Saturday, August 29, 2009

Depending on Donovan...

There comes a time in most great players' careers where they have to do something for the good of the team.

It could mean lessening their role in the offense (see: John Elway with Terrell Davis in the late 90's), taking a back seat to a different franchise player (see: Clyde Drexler with Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995), or putting up with the fan's vitriol through good and bad times (see: Eli Manning in 2007 - ok, so he's not great, but a good example).

If McNabb wants to win, he should act like it

It has now reached decision time for Donovan McNabb. Does he want to be a me-first primadonna that puts himself above the team (see: Terrell Owens)? Does he want to be a great player that never fully endeared himself to the fans because he never won a ring (see: Patrick Ewing)? Does he want to be both?

Things are good right now in Philadelphia - really good. The Phillies triumph last October has taken a bit of the edge off, and an unexpected Eagles' run to the NFC Championship game has fans even more excited about this year.

Throw in the acquisition of Michael Vick, who is getting more love than Rick Vaughn in Major League II (we love redemption stories in America), and the mostly-bitter Philly fans are about as optimistic as humanly possible.

Why would Donovan McNabb want to de-rail those good feelings?

Following Vick's debut in last Thursday's preseason game against Jacksonville, McNabb was frustrated that Vick coming in and out of the game was disrupting the flow of the offense. He voiced his displeasure to Eagles Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. On a night where Vick got a reception from the fans fit for a king, McNabb was the only person inside Lincoln Financial Field who was pouting - during a preseason game!

McNabb has been a great player in Philly for a long time. A lot of the heat that he has had to take is completely unwarranted. That being said, the guy acts like a diva. When things aren't going his way, he lets everybody know. He's played the race card before, and his favorite pastime is playing the role of the victim. But, the only thing that this behavior is victimizing is the Philadelphia Eagles 2009 Super Bowl hopes.

If McNabb gets fully on-board with the Michael Vick experiment, then this could be a special year, and could lead to the Eagles' first Super Bowl title. If McNabb pouts and gets jealous of Vick's treatment, then this season will never get off the ground. Philly will suffocate in the McNabb-induced drama.

All of this depends on what McNabb wants his legacy to be in Philadelphia:

Eric Lindros or Mike Schmidt?

The ball is in your court Donovan.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blame Game

The Cubs were the runaway preseason favorites to capture their third-straight NL Central title, but they entered Thursday's action nine games back of the first-place Cardinals. The chances of the Cubs making the playoffs at this point, are about the same as Marvin Harrison coming back to the Colts for a significant pay cut - it's not happening.

Since Chicago is widely regarded one of, if not the biggest disappointment in baseball, who should get the blame?

Fans were singing the praises of Lou Piniella after he immediately turned Dusty Baker's bottom-feeders into playoff contenders. Now, he's drawing criticism for being two years too late in moving Alfonso Soriano out of the leadoff role, and questionable bullpen management.

General Manager Jim Hendry was lauded for acquisitions like Soriano, Rich Harden, and the development of promising youngsters like Geovany Soto. But, Hendry dumped $30 million on Milton Bradley, a loose-cannon who is known more for his mouth than his ability to help his team win games. He then let the do-it-all Mark DeRosa, one of the most popular players in the clubhouse walk, and tried to fill the closer vacancy left by the departed Kerry Wood with Kevin Gregg - the same Kevin Gregg who blew nine saves in Florida a year ago. None of those moves have worked out.

The Cubs lineup is littered with underachievers. Bradley's OPS has dropped from .999 in Texas last year to just .797, not to mention an embarrassing RBI total of just 35 in 105 games. Soriano has been mired in a year-long lump, and is batting a career-low .240 with just 19 homers - the worst since hitting 18 in his rookie season in 2001. Soto showed up overweight and has battled injuries all year long. He was a .285/.364/.501 guy last year and has followed that up with a .218/.323/.381 this season.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but the bulk of it has to go to the offense which ranks 22nd in runs (539), 27th in hits (1,037), 26th in batting average (.254), and 29th in steals (45).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Best YouTube clip ever?

I'm going to go to every John Calipari press conference at UK and do the same thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Do What's Right, Knight

It took nearly a decade, but Indiana University finally took the first step to heal the severed relationship with Bob Knight.

The man that brought the Hoosiers three Championships and national basketball prominence will be inducted into his rightful place in the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame. The only question that remains, is will Knight show up to the ceremony to honor him in early November?

