Monday, April 30, 2007

Rolling the Dice with Andy

The Eagles- bless’em- threw the dice here. Man, quarterback is oh so tricky- and to spend your first pick of the day here...

For example, there are probably thirty guys in the NFL playing linebacker that are pluses most Sundays- and at least another thirty that won’t cost you games running them out there each week. But quarterback… well, by definition, if there are 32 starters, only sixteen are “above average”- and of that sixteen some will get hurt, and some won’t sustain their success for five years. Worse, that #16 QB is someone like David Carr. Or Tony Romo.

Right now, there really are only a dozen guys in the whole freakin’ League that have had either sustained success or can realistically expect it. Figuring a top quarterback plays a decade, then on average, only one guy a year entering the League that deserves the “franchise quarterback” tag. People kill Ramsey- but he’s certainly one of the Top 50 qbs on the planet. If he were a linebacker, that would be fine- he’s be the second best ‘backer on a decent team- but the cut for quality in qbs is so much higher.

Kolb could turn out to be the second best quarterback in the entire draft- then it follows around the 18th-20th best qb in the whole world- which is something like Joey Harrington, right? Conversely, the second best defensive tackle in the draft could be a pro-bowler for a generation. It’s hard to take that sort of gamble unless you really, really need to. And the Eagles don't.

Sigh. The vast, vast consensus was that Russell and Quinn were the 1 and 1A prospects in this draft- and Kolb, Beck and Stanton were the next tier. Yes, you can justify taking Kolb higher than “consensus”- ‘cause he wasn’t certainly, without a doubt, going to be on the board the next time around. And if he’s one of those special ten-twelve guys- no will care where you took him.

To me, that is the difference. You “miss a little” choosing a defensive lineman- and get a guy who is the fiftieth best player in the League at his position, you get a high quality starter. You “miss even a little less” choosing a quarterback, you get the 25th best qb in the League, and that guy gets booed out of the stadium. Normally, I tend to cut teams a break selecting quarterbacks- you need one, it is so darn hard that maybe you need to invest picks there.

Kolb has got as good a chance as any of his immediate peers (Stanton & Beck), he wasn’t going to be on the board much longer, they traded down a dozen spots to get him (picked up an extra 2, 3 and 5- round selection- maybe they could afford a flyer) so I’m okay- but just okay- with the selection. It is a gamble- and I hate to gamble if I don't need to. I get the rationale. And again, I really want to cut them a break cause it is a quarterback they're reaching for (not, say a safety)- just don't expect me to be happy about it.

To me, their best pick was Tony Hunt- from Penn State. He shouldn’t have been on the board that late, he should be able to contribute a dozen or so touches at a higher level than Correll Buckhalter, he is healthier than Buckhalter, and as a gifted power runner he complements Westbrook. Now, the team can get rid of two of this uninspiring trio: Ryan Moats, Buckhalter and Reno Mahe- which is cause for much rejoicing.

And the trade was a good one. Trading down in the new vogue in the NFL- and it makes sense to me- particularly since the Eagles, once the safety from Miami went off the board, clearly weren’t in love with anyone. Moving down a dozen or so spots for a three and five seems shrewd. The Eagles recent draft history suggests a certain quantity over quality strategy works best. But that end from Purdue must now never touch McNabb though.

The rest of the draft was unremarkable- the risk-reward trade-off seemed adequate- and the trade agasin reasonable, a plus. I feel ultimately nonplussed- nothing here to cost them dominance of NFC East, nothing here to close the gap on the League’s elite.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Conscience of NASCAR

I am partial to Tony Stewart- largely because he acts as a sort of conscience of the NASCAR community- albeit slightly crazed. And he is dead right here about the number and type of “debris cautions”.

I’ve railed about this stupid debris caution nonsense for two years now- there was actually one for a glove a year or so ago- which is the key cause of the absolutely never ending increase in caution periods. Worst of all, the end of racing back to the stripe under yellow means NASCAR is now locked forever into a seemingly endless number of additional caution laps required to sort all the lucky dog or “who was in what position exactly the moment the caution flew” debates.

And while I disagree with Tony- I don’t for a minute believe NASCAR is throwing debris cautions for any reason other than what they perceive to be participant safety- the fact remains that safety cautions are getting totally out of hand. And they’re boring and I don’t want to watch them anymore.

