Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Five Fantasy Tips For Week One

The 2013 NFL season kicks off tomorrow night when the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens take on the Denver Broncos.  With it, fantasy football geeks (myself included) all across the country will begin their five month journey of waiver wire watching, injury list observing, and depth chart tracking.

I've been playing fantasy football for years now and am asked by people for fantasy advice regularly.  So, I have come up with five tips to get fantasy players through Week One of the NFL season.

1. Be Patient - if you're like most people, you were filled with optimism after your draft.  You got the stud running back or wide receiver you wanted.  You felt like a king when you were able to pick up that tight end late in the draft that the "experts" all say will have a breakout year.  Unfortunately, some of the guys you expected to produce, didn't and now you are ready to abandon ship on some of them.  Remember to be's a long season.  The only reason for releasing a starter after week 1 is if he succumbs to a season ending injury.

2. Keep an eye on the injury bug -  a lot of players are coming off of major injuries...most notably RGIII and Arian Foster.  One unfortunate hit and either of these players could find themselves back on the sidelines.  If that should happen, Kirk Cousins (Redskins) and Ben Tate (Texans) will see plenty of action.

3. Monitor the match ups - this is easier to do later on in the season when teams have a few games under their belts.  For Week One though, choose your defense based on what you know of the teams...go with your gut feeling.  For example, the Indianapolis Colts have a high powered offense.  They are opening the 2013 season against the Oakland Raiders, a team that has struggled in all areas for a few years.  I'd recommend not picking the Raiders as our defense during Week One.

4. Watch the waiver wire - you may be perfectly happy with the team you have.  However, some of the other owners in your league my be searching for a replacement on their team due to some unforeseen reason.  Lets say that a team needs a backup quarterback and news just broke that the Raiders have named Terrelle Pryor their starter.  If you can add Pryor to your team first, then you have just lessened the talent pool they have to choose from.

5. Leave your loyalties at the door - it is perfectly fine to root for your favorite team.  In fantasy football, you may have to root for one of your teams rivals from time to time.  Don't stress about doesn't mean that you are any less of a fan.  That's why they call it FANTASY football.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Who Is The Best Of All Time?

Pop quiz…name the best college basketball recruiting class of all time.

Most people, at least around my neck of the woods, would say the Fab Five. Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson set the college basketball world ablaze when they burst onto the scene in 1991. Together, they led Michigan to NCAA championship game appearances in their freshmen and sophomore years.

Recently though, John Calipari and the University of Kentucky have compiled a class that some say is even better than the Fab Five. The Wildcats have five of the top ten nationally ranked players coming in to Lexington next season. Four of those players are the ranked number one nationally at their respective position.

So which class is best? First you have to define what your measure of success is. If it’s pre-season hype, then the Wildcats of Kentucky have it, hands down. In today’s social media world, we all can see highlights of any high school athletes at any time. We can even watch online or on television when the athlete announces his decision. Before the Fab Five set foot in Ann Arbor, most people had never even heard of most of them. They didn’t even start their first game together until February 7, 1992. Personally, I had only briefly heard of Chris Webber and saw him play once (high school state finals). I had no idea who the rest of them were.

If we are looking at regular season and NCAA tournament record, then the Wolverines have it by far. Granted, the Fab Five played together at Michigan for two years and made it to two NCAA championship games. I’d be shocked if any of the five top ten nationally ranked players that are going to Kentucky will stay past their freshmen years.

So which college basketball recruiting class is the best? Personally, I measure success by performance on the court. With that being said, I’m not voting for either Michigan or Kentucky. My vote goes to the 2004 Florida Gator recruiting class (Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and Taurean Green). These four players decided to stay in school instead of leaving early for the NBA. This decision paid off as they are two time NCAA national champions. With today’s “one and done” atmosphere in college basketball, no college recruiting class will ever be able to top that.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Can Phil Help Fix The Pistons? Or Is This...Basketball Impossible?

The Detroit Pistons have a head coaching vacancy. This news comes about every couple of years. Joe Dumars and his staff hire a head coach; he leads them to two miserable seasons, and then is fired. It’s a vicious cycle that has led to the Pistons becoming the laughing stock of professional sports in the state of Michigan. Heck, people get more excited about the Lions nowadays…

New owner Tom Gores is aiming to change all of that. Instead of continuing to give Joe Dumars complete control over the search for a new head coach, Gores has hired 11 time World Champion head coach Phil Jackson as an adviser with the Pistons. Jackson’s main priority will be to assist Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars in his search for a head coach.

