie running backs like Felix Jones and Mendenhall go down for the season with injuries after helping their teams win, it was tough for fans. Wells is a 6'1", powerful 230 lb. back. In his 3 seasons at Columbus, Wells rushed for nearly 1,100 yards a season and scored 7 touchdowns or more each of his three years. But if it's stats were comparing, Knowshon is GOOD. In his two years in Athens, Moreno rushed for over 1,300 yards two seasons and scored 30 touchdowns in his career. In his sophomore season for the Bulldogs of Georgia, Moreno rushed for over 100 yards in seven different games, including a 163 yard performance in the Bayou against LSU. Wells has almost two inches and 30 pounds on the quicker Moreno, and because of that, I'm taking Chris Wells as the first running back overall. I like my backs more Marion Barber than Jonathan Stewart.

Try to remain unbiased, where will the Boston College Eagles, Raji & Brace, eventually land? - Jeff, Tampa Bay

Raji is top ten, lock. Everyone from Todd McShay to Walter Cherepinsky believes that the BC nosetackle doesn't fall past Green Bay at #9. An interior defensive lineman like Raji makes every defensive player around him better, just ask Boston College linebacker, Mark Herzlich, how he was able to become the ACC defensive player of the year, I'm sure he'd give much credit to both B.J. Raji and Ron Brace. However, at the Senior Bowl, Raji was more impressive than arguably any other defensive lineman. He's a 6'2", 330 lb., nosetackle that clogs up the middle of the field better than nearly any player in the draft. As for the Springfield, Massachusetts native, Ron Brace, he gets overshadowed by Raji but don't be mistaken, he's just as nasty. At the combine Brace put up 225-lbs 32 times, only one shy of Raji's 33. He's an inch or so taller than Raji and relatively the same weight, although not as quick. The most likely scenario for Brace is a mid to early second round pick, with his performance at the combine and the lack of interior defensive lineman in this draft, expect both of them to be gone within the first two rounds. Raji to the Packers, Seahawks, or even as high as #3 to the Chiefs. Brace to the Chiefs (34) or Broncos (48).

Despite his inexperience, why is Matthew Stafford yours and everyones consensus #1 overall? - Daunte, Detroit

He isn't the best player in this draft, but how do you sell anyone else to a Detroit Lions fan? For starters, they've just watched previously left for dead Atlanta win 11 games and make it to the playoffs. While Michael Crabtree, Aaron Curry, and Jason Smith are probably the best players in this draft, you aren't selling any of these players to the fans of an 0-16 team. Secondly, you need a face of the franchise, maybe neither Stafford or Mark Sanchez from USC are Peyton Manning, but they can bring a fresh face to a rather dull franchise. Ideally, a quarterback like Stafford would have the time to sit and watch, learn a thing or two about being an NFL quarterback. However, in Detroit that may not be an option. Stafford would most likely be able to sit behind Daunte Culpepper who recently restructured his deal to stay in Detroit, given Culpeppers inability to stay healthy, you can expect young Stafford would see some time in his rookie season. Finally, I haven't completely ruled out former USC quarterback, Mark Sanchez, as the number one pick overall. Like Stafford, Sanchez isn't the best pick at #1, but he provides that face. When Matt Ryan was among the top players in last years draft, everyone maintained his maturity was what set him apart from the others. This weekend at the combine, around his peers, it was the maturity everyone talked about when they looked at Mark Sanchez. While they are only the best at there positions, and probably not overall #1's in every year, the Lions need Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford more than anyone.

Post-combine, what position(s) would you stay away from drafting in 2009? - Al, Oakland

Wide receiver. Hands down. I've said it for months, Michael Crabtree is the best player available in this entire draft, but even he has questions surrounding him now. Both he and fellow top wide out, Jeremy Maclin, experienced set backs due to injury at the combine this weekend. With the amount of injuries the Seattle Seahawks went through in 2008, they've got to be 100% sure that Michael Crabtree is healthy, his foot is well, and that he is who we think he is. Jeremy Maclin was expected to show the blazing speed he was known for at Mizzou, unfortunately he was helped off the field at the combine after he suffered a hyper extended left knee. The top two prospects in this draft left Indianapolis healing injuries and not increasing their draft stock one bit. Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland, and Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina, the two ACC receivers are next on the board, both of them have major upsides. Heyward-Bey was the fastest timed receiver in Indianapolis this past weekend and Nicks had a monster 2008 campaign, scoring twelve touchdowns and racking up more than 1,200 yards. However, Heyward-Bey has questions surrounding his football acumen and despite the raw talents he displayed this past weekend, route running is very important at the next level. As for Nicks, many scouts have said he isn't a prototypical game breaking wide out, and he lacks the skill set of an NFL player, it may take him time to develop, alot of time. Other receiving prospects such as former Florida stud, Percy Harvin, will need to find a system that will work well with them. These are alot of questions for NFL teams to determine which players are worth the top picks. I generally have an extreme lack of respect for receivers, (I'm forced to cheer for guys like T.O. and Roy Williams) so I find it hard to believe they are as game changing as THEY think.

When you released your current mock draft several weeks back you said "Until someone gives me a valid reason as to why the Outland Trophy winner, Andre Smith, isn't the consensus best offensive lineman in this draft, I'm not budging" Was this past weekend enough of a valid reason? - Mel, Bristol

That is what I was looking for. You know I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan, so I know what it's like to watch an undisciplined, overweight, left tackle protect your quarterbacks backside. Yes, I'm talking about Flozell Adams, and if Andre Smith ever got to that point, it'd be a miracle. You know this kid needs to write a book some day, it'll be titled "How I cost my self $20 million dollars just two months before my pay day" I don't care if your the immovable object, Jake Long and Joe Thomas have redefined what we want in a top offensive lineman draft pick. They did things the right way, and are now counting there money wearing NFL jerseys. From the moment the Crimson Tide dropped the SEC championship last fall, Andre Smith has done completely everything wrong, everything. One slip-up, we can call it an anomaly, multiple slip-ups, it's who you are. So what, you talked to a few agents just weeks before the biggest game of your college football career, your not supposed to. The scouts didn't get to see him showcased on the biggest stage of his career. He show's up at the NFL combine, overweight and out of shape. People can ignore physical talents, Mo Clarett had plenty of physical talents. It makes zero sense to show up for the combine after having two months to prepare looking the way he did, especially when all your peers have never looked better. Andre Smith is out of the top 10, and may have slipped
to the back end of the first round.

. . . . check back in early March for the updated 1st round Mocks. . .

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Revolution Of The Point

He's already got Chris Paul's number, and after what he did in Phoenix this past weekend, against a two-time MVP, you can't ignore him. Fans of the NBA, meet the Celtics floor general, Rajon Rondo.

