Saturday, November 27, 2004

Team 4: Bucs not making money

I should watch more TV if I want to learn more stuff like this.

Honest Wagner NFL pick 'em: week 12

ind -8.5 DET ..DET ..ind ..ind
chi 03.5 DAL ..chi ..chi .chi*
cle 05.5 CIN .CIN* ..CIN ..CIN
snd -2.5 KSC .snd* .snd* ..KSC
jax 05.5 MIN ..MIN ..jax ..MIN
phl -6.5 NYG ..phl .phl* ..NYG
was 10.5 PIT ..PIT ..PIT ..PIT
tab -2.5 CAR .CAR*
ten -1.5 HOU ..ten .ten* .HOU*
nwo 09.5 ATL ..ATL ..ATL ..ATL
bal 06.5 NWE ..bal ..bal ..bal
mia 00.5 SNF ..mia ..mia ..SNF
buf 04.5 SEA .SEA* .SEA* ..buf
nyj -2.5 ARZ ..nyj ..nyj ..ARZ
oak 10.5 DEN ..oak ..DEN ..DEN
stl 06.5 GNB ..GNB .GNB* ..GNB
Asterisks indicate best bets.

Season to date:
Bones 91-69 .569
Scoop 88-72 .550
Rowdy 84-76 .525

Best bets
Bones 30-20 .600
Rowdy 33-25 .569
Scoop 18-15 .545

Dr. Bones: The ten and a half keeps PIT off my best bet list, but I still think they'll cover easy. I just don't see how this anemic Washington offense will be able to do anything. Meanwhile Duce will run, run, run. Steelers 27, Redskins 9.

Scoop: Sorry about being late with these. Give me losses for the turkey day games -- I did my sister-in-law's picks on those games for her pool yeasterday and missed horribly on both.

Rowdy: If I had known the Bears were going to wear those throwup throwback uniforms, I'd have gone with Dallas. Also, my "Sportsrage" Sports Illustrated came Friday and my picks are looking very Dr. Z. Speaking of "sportsrage," I've heard nothing but massive overreaction to that NBA brawl. Folks inclined to do "cultural criticism" of "historical moments" like that could turn their attention to all kinds of cultural practices that are far more prevalent and far less analyzed. Take video games, for example. When's the last time a sports department bobblehead got upset about the "violence" in the video-game versions of our favorite sports? Anyway these comments are way off topic. As Sunday approaches (it's Saturday night), my picks look really good to me. Maybe it's the bottle of two-buck Chuck. Good luck all my fellow pick 'em-ers.

Two huge chunks of baseball dead wood

I found this amusing. Oakland fans are just as irrational and reactionary as every other kind of fan, Moneyball or no Moneyball. Because of that book, however, they proceed with the "Beane is a genius" stuff with innocent self-delusion, even when they have to point out that Beane must have made some colossal blunders to wind up with "two huge chunks of baseball dead wood" on his roster.

Eric Gilmore may have his case. Fantasy baseball players routinely evaluate trades with the question, "Who got the best player?" Let them look at the trade this way.

But the trade can't be wisely evaluated today. All of this is premature self-gratification. (For one, the players haven't even passed their physicals yet. It's not a done deal.)

We'll attempt a preliminary judgement of the trade on Opening Day when we know for sure what the Pirates were able to do with the savings. Rhodes, like Steve Kline, has been an outstanding left-handed specialist for years and years. And like Kline, he's been so good managers have wanted to make him a closer. And like Kline, he hasn't been suited for doing that. If we hold on to Rhodes and use him in the eighth inning ahead of Mesa, I imagine it's not insane to expect a bounce-back season from him.

Mark Redman had one bad year. In 2000, he was a rookie of the year candidate and paired with Brad Radke when writers discussed how bright the future of the young Twins. In 2002, he had a very good year in Detroit. In 2003, he had an even better year in Florida. In 2004, he had an off-year. He was freakishly bad at home and freakishly good on the road. Overall, it was a down year. Is he now a "huge chunk of baseball dead wood"?

We'll have to wait and see. I'm hoping that Littlefield has followed that other fantasy baseball trading maxim, sell high and buy low. We've been expecting and hoping that the Pirates would sign some back-of-the-rotation soft-tossing lefty with the belief that one would complement the current staff while taking better advantage of the shape of our ballpark. Redman fits that order so I'm in no mood to complain.

The season starts April 4, 2005, at home against the Brewers. If the national media parrots the lines of self-gratification suggested by at least this one Oakland dittohead, Pirate fans will be in for another off-season of Test Your Patience.

Good thing we have plenty of that P-stuff. How else could we be here?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Mark Redman: The difference a year makes


Perrotto on the available catchers

John Perrotto reviews the market for starting catchers.

Offense can't be the only consideration for a team that is rebuilding around young starting pitching. The available options, including all the catchers currently on the 40-man roster, don't look able to replace Kendall's offensive production. But perhaps one of these guys is better suited to start in Kendall's place for his abilities as a field general. I dunno.

