Misc. notes on things that aren’t the Olympics

I commented last week on the Jeff Otah trade from the Panthers to the Jets as a win-win for both teams as the Panthers get something back for a injury prone, unproductive player and the Jets get a very talented, run blocking right tackle that they need.  Well that didn’t work as Otah failed his physical.  I expect to see Otah on the street within a few weeks.

 

In a strange story, the Chargers signed Kyle Boller to add to their quarterback depth with only Phillip Rivers and rookie Jarrett Lee healthy for training camp.  Then, the very next day, Kyle just up and retired.  According to Norv Turner, “He does not want to continue to play football”.  My guess is one of two things, either Kyle realized the hard work it would take starting over as a third string quarterback and that hit him when he got to camp, or Kyle got to camp and realized he was not in the shape he needed to be in to compete, and chose instead to give up.  Regardless, I f0und it to be a very odd story.

 

On the Eagles side, the injury list includes Brent Celek, who always seems banged up, and losing camp reps won’t hurt him too much, it also lets the young tight ends get more reps.  The Eagles have yet to make a move in at the tight end position and Shiancoe ended up signing in New England so he is off the table.  Also hurt is Jason Babin and more tests are coming.  The defensive line is deep enough that this also isn’t of too much concern right now unless the injury turns out to be severe.  The last injury to note is a broken Collarbone for Riley Cooper.  I like Riley and think he has some good potential but again more reps for the young guys is never a bad thing.  Marvin McNutt has a real chance to take Cooper’s spot in the rotation and if Damaris Johnson keeps up the strong play, Cooper could suddenly be fighting for a roster spot.  If I thought he would be worth anything solid in return, I would even suggest making a trade to the wide out needy New York Jets, where he could play with his college quarterback Tim Tebow.  Either way, with our ‘big’ wide receiver hurt expect the Plaxico talk to ramp back up again.  Honestly, if the Eagles did ultimately deem Plax healthy and able to contribute, I actually would be for it.

 

Lastly, the Phillies are supposedly now is sell mode with this season lost.  Cole Hamels got the long term extension I said I was hoping for, so he won’t be going anywhere.   Outside of him, I wouldn’t be crushed to see anyone else go, if it means getting a few top prospects on offense back in return.  This Phillies team, particularly on offense, has become very very old and there doesn’t appear to be all that much long term talent in their farm system outside of maybe Dominac Brown, who flashed some potential down the line last season and Freddy Galvis who looked alright in place of Chase Utley early in the season before fracturing his back and receiving a 50 game banned substance suspension.  As their roster sits currently, the only offensive players the Phillies have under the age of 30 are John Mayberry Jr. (28) and Hunter Pence (29) and with most of their top prospects being pitchers, it would be great to add a couple of young talented hitters before the end of the season.  Particularly, looking at potential MLB ready types, my eyes are on Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt, both stuck in the minors in Texas because of their already potent offense, and possibly available while the Rangers search for one more starting pitcher.

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Change The Rule

Last night myself, like a lot of the American population, was fixed on the television as the USA Women’s Gymnastics team completed their qualifying round for the Olympics.  As a team, they cruised easily into a first place seeding for the team finals and maintained their status as Gold Medal favorites.  The night ended with heartbreak, however, for one of the girls on our ‘Fab Five’ team and it was a sediment that seems to be echoing throughout the nation and in the Gymnastics sporting world.  What happened?  Jordyn Weiber, the 2011 World Champion in the All-Around competition, will not get to compete in the Olympic All-Around because of a rule that only allows 2 competitors from each nation to advance.  (This rule is in effect for both the individual all-around finals as well as the individual apparatus finals.)  Jordyn posted the 4th best overall score in the qualifying round when it was all said and done, and yet is being denied a chance to compete in the finals because she happens to be part of a team that boasts 3 top athletes.  In all, 4 of the top 25 qualifiers were prevented from advancing into the finals based on this rule (Jordyn Weiber, USA, 4th, Anastasia Grishina, RUS, 12th, Jennifer Pinches, GBR, 21st and Yao Jinnan, CHN, 22nd).  In their place we will instead see the 26th, 27th and 28th best qualifiers receive a chance to compete in the All-Around competition.