The former Kentucky Wildcat, Rajon Rondo, is tearing up the NBA, one point guard at a time. Since February 11th, the Celtic guard has averaged 17 points, 10 assists, and nearly 8 rebounds a game, filthy. Against the likes of Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, and Chauncey Billups, it has been Rajon Rondo that has stood out the most. Triple double in Dallas, double-double in Phoenix, and had the C's not been up by 40 in the fourth quarter at Denver, I'm sure Rajon would have got two more boards and two more assists to give him his second triple-double in four games. It isn't just as of late, Rondo is currently 6th in the Eastern Conference in field goal percentage, and the leader among guards. The 2nd year guard in 2008, who was afraid to shoot anything that didn't resemble a lay-up, has been able to consistently penetrate and shoot when open, something he couldn't do a year ago.

Furthermore, for those who live and die by the Celtics, it is more than obvious that this team struggles the most when Rondo is on the bench. Neither Eddie House or Gabe Pruitt have been able to steadily maintain the Celtics offense when Rondo is not in the game. A year ago we were saying this team needed to find a Sam Cassel like back-up point guard to keep them alive in the playoffs, is anyone upset they haven't found a playoff guard? They have one, his name is Rajon Rondo. Rondo has become the type of guard I've wanted the C's to have for years, he plays outstanding defense, see his two steals per game, good for 4th best overall in the league. Not to mention that each of his teammates are getting better looks than they've had in years, see Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett (and Rondo himself) are among the top 12 in field goal percentage in the Eastern Conference. Only Jason Kidd has more rebounds per game among NBA guards. Rondo's 5.3 boards a game, 4.0 on the defensive end, are stopping possessions on one end and giving more opportunities to his teammates around him on the other end.

Finally, it has become more than obvious that while Pierce, Garnett, and Allen are the All-Stars on this team, and the jerseys that you buy, however, Rajon Rondo is in charge of the wheel. When Kevin Garnett suffered that knee injury Thursday night and the Celtics lost the first game on their road trip, it was Rajon Rondo who stepped up. Rondo had a mind boggling game against Phoenix, he made Steve Nash look old, and mad Alvin Gentry age three years. He was 13-18 from the floor, dished out 10 assists, and scored 32 points, making up for some of what the C's were missing without Garnett. Against Chauncey Billups and the Nuggets, Rondo played only 31 minutes, his lowest total over the last 10 games, and he still scored 14 points, had 8 assists, and got 8 boards. With games against Indiana, Detroit, Cleveland, Orlando, and Miami all on their upcoming schedule and Garnett on the shelf, it'll be Rajon Rondo who determines how this team heads into the final month of the season. Hats off to the Big 3, but Rondo is the 1 who makes this team tick.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Can't Stand Him, But He's Right

By now you've seen the latest tirade from coach Jim Calhoun of the University of Connecticut men's basketball team. Before I post the clip I'll preface it by telling you that in a post-game press conference he was asked a question by a political activist and journalist, Ken Krayeske, along the lines of;

Considering that your one of the highest paid state employees at $1.5 million a year and there is a $2 billion dollar budget deficit in the State of Connecticut, would you consider giving money back?

If Krayeske wanted to raise an issue, consider it raised. It doesn't take a wizard to know how to get one of the games most notorious tough guys fired up. Krayeske may have a valid point here, but he couldn't have gone about getting an answer in any worse way. Now I don't know much about Connecticut, in fact the only time I think about that state is when I'm on my way to New York and in those cases the only thoughts crossing my mind are "how can a state so small take so long to drive through," I hate driving. However, what I do know is that no state in this country is hurting because of the salary given to coaches of major athletic programs. I'll go one step further, the state, Connecticut specifically, would probably be in a worse condition if not for the likes of their sports programs at state schools.

I'm going to break down some specifics regarding the exchange between Calhoun and Krayeske, and if you think this is a non-story, go ahead and click the little red "x" in the top of the screen, I won't know, in turn I won't be offended.

Jim Calhoun is a hot head, no surprise. That is why he's won two national titles and that is why hundreds of his student athletes have achieved their dreams of playing in the NBA. He demands, what he deems as the very best, every night. What more can you ask from a head coach of major division 1 basketball powerhouse? Now I don't have any children, never mind children that are headed to college, but if my son or daughter ever says, "Dad, I'd like to go to UCONN" the first thing that is coming to my mind is Jim Calhoun and Gino Auriemma, not their salaries. If they aren't even playing hoops, and let's face it, I'm 5'10 and unless I marry Lisa Leslie, my kids aren't going to be the next Larry Bird, I want my kids at a school that preaches that kind of consistent excellence in a focused area. What Auriemma and Calhoun bring to the table is their resumes, without those, I guarantee the state sees a drop off in enrollment and television contracts, among countless other added bonuses. So I'm not sure where a bonehead political journalist is going with this when he prodes coach Calhoun in the most public of settings.

You poke a man with that kind of resume, what are you getting at? For starters, neither me, you, or Mr. Krayeske would take less money because it's the principal of the thing, we aren't that wealthy. Second, I've never heard of anyone who wasn't signing the checks say they'll take a salary cut, "just because the economy is struggling," even those bankers on wall street who are signing the checks, one of which is employees me, know that they've been living off the hog and share some of the blame as to why the economy is the way it is. Jim Calhoun is not the reason or even part of the reason why the state of Connecticut is making less money than Bangladesh. He is paid alot of money for what he brings to the table, and what he brings to the table is endorsement money for the university, apparel sales for every thing with the UCONN HUSKIE on the t-shirt, major recognition for the institution every basketball season, and he puts a face on a state that doesn't necessarily even have one when it comes to athletics. So rather than attempting to embarrass Coach Calhoun, maybe you could ask the same questions to the people who pay him, but I'm sure you wouldn't get your 15 minutes on YouTube, would you Ken?

Why then? Why there? Don't know a damn thing about Kenny, but when he wants to put himself out there and spark controversial conversation, be prepared to get what is coming to you. Your a clown, not only do you have the nerve to disrupt a press conference about basketball with your political agenda, but you then turn and insult everyone in the room by saying they don't do their job? What's your job? To report information that is already public knowledge? Did you know what the gate was when Coach Calhoun asked? No, he was referring to the thousands of fans filling seats at the XL Center, not the UConn Center, or UConn Alumni Center, a sponsored stadium that you probably never realized was sponsored. A sponsor that most likely doesn't give the Huskies a phone call if they weren't a top 10 nationally ranked program, year after year after year after year. You need to have your facts straight, just like Coach Calhoun said, if your going to blindside someone, at least know what it is your trying to blindside them with. Why don't you ask the governor, university athletic director, or the university president why Coach Calhoun makes so much? Ask them to give their money back. You wouldn't have been on television, and everyone would go on with their lives having never knew who you were, but that makes you non-existent, which is what I'm sure you can't stand.

When I was in high school, playing football, I knew why we played on Friday Nights. It's called revenue. The athletic director made sure we had whatever we needed, because we brought in the money for every other team to play the game of their choice. No gate on Friday Night for the football team, no playing under the lights for the soccer team. No gate on Thanksgiving Day, no new jerseys for the women's basketball team. Well this is what Calhoun does for UConn athletics, he puts their sports (except women's hoops) in new uniforms, on new fields, and on scholarships. If you don't think that is important, or you don't think it's relevant, you haven't got a clue.

