Friday, March 28, 2008

Turks & Caicos: Off On Vacation

I am off on vacation! Be back Wednesday with more insight.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Maybe if we built another new stadium?

Speaking of baseball- and I know it is a long season- but the Tulane Green Wave seems to be in a bit of trouble, no? The sort of trouble that defies the normal yogwf solution: Build another stadium!

Right now, it is a fair, and unfortunately easy, argument to make that, right now, UNO, SE La and LSU are better than Tulane. And while I don’t follow college baseball religiously, perhaps a little distance, a little "frank" talk, helps here.

So, let’s be frank: Every “real” test: Dairy Queen Classic (love that!!!), UC-Irvine, UNO, LSU, SE La.- well, maybe Tulane hasn’t “failed”- but let’s just say nothing suggests they’re a Top 40-50 team. Or even “okay-plus” when Shooter isn’t available.

I will also say- although I bet there are a zillion rational excuses why Tulane did it- these series against Sacred Heart and other assorted jokesters seemingly did zero to get Tulane ready to play against real Division I outfits. You play these out of conference games to learn about your team for the important stuff- to prep for conference and intra-Louisiana play, find out who can pitch and hit in a “real” collegiate program. We clearly did not find answers- or we sort of stink. Either way...

If they don’t make the tournament again this year (anyone willing to say they definitely will?), that is trouble for that program.

Still, even in my ignorance, I would think the presence of Shooter makes the season salvageable. Add one more, just one!, quality option to the weekend rotation and a Top3-4 finish in conference is very possible. Sure, Tulane is certainly not in Rice’s class. The Pirates are probably better weekend in and weekend out too. But find another plus C-USA level starter and we’re in the mix for third or fourth.

Finish .500 in the League- which is probably where they are now- and you can stop saying we are a re-load, rather than rebuild, baseball program. And it makes 2009 a “win or panic” year.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let's Get It On: Phillies Preview

I must admit; I find the Phillies a little boring to prognosticate. What on earth is there to de-construct? Frankly, it is the exact same team as last year- a team that turned out a pretty significant five wins better than I thought. They won 89 games- and it is hard to see them being anywhere north or south of that number by two-three wins this campaign.

Rotation of Myers, Hamels, Moyers, Eaton- check. Same galaxy of stars in the infield with serious questions at catcher and third base- check. Flash still closin’- double check.

They’ll be hard pressed to match last year’s outfield production. Aaron Rowand had to go- but they’ll miss him. I was Pat Burrell’s last supporter left in Philadelphia- but even I’m hard pressed to think he’ll be as productive as he was the last sixty or so games last year. Maybe the bullpen will be better with Lidge- and they probably won’t stagger out of the gate ten games under .500- but they are what they are. They don’t stink. They’ll score a ton of runs- struggle to find outs in the ‘pen. Same infield plus same rotation plus same bullpen minus Rowand plus Lidge equals same total as last year: 89 wins.

Will that get it done? Well, just like last year, the Phillies will need help. The Phillies deserve credit or seizing their chance- but let’s face it, a huge part of that chance was that an uninspiring 89 wins was enough.

On paper, the Phillies today are probably the best team in the division. Unfortunately, they are a finished product. The farm system is bereft of immediate trade-able talent- and they ain’t spending. The Mets obviously can spend and no one manages in-season acquisitions like the Braves; I imagine both will close the gap.

The Phillies will play 162 games hard; the Braves will play 162 games right. I don’t know what the Mets will do for 162 games: populate the disabled list? struggle to score runs?- but I have bad vibe for that team. If you wanted to design a team for total disappointment- old, bad offense in a ball park designed to punish team with bad offenses, prone to injury, a manager with a bull’s eye on him- it could look a lot like New York. The Mets didn’t play .500 ball after August last year. Let’s just say it would behoove them to run away and hide by late summer this year.

I imagine all three will be around at the end- a true blanket finish. Like most tight competitive races between equal teams, it comes down to who is healthy and can get their actual ball-players on the field. Candidly, in that scenario again, you can’t like New York- already struggling with that issue and have health bombs waiting to go off everywhere on the roster.

