April 26, 2008

Jealous of the Ravens

So I flip on the NFL Draft just in time to catch the Ravens pick. I had already suffered through a Will Ferrell-esque Old School weekend day for the newlywed new homeowner - start at Kohls, head to Target, didn't get to Bed Bath & Beyond. Anyway, the Ravens have traded the 8th pick overall to the Jags for the 26th pick.

I'm unsure of at this point of what the Ravens got besides the Jags' first round pick. I'm sure it's a lot because the price is really high to move up from 26 to 8. But the Ravens now are in fine position, now that Ryan is off the board, to grab Joe Flacco, who in my opinion will be a great NFL QB and who could still be there. Or Brian Brohm, who I think will also be just fine. I'd stay away from Chad Henne like the plague.

But it is nice to have a local team that knows how to work the draft. We'll see how my 'Skins manage to screw up their nine picks.

April 25, 2008

Hansbrough Refuses to Leave ACC

Sigh...UNC might not lose anyone early after all. Tyler Hansbrough has declared that he will return to the ACC. Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington are declaring for the draft, but aren't hiring agents. They can come back if they don't draw sufficient interest.

It's hard to blame Hansbrough. I'm sure he's having a great time and he doesn't seem to be in desperate need of NBA money. His father, after all, can afford to go to all his games.

April 24, 2008

Cap Implications Kill Deal for Chad Johnson

I was listening to a local radio show that had the Bengals' color commentator as a guest. He made an excellent point about Chad Johnson. The Bengals take the $8.5M cap hit if they cut or trade Johnson. If they trade him for a first round draft choice, they also take a cap hit for the player they select. If they cut him after June 1, they can spread that over two years. The Skins need only be patient.

Counterpoint - Why the NFL Draft is Great

So I, unlike my fellow poster, love the NFL Draft. I like the analysis. I think it's a great way to kill an afternoon. There's drama, there's fan reaction, and every now and again, you get this:

Local News Footage of Dolphins fans in shock and horror at the Ted Ginn pick at their draft day party.

The famous ESPN montage that I posted last year that will have you laughing every time with the history of the Jets' draft blunders such as passing up on Dan Marino for Ken O'Brien and passing up on Warren Sapp for Kyle Brady. And, of course, the Jets' fans reactions.

April 23, 2008

NFL Draft is More Boring than a Baseball Game

I don't want to sound like Mike Wilbon here, but I find the NFL draft to be unbearably boring. There are brief periods of action sprinkled in among long stretches of people talking. Sort of like a baseball game.

I was struck today thinking about all the people who spend weeks getting amped up for the NFL draft (don't even get me started on the combine) and spend all day Saturday (and Sunday for the real degenerates) watching names be called by the commish. Many of these are the same people who refuse to watch baseball games because "there's not enough action."

The only way to dispute that claim is scientifically, so here goes.

According to mlb.com, in 2007 there were about 9 hits per team per game, or around 18 hits per game total. The average length of a baseball game is about 2:50. That means that on average, there is a hit every 9.4 minutes.

The first round of last year's NFL draft lasted a whopping 6 hours and 8 minutes. There were 32 picks, or an average of 11.5 minutes per pick.

This is so exciting! Good thing I have 10 minutes to recover before the next pick!

That means that something exciting happens more often in a baseball game than in the first round of the NFL Draft. Bust out that statistic the next time one of your Mel Kiper wannabe friends tries to tell you that baseball is too slow.

Impressive Golf Feat

A player in Iowa bagged aces on back-to-back par 3s. That's extremely impressive, considering the odds are put at 67 million to one.

What's more impressive? He aced the first hole, measuring 130 yards, with a pitching wedge. The next hole, measuring 184 yards, was conquered with an 8 iron. This guy must hit a 300-yard 2-iron and a 425-yard driver.

He finished the round with a 78.

Capitals Post-Mortem

The Capitals amazing season came to an end last night in OT of Game 7 of the first round. The loss was painful, but the officiating made it a lot more difficult to stomach.

In the second period, Flyers LW Patrick Thoreson drove Capitals D Shaone Morrison towards the goal, taking out Caps' goalie Cristobal Huet in the process. With the net open, Sami Kapanen dumped in an easy goal to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead in the second period. Everyone in the arena knew the play was goaltender interference, and the NHL rulebook tends to support them.