This is a fantastic move on Gores part. Dumars has shown that he has a lack of judgment when it comes to head coaches (Michael Curry, John Kuester, and Lawrence Frank for example). Sure, Dumars was the architect of the 2004 World Championship team, but the NBA is a “what have you done for me lately” type of league. All the Pistons have been doing lately is acting as a revolving door for head coaches. Jackson will be able to bring his wisdom and expertise to the Pistons and help put them back on the path to success.

Bringing Phil Jackson on board shows that Gores is fed up with the way things have been with the Pistons. He wants to build a winner in Detroit. To help do that, he’s enlisted the help of one of the greatest winners in NBA history.

Let’s hope the “Zen Master” is up to the task…

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Deja Vu For New York Sports Fans?

History, by definition, is the study of past events. Some people even believe that if we understand the past, we can predict the future.

Time and time again, history has proven that it repeats itself. Fashion trends will come back into style, television show themes will return (Golden Girls were the inspiration for Sex & the City), and even food fad’s will become popular again (McDonald’s brought back the McRib).

Another place where history repeats itself is in sports. Back in 2004, the Boston Red Sox completed a miraculous comeback against their arch rivals, the New York Yankees. Down 3 games to 0 in the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox fought back and won Game 4 in extra innings. They proceeded to win the next 3 games in a row to complete the greatest comeback in sports history. The Red Sox not only won those 4 games in a row to advance to the World Series but they also won all 4 games against the St. Louis Cardinals to become the 2004 World Series Champions. This was their first World Series title in 86 years.

We may now be seeing another improbable comeback between Boston & New York. It’s not on the baseball field though…this time it’s on the hard-court. The #2 seeded New York Knicks held a 3 games to 0 lead against the #7 seeded Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Since then, the Celtics have won 2 straight (including a hard fought overtime win in Game 4…similar to the Red Sox Game 4 extra innings win).

If the Celtics do complete this comeback and eliminate the Knicks, it won’t be as unbelievable as the Red Sox 2004 revival. The Yankees had won (at the time) a record 26 World Series titles. The Knicks haven’t won a World Championship since 1973 or a playoff series in 13 years.

It’ll still be Wicked Awesome for Bostonians though…

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Did The Jaguars Draft The Next MJD?

 The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted former University of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in the fifth round of the NFL Draft this past weekend.  A lot of people, myself included, were wondering if Robinson would even have his name called this year.  He was a phenomenal athlete who put up amazing numbers during his four years in Ann Arbor.  His ability to play quarterback (or even wide receiver) in the NFL was questioned though because of his lack of size and issues catching the ball (he played in the Senior Bowl and went to the NFL combine as a wide receiver).

The Jaguars though decided to draft Robinson and will have him play running back with them.  The Jaguars, who already have a smaller running back playing for them in Maurice Jones Drew, are the perfect team for Robinson in my mind.  Jacksonville is not a big market team, so the pressure to perform there will be minimal.  The Jaguars are not close to being a playoff team, so Robinson should get a chance to show what he can do on the field. 

Another reason why Jacksonville is the perfect place for Robinson is because their current starting running back, Maurice Jones Drew, is in the final year of his contract and will most likely not be back in Jacksonville past this upcoming season.  With that in mind, the Jaguars drafted someone very similar to Jones Drew and will groom him to take his place.  Heck, they could probably wear a similar size jersey.  Denard Robinson stands 6'0 tall and weighs 197 lbs.  Jones Drew is 5'7 and weighs 207 lbs.

To prove how similar Robinson and Jones Drew were coming out of college, take a look at these two scouting reports and try to choose which one belongs to whom...

Thrilling player who can break just about any play. Very elusive and can lurk behind blockers and explode into the open field. Lack of power and pass-catching ability like will mark him as a third-down who can contribute in the return game.

Quick with all the agility in the world...absolutely dynamic. His playmaking ability is all about agility and quickness. He has the moves to make people miss; the spin, the juke, the studder you name it he’s got the move. What’s important to realize is that teams will be interested in him for what he can do in terms of yards-after-catch. He has that break-away and elusive ability to turn a quick 5-yard run into a 60 yard gain. He’s the type of player where you have to know where he is at all times on the field because he is capable of anything…literally. To have a weapon like him in your bag of tricks is priceless to an imaginative offensive coordinator.

