We have established that the Padres are the front runners for the worst team in the NL West, but I could be wrong. I have been
before, just ask my girlfriend. However, assuming I am right we must look into where the other teams in the division fall into place…
With the Dodgers ability to potentially re-sign Manny and their impressive post-season play last year, I cannot fathom power ranking them 4th. Many would naturally expect the San Francisco Giants to assume this poll position, however I am optimistic for this ball club to make improvements from 2008. I believe the team that deserves to occupy the 4th place power rank in the West is a team that will not be celebrating Holidays this year…wait, I mean Holliday.
Lets take a team that finished at .500 from last year and see what happened to them in the off-season. They lost blue-chip sensation, Matt Holliday in a trade to give them financial wiggle room as well as speedster Willy Tavaras and closer Brian Fuentes to free agency. Bummer. What did the Rockies recover from these losses? Some money and Huston Street, the young closer from Oakland. I like Street’s potential, however, the Rockies already have a useable closer in Manny Corpas so I can’t help but feel that they put their eggs in the wrong basket when trading away Holliday. Why didn’t they go for a marquis pitcher to aide their stomach churning rotation? Speaking of which…
The Rockies arms have to be amongst the bottom 7 in the MLB. I suppose they consider their ace Aaron Cook who had a good first half of last year, but proceeded to play like a skunk for the rest of the season. The rotation is followed by Jeff Francis and Franklin Morales who both battle injuries of sorts and neither may play this season. Ubaldo Jimenez could help the team out if he strays from his 100+ walks from last year and newcomer Jason Marquis may become something good, but has a lot to prove getting his first chance as a starting pitcher. For a team that plays 80-some-odd games in a stadium notorious for it’s home run hitting ease, this rotation has to be scaring the pants off everyone in Colorado.
Aside from Garret Atkins being a totally overrated bust, the Rockies don’t look too shabby in the field. There is power behind (SS) Troy Tulowitzki and (RF) Brad Hawpe and breakout potential behind (C) Chris Iannetta. The rest of the filed doesn’t necessarily dazzle or disappoint. If and when Todd Helton realizes that he is going to be 36 years old this season Colorado may start to dip in offensive production.
Plain and simply, you can get away with crappy pitching if you have a line-up like the Yankees but you can’t if you’re the Rockies. They have lost speed and power and are getting older at the corners. They will put up a fight within the middle of the pack of the NL West, but when the season is over you will see them in the 75 wins range…and occupying 4th place in their division.
And THAT’s what the StatDragon is breathing fire about!
With the 2009 NFL Combine getting ready to kick off this weekend, hundreds of players are currently in Indianapolis getting prepared to jump high, run fast, and throw hard.
Scouts for all 32 NFL teams will be intently watching to see which prospects showcase their talents the best, and which fall flat and disappoint.
The NFL combine is the start of a long journey for these young men. Players across the country gather to dazzle NFL teams and to boost their draft status. Post combine, some players are heralded as improving their stock; others are deemed to be the combine goats.
Regardless of who runs the fastest or jumps the highest, it should be said up front–do not fall in love with the measurables.
Sure, it’s easy to do. A running back projected to go in the third round runs a 4.3 forty yard dash and showcases unique agility and an ability to catch the football.
Ofter, these players will be regarded as “great athletes” by Todd McShay, Mel Kiper, and many other pundits.
That’s not to say that the combine cannot showcase an otherwise unknown talent for the entire league to see. Players come in and have great success in the league despite limited opportunities in college and great combine and pro day workouts.
But I keep thinking back to the 2005 draft. All the talk was about which running back would go off the board first–Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, or Ronnie Brown.
Brown went to the combine and ripped it up. Ran a great time, excelled in the drills, and looked to have an unique combination of speed and power. Brown improved his draft status, and was selected as the second overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins.
Now, Brown is a solid back in the league. Solid. I wouldn’t say great by any stretch. He shares time with Ricky Williams, which is fine, as this is a popular trend in the league.
With that said, Brown has never had more than ten rushing touchdowns in his pro career. He gained 1,000+ yards just once. And while his average per carry is solid, he’s not an every down back. Per year, he carries the ball about 220 times every year.
As a comparison, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings carried the ball 368 times in 2008 for almost 1,800 yards. Peterson also shared a bit of time with Chester Taylor in the backfield. And though he had more success and a stronger body of work in college, Peterson was drafted seventh overall.
So buyer beware. If I were advising an NFL team, I would tell them that the measurables are great, but use it as a guide on draft day. Don’t live and die by the numbers these players amass as they work out in shorts and sneakers at the combine this weekend.