He’s been vengeful and often stubborn when discussing the school that he spent over three decades coaching. In fact the two sides have often been like spoiled eight year-olds, only both of them are taking their ball and going home.

Now Indiana has extended a long-awaited olive branch to the General and IU fans are desperately hoping that this is the end of a long stand-off.

Bob Knight is a prideful man, a man that has held his ground and acted however he wanted while saying whatever he wanted for his entire career.

But this time Bobby, don’t think about yourself. Think about this Indiana program that you helped take to new heights, and an IU fanbase which has been undyingly loyal to you through every controversy.

For once, Bob Knight should bury his pride and along with it, bury the hatchet.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Don Mattingly in The Zone!

It'll be a big thrill today to talk to Don Mattingly, one of my personal heroes from growing up a Yankees fan. I try to be the professional media type with all interview, but it's tough not to be a little nervous/excited to talk with someone I idolized as a kid.

The interview will be live at 5:05, but in case you miss it, you can check it out afterwards on The Zone podcasts page.

I just hope I'm able to compose myself during the interview, unlike this.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Calipari's Claim to Fame

John Calipari's world is full of coincidences.

Despite never winning a National Championship, Calipari has accomplished something that no other coach has ever done: two vacated Final Four appearances with two different schools! The NCAA ruled today that Memphis had to vacate their 38 wins and Final Four appearance from the 2007-08 season.

There have only been eleven vacated Final Four appearances in NCAA basketball history:
St. Joseph's (1961), Villanova (1971), Western Kentucky (1971), UCLA (1980), Memphis (1985, 2008), Michigan (1992, 1993), Massachusetts (1996), Minnesota (1997), Ohio State (1999). Between UMass and Memphis, Calipari's only two Final Fours now don't exist - at least according to the NCAA.

To be fair, Calipari was never found of any direct wrongdoing in the 1996 case at UMass. Hey, maybe it was just a coincidence that star forward Marcus Camby (a poor kid from Hartford) showed up at a press conference with enough ice around his neck to make Paris Hilton blush. Of course it was probably yet another coincidence that Memphis' Derrick Rose had a stand-in take his SAT and Calipari had no knowledge of it.

Anyone that thinks that John Calipari's two vacated Final Four at two different schools are merely coincidences rather than blemishes on his record are kidding themselves. Where there's smoke there's usually fire, and there's a whole lot of smoke surrounding Calipari's career. Hell, there's so much smoke that Cheech and Chong, the smoke monster from LOST, and Tony Stewart might as well be following Calipari's every move.

Now John Calipari enters his first year at Kentucky with perhaps the preseason #1 team, fresh off luring the #1 recruiting class in the country to Lexington.

What's that? Preseason #1 team and top recruiting class, you say?

Hmmm, what a coincidence...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Told You So...

Last month, when Brett Favre once again said that he was retiring and was finished with football, I had a feeling how this whole scenario was going to play out.

It was much less-publicized, but before the start of 2007 season, Giants DE Michael Strahan told the team that he was walking away. Turns out that a few weeks later, Strahan returned - all he wanted was to skip Training Camp and sleeping in dorm rooms.
Is Favre an upgrade over Sage Rosenfels and Tavaris Jackson? Absolutely.
Does this move make the Vikings a better team than the Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, or Colts? I'm not ready to go there.
What happened to THIS Brett Favre?
Brett Favre used to be Joe American, the "everyman" with the two-day old beard, vicodin addiction and Wrangler jeans, who was all about the team and playing football for the fun of the game. It's only taken him 14 months to destroy that image and turn into a selfish, ME-securing-MY-legacy primadonna who is trying to carry out a childish vendetta against the Green Bay Packers. Oh, and all the while, he holds NFL fans and the media hostage as to whether he'll play or retire.
You can play this year, Brett - I don't care. Play til 2015 if you want.
But when you're finally done, go away.
And please, never come back.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Mistake" isn't the right word for Vick

Sorry I'm a little late to the party, but with moving out of my apartment this week and the start of the preseason, things have been a bit crazy.

Late Thursday night, Michael Vick signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. He will now get a second chance to resurrect his career, his image, and most importantly, his life.

I think we were all in agreement that Vick deserved another chance. This is America - the land of redemption. He paid his debt to society, forfeiting 18 months of his life in prison, and losing millions of dollars in the process.