The Jaguars are hoping that the similarities pour over onto the football field this fall.  If they do, then they may have gotten the steal of this years NFL Draft. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lions Fans Are Not Quite Ready To "Get Ziggy With It"

The 1st Round of the 2013 NFL Draft is now in the books. 32 newly crowned millionaires and their families most likely woke up this morning still smiling from the events of the night before.

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but in my neck of the woods, all I heard this morning as I drove into work is how the Lions made another boneheaded draft selection when they chose Ziggy Ansah from BYU.

Sure, Ansah is not the big name pick that most NFL fans are hoping for each year. Before last night, I’m sure that many Lions fans had never even heard of Ansah. Those same fans call into their local sports talk radio shows and complain aloud about how the Lions don’t know what they are doing. They all claim that the Lions should have taken “insert random 1st round draft pick by another team here” instead of Ziggy Ansah.

I’m all for fans’ voicing their opinion, but it really infuriates me when they spout off without doing any sort of research to back their opinion. It just makes them look plain silly. These are the same people who say “we” when talking about the Detroit Lions when they win and “they” when the Lions lose. They compete in their annual Fantasy Football drafts and think that makes them experts in evaluating players.

Making picks in the NFL Draft isn’t an easy thing to do. It isn’t just Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz sitting in a room throwing darts at a board to determine which players to draft. There is an entire room full of people (scouts, assistant coaches, player personnel staff, etc.) discussing each possible move the Lions can make. There are also many factors that need to be considered before investing millions of dollars into a person. What position does he play, who is already at that position on the current roster, how many contracts are expiring on the current team, how did the draftee look in his workouts, how did he do in his pre-draft interviews, what other people (former coaches, teammates, etc.) had to say about him and his work ethic, what the team doctors found out when they examined him, and what trade offers the other teams are offering are all important factors that go into making the decision to draft a person.

Will the Lions regret drafting Ziggy Ansah a year from now? Perhaps…but what if he finishes the season with 9.5 sacks and makes the Pro Bowl as a rookie? Then those same people that were calling into sports talk radio stations today complaining about the pick will be applauding Ansah and wearing his jersey.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Valverde or Bust...

Webster’s Dictionary defines risk as “someone or something that creates or suggests a hazard”. Jose Valverde pitched his first game of the year for the Detroit Tigers last night.

What do these two sentences have in common? Jose Valverde…

After a solid season in 2012 where he saved 35 games for the Tigers, Valverde lost his closer role in the postseason. He blew saves in critical games against both the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. The team lost trust in him and, more importantly, Valverde lost faith in himself.

After the Tigers were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants, Valverde became a free agent. He went unsigned in the off season. No other team was even rumored to have a serious interest in the former closer. It seemed as if his time as a Major League pitcher was over.

Fortunately for him, the Tigers were unable to acquire a solid pitcher in the off season to become their new closer. They appointed rookie Bruce Rondon as the new closer in Spring Training, but he struggled and was optioned to the minor leagues to begin the season. Manager Jim Leyland then announced that the Tigers would begin the season with the “closer by committee” approach, which never really works because the manager is always second guessed in those situations. He can use one person to close a game and, if it doesn’t work out, then the media and fans will question why he didn’t use a different pitcher.

The Tigers quickly learned that it wasn’t going to work out and made the risky move to re-sign Jose Valverde. He was assigned to pitch with the Lakeland Tigers (Class A level). After 3 appearances, the Tigers recalled him from the minors and Jim Leyland announced that Valverde would be the team’s closer. His first game back with the Tigers was last night against the Kansas City Royals and he retired the side in order in the 9th inning to earn the save.

Former President Jimmy Carter once said “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is”. The Tigers definitely went out on a limb by re-signing Valverde. That limb could break and make the Tigers fall short of their post season goals. On the other hand, if Valverde pitches like he did in 2011 and the 2012 regular season, it could be the move that makes them World Series Champions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Calm Before The Storm...

The economy may be down for many people, but tomorrow night in New York City there will be 32 former college football players will become millionaires.

The 2013 NFL Draft will be taking place tomorrow night. This is a great time of year for football fans across the country. There is a feeling of excitement in the air as people gather around to discuss which players their team should pick and why. Everyone feels hopeful as they learn which players they will be seeing on the field come this fall.

The Detroit Lions are slated to be choosing 5th this year and have a lot of different options in front of them. They have many holes to fill on their roster and can use the pick to draft somebody to fill that spot. They could also trade that pick for other draft picks and move down in the first round. Or they could do the opposite and make a trade and move up in the draft.