Bettis to rest

Staley will start Sunday, giving the Bus some time off. If I ran the circus, I'd consider planning a rest-him rotation like the one the Steelers have employed this year. We don't want to go into the playoffs with the one, now-worn-down back that got us there. We've done that before. Jerome proved that he doesn't rust in the garage these days, so I'm happy that we'll stash him there and have him, at least in reserve, when the playoffs begin in six weeks. As long as Bettis doesn't tear his groin by tripping over the cat, or pull some kind of Brian Griese Chevy Chase-impersonation, he should benefit from the time off.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Adios Jason Kendall

Jason Kendall to Oakland for Diamond-ear Rhodes and Mark Redman. Robert Dvorchak has details in the PG. Bob Smizik is on it with today's column. (What is he -- a blogger?) The AP story can be found here, among many places.

The San Francisco Chronicle has two reports, one here and another here.

It sounds like the deal isn't final yet. If it goes through, we'll have plenty to talk about.

...Blez and the Athletics Nation are pretty happy this morning. As they should be.

It's hard to lose a player like Kendall, but I can live with this deal. We have a bunch of catchers without him (Cota, House, Craig Wilson, Ronny Paulino, and later, we hope, Neil Walker). The A's were eager to hustle Redman out the door to make room for Joe Blanton, and Rhodes wore out his welcome there when they asked him to close after he had been on the record saying he wasn't a closer. If we hold onto Rhodes, the bullpen is looking pretty fierce, and that's good news for the young starters.

...fri...Brian O'Neill offers his take in today's PG.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Complete batting and pitching statistics from 1871-2004: free

Get yer free stats here. All hail Sean Lahman.

Saw it at Primer.

Cannonball Crew tryouts

If your interested in clowning around and dancing on top of the dugout during the home games, don't miss the tryouts.

Sean Burnett, Grand Marshal

Life is good for Sean this week.

Redskins mood meter still low

Today the Redskins mood meter reads three. I'd-a sworn it read two yesterday. Go see for yourself and read about their rookie right tackle.

The Washington Post is also reporting everything it can learn about Justin Strelzcyk.

The Steelers are ten-and-a-half point favorites. The over/under is 35.5. For perspective, the Colts are eight-and-a-half point road favorites with an over/under of 53.5. In the first case, the spread is nearly one-third of the estimated final score. In the second case, the spread is nearly one-sixth of the estimated final score. The oddsmakers are telling us there's a 50% chance of complete and total domination. Can you say trap?

I may take the Steelers anyway. Still thinking about it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

the .500 season

Ed Eagle's new mailbag leads with a great question about the importance of a .500 season.

We don't have to be so fatalistic or melodramatic. A .500 team is a reasonable expectation, payroll be damned, and one all fans should have for next year. It's one I had for last year. I honestly don't think that all of the Bucs' recent losing can be pinned on the payroll. There was certainly a great deal of misfortune and a lot of incompetence or plain ol' short-sightedness with the selection and retention of particular veteran players.

But so what about the .500 season? The final record doesn't really matter at all, as far as I'm concerned. Baseball is an everyday sport. It's de rigeur for coaches, GMs, athletes, etc., to say that winning the World Series is the only acceptable goal. Fine, let them say that. But me, as a fan, I think that's bullshit. The only acceptable goal is winning today. The Pirates could be a .550 ballclub and if they got swept by the Cardinals, I'd be just as pissed or disappointed as I am when they lose a third game in a row as a .450 ballclub. There's no fun in losing and, regardless of the team's overall record, every win is pretty much equally good.

Too many baseball fans today hang back and blow off the middle of the season. They pay attention in March and April and then hang back until the autumn, when they cast an eye at the standings and decide if it's time to buy a new jersey or make plans to have a party and watch a game with friends. The crime there is that they miss a lot of good baseball. For every house party thrown to watch a playoff game, there should be one or two thrown to watch a regular-season game. The average fan misses so many opportunities to really enjoy the season. The best games are not the playoff games but the unexpectedly good ones on random Sunday afternoons or Tuesday nights. If that sounds like sour grapes, so what of that?

Let the GM and the players and the coaches talk about winning a World Series. I'll hope for that when they get into the playoffs because, duh, then they will be playing a game today and I'll want them to win today. My gripe about 2004 is not so much that the Pirates finished with a lousy record or failed to make the playoffs. My gripe is that they subjected me to too many long periods when I felt I was better off listening to Ray Charles than listening to another game with the possibly vain hope that they would snap an outrageous losing streak. The final record is not much of a disappointment by itself. I rarely sit around and think about it. In fact, now that I'm doing just that, I don't like it, which should be no surprise. I don't know how many games they won or lost in 2004. And I don't care. When the games begin again, I'll tune in. If they play on Tuesday, winning on Tuesday is what I hope for. Ditto for Wednesday. Any other way of evaluating a season fails to seize all the opportunities a fan has to enjoy the season. I can't relate to the mindset that says "I can't enjoy baseball today if my team isn't projected to be in the playoffs." If you find the prospect of another losing season so depressing, give up baseball for Ray Charles. Or pour your heart into the Steelers. No hobby should be such a burden.