We should all be ready to move on, however now we seem to be back to square one. The Vick defenders are back out in full force, and they continue to defend what he did. They call the dog-fighting crime a "mistake" or a "lapse of judgement". I even heard it compared to abortion, which regardless of what you believe morally, is legal and is not a felony.

I want to clarify something: there is a difference between a mistake and a felony.

A "mistake" was when I got a drinking ticket freshman year in the dorms at IU.

A "felony" was when Michael Vick tortured, electrocuted, and killed dogs, invited his buddies over to gamble on it, all while bank-rolling the entire operation.

There's also a difference between forgiveness and a second chance. Vick has his second chance, but he's far from earning forgiveness. He has to do this by staying out of the police blotter, staying active in the community, and proving to himself and NFL fans that he's sincerely sorry.

Don't blow it this time Mike.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coaches not immune to Public Scrutiny

I'm not sure how to feel about the Rick Pitino sex scandal.

A guy that I always liked since his days with the first Knicks' team I ever followed in my childhood (the 1988-89 Atlantic Division Champs) turned out to be a sleaze. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

Without getting into the rammifications of what Pitino did, this fiasco is a perfect example of how much things have changed for coaches in collegiate sports.

40, 30, even 20 years ago, college coaches hardly got a fraction of the public attention that they get now. Sure, guys like John Wooden, Bob Knight, and Woody Hayes were psuedo-celebrities, but a vast majority of college coaches weren't well known nationally.

Nowadays, not only is every coach living in the public eye, from Greg McMackin of Hawaii to Urban Meyer of Florida, but many of these coaches have become institutions at the school that they coach. Suddenly, Rick Pitino's actions are not only a representation himself, but the entire University of Louisville.

I'm not saying that's fair or unfair, but that's the reality of this Twitter-happy,, billion-dollar TV contract world of big-time college sports that we live in right now.

So much for the good old days.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kenny Williams Goes "All-In"

In a bit of a surprise move, the Chicago White Sox claimed Alex Rios off of waivers from Toronto late Monday night.

Rios is struggling through a rough 2008 season, and his .264 average and .317 OBP are well below his career-averages. But, Sox GM Kenny Williams hopes that Rios can come in and provide relief for banged-up starters like Carlos Quentin and the struggling Jermaine Dye.

Hopefully, he's a bit more receptive to the fans in Chicago than he was here.

Hardly Missing Marvin

We all know that the national media often times looks on the surface instead of going in-depth (i.e. OMG no Marvin Harrison = Colts struggle to make playoffs) with their analysis. In reality, I think Colts fans know that the team has essentially been without Marvin Harrison - at least the sure-fire Hall of Fame version of Marvin Harrison - ever since his knee injury early in the 2007 season.

This is not a knock on Marvin, or a proclamation that Anthony Gonzalez is the second-coming of Jerry Rice. It's just that if I was making a list of the potential question-marks and issues for the Colts entering the 2009 season, "how will they replace Marvin Harrison?" wouldn't crack the top ten. However, that topic seems to be all the national media wants to talk about, outside of Jim Caldwell's new job responsibilities.

In the 2007 Draft, the Colts may have taken the heir-apparent to Harrison in Anthony Gonzalez. A possession receiver that has deceptive speed is an attribute that both Marvin and Gonzalez share. With Harrison's departure, Gonzalez is now the #2 wideout, a spot that was taken by Harrison over the past two seasons. Here are their stats over that time:

Marvin Harrison
2007: 5 games, 20 rec, 247 yds, 12.4 avg, TD
2008: 15 games, 60 rec, 636 yds, 10.6 avg, 5 TD
Totals: 20 games, 80 rec, 883 yds, 11.0 avg, 6 TD
Per game averages: 4.0 catches, 44.15 yards, 0.30 TD

Anthony Gonzalez
2007: 13 games, 37 rec, 576 yds, 15.6 avg, 3 TD
2008: 16 games, 57 rec, 664 yds, 11.6 avg, 4 TD
Totals: 29 games, 94 rec, 1,240 yds, 13.2 avg, 7 TD
Per game averages: 3.24 catches, 42.75 yards, 0.24 TD

Obviously, you may have to take some of Marvin's numbers (or lack thereof) with a grain of salt because of the injury. However, at least from a production standpoint, it doesn't appear that the Colts will be losing a whole heck of a lot. Throw in the fact that Dallas Clark will often line up in the slot, and the Colts 1-2-3 receiving corps of Reggie/Gonzo/Clark shouldn't skip a beat with the absence of Marvin.