Since this year’s draft doesn’t have a legitimate #1 pick, I would write off the Lions trading up. Teams typically don’t trade up unless they have a glaring need AND there is a superstar athlete available in the draft that will make an immediate impact. Trading out of the #5 spot is certainly an option, provided they can find a willing partner who is able to put together an attractive package.

Quite honestly, I feel that the best option for the Lions is to stay put at pick #5. They have a glaring need on their offensive line and there are 3 top prospects that are available. At least one of them should be available when the Lions draft. They could draft any of them and, barring injury, pencil them in as a starter for the next 10 years.

Of course, these are the Lions…they could end up drafting a wide receiver!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Which Game Is The Most Super In Your Mind?

For those of you wondering...yes, that is me in the middle.
Which game is more “Super” this weekend…the #1 ranked Michigan Wolverines versus the #3 ranked Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington, Indiana?  Or is the Super Bowl pitting the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, Louisiana? 
Normally, my answer would be far and away the Super Bowl.  This year though, it is a tough call to make.  On one hand, you have the Super Bowl; which could almost be considered a national holiday.  Families (football fans and non-football fans alike) will gather together in homes and sports bars across the country to watch the big game.   People will bring dishes to pass quite often, and everyone will take part in watching the game.  The commercials are sometimes even more talked about than the game is.  The fact is the Super Bowl offers something for most every fan to enjoy.
This year though, the Michigan versus Indiana game is giving the Super Bowl a run for its money as the big game of the weekend here in the Mitten State.  The Big Ten is having one of it's best seasons thus far with five teams ranked in the Top 25 this season.  Michigan is ranked #1 for the first time since 1992.  Indiana has been ranked #1 a couple of times already this year and has the preseason player of the year in Cody Zeller on their squad.  Both of these teams are primed to make long runs in the upcoming NCAA tournament in March. 
So the question remains…which game is more “Super”.  To answer that question honestly you would have to decide what makes a game “Super”.  Is it super when you have a vested emotional interest in the team?  Or does the party like atmosphere of the Super Bowl grab your attention?
If none of these reasons apply to you, then perhaps you are more of a Puppy Bowl person.  Nothing wrong with that...just look at how cute they are!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I'm Hyped To Be A Part Of This Book! is a site where sports bloggers can post their articles for other bloggers to see.  Other bloggers can read the articles and "hype" them if they like them.  Hyping a blog post is similar to liking something on Facebook.

Recently, they came out with their "Best Sports Blogs of 2012" and guess who made the list...Yours Truly!!  I was very honored to be included in this compilation with a lot of other talented writers.  The book is free to view.  All you need to do is click on the link here.  I am on page 40.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sports Blog Nation...A Place To Go For All Of Your Fashion Advice

 The Broncos of Western Michigan University will not only be debuting a new coach this upcoming football season, but new helmets as well.

The updated look will have a new Bronco design on one side of the helmet, and the players jersey number on the other side.

Personally, I like the new helmets.  They are a great way to help ring in the new era of Bronco football with coach PJ Fleck.  It is a fresh updated look for Western Michigan University and it's football program.

Unfortunately, I am in the minority with my opinion.  A poll on showed that out of 427 votes, 50.35% of them (215 votes) did not like the new helmets.  A writer for Sports Blog Nation,  which is one of the biggest sports blogging websites in the country, proclaimed that it looked like "WMU spray painted the Boise State helmets and unveiled it as a new design".  This same person said that "Nike must have made a ton of Bronco helmet stickers and found a willing buyer for its surplus of inventory".

I have no issues with the poll from (I voted that I liked the new helmets by the way).  My question is when did Sports Blog Nation become an authority on fashion trends?  This shouldn't even be a story in my opinion.  Honestly, the Broncos don't even look that much alike.  They're both broncos, they both have manes, and they are both looking in the same direction.  That's about it...

