Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wrong Long Goes Number One To Dolphins

It was announced today that former Michigan Offensive Tackle, Jake Long, will be the first pick by the Miami Dolphins in Saturday’s NFL Draft. The Dolphins negotiated a deal with Long that will make him the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL, the deal is worth $57.75 million over five years. Even though Bill Parcells has been hired to oversee the resurrection of the struggling franchise, I could not disagree with drafting Jake Long as the top pick more.

Like most teams during a year where there is not a consensus number one pick, I am sure that the Dolphins’ first choice would have been to move back in the draft and exchange it for multiple picks later on. Since there is no number one pick-worthy quarterback or running back this year, which are generally the two reasons why franchises or positions prompt a trade up for the very top pick in some drafts, no one has to have it this year it seems.

If I were the Dolphins, I would have taken Chris Long. Depending on where Long is drafted, he will end up playing defensive end most likely, but could also move to linebacker depending on the scheme of the defensive coach he ends up with after Saturday’s draft. The Dolphins missed an opportunity to do something really special here, could you imagine Jason Taylor and Chris Long, chasing the quarterback every Sunday? The amount of pressure that would put on the passer, once Long inevitably cements himself as a solid defender in the league, would constantly result in big days for Miami’s secondary, especially in the INT column. Having one defensive end that is dominate on your team, can greatly favor your team on Sundays in today’s league, more than the majority of positions I’d say. I cite the New York Giants having two of the most dominate defensive ends in the league (Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora) as the biggest reason as to why they were able to win the Super Bowl this year. Also, Taylor has contemplated retirement at times as of recently, he will be thirty-four years of age around the beginning of next season, and he did not seem to make Dolphins’ management to happy when he announced he would be doing Dancing With The Stars this year, so he could be on his way out soon? It just does not make sense why the team would miss the chance to dominate at a certain position, in order to fill one of obviously many other needs, much less, with such a huge chance of not being solid in a couple of years if something happens to Taylor?

Even if Chris Long did not have such an amazing upside and the potential to be dominate, or was not even in this draft if the Dolphins just do not think he is right for them, I think that they could use a lot of help at so many other positions rather than use the top overall pick on an offensive lineman. While I am not sold on former Boston College quarterback, Matt Ryan, the Dolphins could really use a quarterback and he is the consensus top player at that position in this year’s thin draft as far as that position goes. I think that it is irresponsible to use the top pick on an offensive lineman, especially when you are drafting the position in order to make your team better, Jake Long is being brought in ostensibly to make sure that no one harms the quarterback or disrupts play at that position, but if you do not have a quarterback who can play anyways, what does it matter and what good will it do? Absolutely none.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Possibly Bonds’ Final Homer Ball Sells For $376,612

James Sutton, a 24-year-old who caught what may be Barry Bonds' final home run in Major League Baseball last year, sold for $376,612 through SCP Auctions this week. Sutton caught home run number 762 during a game where Bonds took the Rockies deep at Coors Field. The sale of the ball was somewhat disappointing in comparison to the record-breaking ball (no. 756) that ended up going for $752,467.

Sutton said he would use some of the money to help pay for the medical expenses of his stepfather, David Arguijo, who had lung cancer. Unfortunately, Arguijo died Wednesday. Sutton said through a press release, "I am happy with my decision to sell the [762nd] ball and wish the new owner the best. I'm especially proud to help my family pay some of the medical costs due to my father's illness."

While everything that has surrounded Bonds throughout most of his career has been somewhat negative, whether that is fairly or unfairly, it is nice to see that something related to him do so much good. I think that is pretty neat that something as small and “meaningless” in the sense of the world, not the game or sport, like a baseball, can have such an effect on someone else’s life or multiple lives even. Unfortunately, Sutton’s stepfather died, but it is pretty amazing that he wanted to sell the ball to help out with the medical expenses of a loved one. While he lost his stepfather and that is sad, the silver lining is that he will be able to help support his mother at least financially because of a baseball through such a turbulent time.

New Yankees Stadium Cursed?

This week it was reported that a Boston Red Sox jersey happened to find its way into the concrete foundation under the Yankees clubhouse at the new stadium that is scheduled to open in 2009. It had been placed in the concrete by one of the construction workers who happens to be a Red Sox fan. He was hoping that it would jinx the rival Yankees and prevent them from winning future World Series Titles.