So, forget how the Colts will replace Marvin Harrison - they're already been moving in that direction for almost two full seasons. I'd be much more occupied with the real questions like how the offensive line is going to bounce back after a forgettable and injury-plagued 2008, how the new big bodies at defensive tackle will perform, where Joseph Addai goes from here, can Clint Session and Phillip Wheeler usher in a new, more aggressive Tampa-2 scheme under Larry Coyer, will the Special Teams finally be an asset instead of a detriment, etc.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Majors are what Matter

So, Tiger Woods won again, and it's not surprising that his latest victory is capturing the national headlines.

Coming off major knee surgery, Tiger has now won five Tournaments this year including back-to-back triumphs at the Buick and Bridgestone. I'm not going to say that accomplishment isn't impressive, and I’m not going to downplay what winning a Tournament means. But, are we getting a little too caught up in these low-level wins?

While wins in no-name Tournaments are good for the FedEx standings and the pocketbook, Tiger long ago graduated that level. Ask Peyton Manning how he feels about the 12 regular season wins last year and the MVP award. He’d tell you about the first round playoff exit. Ask Tom Brady about the record-setting 50 touchdown passes and perfect regular season in 2007, and he’d discuss being buried by a relentless Giants defense in the Super Bowl. Ask Tiger about his success this year, and I'm sure he'd retort with missing the cut at the British.

We measure all-time greats on MAJOR championships, and last time I checked, Tiger is still 0-for the year. So while people flip out and throw parades in the streets about the Bridgestone and the now-defunct Buick Open, I’ll stand idly by, just waiting.

Call me when he wins a Tournament that means something this year.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ready for football?

Dear September,

Please get here soon.


Friday, August 7, 2009

End of an Era for Braves Trio

It's always sad to see the truly great players realize that they can't compete anymore.

Recently, that happened to Greg Maddux, and to Tom Glavine. Unfortunately, it has now happened to John Smoltz.

As much as I enjoyed watching the Yankees bludgeon the Red Sox on Thursday night to halt their eight-game losing streak against their arch-rivals, I took no pleasure in the victory coming against a helpless Smoltz (3 1/3 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 4 BB). Smoltz is one of the true greats from this era, a shining light in the darkness of a time blanketed by performance-enhancing drug use. The same can be said for his former Atlanta Braves teammates.

Perhaps the greatest pitching trio in MLB history?

Smoltz was 42 years old, coming off a shoulder surgery, and a year-plus rehab, but still wanted to give it another shot. Tom Glavine won his 300th game in the final weeks of the 2007 regular season at the age of 41, but just two months ago was toiling away in Triple-A Richmond before being cut. At least Greg Maddux went out with some gas in the tank, pitching four scoreless innings of relief for the Dodgers in last year's NLCS before calling it quits.

I can't fault the guys for being competitive - when you've been playing on a Hall-of-Fame level for 20+ years, you get used to that mindset. However, similar to Emmitt Smith, Hakeem Olajuwon, Steve Carlton, Jerry Rice, and even Michael Jordan, they hung on too long.

Sorry it had to end this way John. Just like this image, I'll put the rocky, career-ending tenure with Boston in the "FORGET FOREVER" compartment of my brain.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Enjoy the game, and $90 pizza!

As we've seen recently in sports, new stadiums have taken price gouging to a new level. I haven't yet been able to make it back East to go to the new Yankee Stadium, but my father has. He said in the suites that 16 oz. domestic drafts were $24, and that a Coke was $15. He also went by a sweatshirt stand that had a $85 Yankee Universe hoodie, and $30 t-shirts.

But, it looks like Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have made the new Yankee Stadium look like Big Lots.

According to Steven Sipple of Lincoln Journal World in Nebraska, a large cheese pie pizza (sorry, I forgot you guys don't call it "pie" out here) will cost $90 in their luxury suites. Want some beer to wash it down? Feel free to buy a 12-pack of domestic cans - for $66! You could actually pay $156 for a 20-inch no-topping pizza and 12 beers. That's quite a large gap between a Crazy Eight Deal ($8.88) from Avers in Bloomington and a 12-pack of Busch Light ($7.45).