There is only one American driver who went across the Atlantic to beat the Europeans at what they perceive to be their game – Phil Hill. Although Mario Andretti is American by the most practical interpretation of the label, he was born in Italy so he doesn’t really count. The last American driver, Scott Speed, was dropped by Toro Rosso after 1.5 seasons in the cockpit, now finding marginal success in NASCAR. And before him…? An overweight and overhyped Michael Andretti, who seemed to DNF more races that I could bother to remember.
And when it comes to the constructor / supplier end of things, Ford had good success with their program but it really wasn’t Ford considering it was Cosworth Engineering who was buildng all the engines. And Goodyear was a single supplier of tires to F1 for many years, but bowed out in 1998.
So you can say the red, white and blue hasn’t seen much return-on-investment when it comes to Formula 1 racing.
Over the last few weeks, there has been quite a bit of hype around USF1. Supposedly, the new team will unveil itself for the 2010 season, headquarted in (gasp!) Charlotte, North Carolina, with an operational base somewhere in Spain. All fine and dandy, I suppose, but I have some questions for the two gentlemen who are putting together this team:
– Where are you going to find the money to foot the hundreds of millions of dollars required to run a competitive team? With the global economy in shambles, current F1 sponsors not reupping their contract after 2009 and motorsports in a state of crisis, where will the $$ come from?
– There are reports that Danica Patrick is a contender for one of the drivers’ seats. Danica Patrick? Excuse me? She was competitive in the former Champ Car Atlantic Series, but hasn’t done much in the Indy Car series. For her to be a high-midpack driver in a spec series doesn’t say a whole lot about her potential in the highest (and toughest) form of motorsport in the world. And her only victory to date was at Motegi, a circle jerk track owned by Indy Car series engine supplier Honda (which, ironically, has dropped out of F1). Formula 1 is on courses where there are both left AND right turns… and they brake, accelerate and shift all day long. If you want to see how sad some of these Indy Car drivers are, just watch some of the road / street course races this year.
– Do we even need an American Formula 1 team? Americans are preoccupied with NASCAR and even that’s dropping in the ratings as we speak. The Indy 500 isn’t what it used to be. Open wheel racing in America as whole isn’t what it used to be. ALMS doesn’t seem to be in particularly good health. So why bring yet another distraction for motorsports fans? Sure, I’d love to see the F1 circus come back to America, but the existence of an American F1 team isn’t going to elevate my enthusiasm for it whatsoever.
– Aside from Danica – who said she doesn’t want to be on the other side of the pond to race – what other talent do we have that could fill these drivers’ seats? Certainly no American drivers pop into my mind… save for Marco Andretti. He certainly has the pedigree and the youth to develop into one hell of a driver, but I think it’s an awful lot to risk to put in a driver without the required European open wheel experience. And why do they have to be American drivers anyways? There are plenty of drivers from the GP2 feeder series that could do quite well.
So I’m still confused as to why USF1 even needs to exist. Or what their mission / plan is. The coming weeks will hopefully answer these questions.
The magic number is 41.
And I’m not referring to Hall of Famer Tom Seaver who sported the number on his jersey. This is how many days are left until the first pitch will be thrown out across America and every baseball fan across our great nation will rejoice in the commencement of a new season.
For me, a new season is synonymous with a new year. A time for new goals and resolutions. A time in which anything is defined as ‘possible.’ Even the most lackluster teams from the previous year stand a chance as different acquisitions throughout the off-season have been made, injuries have been treated and the proverbial ‘slate’ has been wiped clean. On the contrary, the biggest threats from previous seasons have to enter on a new stage in an effort to remain the force that they have been in seasons past and reprove themselves again.
Although the race is addictive to watch in all divisions I am particularly interested to see what will transpire in the NL West this season. The West presents a more opened door for the division than it has in years past and there is clearly no forerunner or favorite as there are in other divisions.
The universal fight over Manny Ramirez is incessant and driving me crazy. I go to bed every night praying that someone will offer him the 3rd year he desires in his contract so I can wake up the next morning a NEVER hear about it again. If he finds a home in the NL West, with the Dodgers for another year OR in rumored San Francisco, the division will become slightly weighted. Nonetheless, the division presents to the league an interesting race to follow.
Check in during the following weeks as I dissect the NL West and allow you to take a scientific look into the division’s teams. We will look at strengths, weaknesses and other variables that might allow us to answer the question, “Who looks to be the favorite in the NL West?”