Perhaps next this writer can comment on what Beyonce is wearing at the Super Bowl next week...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Robinson Hoping to Catch Passes and the Attention of NFL Scouts at Senior Bowl

Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is hard at work.  Since finishing his career at the University of Michigan, he has been busy working out and preparing himself for the next step in his life…playing in the NFL. 
Robinson has been working out in Mobile, Alabama getting himself ready for the Senior Bowl this coming Saturday.  There will be many NFL scouts and coaches watching the game and taking careful notes on how these potential prospects perform.  Robinson will be playing wide receiver in the game and hopes to show potential NFL suitors what he can offer them by playing that position.    
I've watched Robinson play on Saturdays for the past four years and have written many times on this blog about how badly I wanted Robinson’s tenure at Michigan to be over because I didn't like him as a quarterback.  He is a phenomenal athlete and no doubt has the skill set to play in the NFL…it’s just a matter of finding the right team / system to put him in. 
If I were a General Manager (and after all of the NFL drafts that I have watched on television, I should be), I would be wary of spending a draft pick on Robinson.  Yes, he has astonishing athletic prowess, but he has shown to be fragile as well.  He endured a lot of hits the past couple of years due to the amount of times he ran the football.  Once he came back off of his most recent injury (elbow), he did play some wide receiver and running back for Michigan and did quite well in my opinion.
Unfortunately, my opinion doesn't matter to the NFL.  The NFL might not even think that Robinson is worthy of spending a draft pick on.  There have been more successful college quarterbacks in the past that did not get drafted at all.  Take Charlie Ward for instance.  Ward played for Florida State from 1990 – 1994.  He won the Heisman Trophy in 1993 (Florida State won the National Championship that season).  I would go so far as to say that Ward was an even better athlete than Robinson as well.  In addition to playing football for the Seminoles, he also played for their basketball team (he was a 1st round draft pick of the New York Knicks).  He never played baseball at FSU, but was still drafted as a pitcher by the Milwaukee Brewers (1993) and then the New York Yankees (1994).
Still not convinced that Ward was a better athlete than Robinson is?  Let’s look at the tale of the tape from their senior seasons in college…
Denard Robinson                                                                                          Charlie Ward                     
6’0                                                                          Height                                       6’2                           
190 lb                                                                     Weight                                      197 lb                       
4.32  seconds                                                  40 yard dash time                            4.12 seconds

With all of that being said, if you look throughout the entire 1994 NFL draft list, Charlie Ward’s name will not come up.  Not one team took a chance on him.  Granted, he did state publicly that he would consider playing professional basketball if he wasn't drafted in the 1st round.  But that shouldn't ave been cause for him to be completely shut out of the NFL draft.  There are many people who get drafted each year that don’t even make the team.  If I were a General Manager, I would have gladly spent a later round (8 – 10) draft pick on him. 

The point that I’m making is that nothing is guaranteed.  Sure, Denard Robinson was the most exciting player in college football the past couple of years and we were lucky here in Michigan to be able to watch him on Saturday’s.  But he’s got a lot of work to do if he wants to make it to the next level…and a lot of luck to wish for.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

No Lions, No Problem! My Advice on How to Choose What Team to Cheer For.

Future Baltimore Ravens Head Coach, John Harbaugh

The field has now been set for the biggest game of the year.  February 3rd will pit the San Francisco 49’ers against the Baltimore Ravens in a game to decide the Super Bowl Championship.  It should be an exciting match-up with plenty of story lines (Harbaugh vs Harbaugh, the last ride of Ray Lewis, 49’ers return to the Super Bowl for first time in 19 years, etc.).  Both teams are playing very well right now as evident by their come from behind wins in each of their respective conferences. 
Jim Harbaugh...Michigan Wolverine
The only question now is who do you cheer for?  If we lived in Baltimore or San Francisco it would be an easy answer.  We live in Michigan though.  A lot of times our sports teams have long been eliminated by the time a championship is being decided.  This is the Super Bowl though; we want to be able to cheer for a particular team.  Every good story needs a protagonist and an antagonist, and sporting events are no different. 

The process by which we determine what team will receive our loyalty for the day is different for many people.  Some decide what team they want to root for by the colors of the uniforms.  Others will choose allegiances based upon if they've visited the city before or not. 
In situations like these, I do some research and find out which teams have the most connections to our state.  This can make that team feel more like your home team. 
With that being said, let’s take a look at the teams and what connections they have to Michigan.
Joe Staley as a Rockford Ram
Baltimore Ravens
·         Head Coach John Harbaugh
o   Harbaugh started his coaching career at Western Michigan University (1984 – 1987) working for his father (Jack Harbaugh).  He earned his master’s degree from WMU while he was coaching. 
·         Running Backs coach Wilbert Montgomery
o   Wilbert played for the Detroit Lions during the 1985 season.  He also coached the Lions running backs during the 2006 – 2007 seasons.
·         Assistant Equipment Manager Kenico Hines
o   Kenico was the Equipment Manager for Western Michigan University from 2004 – 2011.
San Francisco 49’ers
·         Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
o   Harbaugh played at the University of Michigan from 1983 – 1986 and signed with the Detroit Lions before the 2001 season (he was cut before the regular season began)
·         Offensive Tackle Joe Staley
o   Attended Rockford High School (2000 – 2003) and Central Michigan University (2004 – 2007)
·         Wide Receiver Mario Manningham
o   Attended University of Michigan (2005 – 2007)