Jim Calhoun isn't a nice guy, I've never met him, but that is what he portrays. I have no problem with that. If I was a resident in the state of Connecticut, I'd care about one thing of my favorite basketball team, winning. Leave the dollars and cents up to the schools presidents and state governors office, leave winning to guys like Jim Calhoun. Ken Krayesky, do something respectable and you can get on television, or go on a reality show.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Keep It Real Friday!

Short Keep It Real Friday this week. I believe I've said my peace on Steroids and Alex Rodriguez, the NFL combine doesn't happen till this weekend, and the dog days of the NBA are about to begin . .


LeBron James will participate in the 2010 NBA slam dunk contest. That alone brings in a couple hundred thousand more viewers. When LeBron fist announced that he would challenge the 2009 winner the coming year, two things came to mind. (1) What has taken so long? (2) How will this not bring out Kobe "Bean" Bryant?

Quick Note: I'm a fan of the NBA, and while I cheer for the Boston Celtics to win a championship every season, I'm not oppose to seeing LeBron v. Kobe for the NBA title, not one bit.

Back to LeBron participating in the slam dunk contest, it instantly makes next years All-Star weekend 10x more exciting, but some things do need to change to make this contest as good as it can be, or used to be. Given that I have absolutely no idea what the qualifications would be to make these decisions, I've determined I'm qualified to do so.

Change #1

No Nate Robinson, or anyone else who isn't actually an All-Star. Once you start running out players like the Nuggets J.R. Smith, I can't hold back. They may very well be fantastic dunk artists, but anytime you can win an award and instantly be added to a list which includes the likes of Dr. J, His Airness, and The Human Highlight Reel, without ever having actually played in an All-Star game, I take issue. Harold Miner, Gerald Green, and Desmond Mason? For some reason, they don't exactly sit well with me. If your not playing on Sunday, you aren't dunking on Saturday.

Change #2

LeBron wasn't the first to bring it up, but it couldn't have been said better. You don't get unlimited time and attempts to nail a dunk. After you've failed the first two times, we know what your trying and it loses it's luster. I could shoot 50 half court shots, and just because I drill the 50th one but miss the first 49, it doesn't mean that is "my shot." Three attempts, at the most. For those of you who watched Rudy Fernandez lay that dunk down after 19 failed attempts, admit it, you'd were more annoyed than impressed.

Change #3

No Superman cape, no kryptonite tee, and no allowing your opponent to throw down a dunk over your head. You think Michael would have let Dominique jump over him en route to the rim? Do you think Dr. J thought of himself as Superman? Do you think Dee Brown and Spud Webb were into wardrobe changes, mid-contest? No, No, and No. Grab the rock, think of something creative, and smash the ball through the rim. Period.

These 3 changes, along with the presence of Bean Bryant, LeBron James, and any number of their fellow All-Stars would create a dunk contest for the ages. KEEP IT REAL! Take back the slam dunk contest.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Welcome To The Circus

Between Johnny Damon's revelation that, murder is bad, (far worse than taking steroids) and Yankee GM, Brian Cashman's defiant backing of Alex Rodriguez, can you argue that no team is better fit to handle the circus that has become major league baseball? While all eyes of the baseball and sports world for that matter, is focused on a press conference that should have no bearing on the coming season, major league baseball still has some burning questions surrounding this very season:


5. How do the events of the last several weeks affect the '09 Yankees and Alex Rodriguez?

Let's face it, the question needs to be asked and we should just get it out of the way now. February 17, 2009 will not mark the final day we discuss Alex Rodriguez and his admitted steroid use. Once the book of SI's Selena Roberts is released post-opening day, they'll be more to come on Alex. Every time Alex meets a new city, that city and its newspapers will have questions about the issue. If Alex dips into a semi-long slump, the A-Rod "haters" will be bring it up. This is what we all have to look forward to over the next 9 years of his career. However, like I said in the opening, this isn't the Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees are better equipped to handle this circus than any other team in professional sports, the anti-Cowboys if you will. 2009 will most certainly be a circus for the Bronx Bombers. Between moving into their new city funded digs, having signed every available free-agent, (all of which have never dealt with media like they will in New York), and now Alex Rodriguez becoming the distraction to end all distractions, the Yanks have some issues on their plate. They'll deal. The Yankees will have to perform at the level they are being paid, which means Alex hits 40 to 50 home runs, C.C. Sabathia wins 17 to 20 games, Jorge Posada manages to limit his time on the DL, and Mark Teixeira becomes the center of the Yankees lineup. All things which are very possible. An added bonus, to the media, fans, and his fellow teammates, Derek Jeter is the most respected and admired player in that clubhouse, he does what captains do. With the hundred plus things that go on in the Yankees organization, this team knows how to focus, I'd be stunned if you could point to A-Rod as a reason for their lack of success in the coming season.

4. So the Phils and the Rays met in the World Series, have they done enough to get back?

Both clubs return their studs, Evan Longoria and Cole Hamels will return and with a newly found swagger. That is what you can count on. Let's start with the runner up Rays. They've added 9-year veteran, and newly anointed Philly World Series champ, Pat Burrell. Believe it or not, Burrell might be coming off one of his best power years, hitting 33 homers and driving in 86 runs, unfortunately his .250 average was his lowest since his 4th year in the league. When it comes to their arms, you don't get much better than adding flame throwing rookie, David Price, who will make an instant impact in 2009, much like he did in the 2008 postseason. The highly anticipated Price struck out twelve batters in just 14 innings in 2008. Between Price, 14-game winner James Shields, and a well rested Scott Kazmir (sitting out the World Baseball Classic) the defending AL Champs can match staffs with nearly any team in the league. As for the defending champion Fighting Phillies, they haven't changed much. With the departure of the previously mentioned Burrell, the Phillies have gone out and replaced him with 11-year veteran, Raul Ibanez. A lifetime .286 hitter finished 2008 hitting .293 and driving in 110 runs, a significant upgrade from the production of Pat Burrell. The Phillies will of course look to duplicate the numbers their bullpen put up this past year. In 2008, set up man Ryan Madson recorded 67 strikeouts in 76 appearances. The bigger story would be that of closer Brad Lidge, who managed to close out all 41 games he was asked to while sitting down close to 95 batters by way of the K. A rematch would be remarkable, but the Phillies playing in the National League East gives them a more likely arrival of October baseball. While the Rays would have to battle through both Boston and New York, who have upgraded their rosters through free-agency.