Save the blinking yellow lights for real emergencies and feel free to freeze the field then- but for more “routine cautions” let them race back to the flag- and then turn these debris cautions and such into a quick, closed pit, one-lap tidying exercise. With the exception of the green-white-checker rule, NASCAR has spent the past few years taking steps that inadvertently increased caution laps. Now they need to look at rules increasing racing at the expense of parading.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Spring Football

I've been meaning to post my trenchant insights about Tulane and the progress the Spring- particularly the scrimmage the weekend before last to cap off practice. I dunno- for me, the scrimmage was not exactly insightful- in the sense that there was nothing in it to suggest that Tulane could definitely win more than four games- weighed strongly against there was nothing to suggest they couldn’t either.


1. It was quick (maybe 45 snaps?) and sloppy (figure a dozen of those plays was either busted, a sack- seriously, there were like seven, a turnover or two, blocked kick, obvious penalty, etc.) But you know, they were running quarterbacks and deep reserves in and out, after a few weeks of workouts, new coach, new plays, new positions- so you know, I kinda give’em a pass.

2. Scott Elliott is clearly the quarterback right now. Or at least they really, really, really want him to be. Right now, Scelfo would be a very good qb at a place like Georgetown- but I-A stretches his physical capacity too far. Didn’t see much of Moore. Scott did complete a lot of throws- but the defense was vanilla in the secondary, few blitzes, etc. One huge positive- the wide outs caught the ball again and again. I can’t really remember a bad drop.

3. Last year, I wrote pre-season I thought the Tulane defense had a great shot to set the record for most points allowed ever by a Tulane team- and was savaged by many for that prediction. Tip of the cap: I was wrong. Tulane just barely missed the record- but allowed 400 points!!

Consequently, my biggest worry is the offense- if just because the defense is such a problem I can’t imagine it can be fixed to a semi-quality unit in one year (where are you Burnell Dent?). I mean, they could improve a whole hundred points allowed- and still be terrible, right?

The best player on offense is probably Forte- who is finally an average back (fifth, sixth best in C-USA last year) who can’t stay healthy. Worse- there is nothing obvious that takes pressure off Matt. Last year, Ricard was an enigma- but you know, you couldn’t stack the run, dare the qb to make plays, cause- bless him- there were a few quarters/halves a year where Lester could just go nuts and make those plays. Teams are going to stack us and dare Elliott (or whomever) to make plays to force’em to play more honestly. It is worrisome. We can’t block “standard” fronts regularly now; how are we gonna block teams that can cheat the run and commit extra pass rushers consistently?

Forte did not play- so Tuyo got most of the work and played well… but who cares, we already know Tuyo is just not a plus as a I-A player.

4. My impression is that, other than Forte, it is hard to guarantee any of these guys on offense as above average C-USA players next year- making an all C-USA style team. Which means the offense struggles like it did versus ECU (i.e. what this collection of players looks like when the qb is not a plus) more Saturdays than not. And that is a problem.

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Monday, April 23, 2007


The PDN declares hopefully for a Resurgence!

I dunno. The Phillies have been pretty bad for twenty or so games- consequently, they need more than two good games to crow. As the article says, you are only as hot as your next starting pitcher- and the Phillies merely may have got a pair of very solid outings. I mean, can anyone categorically say the bullpen is fixed? Or the lead-off spot? Or the whole last half of the line-up?

But, to the plus side, they have gotten a pretty solid turn through the rotation- and it is very hard to be very bad if your rotation is going well. But I need to see three of the next four- a one-off here with the Astros, then Washington- before we can look to enough competence to prophesize the May serving to square the Phillies’ overall mark.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Please, Make It Stop

Lord what a mess.

I am off to Louisville tomorrow- and it will be nice to just escape the stink around this ball club. About a decade ago, Id had enough of semi-philandering Howard Eskin- who is the least classy, unamusing person Philadelphia has produced in about, well, forever. Charlie Manuel is unfortunately a perfect foil- not media savvy, a little too earnest, older- and he’s losing.

This move- switching Leiber and Myers- as far as I can see only has two things going for it. The first is while it is a move born of pure desperation; the Phillies are a desperate bunch. They clearly cannot go another dozen games with the bullpen as constructed- costing them two games in every ten. Frankly, they can’t win seventy games the way they are pitching from the fifth inning on right now. When you know the status quo is horrible, you normally don’t lose much just changing the status quo.

Second, Myers seems willing to take a hit for the club here. Yeah, yeah, I know he’s well-paid and all that and he hasn’t pitched well enough to be untouchable in the rotation. But he’s a young power arm, that some people couldn’t wait to throw huge sums at, who was penciled in by everyone to win fifteen just six weeks ago… and he’s told the manager- do what is best. We fans ought to remember that.