You’re getting 3-1 on Atlanta to win the East on William Hill; I like that value- and I like them to win narrowly win the division from the Phillies. The Mets to finish a banged up, bloated, disappointing third.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Weclome Home AI

No matter how much I try and fight it- and I do fight it- my favorite Philadelphia player ever is the guard from Georgetown: Allen Iverson.

I know, I know… but what can I say? The guy tried and defined fun to watch. It didn’t end great- but I forgive him. So does John Smallwood- and his article in today’s Philadelphia Daily News makes me glad. It should be good between Sixers fans and AI. My fave parts below:
Iverson was born into the National Basketball Association as a Sixer, and if nothing else was made clear during his emotional homecoming last night it is that he is a Sixer for life.

I know it. You know it. And after last night's emotion-packed event, Iverson knows it.


Earlier, when Iverson had walked out on the court for pregame warmups, the first thing he had done was go to center court and kiss the Sixers logo. But this was different.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome back from Georgetown University, at guard, No. 3, Al-len I-ver-son!!!!" Cord said.

They didn't need the cue; the ovation for Iverson had begun before the boos for Karl subsided.

Iverson, who for a decade had thrilled the same fans with his dynamic play as a Sixer, blew a kiss to one half of the arena and then turned and blew a kiss to the other half.

Then the former Sixers captain, the one who had taken the franchise to six playoff appearances and a trip to the 2001 NBA Finals, gave a captain's salute.

Iverson then three times pounded the huge heart that had captivated this city and followed it by raising his arm to the air. And as the ovation grew louder, the player who was arguably the greatest showman in Philadelphia sports history applied the coup de grace.

He jogged to the left sideline of the court and cupped his left hand to his ear - the trademark expression for his joy of playing basketball for this city, these fans.

The Wachovia Center erupted.....


"Philadelphia fans are the best in the sense that they care about their team," Iverson said. "They are diehard fans here. At times it was, 'I love you, A.I.,' but then it was, "We gonna whup your ass.'

"Yes, I respect you, and I love what you did, but I'm still Philly all the way. You've got to respect them for that. You've got to love them for that.

"I know the Philly fans, and they are damn near better than anybody."

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sage Advice From New York

Mike Vaccaro writes a good column today- full of warnings to the Tulane fan who wants more and more investment and a move to the SEC. Read the whole thing- but I am including a particularly relevant excerpt below:
... and emphasizes just how far ahead of the game schools in that city (Philadelphia) are, as compared to their haughtier cousins 90 miles away (New York). The Philly schools certainly don't work in collusion with each other, but they do tend to follow similar blueprints that have allowed them to maintain a certain level of success year after year.

Consider: Each of the Big Five schools plays precisely in the league it belongs in. St. Joe's, Temple and La Salle anchor the A-10. Villanova has been a Big East staple for 28 years. Penn has long been the pride of the Ivies, even if it has fallen on lean times. They know who they are. They are committed to who they are.
Amen. They know who they are. They are committed to who they are.

Basically, the last thing St. Joes needs is a 10K seat arena and a move to the Big East. Then they go from being a classy program to doormat- the Philadelphia version of St. John’s or Seton Hall.
Those Big 5 schools routinely field proud programs drawing 2k-6k without zillion dollar arenas (Villanova is an exception), zillion dollar coaches, while participating in mid-major conferences.

Can we have a good proud program in a mid-major league with a fun crowd and budget like urban St. Joe’s or Temple or Penn? How do St. Joseph’s and Temple do it? Why do LaSalle and Temple and Penn run programs broadly considered a “success”- and we’re not? Ask questions. Be curious.

The answer ain’t throwing dollars or buildings at the problem. It actually helps here to have neither. They do it the hard way. These schools have spent a generation knowing their League, cultivating mid-priced coaches with real roots, knowing who they are and who wants to play for them. Are you a Philly Catholic school kid with a jump shot? –St. Joes! –are you the same kid from public school with talent a notch below the Big East? -Temple! The last thing St. Joes needs is a giant new arena. The last thing Temple needs is Bob Huggins.