The relevant parts of NHL Rule 78 are as follows:

a) If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
b) If an attacking player initiates any contact with a goalkeeper, other than incidental contact, while the goalkeeper is outside his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

The above photo comes after the contact, but you can see just how out of the play Huet is following the collision.

The NHL Rulebook has very few interpretations, though those probably exist in a separate book not available to the public. For this goal to be allowed, the interpretation of "initiates contact" must require that the attacking player contacts the goalie himself. Does that seem likely? Why don't attacking players in front of the net push defenders into the goaltender more often? How can the defender be used as a proxy for the attacker to circumvent the interference rule?

It definitely seems like the officials swallowed their whistle on what was obviously a crucial play, as the Caps went on to lose the game in overtime.

Name That Draft Pick

Apparently our readers are much smarter than I am. I thought the last two quizzes were pretty difficult, but based on the comments people did really well on them. I tried to make this one a bit harder.

With the NFL Draft coming up this weekend, test your knowledge of past drafts. See if you can name the draft pick based on the clues.

April 22, 2008

Idol Recap 4/22

Not too sure what the thinking was about tonight's theme, the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The favorite critique of Simon and Randy has always been that singers are "cabaret" and the like. So tonight Idol is going to force the remaining six competitors to enter a realm that has been scorned by the judges as something Idol doesn't stand for? Don't really get it. I do get that tonight separated the contenders from the pretenders, as being forced to get out of their comfort zone really exposed two of the competitors. Also, what's with all the picture time for Ricky of Ricky and The Band fame this season? And is he a conductor? Is he a background dancer? Is he a set piece? An enigma wrapped in a riddle. Here we go, from best to worst performances:

Syesha Mercado
The problem is that she was too good at this form of music. Clearly her strength is musical theatre. Clearly she has a good voice. But when it comes to pop music, the best she can muster is faux-Mariah Carey and faux-Whitney Houston. She would be a Broadway star. She will not be a recording star. I think that despite her having the best performance of the night, she'll be bottom three based upon her going first and based upon Carly's performance being simply more memorable.

David Cook
David showed tonight why, to me, he is the winner of this year's competition. A guy who has convincingly showed us that he can be the next lead singer of a rock band was able to step right into the music of Broadway and do a dynamite version of Music of the Night, a song with a very high degree of difficulty. David hit every note, even the upper registers that we don't normally hear from him. He was fantastic again.

David Archuleta
Little Davey had a good night tonight. He's so consistent, he's boring. You know what you're going to get every week from him. You know you're going to get a good vocal. You're not going to get a great vocal. You're not going to get something that you rewind the DVR to re-watch or that you hit the Idol website the next day to see again. The final will be the two Davids. That's pretty clear right now.

Carly Smithson
Carly had a great time on stage tonight. She performed with energy and conviction. She picked the right song, with an assist from Andrew Lloyd Webber. She was presumptuous with that little shirt pre-printed that said "Simon Likes Me (for this week)." Still, a good week for Carly and I think it kept her out of the bottom three this week. It was one of only two upbeat songs and because it was the latter of the two, it will be the most memorable.

Brooke White
For the second time this season, she stopped and started. This time, unlike last time, she stopped because she blanked on a vocal. That's unforgiveable at this stage of the competition. However, essentially by default, she wasn't the worst performance simply because Jason was so bad. Brooke sang with some feeling but was clearly a deer in headlights after stumbling right at the gate. It's kind of like the guy who false starts in a track meet NEVER, EVER wins the race because he's so on edge the rest of the race when he gets the right start. We saw Paula show her claws for the first time this season, scolding Brooke for stopping. And clearly Brooke was spooked because for once, she didn't talk back to the judges. Or maybe she reads this blog. Who knows?

Jason Castro
One of my favorite Broadway songs ever that was totally and completely butchered. I don't want to hear Jack Johnson cover the song, and that's essentially what I got. I knew we were in trouble when Andrew Lloyd Webber told us all that Jason flat out didn't get what the song was about. It just was not good. It wasn't excruciating, because fortunately once you get to the Bottom Six you rarely see any excruciating performances anymore. Hell, even Sanjaya was gone by this time last year. But it just really wasn't good. At all.