3. How will this economy put its clamps on the 2009 baseball season?

Baseball has the unfortunate role of being the first major professional sport to kick off its season in full blown panic. The Yankees may have gone out and spent like kings, but it doesn't mean they won't feel the pinch. The Bronx Bombers are entering a brand new billion dollar facility, which has caused more controversy than the players that are entering it. Their cross town rival Mets are also attempting to dive into their new digs, digs which have cost the city more than ever anticipated. How do you expect the fans of Kansas City, Seattle, Detroit, and many other cities to justify the spending of their extra cash on tickets to see their team get beat up? Not to mention the giant elephant in the room, no team is willing to commit serious money to free-agent embattled slugger, Manny Ramirez. Manny is not the ideal clubhouse guy, secondly, he forced Boston's hand by refusing to play until they released him from the contract he signed, now you think someone is going to have him sign a more long term deal which may or may not be okay with Ramirez in three years? He's worth $20 million, if you get the Ramirez the Dodgers got for the final months and the playoffs of last season. However, he isn't worth $20 million a season in this economic climate, especially if it may force your hand on future moves. Attendance will be down this season, and even in places like Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia, less merchandise will be sold, less revenue from beer and food sales. If you thought the empty seats in hoops was noticeable, you haven't seen anything yet.

2. Who will be the 2009 version of the Tampa Bay Rays?

I'm not going out on a limb when I say this: The Rays were and are in a league of their own, but there are some teams which will surprise you. I'm staying in the same division as the Sox, Yanks, and Rays. In 2009, the Baltimore Orioles will surprise you, and I'm not crazy. Last season the Orioles had five players who hit 20+ home runs, four of which will return in 2009. Veterans Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora, who man the corners of the Oriole infield, hit 55 homers combined last season. Outfielders Luke Scott and the pride of Glen Cove, New York, Nick Markakis smashed a combined 46 home runs and drove in 150+ runs. The Baltimore young center fielder, Adam Jones, (not Pacman)is poised for a breakout year. Arriving in Baltimore as the key piece in last years trade of Eric Bedard to Seattle, Jones had somewhat of a disappointing year in 2008. He strikeouts crept over 100, his batting average slipped below .270 late in the season, and lastly, the power numbers that he put up in the minors drastically dropped, in 132 games Jones managed only 9 homers. However, all stories from O's camp have Jones arriving with the confidence of a young, speedy, power hitting outfielder. Jones has spent the entire off season in Arizona at the famed Athletes' Performance Institute, the same place last years American League MVP, Dustin Pedroia trains at. As always when it comes to Baltimore, they lack pitching, and when I say lack, that is an understatement. Of their four starters to start over 20 games in 2008, none had a winning record. 5th year starter, Jeremy Guthrie, finished the season 10-12 with a 3.63 era and he'll be returning. Newcomer, Rich Hill, will attempt to duplicate his success of two years ago, where for the Cubs he won 11 starts and struck out nearly 200 batters. The sole bright spot among Orioles arms lies with the closer, All-Star George Sherrill. In 2008, Sherrill's first season with the O's he converted 31 of 37 save opportunities and sat down 58 batters by strikeout in 53 innings. The Orioles are led by their star right fielder, Nick Markakis. Markakis just inked a deal this off season which keeps him in Charm City for 6 more seasons at only a little over 11 million a season. While his power numbers tailed off in 2008, his average hovered at .300 for third consecutive year. If he can return to producing the 100+ RBI he did in 2007, and get what they expect from Adam Jones, it'll be hard to find a younger more talented outfield than the one in Baltimore. However you slice it, the Orioles will struggle, but getting out of the basement of the American League East and winning 80+ games would be a major success for the franchise.

1. The 2009 Mets, will this nucleus ever pull it together and finish a season?

For two straight seasons the Mets have experienced late season collapses that has made them the laughing stock of the National League, and baseball for that matter. It's gotten to the point where the bulk of the responsibility should be placed on the players. Players like all-world shortstop Jose Reyes, who hit just .243 in September of 2008 and an even worse .205 in September of 2007. Relievers like Duaner Sanchez, whose dismal 4.26 era in the month of September doesn't exactly improve a push toward the postseason. The end of the season has been nothing but average, or worse: 12-13 September of 2008 and 14-14 September of 2007. you don't make the playoffs playing like that in the home stretch. Between Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Ryan Church, this team has more than enough fire power in their lineup. Pencil in 18-25 wins for Johan Santana, and prey that the newly acquired Franky Rodriguez, doesn't have his arm fall off ten games into the regular season. The Mets owners are losing money hand over fist, their new stadium has cost way to much money, it is past the time this core group of Beltran, Reyes, and Wright win something more than 80 regular season games. You heard it first: The New York Mets will win the National League East in 2009.

The regular season preview will be out come the final weekend in March. Until then, keep your roid use to a minimum, and as always . . BAM! Remember if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying.!

Friday, February 13, 2009

All Juiced Up: Keep It Real Friday!

This started off as the "Juice Free" column, then I realized that's all I had to talk about. NUFF SAID!


There was a reason those records stood for decades. Forget, Barry, Roger, and Alex. Forget McNamee, Canseco, and Radomsky. When you hear baseball's commissioner, Bud Selig, say "I won't rule out adjusting the record books" I hope you pour yourself another glass and let out a sigh, just like I did. The highest paid commissioner in professional sports, $18.35 million for the league’s fiscal year ending Oct. 31, 2007, remains clean in all this? Who fell on the sword for Enron? Which executive was recently released at Merrill Lynch? Not the middle level men, oh no, in real life, we place the proverbial sword right through the man in charge. One, Mr. Bud Selig. Explain to me how he sits idle, while countless 20 to 30 year records aren't just being broken, they are being shattered. How does he not ask the questions that we all should have asked? More importantly, why does he not ask those questions? I'll get straight to it, because he is just as guilty as every one of those athletes, owners, and trainers. When money was to be made, his hand was out, just like everyone elses. Now you have a guy, Alex Rodriguez, who has most likely contributed to Bud being able to make $18.35 million, admitting his wrongs. Selig's response: "I won't rule out adjusting the record books." Well here is what I won't rule out. (1) If this were any other Fortune 500 company, you'd have been fired two years ago. (2) Your response, The Mitchell Report, was the most flawed report money could buy. Nearly entirely based on two former clubhouse trainers, who were for all intents and purposes, drug dealers for two teams, not the 30+ teams you hold court on. (3) Your more guilty, and should lose way more, than any person possible. You walk the streets while your players sit in front of congress, a situation YOU allowed. Keep It Real Bud! Your nothing but a fraud.

When I read that Ken Griffey Jr. and his agent, are in talks with the Seattle Mariners, I couldn't have been more elated. Griffey was never a Red, he was never a White Sox, in my mind, he was always that same kid with the sweetest stroke in the game, lacing home runs at the King Dome. He was the SI cover boy, the athlete everyone wanted to be, he was LeBron, he was Manning, he was Crosby, before LeBron, Manning, and Crosby. Before his days in Cincinnati, Ken Griffey Jr. was the next to supplant Hank Aaron, or Barry Lamar Bonds as the greatest home run hitter in the game. Then he spent the next 9 seasons on the DL, everything that could be injured, got injured. Junior went from a 30-year old slugger with 398 home runs, poised as ever to take Hank's crown, to a guy who would only have one more season where he clubbed 40 home runs and drove in 100+ RBI. You can't absolve Junior from any steroid talk, the era was tainted, so everyone has to bear the brunt of it, but if Ken Griffey was accused, it really would be depressing, for everyone. To finish off his career in Seattle would be a treat for baseball fans everywhere. As if Montana were to make a return to San Francisco after he played in Kansas City. If Favre were to return to Green Bay for one final season. If Michael would have played in Chicago after his time in Washington. On a more personal note, if Pedro Martinez would walk out on that mound at Fenway one more time wearing a "B" on his cap. Ken Griffey reminds us of a time, a time where we were excited about baseball, without the distractions. I would love to see Junior playing for Seattle, just one more time. KEEP IT REAL!