 

The biggest argument against this set-up is the competition.  The Olympics is the premier competition, the best of the best, and yet this rule prevents that from happening.  A similar thing happens in swimming in that only 2 swimmers per country per event can qualify for the Olympic Games, but once you get to the games,  you will never see a swimmer with the 4th fastest qualifying time be held out of the next stage of competition.  I understand the basic notion that if you aren’t in the top 2 on your own team, you probably cannot compete with the other bests in the world, but that is a flawed thought in the situation of an extremely strong team.  The Olympics award medals for the top 3 placers, Gold, Silver and Bronze, but we prevent any nation from having a chance at sweeping the medal stand while keeping a potential medalist from even being part of the competition, solely based on their nationality?

 

In the very popular Olympic sport of track and field, for the most part, 3 competitors per event qualify for the Olympic games and witnessing a medal sweep of an event by one county is a magical moment.  I do not think upping the number to 3 this is the perfect answer either though.  If you set a hard qualifying number of 3 entries per nation, eventually there will be a case where the 4 of the top athletes are all from the same country.  The United States nearly witnessed this in the shot put this year when there were 3 veteran, former World Champions, as well as a young guy who was the reigning Indoor World Champion.  In the end, one of them wasn’t where he needed to be to compete with the others and 3 qualifiers was the right number, but all four of these men looked like they had the potential to earn Olympic Medals.

 

In the end the Olympic committees need to find a way to allow the best competitors to compete.  Restrictions based on nationality (or age for that matter) should not be a factor, not in the qualifying for the games themselves and especially not within the games.  For nearly every athlete, in every sport in the world, the Olympics are the biggest deal, as they only occur once every 4 years, and simply qualifying for the games is a dream come true.  Not allowing some of these athletes (much less the defending World Champion) to compete for a medal in their event, despite the fact that they qualified both for the games and for the for the medal round is beyond unacceptable.  The competition for the best all-around gymnast should include all of the best all-around gymnasts just as the race to determine the fastest man in the world should include all of the fastest men in the world.  We aren’t going to tell Usain Bolt he cannot run in the 100 finals if he qualifies in 4th, just because countrymen Asafa Powell and Johan Blake qualified ahead of him, why would we do the same thing here?  This rule needs changed…

Why isn’t the NFL season here yet?

This is probably the most boring time of the sports year as the NFL and NBA are off and the MLB took a few days off then went into a wait and see who gets traded period.

On the baseball front, the first big name trade was Monday when an aging Ichiro, who is very much on the decline, left the only team he’s ever known and was traded to the Yankees.  That same night he started against his former team and was given a nice ovation in his first at bat as the Yankees got the win.  Ichiro represents another aging veteran player for the Yankees and fills a hole in the outfield for them.  His skills are clearly diminished though and he really won’t have much of an impact, as he went 1/4 with a stolen base, batting 8th in his first game in New York.  He is probably meant to stay as a bottom of the lineup guy from here on out and reportedly agreed to become a bottom of the lineup guy who sits at times just to play in New York.  It will be nice to see Ichiro get to play for a contender and potentially get to a World Series, even if it comes with the Yankees.  For Seattle it was nice to get something back for a player who was, in all reality, done.

The Astros have also started their annual house cleaning as they made 2 separate multi-player trades already, sending away pitchers J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter and Brett Myers among others.

Another noteworthy trade that’s already in the books is the Tigers sending top pitching prospect Jacob Turner to Miami for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez.  Bringing Omar back to Detroit helps them out at second base and Anibal gives them another good veteran starter as they are trying to win now.

One of the big names on the trade block that I hope instead gets a long term deal rather than being traded is Cole Hamels.  He is one of those guys I hope is in Philly for life as he has been the best and most consistent pitchers for many years now and was a big part of their World Series title in 2008 (MVP) and their return trip in 2009.

Just a quick note on basketball, the Sixers signed Nick Young and have traded for Dorell Wright.  They also re-signed Spence Hawes and added Kwame Brown.  They should have a good team again this year and could make another playoff run.  I need to try and get out to a couple games this year after not making it to any last year for the first time in a while.

Moving on to football.  Training camp has started and preseason is right around the corner.  That means the season is drawing ever closer!!

Aaron Berry has become the poster child of NFL off-season stupidity.  Thankfully the Lions cut him to make an example.  He wasn’t that good that he could even try to get away with that stuff.  These players need to stop drinking and driving and brandishing weapon, there is no reason to do either when you are making millions of dollars a year.  Maybe if you made just over minimum wage in a town with a bar on every corner and no form of bus or taxi system you would have an excuse, but you idiots have enough money to call a cab or at least throw $20 to a sober friend for a ride.