Another question: how much for toppings? Let's say that the average large pie pizza costs $14, and the average additional topping is $2 (talking about the premo stuff here, like bacon or something weird like pineapple). That means that the average additional topping price is 14.2% of the cost of an average large pie pizza.

So, let's do the math: 14.2% of $90 (cost at new Cowboys Stadium) is $12.78. That means that a large pepperoni pie pizza would cost over $100 in the Cowboys luxury suite.

With those high prices, we've officially reached a new low.

UPDATE: turns out that the no-topping pie pizza actually will cost $60 (thanks to Yahoo! Sports blog Shutdown Corner). That's still ridiculous.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gripes with the "Greatest Coaches Ever" list

If you know me, then you know I love lists. The reason why I love lists is because there's always something that you disagree with.

Sporting News put in a nice effort, listing the top 50 all-time coaches in sports history.

Here is where I had a couple of gripes:

- Dean Smith (#8) ahead of Bobby Knight (#16)? Smith won only two titles with players such as Michael Jordan, Antwan Jamison, Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, James Worthy, Brad Daugherty, Eric Montross, and Billy Cunningham in his tenure. Knight was able to squeeze three out of Isiah Thomas (the only NBA All-Star he ever coached at IU), Steve Alford, Kent Benson, Landon Turner, and Dean Garrett. Knight did more with less.

- I love Joe Torre (#32) as much as anybody, but there's no way he's a better manager than Tony LaRussa (#41). No offense to Torre, but I don't think that's even an argument.

- I have a big problem with Bo Schembechler (#36) being ahead of some great college football coaches including Ara Parseghian. Schembechler was a great coach, but he never won a National Championship. How could a coach that never won a National Title be considered one of the best 50 ever - in all of sports? Bo was just 2-6 all-time in the Rose Bowl, and just 5-12 in bowl games overall. His Michigan teams did win lots of Big Ten Championships, but only finished in the top three in the final rankings just twice in 21 seasons. Parseghian won two National Titles and his Notre Dame teams finished in the top five eight times in his 11-year tenure in South Bend.

Bo Schembechler (1969-1989)
Career record: 194-48-5 (80% winning pct.)
National Championships: 0
Bowl record: 5-12 (2-6 in Rose Bowl)
Top five: 7 times in 21 seasons

Ara Parseghian (1964-1974)
Career record: 95-17-4 (83% winning pct.)
National Championships: 2
Bowl record: 3-2 (ND not allowed to play in bowls until 1969)
Top fives: 8 times in 11 seasons

- While we're talking about former ND coaches, what about Frank Leahy? Four National Championships, a 107-13-9 overall record (which includes a 11-0 season with Boston College in 1940), and finished at least third in seven of his eleven seasons with the Irish. I think he at least deserves an honorable mention.

- As a former (crappy) wrestler, I have to say that I was amazed that the legendary Iowa coach Dan Gable didn't make this list. His Iowa teams won 15 National Championships in 21 years, including a record nine-straight from 1978-86, and had a 355-21-5 record in that span. More notable omissions from the "other" sports - Doc Counsilman (IU swimming): six NCAA titles, 23 Big Ten titles, and produced 48 Olympians who won a total of 46 medals (26 Golds); Anson Dorrance (UNC women's soccer): 19 NCAA titles in 27 seasons; John McDonnell (Arkansas men's track & field): 42 NCAA titles across the three track & field seasons in 27 seasons. If you're going to include everybody, then give everybody a fair shake.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Camp Time!

A couple of Colts notes while Training Camp gets underway this morning from Terre Haute:

- First round pick Donald Brown signed at the last minute meaning that Indy will have their full complement of rookies from last April's Draft class.

- At his press conference on Friday, head coach Jim Caldwell said that there would be some small changes at Camp now that he is in charge. He didn't get specific, but it sounded important.

- Caldwell also pretty much ruled out any Michael Vick sightings. He said the team "liked their situation at Quarterback".

- Both Tom Moore and Howard Mudd have been retained, just with new titles. Both will add "Senior" ahead of Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach.

- The following players will start Camp on the PUP list: Bob Sanders (shocking!), Adam Vinatieri, Sam Giguere, Marlin Jackson, Charlie Johnson, and Antonio "Mookie" Johnson.