How is Manny Ramirez still unemployed? How has the steroid bug never caught the great ManRam? I'm going to put it out there. He's the greatest true hitter since Pete Rose. His lowest batting average since 1995 happened in 2005, when he hit .292, the same season he clubbed 45 home runs and 144 RBI. Consistency? Let's talk, since his first full season in the league, 1994, Ramirez has had just three seasons which he hit less than 30 homers, a streak that consisted of 9 straight seasons with 100+ RBI, he get's walked nearly 70+ times every season for the last 15 years. How many guys can turn down not one, but two deals which would give him $20 million a year, in this economy? Even while Manny was unhappy in Boston early last season, and openly trying to play his way out of Fenway, he still hit .300, knocked in nearly 70 runs, and parked 20 balls. Insert a hungry Manny into a National League lineup, in nearly half the games (53) that me played in Boston, Manny hit just 3 less homers and hit close to .400 the entire time. My message is to the Dodgers, it's simple: "times up, game is over" Throw the $60 million at him, and let's watch him hit, while he still makes me cringe because of the happenings in Boston, he's as pure as we'll see. KEEP IT REAL!

"This highway is filled with broken heroes, on a last chance power drive" -Bruce Springsteen.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Got A Coach, Now What?

Almost a month has gone by since we last mock drafted the first five picks in this April's NFL Draft. All NFL head coaching vacancies have been filled. The New England Patriots have placed the teams franchise tag on back up quarterback Matt Cassel. A new Super Bowl Champion has been crowned. Oh yea, all underclassmen who want to return to the ranks of college football, have declared one way or the other, including my former expected top pick: Oklahoma QB, Sam Bradford.

With all that has happened, I'm forced to release the second installment of my NFL mock draft, which will include picks 6-10 then picks 1-5, several days earlier that originally expected.

Let's Mock It Up!

10. San Francisco 49ers Brian Orakpo, DE Texas The second best defensive end in the draft, Brian Orakpo is a nasty 6-4, speed rusher, out of the Lone Star State. His 10.5 sacks, in his final season as a Longhorn, would be a welcomed addition to the 13th ranked defense in the league. The 49ers new head coach, Mike Singletary, will put a defense on the field that includes such players as veteran end, Justin Smith and 3rd year sensation Patrick Willis, to which Orakpo would be a welcomed member. Last years first round pick, Kentwan Balmer, will need to produce in 2009 to help this defense take the next step.

9. Green Bay Packers B.J. Raji, NT Boston College One of the major reasons why Boston College was among the nations toughest defenses in 2008 was none other than defensive tackle, B.J. Raji. The Packers finished 2008 with the 20th ranked defense in the league which included allowing just under 24 points and 330 yards per game. The 324 lb. Raji would instantly plug the middle of the Packer defensive line. For a defense which gave up nearly 132 yards rushing per game, and a defense that needs to play against Vikings RB, Adrian Peterson, twice a year, Raji would be a perfect fit. In his final season on Chestnut Hill, Raji recorded seven sacks playing alongside fellow defensive tackle and NFL hopeful, Ron Brace. With Raji in the middle, Packer linebackers, A.J. Hawk and a healthy Nick Barnett would be able to get back to the defense that helped the Packers go 13-3 in 2007 and turn around a woeful defense that receives much of the blame for their 6-10 fall out this past year.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars Michael Oher, OT Ole' Miss I'm as disappointed in the Jaguars as anyone. After finishing 2007 like gangbusters, I was sure they would come back in '08 and move right to the next level of championship contenders . . . WRONG! The reason being was that their offensive line turned into swiss cheese. Their offensive line forced Garrard into bad decisions, they had him playing from his back more than any team in the NFL, and watched their rushing offense go from second in the league in 2007 to eighteenth in the league in 2008. The Ole' Miss tackle is highly touted and at number eight would be a drop off as to where other mock drafts have him going. If he gets past the Raiders expect to the Jaguars to snatch him up. Not to mention that the Jaguars loved him after coaching him at the Senior Bowl.

7. Oakland Raiders Jeremy Maclin, WR Mizzou This is my surprise pick of the '09 NFL Draft. Because this isn't who I think should get drafted at number seven, rather a guess at what will happen at number seven. I could see Jeremy Maclin jumping up on the Al Davis draft board. For starters, he was a game changing wideout at Mizzou. In his final year at Missouri he caught 102 balls for 1,260 yards, he has break away speed, and all the flash that brought Al Davis to select JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden over the past couple seasons. His speed will impress at the combine and while some mock drafts note that Davis hasn't selected a wideout in the first round since 1988, that is precisely the reason he will, it's about that time for something nuts to happen. Only the Cleveland Browns receivers had less receiving yards and no team had less catches (222) than the Oakland Raiders did in 2008. You think this gives Al reason enough to select Maclin? The speedy Maclin was also a exciting return man at Missouri, over two seasons he returned 80 punts and scored five touchdowns for the Tigers, Davis would love his dimensions. Furthermore, the Raider defense wasn't all that bad in 2008, it isn't like Al to do the sensible thing and select an offensive tackle here.

6. Cincinnati Bengals Eugene Monroe, OT Virginia If you want what is left of Carson Palmer, you need to keep him standing upright. I'm of the opinion that scouts will see 'Bama tackle, Andre Smith, as the best tackle in the draft leaving the Bungals (no, I meant Bungals) picking between Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher, and even Baylor's Jason Smith. While Palmer was on the shelf in '08, the Bengals managed the NFL's worst scoring offense, 12.8 points per game, and the leagues 29th ranked rushing offense. This pick needs to be an offensive tackle and Virginia's Eugene Monroe is the best in most books, and the best available right now. The 6-6 quick footed Monroe, will add power to an injury riddled offensive line and hopefully allow them to improve their rush offense and move the scoring in the right direction.

5. Cleveland Browns Aaron Curry, LB Wake Forest Mangini has some pieces to the puzzle on offense already, the defense is what needs fixing, with the Chiefs passing on Curry that leaves the Butkus Award winner right there for the Browns at #5. Like I said a month ago, playing in a division that includes both Baltimore and Pittsburgh, two things are a must: (1) Stop the run and (2) stop the run. Aaron Curry was one of the nation's premier defensive players in 2008, earning top linebacker honors playing in the ACC for the Demon Deacons. Curry is versatile enough to play both inside and outside for the Browns, and he's got tremendous speed and is known to be over aggressive at times, with linebackers such as Ray Lewis and James Harrison playing in the same division, it'd be good for the Browns to match talents. Curry is a hit no matter what way you look at hit.