Predicted Bottom Three:
Jason, Brooke, Syesha

The Return of the Florida State Criminoles

Don't call it a comeback, they've been here for years. I wonder if FSU has a staff criminal defense attorney, a la Maurice Levy in The Wire. They need one.

Fast on the heels of a cheating scandal that resulted in six suspensions, FSU's Most Valuable Player, receiver Preston Parker, has been charged with possession of a .45 pistol and a baggie of marijuana, according to ESPN. That's right: the Florida State University has a Most Valuable Player, presented to you by Dillard's Shoe Department in conjunction with the The Mandalay Bay Sportsbook.

This isn't Parker's first brush with the law. He was previously caught pocketing a $10 DVD at Best Buy. Booster checks just don't fill up that Escalade like they used to. I blame rising gas, food and sneaker prices.

Wasn't this stuff easier to overlook when Florida State was dominant?

***WARNING*** Turn SafeSearch ON when Google Imaging Parker. There's a male porn star with the same name.

Related update: Adrian McPherson currently plays for Grand Rapids in the AFL. His stint with the Saints was partially cut short when the Titans mascot hit him with a cart.

Rams on the Clock

The Dolphins did St. Louis and Atlanta a huge favor today in announcing that they have reached terms with Michigan OT Jake Long. Both teams can field offers now with one variable removed from the equation.

Then again, the Dolphins wanted to trade down and couldn't find any takers. It's unlikely the Rams and Falcons will find any either.

NHL Rooting for Capitals

The league is stupid if they're not rooting for Ovechkin and the Capitals to beat the Flyers in Game 7. The NHL is still struggling to get back into the major US TV markets, and they need to find ways to energize and excite the casual hockey fan. What better way than to have a showdown between the two best young players in the NHL?

Crosby, Malkin and the Penguins are probably the decidedly better team, but both are packed with young talent, and these two teams could be the best of the Eastern Conference for the next 10 years. Crosby the Kid, last year's MVP, vs. Alex Ovechkin, this year's likely MVP. Ovechkin has already shown a penchant for the dramatic, scoring his first two playoff goals in tied games in the third period, both game winners. Could there be any more exciting storylines? Versus is drooling over this matchup. Hell, their ratings might pass the Tour de France.

Ovechkin will hopefully do this again in Game 7. (AP Photo)

The Capitals have already come out of nowhere to make the playoffs, and have stretched a good Flyers team to 7 games. A similar series with Penguins could be huge for the NHL this year and in the future. Maybe ESPN would consider picking up a few games again...

Disaster Averted!! Skins' Offer for Ocho Cinco Rejected

The new face of the Skins? Let's hope not.

Thank you, Cincinnati! Apparently, the Washington Redskins are at it again, trying to trade away multiple high draft picks for a veteran of questionable value. But fortunately and inexplicably, the Bengals refused.

With Chad Johnson a clubhouse disaster in Cinci, it would seem prudent for them to trade him, especially with juicy offers on the table from almost every team in the NFC East. You would think the Redskins would have learned from the follies of their past. Anyone remember how well another unhappy Bengal worked out in Washington? Dan Wilkinson anyone? I don't think anyone would disagree that the Skins have wasted lots of money and draft picks on overrated veterans over the last few years. On the other hand, the Skins haven't drafted that well either, but they've improved recently. Landry, Taylor, Rogers, Campbell, McIntosh, and Cooley were all draft picks since 2004.

Is Chad Johnson valuable to the Redskins? I don't think so. A clubhouse distraction doesn't work well with a new head coach. Plus, Johnson doesn't fit the Seattle style offense nearly well enough to merit that kind of price. DeSean Jackson is a much better fit and would carry a much lower cap number. Add in youth and the excitement in the return game that has been lacking in DC lately, and Jackson is a much better fit than Johnson. While an established veteran is more likely to succeed than a rookie, the change of system and venues shouldn't be ignored. Just look at Brandon Lloyd. He's no Chad Johnson, but he certainly looked good the year before he came to Washington. The Skins need to admit to themselves that they're rebuilding and focus on having a couple solid drafts, and not waste draft picks like they have done for so many years.