While some connections are strong (Staley, Hines), others are shaky (Manningham, Montgomery).  With that being said, I have to say that I will be pulling for the Ravens on Super Bowl Sunday.  Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is a WMU alumnus and the assistant equipment manager is also from WMU.  Then add former Detroit Lion player and coach Wilbert Montgomery into the mix and it produces a stronger Michigan connection than what San Francisco has in my opinion.

That is my process for picking a team to root for.  Knowing more about the teams adds to the pleasure of watching the games for me.  It’s certainly better than picking a team just because I like the colors of their jersey…purple and black does go together well though.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Te'o Hoax Reaching the Minor Leagues

What do you mean she's not real?

The Florence Freedom (independent baseball team in the Frontier League) made headlines recently when they came up with a promotion for their upcoming baseball season involving the recent Manti Te’o imaginary girlfriend scandal. 
Who are the Florence Freedom?   You say that you’ve never heard of them?  Neither have millions of other people.  That may all change though after today.  Whether it’s for the better or not is still up in the air. 
May 23rd will be “Manti Te’o Girlfriend Bobblehead Night” in Florence.  The first 1000 fans will receive a boxed bobblehead that bears his girlfriend’s likeness.  Wait…wasn’t his girlfriend a hoax?  Yes it was; it was all a hoax.  The box that will be handed out to the first 1000 fans will be empty.  That’s the joke…the bobblehead is imaginary.
"This will be the best kind of bobblehead a fan could get," Freedom General Manager Josh Anderson said. "Because now fans can make the bobblehead out to be whatever they want it to be."
But wait!  Empty boxes won’t be the only imaginary-theme event going on that night.  Section 115 of the ballpark will be blocked and reserved only for fans to sit with their imaginary friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, or spouses.  The Freedom will also have a pretend kiss cam going around the ballpark, an air guitar contest, and an imaginary food fight. 
I am a huge baseball fan and an even bigger fan of minor league baseball.  I love the creativity that goes into their promotions and how “fan-friendly” they are.  With that being said, I do applaud the Freedom staff for jumping on this story and making a promotion out of it.  It has definitely given them a lot of publicity. 
If it turns out Te’o did indeed know that his “girlfriend” was imaginary and still went along with the hoax in order to gain publicity for himself, then I’m all for this promotion.  He deserves to be mocked.  On the other hand, if Te’o is innocent, this promotion will be looked at as distasteful. 
Only time will tell which one it will be…

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Oh No They Didn't!

The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2013 was announced today.  It was an eagerly anticipated vote considering the fact that three players who could be considered the cover boys of the "Steroid Era" were eligible for the first time.

Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens were all eligible for the first time and, not surprisingly, none of them achieved the required 75% of the vote to gain entrance into the Hall of Fame.

The BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) not only kept them out, they kept EVERYBODY out this year.  Yes, you heard me correctly...NOBODY was elected to the Hall of Fame this year.  For only the eight time in history, not a single player received enough votes.

To be honest, we all knew that the steroid guys weren't going to get in (at least not anytime soon).  Most of the other eligible players that weren't associated with steroids probably weren't getting in either.  Guys like Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were great players, but when I think of them I don't see Hall of Fame.  I just don't.  One guy that I do see as Hall of Fame worthy is Jack Morris.  Morris only received 67.7% of the vote (he needed to have at least 75%.

The fact that  Morris isn't in the Hall of Fame is mind boggling.  I've already stated my case in a previous post about Morris's candidacy.  This time, I'll let Jack Morris himself do the talking...

Jack Morris on why he thinks he belongs in the Hall of Fame - "I don't know how to defend this. I really hate to have to do this. There is a growing trend of guys who are caught up into this numbers deal: WHIP and RIP and ZIP. I don't know what it all means. I know this: I threw more pitches, got more people out, had more complete games, did all the things starting pitchers are supposed to have done, than anybody in my time. I don't know what else to say.  I can honestly say I will go to my grave saying, "I can play at the level of anybody who played the game."