The Eagles have brought in Jeremy Shockey and Visanthe Shiancoe for workouts recently.  If one of them signs with the team, it is an indication that the coaches are not happy with Clay Harbor’s development.  I’m sure Eagles fans would hate to see Shockey in Eagle Green but its worth noting that Shiancoe was Shockey’s seldom used backup in New York for 4 years.  The Vikings then unexpectedly signed Shiancoe to a relatively large deal after he only recorded 35 receptions for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns in New York.  It turned out to be a good move as from 2008-2011 Shiancoe had 181 receptions for 2101 yards and 23 touchdowns.  Not a Hall-of-Famer by any means, but he would be a solid 1 year stop-gap as a backup TE.   I’d also like to see what Brett Brackett and Chase Ford can do as well.

I just read that Lofa Tatupu will be out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle.  He was trying to make a comeback and this will probably end his hopes of ever having one.  Its really rough to see guys with tons of talent have bodies that won’t let them accomplish what they set out to do.

 

Last thing I have for today is the Panthers made a couple of moves this week.  They traded for Louis Murphy who had become expendable in Oakland and then sent Jeff Otah to the Jets.  Murphy joins a relatively weak group of wide receivers in Carolina and could quickly become a starter or key player for Cam Newton and that offense.  Jeff Otah had the potential to become a great Right Tackle in the NFL after being drafted with the 19th overall pick in 2008 by the Panthers (a pick they got from the Eagles, I actually wanted Otah with that pick too).  It turned out Otah hasn’t been able to stay healthy and, after adding Bruce Campbell in a different trade with the Raiders earlier this off season, they deemed him replaceable.  If he can stay healthy he will be a good addition for the Jets who like to run the ball.

NBA Free Agency and other random notes

First I’ll mention the MLB home run derby, congrats to Prince Fielder on the big win.  And also a pat on the back to Robinson Cano who got booed into a 0 homer outing.  That had to suck.

On the topic of home run derby’s, apparently the ever busy Rob Gronkowski won a celebrity derby at a Triple-A All-Star game the other day that included a legit 325 foot home run.  I guess I’ll be impressed.

On to the main topic, the ridiculousness that is NBA Free Agency.  While none of the signings are official yet, they might as well be, and rumors of more crazy moves to come are everywhere, including a 4 team deal that will send Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets.  But I’ll touch on that in a little bit.  What I wanted to do is just glance at the big name teams and signings and what I think the reality of the moves will be.

Miami Heat:  The biggest news continues to be Jesus Shuttlesworth taking his talents to South Beach (or Ray Allen to the Miami Heat for those of you who don’t get that reference).  A big name going to the defending champions is always a prime headline, and while I love Ray Allen and the quickest and prettiest release in the NBA, I think at this stage of his career he is a role player and won’t make quite as big a splash in Miami as people think.  What he will do, however, is stabilize the Miami bench.  I said before the Finals this year that the Heat couldn’t win with only 3 players, and then Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, a worn down Mike Miller and even Norris Cole all stepped up to provide the help they needed.  With Ray Allen in the mix they have one more legit scorer to help when James or Wade are out, double teamed or just cold.  The 3 point shooting on the Miami’s roster goes from good to scary, and if you leave any of those guys open on the wing they will make you pay.

Boston Celtics:  The logical next team to mention is the Celtics who Ray Allen spurned to head to Miami.  The rumors of his discontent with their interest in trading him, and the thought he didn’t get along with Rondo, made the split easier for the team, even though it has the fans pissed.  It helps that they replace him with Jason Terry, a player who is similar in his scoring ability but with a lot more speed and ability to drive to the hoop at this point in their respective careers.  Boston doesn’t really change their team at all with this move.  They are also reportedly interested in Courtney Lee who would be a good addition as well.

Brooklyn Nets:  In the past two seasons the Nets have not only revamped the name and city, but the roster as well, adding Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace.  Now they pull off a trade that not only keeps Deron from leaving, but adds Joe Johnson to the roster.  The rumor now is they have a 4 team deal in the works that I won’t try to figure out or explain, but will land them Dwight Howard as well.  If that happens the Nets would have the most talented starting lineup in the entire league, but they will experience growing pains similar to how the Heat did after their ‘Big Three’ teamed up.  The Nets will be giving up pretty much all of the bench talent with these trades and they 4 guys won’t know how to work together right away, so it could take some time for the talent to shine through.  Regardless, this will be a very scary team for the next few years, even without Howard.