April 21, 2008

NFL Draft Makes for Strange Bedfellows

The NFL Draft is this weekend, and the draft order has presented some interesting trading situations that could pair uncommon allies.

1) Oakland and Kansas City - These two teams are old school AFC West opponents who couldn't possibly have a more different ownership style. The Chiefs ownership, the descendants of Lamar Hunt, is a staple of the AFL/NFL old guard. The Raiders are owned by, well, Al Davis. Al Davis is an adjective at this point, so no further description is necessary.

Oakland picks 4th and the Chiefs pick 5th thanks to the three-way Falcons-Raiders-Chiefs tiebreaker coin flips. Those two teams don't actually have the same needs, but if Al Davis is temporarily lucid, he can pretend they do. By feigning interest in the Chiefs potential pick, the Raiders can extract at least a 6th rounder and possibly a 5th to swap spots.

Will it happen? - Probably not. The key to whether a trade will take place between neighboring teams lies in the quality of players up to that point in the draft. There are seven players who are generally considered to be the consensus best picks: the two Longs, McFadden, Dorsey, Matt Ryan, Gholston, Sedrick Ellis. This high in the round, Al Davis does not have enough leverage to really scare Kansas City, unless he obtains information that Peterson and Herm Edwards are really dead set on one of the players. The Raiders will try hard, assuming they aren't enamored with one player themselves, because trading down to five and then again farther down the list is their best case scenario.

2) New York Jets and New England - Sparks flew out of my computer screen when I typed those two teams. Thanks to New England's trade with San Francisco, they have the 7th pick despite Spygate. The Jets sit at 6th due to five years of organizational incompetence (after a pretty good stretch of drafts). As one could read above, the top tier of this draft is only 6-10 players deep depending on who you ask, with a pretty steep drop-off after that. Since the same teams keep losing, most of the top teams, save Atlanta, have quarterback investments, so there isn't the usual incentive to reach out of desperation.

The Jets problems can be analogized to those of the City of New Orleans - it's best just to pick one thing and work really hard on it. Luckily for GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Eric Mangini, their focus can be directed by the team picking after them. The Jets know that the Pats need defensive line help. They also know, or should know, that Belichick and Pioli would rather have Gholston than Sedrick Ellis. The Jets would also be well-served by Gholston. They might be able to leverage an extra pick out of the Pats to let them pay a bigger cap number and guarantee themselves the pick they want.
Will it happen? - I think so. Maybe people, including Peter King, believe that the Patriots will talk to the Chiefs rather than have to deal with the Jets. I don't see that happening, because the Chiefs, who need everything, really don't want to pick behind the Jets, who need everything. I think New England would have to overpay to make that move, in draft picks and salary cap. If we've learned anything from the Patriots (other than the furor that can be created by bootleg video), it's that they'll deal with some odious characters if it means they have a better team. I think they'd rather throw a 5th or 6th to the Jets than something to the Chiefs.

3) Baltimore and Cincinnati/The Rest of the World - This makes more sense if you understand that the City of Baltimore and its sports fans fully believe the entire world is out to get them. That concept makes sense if you hang out in any area of Baltimore that was recently renovated by gentrification. The Ravens sit at 8th, placing them precisely where no one wants to be this year. As I wrote twice before, there is a big falling off point after the 7th best player.

But, as I also wrote before, the teams in the top of the draft seem to always be there for a reason. SOMEONE will drop. I don't know who. Maybe McFadden, maybe Gholston, but every year some team makes a confusing pick that leaves the Ravens looking at their hands wondering "How the hell did this happen again?". The main difference is that this year the Ravens have pressing enough needs that they might not just take this year's Terrell Suggs without thinking twice. That could pay huge dividends, and the Ravens will trade with any and all comers.
This year is especially appetizing for the Ravens as the Bengals pick 9th. The Bengals desperately need a DL and either Gholston or Sedrick Ellis should be dangling just out of the Bengals' reach when the Ravens pick. Marvin Lewis has benefitted (and its become increasingly obvious just how much he benefitted) from the Ravens' "best-available" draft philosophy. He can't assume the Ravens will overpay for a CB when a properly valued DL is sitting patiently in the green room.