I couldn't have said it better myself...JACK MORRIS FOR HALL OF FAME INDUCTION IN 2014!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

NHL Ready to Drop the Puck, But Did They Drop the Ball with their Fans?

After 113 agonizing days of waiting, the NHL and the players association reached a tentative agreement on a new 10 year labor deal and avoiding what could have been the second cancelled season in less than 10 years.

"We've got to dot a lot of Is and cross a lot of Ts," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "There's still a lot of work to be done, but the basic details of the agreement have been agreed upon."

The end of the lockout means that the players are happy, the owners are happy, the employees of the teams are happy...but are the fans happy?

Hockey fans are unfortunately used to work stoppages. In the 1994 - 1995 season, the lockout spanned 104 days which caused the cancellation of 468 regular season games. The 2004 - 2005 season wasn't played at all because the two sides couldn't come together on an agreement in time. It lasted 310 days and cancelled a whopping 1230 games. And this most recent lockout ended after 113 days, cancelling a total of 628 regular season games. For those of you playing at home, that is 527 days of being locked out and the cancelling of 2326 games.

You'd think that all of lockouts and cancelled games would turn even the most die-hard fan away for good...right? The NHL isn't the only game around, even in my hometown I have an ECHL hockey team and a top notch college hockey program that are less than 20 minutes away (and considerably less expensive than going to an NHL game). I could even stay at home and watch plenty of college hockey from the comfort of my couch on the NBC Sports Network.

History has shown though that NHL hockey fans do forgive and forget. During the 2003 - 2004 season, the Detroit Red Wings had a total attendance of 822,706 for the season (averaging 20,066 per game). The 2004 - 2005 season was lost to the lockout. However, the Red Wings fans came back out to support their team during the 2005 - 2006 season. The team had almost identical attendance numbers (822,646 total and 20,509 average per game).

Granted, the Red Wings had a great season that year and they do play in "Hockey Town". So, just for comparison, let's look at a team that had a not so memorable year. The Chicago Blackhawks won only 20 games during the 2003 - 2004 season but had 543,374 in total attendance (13,253 average per game). For the 2005 - 2006 season, they saw 546,075 people come through the turnstiles (average of 13,318 per game).

So, when the NHL drops the puck on this current season, will the fans be able to forgive and forget again? Or was this lockout the straw that broke the camel's back?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Will Morris and Trammell Get "The Call"?

Pop quiz hotshot!  You have a Major League Baseball Hall of Fame vote and have to decide whether former Tigers Jack Morris and Alan Trammell are Hall of Fame worthy.  If you don't vote for them this year, then they  may not ever have another chance to obtain the necessary votes.  If you do vote for them, they could become immortalized in Cooperstown...WHAT DO YOU DO! "and scene"

To clarify, that was my horrible interpretation of Dennis Hopper talking to Keanu Reeves in the move "Speed" if Keanu held a Hall of Fame vote.  All joking aside though, I wish that the voters would think of how they are voting in a similar fashion.  To give players 15 chances to be elected is ridiculous.  I feel that either you are a Hall of Fame player or you are not.  How does a player not achieve the required amount of votes one year, but gains them another and is only then considered a Hall of Famer?  Goose Gossage had to wait 9 years before he was considered a Hall of Famer.  Bert Blyleven had to wait 14 years.  The entire process needs to be reworked.

On Tuesday, January 8th, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce their 2013 inductees.  This year we will see some big names from the "steroid era" on the ballot for the first time.  Players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa are all first time eligible.  Mark McGwire (7th year eligible) and Rafael Palmeiro (3rd year eligible) are carryovers from  previous years.

To gain entrance into the Hall of Fame, a player has to be on at least 75% of the ballots cast.  Each voter is able to vote for a maximum of 10 people (although they don't have to vote for 10, it can be less).  This year will be the 14th year on the ballot for Morris and the 11th year for Trammell. 

Growing up here in Michigan, I was a big Tigers fan.  Morris and Trammell were both in the prime of their careers, so I guess that you could say that I am a bit biased.  A lot of people don't believe that Morris or Trammell deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.  However, if you look at the numbers that these players put up compared to other current Hall of Famers, I think that they will see things a little differently. 