Orlando Magic:  The Magic appear to prefer being a bad/rebuilding team for the next several years over trying to make Dwight Howard happy.  Trading him is just a matter of time until they get the right deal worked out.  They also just sent Ryan Anderson to New Orleans to play alongside Anthony Davis.  In return they get a prospect player at center in Gustavo Ayon.  Good luck to those fans for the next few years.

Los Angels Lakers:  In probably my favorite move so far, the Lakers receive 2 time MVP Steve Nash from the Suns.  Steve Nash will give the Lakers a much needed true point guard and take a lot of pressure off of Kobe while helping to get him, as well as Bynum and Gasol, more open looks.  The Lakers were already a veteran team so adding another very experience player who desperately wants to win a title is a great move, as he will do what he needs to do within the team to help.

Atlanta Hawks:  So far the Hawks have replaced Kirk Hinrich, Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams with, in no particular order, Devin Harris, Jordan Farmer, DeShawn Stevenson, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams and Johan Petro.  While there is some potential and ability in this crew, I’m sure losing Johnson doesn’t make Josh Smith the happiest man in Atlanta and he could be getting ready to leave town if the Hawks don’t find him more help.  On the plus side though, the Hawks are rumored to still be in the Dwight Howard race and have plenty of fire power to trade their way around.

New York Knicks:  For me the Knicks might just be the team to watch in the East, outside of the defending champs.  They appear to be planning to bring Jeremy Lin back and have already added veterans Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby.  The veteran leadership from these two guys will be a big boost to this team as will their skill sets.  Kidd would be a great mentor and backup to Lin to help him become more consistent, and Camby is a phenomenal defensive player to bring off the bench behind Amare’ and Tyson Chandler.  J.R. Smith has also said he will be staying in New York to round out their starting lineup.  If the Knicks can play consistently and up to their talent level after a full off-season to work together, they could be a scary team next year.

Chicago Bulls:  The Bulls are bringing Kirk Hinrich back to Chicago where I’m sure the fans still love him.  He was one of those guys who left because financially he had to, but I’m sure they hated to do it.  With Rose banged up and unsure when he will be able to play again, bringing back a veteran point guard and fan favorite will help ease the pain.  When Rose does come back, Kirk can slide over to shooting guard and help stretch the floor for the team as well.  Great move.

Other notable pending moves:  Lamar Odom is now a Clipper.  He can go back to being the 6-man being Blake Griffin and will be back in L.A. which I’m sure he is happy about.  Brandon Roy is trying to make a come-back with the Grizzles.  They could use a healthy Roy as they have already lost Michael Beasley to the Suns.  The Suns are also trying to get Eric Gordon away from New Orleans, it is up to the Hornets to match the offer however.

 

July Predictions: 

West Final – Lakers over Thunder  (Kobe’s last hurrah)

East Final – Heat over Knicks  (LeBron’s redemption, part 2)

Former teammates predictions game

I have paired up 12 groups of former college or pro teammates to decide who will have a better season this year.  Leave your predictions in the comments section and at the end of the season we can go back and check to see who did the best.

  • Former Alabama backfield mates Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, most rushing yards.

Student becomes the master here as I think Trent Richardson wins this one, I just do not trust anything in New Orleans right now.  Trent Richardson by 250 yards.

  • Former Arizona Wildcats, Brooks Reed’s sack total or Rob Gronkowski’s number of touchdown receptions.

With Mario Williams gone and Connor Barwin more likely to get the extra attention, I’m going to take Reed in an upset though it will be close.  Brooks Reed by 1.

  • Former Arkansas backfield mates (what a heck of a 1-2-3 punch this was), Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis.  Who misses the least number of games due to injury.

This one is tough as they missed 9, 4 and 6 games respectively last season.  I’m going with Peyton Hillis to stay healthy have somewhat of a rebound season in Kansas City.  It won’t be another 2010 for him, but it will be better than last year.  Hillis plays all 16 and the others miss at least 2 each.

  • Former Eastern Illinois Quarterbacks, Tony Romo’s playoff wins vs Sean Payton’s games coached.