Holler Back. StatDragon.
Is there any other player–outside of maybe Donovan McNabb–who gets more disrespect than former Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia?
There’s no question that Garcia is a sensitive guy–but you would be too if your job was consistently threatened despite your proven ability to play in the NFL.
First it was San Francisco. Garcia came in after a great career by Steve Young and took over the reins of the team in 1999. In 2000, Garcia exploded. That year, he threw for 31 touchdowns and just ten intcerptions. 2001 wasn’t shabby, either, as Garcia threw 32 touchdowns, twelve interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 94.8.
During the 2002 playoffs, Garcia was instrumental in helping to lead the 49ers back from a 38-14 deficit in the third quarter. The 49ers scored 25 unanswered points and went on to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Soon, the Garcia-T.O fued would heat up. Owens, not liking Garcia for some unknown (but most likely) selfish reason, questioned Garcia’s sexuality. Owens, discussing Garcia, stated, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are it’s probably a duck.” Garcia would be incredulous, making public statements that he doesn’t know why Owens was bent on cutting him down so harshly.
Garcia would eventually land in Cleveland, where then head coach Butch Davis refused to let him roll out of the pocket and make audibles. His time in Detroit was equally disappointing in 2005.
The next year, Garcia found himself in Philadelphia, where he was able to resurrect his career. With McNabb suffering a devastating injury towards to end of the season, Garcia led his team through an improbable run of victories, and the team advanced farther than anyone thought they would in the playoffs.
But then Garcia was promptly released–the team didn’t even make an effort to sign him. In fact, the Eagles signed Jay Feeley to a contract to be the team’s backup, thus throwing Garcia back into the unemployment line.
Garcia was eventually signed by Tampa Bay, but Jon Gruden’s love for playing “musical quarterbacks” lead to frustration for Garcia. Garcia eventually stated publicly that his head coach didn’t like to marry quarterbacks, he just wanted to date them.
That was evident in Tampa Bay. Garcia was routinely yanked out of the lineup in favor of other quarterbacks on the roster.
This past week, Garcia was once again released by yet another team. At age 39, Garcia would like to still play and doesn’t have any plans for retirement.
But why is Garcia so disrespected? If anything, his inability to stick onto a team reminds me of Doug Flutie’s NFL career. Two small, scrambling quarterbacks who were never given any expectation of success. And despite their ability to lead and to win, they are still discounted. In Buffalo, Doug Flutie was pulled by Wade Phillips for the highly ineffective (and far too often sacked) Rob Johnson.
It could also be Garcia’s personality–he does seem like a sensitive guy. It’s possible that he clashes with certain coaches or doesn’t take criticism very well. But he’s proven that he can win in this league. And in a league where quarterbacks such as Tarvaris Jackson, Derek Anderson, Brodie Croyle and Dan Orlovsky all started at some point last year, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Jeff Garcia doesn’t latch onto some team.
The Super Bowl concluded just seventeen days ago, but it feels like ancient history.
So goes life in the NFL.
With the season officially ended with final Pro Bowl game in Hawaii, the off-season is now in full swing. Team are getting ready for the scouting combine, which begins on Wednesday with workouts commencing on Saturday.
Big name players plan to show up, though some (such as Michael Crabtree and Matthew Stafford) obviously don’t plan to do much while on the field.
Then there’s free agency. Players such as Matt Cassell, Karlos Dansby and Shayne Graham have already been franchised. Others aren’t so lucky. The Bucs have released Jeff Garcia. The Jaguars said goodbye to Fred Taylor. Deuce McCallister is out in New Orleans and the Ravens have cut ties with cornerback Chris McCallister (no relation).
Expect more blood shed in the coming weeks.
Oh, there’s also movement outside of the league, too. Marshawn Lynch was arrested on gun possession. Apparently, Plaxico Burress is Lynch’s hero. Lynch has already been in trouble with the law–last time it was a violation with his car (bumping a cop with his vehicle). Clearly, some players never learn. If Lynch gets suspended, he might just spend some time with PacMan Jones.
Then there’s the Vick saga. It’s been reported that the Atlanta Falcons are actively shopping the rights of still incarcerated former quarterback Michael Vick. Vick’s status with the league is in limbo, as he’s currently suspended indefinitely. If he does return to the the league, it will be interesting to see how much protesting a given team will receive from PETA and fans alike. Then again, if Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis, and Lawrence Phillips can get second chances, is it really out of the realm for Vick, too?
Regardless, the NFL off-season is starting to kick into high gear. And it’s quite possible that it will be just as exciting as Super Bowl 43.