Jack Morris
  • Morris was the winningest pitcher in the '80's (162 wins).  This was more than current Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven (123 wins) and Nolan Ryan (122 wins).
  • He finished with an astounding 175 complete games (133 of those in the 1980's alone).
  • One of the best "big game" pitchers there ever was (Named World Series MVP in 1991 with Twins with a 2-0 record, 1.17 ERA, and a 10-inning, 1-0 victory in Game Seven)
Last year, Morris was named on 66.7% of the ballots, falling 48 votes short of election.  No player has ever received more than 65% of the vote and not been elected, however Morris is running out of time.

Alan Trammell
  • Trammell played 20 years (all with the Tigers) and had a career batting average of .285.  Current Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr had a career batting average of only .276.
  • Trammell's on base percentage was .352, compared to .340 for Ripken.
  • Trammell earned 4 Gold Gloves over the course of his career compared to 2 Gold Gloves for Ripken. 
Trammell was named on 36.8% of the votes this past year and will need a lot of help if he's going to make it to the elusive 75% level. 

Are they Hall of Fame worthy?  To be honest, it's a very simple question that I think many "experts" make difficult for the purpose of creating controversy.  If it were up to me, I'd vote for both Morris and Trammell.  They've proven to be Hall of Fame worthy and should already be in Cooperstown, not waiting for 15 years before it's official.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What To Do? College Football Players Make Life Changing Decisions

"Should I stay or should I go"?

No, I'm not talking about the classic rock song by The Clash.  I'm talking about college football players who have just finished up their junior year of eligibility.  They have to decide whether they are going to stay in school for their senior year or forgo their final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. 

This is a monumental, life changing decision in their lives.  So, in order to help those players make their decisions, the NFL established a Draft Advisory Board.  This board is made up of General Managers and Personnel Directors from several NFL teams, along with the Directors of the two NFL scouting combines. 

Eligible players will submit their applications to the advisory board sometime in December and, once they receive the Board's decision, have until January 15th to decide if they are going to enter the NFL Draft or return to school.  The Board issues a decision that the player has the potential to be picked:
  • in the first round
  • as high as the second round
  • as high as the third round
  • after the third round
  • in no round at all
Four notable players from the state of Michigan are currently contemplating this decision.  Le'Veon Bell, William Gholston, and Dion Sims from Michigan State and Taylor Lewan from Michigan have all submitted applications to the Board.  The Board's projections for these players is as follows:
  • Taylor Lewan (offensive tackle) - in the first round
  • Le'Veon Bell (running back) - as high as the second round
  • William Gholston (defensive end) - as high as the third round
  • Dion Sims (tight end) - as high as the third round
These players will take this information into consideration when making their decisions.  They will also gauge the opinions of family, trusted friends, and coaches. 

Not to toot my own horn, but I consider myself a bit of an NFL Draft guru.  If any of these players asked my opinion, I would STRONGLY encourage all of them to enter the NFL Draft.  A solid argument could be made though that they should stay in school to earn their degree.  I understand it completely, but I also disagree with it wholeheartedly.  These kids can always go back to school and earn their degree (I got mine when I was 33 years old).  They only get one chance to make it in the NFL. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Michigan Blows Lead to Gamecocks, Looks to the Future

In his final game as a Wolverine, Denard Robinson could only stand on the sideline and watch as the Gamecocks of South Carolina went ahead with only 11 seconds in the game to win the Outback Bowl 33 - 28.

Arguably the most exciting athlete to ever play for Michigan, Robinson finished with a quiet (for him) performance of 100 rushing yards and 7 receiving yards.  He finishes as the NCAA career leader in rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,495.    

So what's next for Brady Hoke and the Wolverines?  They reportedly have a top 5 recruiting class coming in next season to help strengthen an already solid core group of players.  Denard Robinson will be gone, so offensive coordinator Al Borges can run an offense that involves the entire team, instead of centering it around Denard.  I believe that Devin Gardner will become a more polished quarterback next season knowing that it is truly his team now. 

I've heard a lot of people saying that this was a down year for the Wolverines (who finished with a record of 8 - 4).  I disagree...think of it this way, three of their four losses were against the top three ranked teams in the final poll (Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State).    In my opinion, Michigan had a legitimate shot at beating both Notre Dame and Ohio State (Alabama simply destroyed them), they just made some crucial mistakes that cost them those games. 

I for one am excited to see what Year 3 of the Brady Hoke era will bring to Ann Arbor.  Lloyd Carr brought a National Championship to Michgan in his third year as head coach, Brian Kelly is in his third year at Notre Dame and has his Fighting Irish playing for the National Championship. 

Can Brady Hoke do the same?