This one is cheating a little bit as they never played together, but they share an Alma Mater and Payton was Romo’s position coach in Dallas for a few years.  We all know that Payton is suspended for the entire year.  I still take Payton over Romo though, because Tony Romo isn’t going to win a playoff game.  Payton might at least coach a pee-wee game somewhere.  Sean Payton because anything is greater than 0.

  • Former Georgia Tech Wide outs, Calvin Johnson’s total yards vs Demaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill’s combined total yards.

Mostly I want to comment on the size and athletic ability at the wide receiver position that a triple option school is able to recruit.  While Demaryius certainly looks like a breakout candidate after a strong postseason and the addition of one Peyton Manning, Megatron is the best in the game right now.  Calvin by 150 yards.

  • Former LSU cornerbacks, Morris Claiborne vs Patrick Peterson, total interception.

Don’t be fooled by the great year Peterson had returning punts because he wasn’t nearly as strong on defense and only netted 2 interception and 13 pass deflections (according to pro football reference).  I think Claiborne will be tested this year and teams will learn the hard way that he is for real.  Claiborne by 3.

  • Former Michigan Wolverines, Mario Manningham’s receiving touchdowns vs Chad Henne’s number of starts.

Manningham got a good sized contract to be the #3 wide receiver on a run first 49ers team largely based on 1 Super Bowl catch.  I think Blaine Gabbert will do little enough for Henne to earn at least 5 starts this year.  Chad Henne by 2.

  • Former Penn State aka Linebacker U guys.  2 point question.  Navorro Bowman vs Sean Lee in total tackles and pass rushers Cameron Wake vs Tamba Hali in total sacks.

Lee and Bowman both had breakout seasons last year as inside linebackers in the 3-4 while Wake and Hali have become dangerous pass rushes as outside linebackers in their team’s 3-4 schemes.  I would love to have all 4 guys on the same team.  Lee plays more in space and gets more interceptions than Bowman but Navorro will get more tackles.  Hali has been more consistent and done it for a longer time than Wake.  Bowman by a decent number of tackles and Hali by 2 sacks.

  • Former USC Quarterback Mark Sanchez vs Current USC Quarterback Matt Barkley, total wins as a starting quarterback.

USC plays 12 games, the Jets play 16.  I’m still taking Barkley by 3.

  • Former Notre Damn super connection, Brady Quinn’s career passing touchdown total after this season vs Jeff Samardzija’s total MLB wins this season.

Jeff has already started 16 games this year with a 6-7 record for the Cubs, putting him on pace for 12 or 13 wins.  Brady starts the season with only 10 career touchdown passes, hasn’t thrown a regular season pass since 2009 and is the backup to Matt Cassel.  (Cassel is another USC quarterback who will have less wins than Barkley and will miss or be benched for at least 1 game by the end of the year.)  Samardzija may face an innings cap late in the season and Quinn will get a 2 game chance and throw at least 4 touchdowns.  Quinn by 1.

  • Recent UNC defenders selected in one of the first 2 rounds of the draft to have a breakout season or good rookie debut.  Robert Quinn vs Bruce Carter vs Marvin Austin vs Quinton Couples vs Zach Brown.

What a group of highly talented underachieving defenders.  I don’t think that either of the rookies will be strong right away as they both need to adjust to the NFL game.  Marvin Austin and Bruce Carter are both in great positions to take advantage of playing time on their respective teams at positions that aren’t very deep.  Quinn was the best right away and could produce the best stats on a Rams defense that will be on the field an awful lot again this year.  Robert Quinn to have 10 sacks and be the only true starter in the group.

  • Former Cincinnati Bengal Pro Bowlers Carson Palmer’s total interceptions vs Chad Ochocinco’s yards per catch.

Carson gave the ball away 16 times in 10 games last season and their only option as a backup is Matt Leinart (2 more USC quarterbacks who will also win less games than Matt Barkley this season).  Chad’s career average yards per catch is 14.4 and a renaissance season with a lot of short to intermediate catches will lead to a lower number.  I’m taking Carson to throw more than 14 interceptions and Chad’s average to be under 15.  Carson by 1.

Other teammate groups considered:  Utah pass rushers Paul Kruger and Koa Misi, USC linebackers Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, troubled Oklahoma state wide receivers Justin Blackmon and Dez Bryant, former LA Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns cornerback tandem Charles Tillman and Ike Taylor, and former Stanford 1-2 punch Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck.

Let me know your thoughts and predictions.