Other than that, it is a move born of desperation that probably isn’t going to work. In no sane way can you forecast that Leiber has the upside Myers brings every fifth day; Leiber probably won’t win ten, Myers would win that in a bad season. I’m almost sure the Phillies hope Leiber pitches well twice in a row- so they can get him the heck out of here, maybe for that back end of the bullpen relief pitcher they really need. They can’t trade him now- they need to showcase him the major leagues- and I imagine this is part and parcel of that.

Look, this is rapidly nearing rock bottom- the manager is gone by May if this goes on another two weeks. I guess "hoping to get undeservedly lucky" is better than "passively watching the season meltdown"- but let's not kid ourselves- it isn't better by much.


Monday, April 16, 2007

An Homage

I don’t comment on the NHL anymore. For one thing, I haven’t watched sixty minutes of any game all year. I also freely admit I am one of the fans that left after the last strike, returned to graze at the new product- and chose to not return. But I really like hockey- and more importantly, I love to point out things the strike me as relevant- and regardless: no one fires away more effectively at the near worthless new NHL than my man Larry Brooks. Although this guy might object. Anyway, the quote below in from Sunday's NY Post:
Omission of Kerry Fraser from the roster of playoff referees at the expense of people like unqualified Mick McGeough and Brad Watson, to name just two, is an indication, indeed, that Gary Bettman's and Stephen Walkom's NHL has no place for officials who call the game on feel and instinct. The league wants officials who are robotic, who will call phantom fouls that lead to a parade of power plays and an interruption of flow.

Beyond that, we're told Fraser, the league's senior referee who has worked nearly 1,600 regular-season games and more than 250 playoff games since joining the NHL full-time in 1979, may not have a job next year.
Look, I hate the NHL product. It is vapid- increasingly NBA regular season like- progressively more effeminate. They have dared to turn a great game into a Czech Beer League- but with even less hitting. And if collecting faceless Euros and Russians and Simon Gagne types to skate, play devoid of passion, featuring penalties for touching people, and seen only by people with continuously more obscure premium pay sites on American cable (the “VS” channel?) is the new game… well, I opt out.

For generations, the NHL has been the world standard for professional hockey- all of sudden our product isn’t good enough?- and instead the Swedish Elite League is imported. How did that ever happen?

My homage to the man with the mane.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007


This is depressing. And this story doesn't help. The PDN helpfully informs:
The Phils claimed admitted bright-lights-shy righthander J.D. Durbin in hopes of adding inventory to their foundering bullpen. It is the fourth team Durbin has been with since the spring (Twins, Diamondbacks, Red Sox). Durbin is 47-22 with a 3.16 ERA in 123 games (117 starts), but has said he doesn't feel comfortable pitching in the majors.
Well J.D.- don’t sweat not feeling comfortable pitching here- clearly, no one else does either.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Thank heavens for the off-day. I mean, this isn’t funny any more. Currently, they have less life and purpose than the Wizards. Here, these two Phillies' fans are advocating surrender!

It is such a mess, so awful- that you are tempted to big picture solutions- Fire Charlie!- because solutions to the manifest smaller problems are devoid of reasonable suggestions. I mean, now infield defense is a problem too? Rollins? Howard? I’m talking to you.

I know it is early- but lose this last two to the Mets and the Phillies find themselves seven games under even. On April 12th. You know, that is a lot. Assuming the Phils are even capable of it, playing 60% ball is hard, hard, hard. Even winning six out of ten means it is almost June before the Phillies would square their mark. Lose another pair, and they could play pretty darn well and spend the next two months getting back to .500.

Worse, it doesn’t feel like a season wear hanging around a few games over mediocrity will get it done. Certainly the Braves (my pick to in the division- although this is a real blow) and the Mets look to be legit 90+ candidates. And that is just the East.

I really don’t know what to do. They’re not this bad- but they aren’t very good either. This is what an 81-84 win team looks like when things are going bad- and Philadelphia is just that: mediocre-plus. The bench is a wreck. It wasn’t too good last year either- but gosh, remember last year when they had guys like Victorino, Dave Dellucci, Leiberthal populating the roster as extra players for long stretches? There are no other “get to the ninth inning” relief options besides Geary and Madson (who I kill here)- so I guess you gotta run’em out there until they find themselves. Sigh, isn’t that a nice mixture of hope and hopelessness?

But they simply can’t drop the next two.
This is going to be hard enough without playing games until Memorial Day simply in a hope to square the record. Charlie has got to go to the well here- manage these two games like Game Six and Seven. An all hands on deck sort of thing. The bullpen is rested- so pitch the guys you have the most confidence for as long as they can go. No off days for regulars. Shorten the rotation. Survive ‘til Washington!