I suggest there is a lesson for Tulane here.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Von Hayes: Fink?

Lately, I have been working on a blog post that identifies a certain Philadelphia pro athlete who currently makes me the most crazy- which has prompted boisterous discussions at my workplace over athletes we have loathed in the past.

Anyway, I have had recent occasion to stand up for the unfortunate Von Hayes. The underrated Hayes was, in actuality, a plus major league player for a decade- a pretty heady accomplishment for a guy largely associated by Phillies’ fans with general disgust and disappointment.

I dunno about that. Von Hayes gave you a plus glove at either corner-outfield spot or first base- a not insignificant plus for a National League organization searching for flexilbity to hide people like Dale Murphy. Other than the power spots, third and clean-up, he could hit anywhere else in the line-up. He even was a credible lead-off hitter- when asked, he could generate an OBP of 38%- and had 250+ career SB.

His biggest flaw obviously was HR numbers- but 15HRs in those days in like 20-22 now. Anyway, his .800 OBP + slugging for ‘82 thru ’90 ain’t too bad.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 14, 2008

Go Marines!

I don't do politics on this blog- but Frank Helps You Think It Out is unapologetically pro-GI. I also like Jon Stewart- and this made me laugh.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

NABC District 8 Coach of the Year

I like coach Dave and all- but things must have been pretty slow down at NABC District 8.
Dickerson was one of 15 head coaches from around the nation to receive all-district coaching honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Dickerson was named the NABC District 8 Coach of the Year, and was the only coach from Conference USA to receive the national award.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 07, 2008

Pack Your Things And Get Out

The Eagles gave Takeo Spikes his outright release yesterday- which serves as a sort of bookend to the Asante Samuels signing earlier in the week.

Now, I was neutral on the acquisition of Samuels- arguing it was a move made out of weakness and at a high cost/performance ratio, problematic in a capped league. But, fair is fair- and consequently, the dismissal of Spikes is a solid organizational move, a move made from strength, and will probably serve to make the Eagles better.

First, it means the Eagles drafted linebacker pretty well lately. Their linebacker situation is loaded with young guys on inexpensive first generation contracts- and the emerging Stewart Bradley needs to have a place to play. I doubt any of the three starting linebackers is guaranteed to be better than Spikes- but all won’t be much worse either, cost literally a small fraction of the $5M Spikes was due, and eliminate the injury-risk associated with a thirty-something player.

Second, it means the Eagles handed Spikes a contract of some intelligence. The contract is fully amortized; the Eagles owe no cap hit. The release generates a pure savings of a five million cap figure potentially due for 2008. Spikes was true free option- try him for a year, see if it works out. He had a nice year, he got the audition and one year payday he wanted; the Eagles got flexibility and a year to groom their young linebacker talent.

So if I was soft on the Samuel situation, almost be definition I have to be strong here. This is a move made from strength and lowers the cost/performance ratio- freeing up $5 million to deal with more pressing matters than retaining an risky linebacker with increasingly no place to play.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Take The Barriers Out

Jennifer Lizotte writes for the Portland Press Herald- and runs a newsy site that summarizes the day's NASCAR news. She's on to this SAFER barrier thing: a device that makes the walls "softer" when race cars imapct them inadvertantly. Honestly, I think she misses the point. If I were President of NASACAR, the first thing I would do is remove the safety barriers. Seriously.

Look, no one is anti-safety. But the number of cautions and red flags has turned this product into week-after-week of four- plus hour marathons. There was- not too long ago- a time where a real NASACAR event could be run in three hours with a mere handful of cautions routinely. Heck, they've run Bristol in the past without a single caution flag.