4. Seattle Seahawks Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech No way the best athlete and best football player in this draft drops past the Seahawks. I'd even go so far as to argue that it'd be criminal if he did. The Seahawks need Crabtree, they need a playmaking wideout who can spread the field and get this offense back on track. They have the quarterback. Have you seen those Matt Hasselbeck commercials for EAS? Either he has some left in the tank or those guys who do the spot should get more credit for making him look good. Crabtree has incredible hands, runs fantastic routes, and can move with the ball after the catch. What more would you want if your Seattle? Yes, Texas Tech threw the ball more than anyone in the continental U.S., but someone still has to make those plays, that someone? Mike Crabtree. The two-time Biletnikoff Award winner is a mortal lock to be an NFL hit, especially when he's got a NFC Champion quarterback throwing him the ball. The only thing you might see is Jim Mora Jr. screw this up, the new head coach isn't as offensive minded as Mike Holmgren was. Three points: (1) Branch wasn't the guy you thought he was, and you should have known that (2) Nate Burelson, is coming off a torn ACL, never the same (3) I've had this pick pegged for a year!

3. Kansas City Chiefs Everette Brown, DE Florida State I think the Chiefs taking the best available defensive lineman is the way they'll go. Pioli heads out and hires a new head coach, former Cardinals offensive coordinator, Todd Haley. He's got Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen in the stable. They are both young, you go out and see what they have. If you need to, go out and sign a veteran to play under center. Drafting Mark Sanchez isn't the way to go, and they know that. Either the Seminole defensive end or the Wake Forest linebacker, Aaron Curry should be the selection here. Either defensive player provides immediate impact and both give youth to an aging defense. If Pete Carroll doesn't think Mark Sanchez is ready, then I don't think Mark Sanchez is ready.

2. St. Louis Rams Andre Smith, OT Alabama Until someone gives me a valid reason as to why the Outland Trophy winner, Andre Smith, isn't the consensus best offensive lineman is this draft, my opinion remains the same as it did a month ago:

"No brainer. We didn't get to see him play in the Sugar Bowl, but come to find out, his absence is what solidifies him being the #2 pick, maybe even the #1. With Smith on the shelf due to a rumored NCAA rules violation, the Crimson Tide and John Parker Wilson gave up the most sacks they had all season, eight. While All-American caliber back, Glen Coffee, had his lowest rushing total of the season, 38 yards, and led a rushing attack that averaged just 0.9 per carry, their fewest of the season. All due respect to the Utah and their undefeated season, but 'Bama was playing without a very, very, special player, and it showed. The team selecting Smith, would be the same team that was smart enough to take Orlando Pace twelve years ago as the #1 overall, Smith would be the heir apparent to Pace, a future hall of famer. The 6'4", 340 lb. offensive tackle is big and physical, like Jake Long in 2008, and Joe Thomas in 2007, Andre Smith is your #1 tackle available in this draft. The move also protects what is left of Marc Bulger and will rejuvenate Stephen Jackson, who is still one of the leagues premier backs." - January 14th

1. Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia The Titans former defensive coordinator over the past eight seasons, Jim Schwartz, is now at the helm in the motor city. Not an ideal situation. If you think Jim Scwartz is going to be Mike Smith or Tony Sparano, he's not. There is no Bill Parcells or Thomas Dimitroff running the show in Detroit. The Lions need a quarterback, the only way they don't draft one with the top pick is if they've maneuvered a deal for Patriot backup, Matt Cassel. Before I tell you why Matt Stafford could work out, you have to know one thing, in no way do I think Matt Stafford is the way to go. They have a bad offensive line, and the only time a rookie quarterback succeeds is when you have people to protect him and somewhat of a rushing attack I.E. Matt Ryan & Joe Flacco. With that said, the Lions need a franchise player, Matt Stafford has that personality, hell, he just played quarterback for the bulldogs in Athens, GA, it doesn't get much bigger than that. He does have more NFL potential than any quarterback in the draft and that probably is all the Lions need to hear. Moves need to be made in Detroit, and if your cornerstone is going to be Matthew Stafford, then you need to be ensure you protect him as your very first priority.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's All In All, Tiring

I'll admit, it has become entirely too easy, to bag on one Alex Rodriguez. It has also come to the point that this man, who could very easily go down as one of the most statistically dominant sluggers of all time, will also go down as one of the most unlikeable. With the newest steroid allegations attached to Alex, the story gets worse. As a Red Sox fan, I don't care if this guy gets ripped by anyone and everyone, but as a sympathetic blogger, we've got to start giving this guy a break or at the very least, attempt to. Since not many share my sentiment, I'll go first.

Texas Rangers owner, Tom Hicks, deserves to shoulder some of this blame. Who else has their name on that contract which made Rodriguez the highest paid athlete in the world? In the off season of 2001, the then free-agent shortstop, formerly of the Seattle Mariners, inked a deal that would give him $252 million dollars over the next ten years. Over the next three seasons, Alex Rodriguez would play in 485 of a possible 486 games, smash 156 homers, and drive in 395 runs. However, to us, because the Rangers were never a serious threat, Rodriguez' time in Arlington, wasn't successful. Yet I ask, really? 52 long balls and 132 runs batted in per year is a failure? The Rangers owner, who needed to have Alex Rodriguez, and made sure to make him an offer he couldn't refuse, gets away clean? It isn't A-Rod's fault that ensuring one player $20 million plus, a player who doesn't pitch and bats on average four times a night, isn't the best way to allocate funds. It isn't A-Rod's fault that he got the best possible deal he could, you tell me that you won't take the promotion when it pays you $20 million a year. I'm positive that Alex driving in 130 runs and smacking 50 homers a season was the most he could do, which is probably better than anyone could have done. But somehow he's the bad guy? A-Rod didn't go crying because the Rangers couldn't get a pitcher worth salt, oh no, that was Tom Hicks who decided to part ways with his $252 million dollar man. So before you rip into A-Rod for being paid like a king, remember his signature is only on the back of the check, there is another on the front.

Okay, Okay, I get it. He should only be paid like that if he can come through 100% of the time, that means in the "clutch." Do you realize what efforts are made to get you in "the clutch?" You have to produce for 162 games of the lengthiest of regular seasons among professional sports. Since we are talking about Alex Rodriguez, this is something he does, no doubt. The three-time MVP is 33 years old and hasn't had a season in which he hit under 35 home runs since his second full season in the major leagues, that was in 1997. Your telling me one of his 553 career home runs in 15 seasons wasn't clutch? Or how about his 1,600 career RBI, all those men on base didn't think A-Rod was clutch when they crossed home plate off the end of his bat? Eleven straight seasons of 100 RBI or more, twelve in his career, but you want more? How about nine seasons finishing with a batting average over .300? So the guy hasn't been as successful in the playoffs, I'm guessing those teams he played for in the regular season weren't as successful, maybe even missed the playoffs, if A-Rod hadn't been so dominant at the dish. But you think because he makes more than everyone else, he should shoulder the bulk of the blame for his teams not coming through in the playoffs. That is irresponsible. How about we leave it at, Alex doesn't handle pressure as well as others, say Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and John Elway. Then again, they define the word clutch and not very many of us are in their league.