Will it happen? - Probably. The only player who could drop and make the Ravens salivate is Matt Ryan. Otherwise they need a CB, and there is no CB in this draft worth 8th pick money. If McFadden drops the Ravens will kindly thank Mr. Jerry Jones for his pick and be on their way down the board. Remember, Ozzie Newsome is like a wealthy retired person who still eats bargain meals at Denny's. You could ask him why someone with so much money would eat at Denny's. He would probably respond "I'm rich because I eat at Denny's even though I can afford better. You're poor because you eat at Ruth's Chris even though you can't afford it." There are a lot of GMs in the league who just can't pass up a good expensive steak. Ideally the Ravens would swap down to 9th with the Bengals and drop further if multiple attractive players are still on the board.

bhblahblah Note: Above image will not be comprehended by Daniel Snyder.

4) Washington and Dallas - The Redskins and Cowboys pick 21st and 22nd, so there might be temptation for the Cowboys.....I'm kidding. It's virtually guaranteed that the Cowboys won't be at 22nd. Jerry couldn't wait that long. On the off chance he is still sitting there, why would he feel compelled to jump ahead of the Redskins? The three guarantees in life are death, taxes, incompetent or unlucky Redskins draft picks.

Just as an aside, go check out the Redskins' cap situation going into 2008. Not horrible, right? Remember Sean Taylor? The Skins got totally bailed out by that tragedy. Any time you catch yourself thinking that Snyder et al have turned the franchise management corner, dig a little deeper.

5) ESPN and the NFL Network - The NFL Network wants what ESPN had - a monopoly on NFL Draft coverage. Unfortunately for the NFL, they gave ESPN rights to co-broadcast the draft before they realized just how much leverage they'd need to force Comcast and other cable providers to provide the channel in its standard package. They won't make that mistake again when the Monday Night Football deal is up for re-negotiation. Enjoy Mel Kiper while you have him.
One more thing: If you want to look really smart in three years, just grade the Ravens and Steelers draft an A (unless the Ravens pick a QB or WR). The player will be in the Pro Bowl by then and you can feel comfortable telling people that you told them so. Or go get that grad degree you keep talking about. Seriously, dude, we're sick of hearing it.

Time for a few Changes

So the Washington Nationals sit at 5-14, way down in the cellar of the NL East. Good for... oh... how about worst in the majors. All this month I've been telling J-Red that last year at the same time they were worse and look how well the team turned it around. That seemed to accomplish two things: (1) give me peace of mind, and; (2) shut J-Red up.

Well now, we've moved beyond the point of being better than we were at the same time last year when we got off to a god-awful start to the season. This Nats team just keeps finding new ways to lose. There are a few promising signs such as Odalis Perez having a really good outing yesterday, Austin Kearns finally starting to hit the ball a little bit, Shawn Hill having a great first start of the season. But the troubling signs are many and often. Attendance at the new park is way below where I thought it would be and where it should be. It's clear that DC is just not a market that is going to be swept off its feet by a new stadium. They want to see a winning product on the field to justify paying ticket prices, especially in a recessed economy. Kasten and Lerner et al. were swept into the misbelief that a new ballpark alone would draw the flocks out to the game. Don't get me wrong... the ballpark is a gem. But in this day and age, the new park alone just isn't enough.

But I digress from my main point. I understand that this team has, I believe the fifth-lowest payroll in baseball. I understand that this was not a team that was expected to "contend." But what is inexcusable is the total crap that I saw on the field from these guys over the past week.

We saw Cristian Guzman taking off at warp speed from second base on a foul pop just behind third base. Only problem... there was only one out. Easy doubleplay.

We saw Lastings Milledge lose a ball in the sun that instead of an easy out, turned into a double and subsequently a run scored.

We saw a pitch sail so far over the catcher's head that not one, but two runs scored on a wild pitch. That shouldn't happen except on Playstation.

We saw Austin Kearns badly misplay a ball out in rightfield that turned an out into a double.

We saw Ryan Zimmerman fire a ball well beyond first base, a play that we hoped Zimm would grow out of, but that we're still seeing just a little too often at the start of his third full big-league season. This was the first one that went wild, thankfully, but there have been a lot of throws that aren't exactly on target.

We saw Ronnie Belliard (who admittedly was playing a little out of position at first base when he came in to sub for Nick Johnson) not run out a foul ball into first base foul territory.