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Burying Ryan Madson

Can I ask a question?

Why is Ryan Madson a "good" pitcher? In Philadelphia, a lot of people think this- but I don't get it.

He had a very good 2004.

But he was, at best, okay in 2005- took the ball a lot, but his WHIP was not good- and teams hit .319 off him (despite a lot of favorable lefty-righty match-ups).

He failed as a starting pitcher in 2006- and featured an ERA near 6 for the year.

Other than he does eat innings (a not insignificant plus), he hasn't been routinely effective in well over 100 outings now. Yet, he has this reputation as a plus-player. I frankly disagree. He was cover your eyes bad last year- and is not off to an auspicious start this season.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What Third Place Looks Like

Sigh... a bad loss. It is one game- doesn't mean much in the scheme of things. But you want evidence why the Phillies will finish third, behind Atlanta?

1. We saw both bullpens compete to win the game. What team is going to be more consistently able to get 9-12 outs from its 'pen, game after game, particularly on the road?

2. The Phillies get the pitcher on in the seventh, then 2nd and 3rd w/ no outs, 2-3-4 hitters coming up. And can't get that key extra run. The Phillies just don't hit well situationally- and normally, the Braves do nothing else but play the game with intelligence and saavy.

3. One game into the season- and the Phillies are already reduced to this gimmick approach to protect Howard. And thus the clock again begins rolling on another crucial month where the Phillies organizationally can't protect their best power hitter in a generation without bizarre contortions. The Braves have their best players in positions that play to their talents. Among other line-up flaws, the Phils have a non-lead off hitter leading off, their natural 3/4 hitters flipped backward, two potential problem spots in the bottom of the line up- and we're only one game into the season.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Phillies Meander Apace Part 3

The good folks over at Beerleaguer have put together a nice collection of the major guides- and their selections for the Phillies this season. I look at them and feel so disconnected, disheartened. Because I look at the Phillies and think “third place”- which means around .500, firings and disappointment.

I can’t find the rational argument that says the Phillies have closed the twelve game gap on the Mets. Maybe the Phils are better somewhat rotation-wise, but New York is loaded offensively (just like us!) and their bullpen is not horrid. The Braves are like the Phillies in one respect- they enter the season as a product everyone knows requires adjustments. Which franchise do you trust more to manage the roster and the season? To make the right trade? To play the right guys? To get young players contributing quickly? Charlie had Howard batting sixth, seventh last year until June- which is all you need to know about that institutional inteligence question. And one thing the Braves don’t share with the Phillies- their bullpen didn’t sport an ERA over eight for most of the spring.

You know what? Let’s just gloss over the ‘pen woes and the fact the manager is widely considered a game day liability. Let’s look past it.

Let’s start with the position players. They got real great years out of Utley and Howard- but outside of the right side of the infield, just who is a certain above average major league player? I guess Rollins- but the Phillies have manages to turn that plus into a minus. The lead-off spot is a problem with Rollins there. He simply doesn’t get on enough. Period. Every outfield spot is a question of health or performance- plus add several guys who don’t have the right aptitude to hit where they do in the line-up: do Burrell or Rowand have the big RBI bat and health to consider their line-up spots a positive?

Third base and catcher are a total prayer.

We know the bench and bullpen must be terrible- this seemingly 12-13 pitcher collection that should appear north at some point in April is sign of either a problematic bullpen construction or a lack of quality bench players- or more likely: both!

The NY Post polled general mangers around the Major Leagues asking them what current roster players are in decline- and the Phillies had three of the top ten: Rowand, Garcia and Gordon. How can you argue with any of that? Those who read this blog know I think Aaron Rowand is the most overrated Phillies player in a long time. He hustles but won't we all be content to trade him in June for a quality middle relief arm?- run Victorino out there and not lose much (like last year!)- and he’s an important, quality player? The White Sox dumped Garcia because the risk-reward is all wrong with that guy: he makes good money, he doesn’t throw hard anymore and his shoulder is worn. The less said about Flash, the better. Wing and a prayer people every time Flash gets up this year- and worse, what are the options?

The rotation is encouraging. There is still no top guy- but there are several candidates to win 12-15 games- and one could have a career 18-win year, as the Phillies will score runs- which is all you can ask.

Again, they are the third best outfit in the division- which normally means .500 or work and luck to flirt with better: 84-85 wins. I’m not sold on the Marlins renaissance- and the Nats are 115-loss bad- so there may be your luck. So that is my number: 84-85, third place.

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