What?!? You think Alex is the only professional athlete to cheat on his wife, hang around celebrities, and have some personal demons?
Magic Johnson contracted HIV, Karl Malone has children who he doesn't even speak with, but all A-Rod did was take home a stripper on a road trip, you tell me the difference? I don't condone cheating on your wife, if you have an addiction to strip clubs and their employees, maybe you should refrain from tying the proverbial knot. This guy got caught cheating on the front page of every newspaper in the city of New York, that's not a little unfair? You have to ask yourself, with Michael Phelps smoking a bong, Matt Leinart holding a funnel for co-eds, and Alex Rodriguez taking a stripper home, when do we stop using our journalism skills for tabloid gossip? When the camera phone is in your hand, where is your moral compass? Do you think your mother, sister, wife, or any woman or man in your life would be proud to know that you've become paparazzi? Do you also think you haven't done one of those things when you probably shouldn't have? How would you feel if your personal life was exploited in black and white on every newspaper in the largest city in the world? You probably don't care, all you can see is greenbacks, because these athletes who have physically put more work into their job than you ever will, it doesn't mean anything to you, but rather than doing actual journalistic work, you sell a picture to a tabloid and cash in. Yes, the athlete or celebrity shouldn't be doing what they are doing, but do you think they are the only ones who get hurt by your "work"? You participate in those children being disappointed by what Mike Phelps did at a party, you publicly embarrass A-Rod's wife, again, do you think the only one your screwing over is the athlete? Get a grip, A-Rod is as human as the next guy, he makes mistakes, feels insecure, and goes through divorce, and I pray you go through the same thing someday, give yourself a little perspective.

I've never been a fan of Alex Rodriguez. When he was in Seattle, I cheered for Junior. When he signed with Texas, he was in the annex as far as I'm concerned. When it looked like he'd be playing third and batting fourth for the BoSox, I couldn't have been more excited. Then he ended up in New York, and naturally I disliked him a little more. All that said, he adds something to the rivalry that is the greatest rivalry in professional sports, he gives us a superstar that is unlikeable. He scares you every time he gets up to the plate with runners on or off the base paths. But we've got to stop with this guy or at least tone it down, he didn't sleep with your wife, he hasn't said a word about his former manager who has seemed to want to throw his legacy away, and if he has taken steroids, tell me a home run hitter your 100% confident that they didn't. I'll never cheer for A-Rod, I just couldn't do that contractually, (loyalty lies in Fenway) but why does this guy have to endure all this while he goes through a divorce, fights allegations, listens to a former manager bash him, and constantly be compared to the player playing 10 feet next to him? The whole smash Alex routine is just tiring. MOVE ALONG!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Keep It Real! BAM!

I can't even lie, this is the week of the non-story. The NFL season has ended, because I don't count the Pro Bowl as even existing. I've already released my thoughts on the Lakers and Celtics, so aside from good entertainment, last nights game means very little. I refuse to comment on the fact that Manny Ramirez has yet to accept one of the Dodgers offers, both which would have paid in excess of $20 million dollars over the next 365 days, when the economic climate in America couldn't be worse. Wait, did I say I wouldn't comment? Scratch that, let's KEEP IT REAL!

Olympic Champion, Michael Phelps, got caught with his face in a bong. He apologized. That is where the story should end folks. He is a 23-year old guy, who in the span of months, became a global icon. If the only thing Michael Phelps is doing is smoking weed, then we should give him another medal. He isn't in a porn video, he isn't smoking crack, or injecting himself with heroin, he's smoking weed. Sure, maybe it isn't the best thing to portray to your fans, millions who are children, but maybe as journalists you could give this guy a break, if not for Michael Phelps, your writing stories about how terribly boring the Olympics are this past summer. Furthermore, for the countless who are claiming that they are disappointed in Phelps as a role model, why don't you teach your children about what a man does when he makes wrong decisions, because when it comes to that, Michael Phelps IS a role model. The sponsors know Michael can still sell sand in the desert and trees in the forest. You can still teach your children about the work ethic it took Michael Phelps to achieve his gold medals, you can still teach your children about the sacrifices in his personal life Michael Phelps had to take, and you can still teach your children that you can do or be anything you want, using Phelps as an example. For someone who seemed so inhuman to us while he was smashing Olympic records and racking up medals, this past week he became like the rest of us, human. In my mind, that makes him more of a role model than he ever was. KEEP IT REAL!

National Collegiate Signing Day. This has to be the biggest non-story every year. I'm not going to point how morally wrong it is, how much it takes away from the point of both high school and college, and how utterly overblown it has become, no, I'll stay away from that. What I won't stay away from is how meaningless it really is. The same schools are in the top ten of recruiting classes every year, Texas, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, LSU, and Notre Dame. You'll never see BYU, Boston College, or Middle Tennessee State boasting a top ten recruiting class. Why is this an important point? Because if you want National Collegiate Signing Day to be important, it has to be important to more than just seven or eight selected programs and groups of fans. This isn't the NFL or NBA draft, these athletes won't make significant impacts (except for a select few) until they are at least two years into school. Why do we love the drafts? Because we see them play a major role or at the very least, somewhat of a role in the near future. The final judgement on these "signing classes" is reserved till four years from now, upon their graduation and subsequent declaration toward the NFL. In December 2009, I can guarantee not one of these young men who signed on the dotted line this week, will be in New York looking to hoist the Heisman Trophy. Let's talk about the most heralded recent high school recruit, Notre Dame's current starting quarterback, Jimmy Clausen. For all intents and purposes, Jimmy Clausen has done very little at South Bend, and you could make the argument he needed a year or two to watch a starter perform in the role he is now in. When you throw any of these kids directly into the fire, it usually turns out bad. May I also remind you that these recruits, generally aren't used to being on the field with 11 opposing players and 10 on their own squad that perform at the level they do. When they were dominating on Friday nights in October, they were the only ones who could do what they do. Fast forward to playing on Saturday afternoons, on the national stage in front of 100,000+ are you going to guarantee they DON'T fold? Keep It Real, you'd be better served playing craps.

A judge opens up sealed grand jury testimony against Barry Bonds. The country is in the worst economic time of the past 30 years and somehow this deserves some play from the media? The taxpayers are already bailing out anyone and everyone with their hand out, you think they want to pay to put Mr. Bonds in the federal penitentiary system for the next ten years? This isn't like a few years back when we could afford to see Martha Stewart bake cakes over a jailhouse furnace. Right now we are already paying for O.J. Simpson to be in jail for stealing his own things, Michael Vick because he brutalized and murdered dogs, (yes, not humans, dogs) in 10 states over 6 years, and at some point in the near future you can sure as sh*t expect to see Pacman Jones doing the perp walk for any one of six or seven possible felonies. Somehow the public and the media STILL want to see Barry Lamar Bonds wearing sideways pinstripes. As a country, in this economic climate, if we really want to put harmless men in prison and pay for their three square meals, how about we focus our efforts on the finance guys who got us in this mess? At least then, we can have a little bit of satisfaction that someone besides us is paying for the crimes of financial turncoats. That's a trial I want to watch, that's the jury of peers I want to be on. KEEP IT REAL!