The Yankees denied the report and said that it was likely a made up story because of the history of “curses” and such. However, today the jersey was excavated from the site. Yankees co-chairperson, Hank Steinbrenner, had this to say about the worker, “I hope his co-workers kick the [expletive] out of him.”

Even though the Yankees removed the jersey, I think the first time that something goes wrong, and remember they play in New York so something is always wrong according to the organization, fans, and media, the jersey will be talked about as a curse. Even though it was removed from the site, it was once a part of the stadium, so I do not know that a “curse” or something like that ever actually goes away. Remember, the Cubs brought a goat to their stadium as a way to set their “curse” straight, and they have yet to win a World Series, so I do not know if something like that can ever really be reversed? I find it somewhat appropriate that the former Red Sox curse centered around a larger and power-hitting player, Babe Ruth, and the jersey that was buried at the new stadium had Boston’s David Ortiz on it, who is also a larger guy who is known specifically for his power-hitting. So as we have seen the “Curse of the Bambino” end, could we be seeing the start of the “Curse of Big Papi” for the next 86 years or so?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Who Will Win NBA Coach Of The Year?

As the NBA regular season comes to an end, we are only a few weeks away from finding out who will win the various awards based on the past regular season. While there is no question that the MVP race is as tight as the race for the Western Conference’s top seed in the playoffs, the NBA Coach Of The Year may be the closest race as far as all the awards are concerned.

The two major candidates are the Boston Celtics’ Doc Rivers and the New Orleans Hornets’ Byron Scott. Both have done exemplary jobs this year respectively and both teams should have a lot of confidence when it comes to what they believe their capable of in the playoffs. I personally do not think that the race should be as close as it is, because it is somewhat of an apples to oranges situation.

Rivers’ team will finish with the top overall record in the NBA this year and as the only team to win more than 60 games. His team is as close a thing as there is to a dominant team in the pretty much wide-open Eastern Conference as well. However, he is lucky enough to coach in the inferior conference in comparison to the West, so that has to amount for at least a percentage of this season’s success. Also, he is coaching two almost sure first ballot Hall of Fame players in Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell when they retire, and probably two additional Hall of Famers in Ray Allen and Paul Pierce one day. Let’s not forget, this time last year a lot of people thought that Rivers was going to get canned, while you cannot fully blame him for last year’s poor season, and he probably did not have a lot of help as far as player personnel is concerned, he probably would not have the success or even half of what he is having without the additions of just Garnett and Allen during the offseason, not to mention any of their other additions during this season. If it were not for Scott and this was another year, I would give Rivers the award for just having the best overall record because usually that makes the candidate a shoe-in, but I will not give it to him in a year where Scott has done a lot with a lot less, and with a team that just about anyone could coach to a top playoff spot with this personnel.

Scott would have to the be pick if you look at everything but the overall best record in the league. First of all, his team plays in the extremely difficult Western Conference, even more impressive is their record in a year where the conference is the tightest that it has been in the past decade where it has dominated the Eastern Conference. While his team will not finish as the best overall in the NBA, his team could still finish as the best team in the Western Conference which would be very impressive. Also, Scott’s team is playing with significantly less talent and experience than the Boston Celtics. Boston’s best player (Garnett) is like I said, most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer when he is finished with the game, the Hornets’ best player (Chris Paul) is in his third season in the NBA. In terms of talent it is not even close. The fact that Scott has done more with less, or done about as much if not right under what Rivers has been able to do this year, should mean that he separates himself from Rivers in this Clinton and Obama like race as far as closeness is concerned and ultimately wins NBA Coach Of The Year this season.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Vick's Longest Yard

This week a report came out that Michael Vick has been playing football while doing his time in prison. Then the prison that he is serving time at issued a statement that said that Vick missed most of the prison football season and therefore had not been playing. They said that he possibly could be throwing the football around with other inmates though.

I was just thinking, If I were Vick, I would not want to be playing football while in prison. Think about it, while he is definitely not enjoying the life of a sports celebrity or NFL Quarterback at the moment, he is surrounded by other shady characters. While Vick dominated the competition of the NFL with his legs, there were rules, even though other defensive players were trying to take him out and hit him with cheap shots and attempting to injure him at times, he is now surrounded by people who do not have much to live for, and obviously got to jail by not following the “rules” of life to begin with, so I doubt they are overly interested in following the rules of prison flag football. I would think Vick would have a target on his back if he were playing in such games, some inmates probably thinking the coolest or biggest thing they could tell others about is how they knocked Vick out or something. So if I’m Vick, I would stay away from the prison football field, if I were committed to starting to finally make good decisions at this point in life.