Frankly, NASCAR has a hockey helmet problem. The NHL mandated helmets to protect players’ heads- and "surprisingly" stick fouls and injuries to the head sky-rocketed. Putting the helmet on players’ heads removed the collective responsibility to police your stick to keep your peers from getting hurt. If you are increasing safety, while decreasing responsibility to keep one another safe, you aren’t advancing anything.

NASCAR’s never ending emphasis on safety has achieved a similar effect. They’ve made everything ostensible “safer”- and accidents are through the roof.

Even Miss Food City knows the bad lick Jeff Gordon took this weekend was because of the safety improvements- not in spite of it. Face it, everything "racing" is sacrificed to safety mandates: the endless cautions for debris, the prolonged cautions for clean up, etc. And for what? These guys simply don’t race with that respect generated from fear anymore. Daytona isn’t marred by endless crashes because of the plates or competition- but by the fact these guys don’t think they can get hurt. You wouldn’t see half the craziness, the running with wounded, ill-handling cars- if these guys thought they could get seriously injured.

Remove the safer barriers and drivers would drive with “respect”: fewer cautions, fewer accidents, better safer racing.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

In Which I Am Libeled As A Curmudgeon

Am I truly a curmudgeon?

Apparently, I have been libeled as such.

Look, please take a moment and let's get Christine Kinneary over the top. Please vote for this "superfierce starting point guard for Boston University" as AmericaEast fan favorite here.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Back Up The Truck

The Eagles backed up the truck and handed $20M in “guaranteed” monies to corner Asante Samuel.

Guaranteed money is the most pertinent measuring stick in NFL contracts. I don’t worry too much about the year to year salary number. NFL teams are always free to dump guys who aren’t performing up to their cap number- subject to the fine associated with guaranteed portion of the contract. The Eagles probably are on hook here for four years- which means Samuel will only be 30 before both sides will be looking at the sensibilities of the deal. To me, the surest road to ruin in pro sports is throwing big money at thirty-something free agents; the Eagles seem to have mitigated the risk some.

I am also not kidding myself. Teams don’t open the vault like this except out of weakness. The existing talent (who figures to be gone, right? they ain’t paying that kind of money to have Lito play nickel? Especially if they can get a high first day pick for him)- Lito Sheppard cost half as much, with half the commitment. In a perfect world, he would continue to play at a pro-Bowl level and not be sidelined a third of the time- leaving the team a portion of $20 million guaranteed to overpay say that offensive guard and second tailback they so desperately need. But, the current corner ain’t working out- and to fix the problem the Eagles need to double the money and commitment- with the noted off-set of said pending trade.

Also, if you are continually economizing at linebacker and safety and interior o-line and wide receiver, you are forced to spend heavy where you don’t continually bargain hunt. With talent challenged bargains at many positions (I love JR Reed and Mikell as cost/reward ratios- but they also mean the other guys better actually be “good”) the Eagles ain’t in a position to be too cute. Samuel's contact isn’t the intelligent, savvy one we associate with Philadelphia; it is an expensive, risky one. By definition, they are valuing Samuel higher than anyone else in the League. Further, they are forced into that valuation. When you are forced into a personnel NFL move, it is evidence again of weakness, not strength.

I dunno; it seems like a wash. I guess maybe a slight plus because again, Samuel won't be 35 for half the deal and they ought to get a good pick for Lito. Otherwise it is a wash: one healthy very good corner for one semi-healthy, malcontent very good corner- at the price of double the money and comitment.

Still, in December the Eagles were at the level of "marginal wild card" team; they are still a marginal wild card team. Any hope for exponential success, both before and now, hangs on McNabb recovering his old form. Yes, Samuel figures to be both better and on the field more than Lito has been- at that aforementioned cost of two-three extra years of commitment and $4 million/year more. The on-field performance risk is less; the financial cap risk heightened.

It feels like a fair price for the performance boost. And in a capped League- if you pay a fair price per performance gained, you ain’t making up ground organizationally- just treading water.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 01, 2008


With some trepediation, I am re-adding The Decanonon to the the blog list on the right. It will remain there- on probation- as long as posts are regular and informative. Could use some more NASCAR too.