I don't know if you know, but the world's most popular soccer player (actually, he is just most popular in America and England) David Beckham, is leaving the United States and the MLS. So are we done with this experiment yet? Are we done with calling soccer the next best thing in American athletics? Are we done pretending that this country will ever care about soccer when we have the NFL? The only reason we cared that he was coming to America, was because he's married to a former pop star and this is America, we love pop stars as much as we love cheeseburgers. The L.A. Galaxy of the MLS forked over a few million dollars to get David Beckham, England's most famous athlete, and slam him down on the West Coast. We cared more about what he and his wife wore on the red carpet than what he did on the soccer pitch. He has David Beckham cologne, which I guarantee sells better in American than it would in any other country. This move wasn't to get the youth of America to continue to play soccer, or to build the MLS' popularity in The States, it was done for pure greenbacks, it's about time soccer enthusiasts realize that. David Beckham will move his family from sunny Hollywood and put them down in Milan, Italy and it is a better fit for them. I've never met "Becks" and I'm sure I never will, but I have just one lasting sentiment for everyone who hoped he'd put a pulse in the MLS: This is America, The United States of America, we fill football stadiums to the brim on Sundays, we put billions of people in front of the television to watch Super Bowl Sunday, we are the country that has produced "Broadway" Joe Namath, the Pittsburgh Steel Curtain, America's Team, and Peyton 'friggin Manning. In this country, there is the NFL and then everything else. KEEP IT REAL!

That's Keep It Real Friday for February 6, 2009. If you didn't know, now you know.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Three Dogs In This Fight

No, Michael Vick has nothing to do with this column. This is purely about the National Basketball Association, and what we're going to see come the 2009 NBA Playoffs. Sure, the Magic, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, and Hornets are interesting, but come on. Spade a spade my friends, the trio in Boston, Mo Williams and a guy named LeBron in Cleveland, and of course the new king of Madison Square, Kobe Bryant, along with his Lakers, are the only real contenders. You can take that to the bank and cash it.

I take great pleasure in introducing. . Rajon Rondo and the Defending Champs. You don't have to search far when looking to why the Celts are first to 40 wins, currently in the midst of an 12-game win streak, and show no signs of slowing down. Through 50 games, third-year guard, Rajon Rondo, is averaging three more assists per game than he was a year ago. That isn't just it, Rondo is scoring more points, creating more assists, grabbing more rebounds, and shooting a better percentage from the field. Some of Rondo's best games have come against the leagues elite guards. 15 assists against Chicago's super rookie, Derrick Rose. 25 points against Jazz guard Deron Williams, 17 assists and 16 points against Indiana guard T.J. Ford, and my favorite, 14 assists and 13 points against Maverick guard Jason Kidd. With Rondo's shot improving each day, the Celtics are becoming more dangerous than we could have ever imagined. Forget the two All-Stars, Garnett (17 ppg, 9 rpg) and Pierce (19 ppg), between Rondo and fellow All-Star snub, Ray Allen, the Celtics are off to one of the best starts in team history. Allen is shooting .497 from the field, good for tops among NBA shooting guards and shooting .411 from behind the arc, good for 9th among shooting guards. After their dismantling of both Detroit and Orlando over the past week, the Celtics are leaving no questions as to if their 2-7 record over 9 games in early January was just a fluke. Garnett, Pierce, and Allen are being Garnett, Pierce, and Allen, and with the play of Rondo this season, the Celtics could be more dangerous than they were headed into last years playoffs.

No need to go over LeBron's mind numbing stats, he scores at will, can grab any board, and plays phenomenal defense. However, since LeBron entered the league at the start of the 2003 season, we've said one thing and one thing only: He needs his Scottie, or at least someone else. In just his sixth season, he may finally have that piece of the puzzle. He comes in the form of All-Star snub and 5th year point guard, Mo Williams. Williams is averaging 17 points a night and 4 assists while his running mate, LeBron, is putting down 27 a night with 7 assists. Williams and King James have the Cavs off to a 38-9 start including a 23-0 home record in Cleveland. Last week in Sacramento, Williams went for 43 points and a couples assists while shooting 13 of 18 from the field, and LeBron put in 20 while racking up 11 assists. Gone are the days where LeBron has to go for 38 in order to eek the Cavaliers out a win. In 47 games, point guard, Mo Williams, has gone for 20+ points seventeen times. 12 times, Williams has dished out six or more assists. More importantly, in their January match up with the defending champion Celtics, Williams helped hold Rajon Rondo to 5 points in 36 minutes. LeBron will also be able to get rest throughout the regular season knowing that Williams can be a second option in close games and allow him to gear up for the playoffs. Finally, the Cavaliers have placed a viable option next to Lebron, scary, considering he brought the Cavs to the finals on his own just a few years ago.

Kobe scoring 100 points a night for the next ten nights still won't erase the fact that the Lakers could be without breakout center, Andrew Bynum, for the remainder of 2009. Since January 1st the Lakers are 13-4. Prior to January 1st, Andrew Bynum hadn't scored more than 19 points in any game this season, in January, he went for 20 or more 6 times and the Lakers were 5-1 in those games. In the five games before the injury to his knee, Bynum had 11+ rebounds in each of the five games. Just a week ago against Tim Duncan and the Spurs, Bynum's 15 points and 11 rebounds helped propel the Lakers to a 14-point victory. You watched L.A. reach the NBA Finals without Bynum in 2008, and you watched the Boston Celtics out tough them inside throughout the entire series, Bynum was supposed to be that band-aid and he's been turning it on all season. All that aside, if the goal was to get into the playoffs, be the number one seed, and work your way through the Western Conference, then the Lakers are more poised to do so than anyone else. With Bynum out, the Lakers will lean more on Lamar Odom, Vladimir Radmanovic, and yes, even Chris Mihm. Not many teams can look to the bench and have a 6-10 veteran who is averaging 10 points and 7 boards a game, the Lakers do that with Odom. Furthermore, the play of Trevor Ariza, (nine points, five boards), gives the Lakers second team a scoring threat, seventeen points off the bench against San Antonio most recently. While Kobe's 61-point effort in New York speaks volumes about what he is determined to do, I'm more concerned that the Lakers gave up 117 points to the Knicks and 66 points coming from big men Al Harrington, David Lee, and Wilson Chandler, seems like someone isn't as used to life without Bynum as we thought.

The Magic recently suffering a huge blow with the injury of Jameer Nelson, and the Hornets uncertainty around the health of Chris Paul. I'm trying not to jinx myself by telling you the Spurs look too old, but between the Lakers, Celtics, and Cavs, this is a three-way dog fight. LET'S GET IT ON!