I can’t help but to think of Vick in Burt Reynolds’ role in the 1974 classic, The Longest Yard. Trying to lead his team as the quarterback of the inmates against the corrupt guards. I doubt that playing prison ball will make his eventual attempt of getting back into the NFL any easier, but if the inmates land ex-Bengals receiver Chris Henry after he inevitably gets some jail time in the next year, they should be able to take the guards with such a spectacular passing combination in the “annual” game.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Animal To Feud With HBK

After watching tonight’s Smackdown, it has become apparent that Batista is entering a feud with Shawn Michaels. The feud should make for an interesting match-up because of the two dynamic personalities and differences in wrestling style, Batista’s powerful style meeting Michaels’ overall up-tempo style. Although I admit I’d be anticipating this a lot more had it been during Michaels’ heyday because of his reputation of taking down giants and having the best matches of his career with larger guys like Batista none the less, I still find this a compelling match-up.

However, I find the reason for the feud to be pretty lame. The confrontation basically was about Michaels “retiring” Ric Flair at Wrestlemania. Batista basically said that Michaels should have “thrown” the match, so Flair could remain on television and continue to wrestle. Flair, who has been working the gimmick where he would be forced to retire the next time that his shoulders were pinned to the mat for the last several months lost at Michaels’ hands, or better yet feet due to “Sweet Chin Music” at Wrestlemania. I do not want to say that the WWE has run out of storylines, especially after devoting almost an entire year to a storyline that saw Vince McMahon fathering a leprechaun out of wedlock, but for a storyline between two of the best wrestlers in the game right now to revolve around why somebody did not lay down, I find it ridiculous.

I just think it is a bad idea for numerous reasons. First of all, like any athletic competition, the name of the game is winning, so that really doesn’t make any sense as to why someone should throw a match to begin with. Second of all, I think it continues to water down the character of Batista. The very same Batista that feuded with Ric Flair and Triple H, after they turned on him during the later days of the “Evolution” gimmick. I hate it when storylines or past histories of feuds are supposed to be forgotten or are no longer acknowledged, the lack of consistency in today’s product waters it down a lot and makes it unwatchable at points. The third reason, is I can only imagine how poorly a job will be done with Shawn Michaels heel or face status during this. Since Michaels’ permanent return to in-ring action over the past few years, he has played a “face” for the most part, but every few months the company decides to turn him heel for a month randomly and without little explanation as to why. Then the next thing you know, he’ll be back to being a “good” guy right after whatever pay-per-view. I’m just hoping that the WWE capitalizes on what could be a pretty good rivalry if they put some thought and substance into it, which they have struggled with over the past couple of years. Speaking of not acknowledging past storylines, I love that this very same show or episode wrapped with Kane and Undertaker teaming up! I will not even get started with that.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bryant, Garnett, or Someone Else For MVP?

With the NBA Playoffs quickly approaching, within a matter of weeks we should find out who the MVP is for the 2008 season? Some of the names being kicked around are Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Lebron James, Chris Paul, and Tim Duncan. However, while those are the major candidates this year, I think that only Bryant, Garnett, and Paul will finish in the top three in the votes. James is still young, and plays on a team that is still pretty inconsistent, and is seen as a one-man team who can exit the playoffs in any given series, in a lackluster conference like the East. Duncan is probably one of the most dominant big guys of all-time, but within the last couple of decades, the great big men of the league never do well in MVP-voting most years, and while picking Duncan and his Spurs are the smartest bet most years, he does not get the attention he deserves because he has a low profile type of personality. But who really deserves the Maurice Podoloff Trophy this year from the actual candidates who will get real consideration?

To begin with, the idea of selecting a league-wide MVP, is to acknowledge who is the most dominant player in that sport, or if you were running a team and could pick the one player you want on your team, you would pick this guy. While I do not think that the actual voting goes like that most years, if it did, Kobe Bryant probably should have been the MVP every year since 2000. This year is no exception. Bryant is the best player in the league every year, he plays amazing offense, and perhaps what is even more special, he matches that effort on the defensive side of the ball. Lots of players like Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter can put the ball in the hole, but get lazy on the opposite side, leaving them incomplete players, much less non-MVP’s.