The Cowboys have yet to find an official sponsor for their new stadium. So if you have some extra money in the ol’ piggybank you don’t mind parting with, $400 M for 20 years will get your name on the dome. Personally, I won’t be able to hack this kind of deal with Mr. Jones and the Cowboy organization. For one, the StatDragon has a vice for gin and tonics AND happy hours at The Spearmint Rhino Strip Club…both of which cost a bit of money. Seriously, I’m more into this Russian stripper there named Nadia than Mickey Rourke’s character was into Marissa Tome in The Wrestler. Secondly, the economy has left a proverbial “Cleveland Steamer” on my chest. And last but not least, I live at home with my grandma and make a living off blogging…awesome.
I’ll admit right from the beginning that the FlyMaster is a bonafide Brett Favre fan. It’s not his stats, both the good and the bad, or his exciting and often nerve-racking plays. For me, Favre played football the way everyone should play games. He went all out all the time and was always having fun. Let’s face it, sports are games and games are meant to be fun. Bottom line. Nobody puts their 6 year old son in sports in the hopes of him becoming a Hall of Famer. And for those of you who do that, shame on you. No, we put our kids in sports so they can learn some values and also so we see them having fun. Pure unadulterated fun. As we age many of us lose that inner-child and we then stop playing games. Brett Favre never let go of that inner-child and played the game like a 6 year old at the highest level.
Favre, unlike so many other major sports icons, possesses an everyman quality. His wrangler commercials are believable. His battle against painkiller addiction and his dogged determination to always go to work made him more like us than any other icon from this era. It’s imagineable to see Favre getting an offseason job just to work for work’s sake. It’s plausible to walk into an Hattiesburg bar and see Brett at the end of the bar holding court over a pitcher. Can the same be said of Tom Brady? What about Tiger Woods? No way, those guys aren’t like us. They’re openly better, and that’s okay. Favre is the uber normal man. This week we’ve seen some pretty low stories with A-Rod and Phelps, but quietly the “boy-man” Favre left the sports spotlight and I highly doubt there is anybody who can step into his role.
FlyMaster Signing Off…For Now!
Today, it has been reported that Brett Favre has informed the New York Jets that he plans to retire.
This isn’t shocking. While Favre had some success in New York, the team tanked in December and blew a shot at the playoffs with a loss against Miami in week 17.
Coupled with that, Favre has been battling against a shoulder injury that may or may not need surgery, while some of his teammates have suggested that Brett’s penchant for throwing interceptions was a significant reason as to why the team finished so cold.
At least Favre did not drag out his decision. And with a decision now made, the New York Jets can finally move on.
With new head coach Rex Ryan, there are a few options for the team to pursue.
They already have Kellen Clemens, a young quarterback who has seen limited playing time. He appears to have a big arm, but his potential is completely unknown.
The Jets could also go after a veteran quarterback. It’s highly unlikely that the Jets would like to give up what’s needed to acquire Matt Cassell. It’s also highly unlikely that the New England Patriots would want to trade their young quarterback to a division rival.
Jeff Garcia could be available, but Garcia is almost the same age as Favre. There’s no future in acquiring Garcia, and his style of play is very specific. Garcia likes to be able to roll outside the pocket–something he wasn’t given as much leeway to do during his unproductive years in Cleveland and Detroit. Garcia would have to truly fit into a system perfectly, and with a new head coach, it’s hard to know what type of system Rex Ryan prefers on offense.
Then there’s Derek Anderson of Cleveland–an intriguing prospect. Though Anderson had a disappointing 2008, his 2007 season was off the charts. He’s only 25 years old, and has a rocket arm. On the right team, it’s possible he could flourish. His salary wouldn’t be as high as Matt Cassell, and he could probably be had for a third round pick. The only sticking point would be that former Jets coach Eric Mangini is now the head man in charge in Cleveland. Due to the seemingly bad blood between Mangini and the Jets front office, they wouldn’t want to be trade partners with each other.
Other options include Pittsburgh’s Byron Leftwich, Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins, and even Vince Young.
In a year when the quarterback class isn’t as strong–both in free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft, it just might be a seller’s market.
This time last year, Hank Steinbrenner came out and stated that he didn’t “like baseball being singled out” when it came to the attention by media and congress over the steroids issue. He later commented, “Everybody that knows sports knows football is tailor-made for performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t know how they managed to skate by. It irritates me. Don’t tell me it’s not more prevalent. The number in football is at least twice as many. Look at the speed and size of those players.”