Ladies and gentlemen, what we're seeing from these Nats is a total lack of fundamentals, of heads-up baseball, and generally, to the casual observer, a lack of giving a shit. Manny Acta has been quoted of late saying that he looks at all of this as a learning experience for younger players and he's not going to lose his patience and he's never going to stop teaching. Well I agree with the learning experience and I agree with the teaching part. But Manny, enough is enough. It's time to start making an example out of people. This is where I miss the Frank Robinson school of managing. You don't hustle a ball out. You're benched. If not immediately, then the very next inning. You make a boneheaded play like running pedal-to-the-medal on an infield pop with one out because you forgot the basic little league rule of always knowing how many men are out? You're benched. You're the base coach who doesn't remind the player how many outs there are? Fuck it. You're benched. You think you're not replaceable, Mr. Washed-Up Major Leaguer who still has to struggle to fit into a uniform and who now looks even funnier wearing a batting helmet to prevent your brains from being splattered all over the base line like that Tulsa Drillers base coach.

Do I sound bitter? I am. I did not expect this bullshit product from the Nationals. I never expect to be so disgusted watching a team that I root for. And I get the most disgusted when the mistakes that I see being made are the result of a total carelessness.

So Manny, it's time to man up and start making some changes. You've got a stable full of guys in Columbus who would KILL to wear the major league uniform. And hell, the product that they give us on the field can't be much worse than what we're seeing now. You want to send a message to a guy with a big-league ego like Cristian Guzman? Send him down to double-A for a week and make him ride the bus and earn his way back to the big leagues.

Enough is enough. We may be low payroll, but we do have talent. The guys just need to be ready, willing, and able to utilize it.

How Good is Kyle Busch?

Kyle Busch continued his rampage through the NASCAR Nationwide Series this week in Mexico City. It was his third NNS win in a row, and his first NASCAR road course win. He's currently 2nd in points in the Sprint Cup Series, 3rd in points in the NNS, and 1st in the Craftsman Truck Series.

"Rowdy" Busch is driving in almost every NASCAR sponsored race every weekend, and he's winning more than his fair share. He's looking really strong this year, but just how good of a driver is he?

For my money, he's the most skilled driver in any NASCAR series today. It's tough to argue with results, and the way he has dominated the feeder series speaks volumes. This isn't like Kevin Harvick over the last few years, when he put a lot of time and energy into his Nationwide (then Busch Series) cars. Kyle Busch is pretty much just showing up at the racetrack to drive Nationwide or Truck races.

It's very difficult to judge driver ability, especially in NASCAR, where small car differences, track position, and a lot of luck come into play in every race. One thing seems certain, though, and that's the fact that there aren't many drivers better than Rowdy.

I'd like to see how he would fare in an open wheel car, either IRL or a test in a GP2 or Formula 3000 car. There is a lot of skepticism (some of it deserved) among open wheel fans that NASCAR drivers don't have to be very skilled. I think Busch is the type of guy who would be successful no matter what he is driving.

Other thoughts on this weekend's racing:

The Nationwide race in Mexico City is my favorite event of the year that no one else watches. NASCAR fans don't tune in because it's the Nationwide Series, it's a road course, and it's in Mexico. Open wheel fans don't tune in because it's NASCAR. Apparently, this year even Mexican fans didn't even bother showing up. It's always an exciting race on a fun track, with drivers ranging from road course experts to NASCAR regulars to hometown Mexican drivers. The diversity of driver skill makes for some interesting incidents, because there's always a few cars on the track that really shouldn't even be there. Hopefully the NNS (or even the Sprint Cup) will be back to Mexico City next year.

Congrats to Danica Patrick on her first win. I'm glad she won't have to hear the Kournikova abuse any more ("yeah, she's hot, but she's never won anything"). Her win came at a perfect time to generate interest in the IRL-Champ Car merge next weekend. Hopefully the combined series will be more successful than its two predecessors.

I watched some of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Long Beach, and I can't believe that series has survived this long (and still has a TV deal). I used to follow Champ Cars reasonably closely when the series was called CART, but I recognized very few driver names. It will be nice to see some star power (in addition to Will Power) coming to these great Champ Car tracks.