This year Bryant should have his team in the hunt for the top seed in the West up until the final days of the season. When selecting an MVP, it is important to remember or consider what that player means to his team? With Bryant, the Lakers are one of the best teams in the league, if they didn’t have him, they would probably be one of the bottom five teams in the West. While a good amount of teams have another guy who could carry the team to a pretty good record, like if Tim Duncan went down, Tony Parker would keep the Spurs pretty competitive and still have a chance to get his team to June, when if Bryant were to go down, his team would exit in the first round most likely. He has become a better teammate this year too, no longer showing a great amount of reluctance to move the ball around. What is even more, is he still has an injured finger on his shooting hand but yet has still been able to play some of the best basketball of his already stellar career this season. Bryant does it all, he is even getting a long with one time nemesis, Phil Jackson. Bryant has many thinking that a fourth NBA Title under his tenure in L.A., is well within reach either this season or in the next few seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers. But seriously, Bryant is one of the most dominant players in the history of basketball, and all sports, and the fact that he does not win every year makes the award lose credibility I feel, but this year if the award means anything, it has to go to Bryant.

The other major player in the MVP-vote, is Kevin Garnett. The Celtics will enter the playoffs as the best team in the East, and some consider them the best team in all of the league, not just their conference. There is no question that Garnett gives his all every given night and I really appreciate that, because other “top” players slack on certain nights. While I have always found him overrated because of his record with the Timberwolves and being the franchise guy in that city, and overall, having such a poor playoff record, I have never seen him as the guy who would put the dagger in the hearts of opposing teams in the last two minutes of a pivotal game. He posts solid numbers, but almost never hits that big shot at the very end of the game. That is what an MVP does, they make you pay, they hurt you, they scare you when drawing up those last few plays at the end of a close game during timeouts. Garnett’s numbers have and will always be there. He too, is a good offensive player, and even better defender. But Garnett plays on the Celtics, he plays on a team with two other number one guys, and in the East. The Celtics would be a very good team without Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have gotten their formerly Garnett-less teams to the playoffs before single-handedly in past years. If Garnett were to go down, no they probably wouldn’t be a title favorite, but possibly because their only legitimate competition is probably the Detroit Pistons they could still possibly be a favorite in a weak Eastern Conference. Not to take anything away from Garnett, but he is most likely the sentimental favorite because he plays on a team with two other number one players, which is so rare to have two number one guys, much less three, but plays in a city that has possibly been home to more great basketball players at some time in their respective careers than any other NBA franchise in history. But there is no way that most people, experts, and NBA executives, would rather have Garnett than Bryant, when it comes to every criteria other than being a lovable person and great all around teammate, Bryant is pretty superior in any other match-up with Garnett.

While I would love to see Chris Paul win the award, it is simply not going to happen this year. He has a chance based on what I have seen from him to win the award or possible multiple awards during what is sure to be a very good rest of his career, but he is still very young. This is his only his third season in the league, the MVP-voting is usually pretty unkind to anyone who is not more than five seasons in. What I find particularly impressive is the fact that he has taken a team with no other major superstars, who has finished at just below .500 during his two previous seasons with the team, and out of nowhere has had them at the top of what is the most competitive and difficult that the Western Conference has ever been. Like I already mentioned, one of the main criteria for determining the legitimacy of an MVP, is if that player were not on his team, how good would the team still be without the player in question? If you take Paul from the Hornets, they would be hard-pressed to win 25 games I would say, so that is where he makes his strongest argument for the award. Unfortunately, it is hard to vote someone the best player in the league, when it is difficult to vote him the best player at his position. He is an excellent point guard, but in no-way, can even begin to stack up with Steve Nash or Tony Parker at his own position, so he will not get those votes when it comes time to have that discussion in the coming weeks.

Kobe Bryant may not get the Larry O’ Brien Trophy come June of this particular year, but he should be a shoe-in for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy come May. I am still shocked that the guy has helped win three titles in Los Angeles and has yet to actually win an MVP through dominating just about every great player in the league over the last eight years on every night of the season and playoffs. It makes me wonder though, since Bryant has been this great and has won multiple titles and is just under 30, and if he retired today he would be one of the all-time greats regardless of a short career in that scenario, what does he have to do to win an MVP? As great as Bryant is, I do not think that he will ever be able to play at an even higher level than he already does, so if he does not get the award this year, it may never come?