In the wake of A-Rod’s admittance of steroid use between 2001 and 2003, I do think it’s interesting to contrast why there seems to be a double standard between performance enhancing drugs in baseball and football.
I do think it is amazing that guys like Shawne Merriman and Rodney Harrison–two prominent defensive players in the NFL–can test positive for steroids/HGH and no one truly seem to care. Do football fans not care about the integrity of the game? Do fans and maybe even the media enable these players because they want to see brutal collisions on the field?
I do think, though, that there are a few differences between baseball and football in regards to this issue. Harrison, and to some degree, Shawne Merriman, admitted that they were wrong. They were willing to accept their penalties. That doesn’t make what they did okay, but these players and others did not break NFL policy and continue to lie about it time after time. They didn’t play the “he said, she said” game.
That’s not to say that some of the players in the MLB should admit guilt if they aren’t guilty. But, at least in the court of public opinion, they all certainly aren’t innocent. Barry Bonds? Palmeiro? Clemens? Maguire? Sosa? There is this “hush, hush” mentality among these big name players, and yet damning evidence mounts against them that would appear to seriously cloud their credibility. With A-Rod stating that he did indeed take performance-enhancing drugs–after a 2007 interview with Katie Couric where he flatly denied this claim–an entire era of baseball has an enormous blemish on it.
Another distinct difference between baseball and football in regards to steroids is the actual benefit. It is known that steroids can give you a boost in strength, muscle, and speed. HGH, a substance that Rodney Harrison was found to be taking this time last year, is widely believed to aid in the recovery of injury. When Harrison apparently took the drug, he was attempting to recover much quicker from an injury than he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Again, this doesn’t justify his actions.
But at the same time, we as fans cannot begin to fathom the wear and tear on one’s body that playing in the NFL induces. There are former players that have a hard time going about their day due to massive injuries. ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth, a former offensive lineman, has admitted to having at least twenty knee surgeries. And some former players even suffer from dementia due to the brutal sport of football.
Another issue is the impact steroids has on the game of baseball and football. Baseball is much less of a team sport than football. Essentially, baseball is a pitcher versus a batter. If the pitcher is taking steroids which in turn allows him to throw the ball with a bit more velocity, that is an advantage. If the batter is utilizing steroids to allow him to hit the ball further, that could potentially turn a double play into a home-run. That is, most certainly, an advantage.
These factors decide games.
Can games really be decided by steroids in football, though? Does steroids help you read a defense better? Does steroids allow you to make every single tackle on the field? Does steroids give you the drive to study film, decipher signals, or enhance your vision to see the hole?
Football is a team sport. If one person–or for that matter, a few players–are using steroids on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, I am not convinced that that is an advantage. It may make you a bit stronger. It may make you a bit faster. But, unlike baseball, I don’t think those benefits can make you and your team better. I’ve seen guys come into the NFL who are complete physical specimens (Former number 1 overall pick in 2000, DE Courtney Brown, springs to mind), and yet could barely crack the starting lineup.
Guys who are the strongest and fastest and yet their careers never take off due to injury, an inability to pick up the playbook, or a complete lack of heart.
Remember, you need the physical tools and talent in the NFL, but football is most certainly a mental game. Akili Smith and Michael Vick could throw the ball out of the stadium and into oncoming traffic on the highway, yet they were both mediocre quarterbacks.
I am not saying that players cannot and do not benefit from steroids in the NFL. In 2006, when Merriman was suspended four games for steroids, he still racked up 17 sacks in 12 games. That is an incredible stat. At the same time, in 2007, in just 15 games, Merriman still registered 12.5 sacks. That is a very good total, still. And while steroids may have contributed to Merriman being able to get around the corner and sack Peyton Manning a couple extra times, steroids absolutely cannot aid you if you bite on Manning’s play fake and he throws it over the top to Reggie Wayne for a touchdown.
Lastly, it cannot be forgotten that baseball is a numbers game. Home runs, batting averages and bases stolen–it’s what baseball fans care about, from age 8 to 80.
Quick, name me how many yards Emmitt Smith gained in his career? How many touchdowns did Jerry Rice retire with? How many sacks did Reggie White have? How many consecutive games has Brett Favre played?
Even the most die-hard NFL fan would be hard pressed to answer those questions.
Yes, baseball is about the numbers, and if a player is on steroids and has a chance to balloon his numbers into the stratosphere, that is something that the common baseball fan can’t stand. No one wants someone to eclipse Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth without knowing they did it the old natural way.