Cowher in the Washington Post

Ryan of Heels, Sox, and Steelers fame calls our attention to the Washington Post's attention to Bill Cowher this week.

In other news, the Redskins mood meter is currently at 2, on a scale of 1 to 10.

I've always dated Cowher's growing infatuation with the very-stupid "wide-open" gadgetry offense to the 1994 Championship game and the 1995 Super Bowl. Both those teams featured overwhelming defense, power running, sure receiving and a caretaker quarterback. And in both those big games, the Steelers dominated their opponents for most of the game and lost to a few "big plays." And Cowher could be seen ranting, throughout the rest of roaring nineties, that "we need more big plays." My wife took to doing a Coach Cowher impression, in fact, which featured snarling, the big jaw, and "we need more BIG PLAYS." She barely tolerates the existence of football. She may not understand the difference between a little and a big play. And even she could tell that Cowher's eyes would get a little buggy when this subject arose.

That's how I'd begin my sketch of Cowher's descent into offensive idiocy, which gradually accelerated over the course of a decade: lose big games to big plays, blame it on an offense that lacks big-play ability, defend and nuture Michael Vick Kordell Stewart, watch the Rams rise, mistake Tommy Maddox for Kurt Warner, get shredded by pass-happy Raiders and Patriots in high-profile games, hire a series of morons to install increasingly inappropriate offenses, etc. and so on.

I call it idiocy because the Steelers don't play in a dome. How Coach Cowher - and the responsibility ultimately falls on his shoulders - would think a dome offense could work for a team that plays its more important games in 32 degree winter weather, is beyond me. Despite his temporary Captain Ahab-like obsession with getting more "big plays," Cowher has always had a number of other serious strengths as a coach. Though I disagreed with Ray Sherman and all things Mike Mularkey, I never felt compelled to wish for a coaching change.

Anyway it sure is great to get back to Steeler football. Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. It's not Steeler football unless (a) they know you are going to run, (b) you run anyway, and (c) you average four yards per carry. God I love it when that happens.

And all hail Dick LeBeau. It's good to have him back.

Honest Wagner pick 'em: week 11 results

It was a star hole as we all finished under par. Dr. Bones 12-4, Scoop 10-6, and Rowdy 9-7 overall with best bet records of Scoop 5-2, Dr. Bones 5-0, and Rowdy 3-1. Here's hoping that Clay parlayed Dr. Bones's best bets while he was in Vegas last weekend. The total records now look like Dr. Bones 91-69, Scoop 88-72, Rowdy 84-76 with best bet totals of Dr. Bones 30-20, Rowdy 33-25, and Scoop 18-15.

This is a short week with games to pick for Thursday. The Colts are favored by eight or nine over the Lions, which looks about right, and the Cowboys are spotting three or four to the Bears, which is probably fair. As Gregg Easterbrook often reminds his readers, the Lions and the Cowboys win a disproportionate number of these Turkey-day games.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Washington Nationals

Official site.

Kendall rumor, chapter 49

Joey G calls our attention to Ken Rosenthal's latest. Here is the relevant Kendall stuff:

In addition to exploring trades for one of their top three starting pitchers, the A's are also involved in two- and three-team discussions regarding Pirates C Jason Kendall, who is guaranteed $34 million over the next three seasons. A straight trade between the A's and Pirates likely would involve the Pirates receiving LHPs Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes, who are owed $16.15 million combined over the next two seasons. Kendall also could land with the Dodgers--straight up or via the A's--with the Pirates possibly seeking Dodgers CF Milton Bradley. The expected loss of free-agent CF Steve Finley makes a trade of Bradley unlikely. . . .

So what do we think of these rumored deals?

I see the Kendall situation as pretty win-win. He's a great player for Pittsburgh and I'm happy to keep him around. On the other hand, he makes a large, perhaps too large, percentage of the team's overall salary.

More on this later. Thanks to Joey G for the link and the email.

... to clarify. It's win-win only if the savings gets re-invested. It's not win-win for the fans, obviously, if Kendall is given away Aramis Ramirez-style and the money is just so much more profit for the team owners. I have more to say and have said more about the possibility that it's bad for the team when one guy gets too much of the cake, and would point to the recent "Coach A-Rod" problem in Texas, but I'll have to save all that for another day.

More on Davis and Alvarez

Robert Dvorchak wrote up the recent 40-man transactions over the weekend. The Bucs have ten days to trade Davis, Alvarez, or Nunez before they must put them on waivers. If any of those guys have any value, they should receive an offer or two.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Steelers at Bengals, now with dancing

In the recap that appeared online right after the game, these were the last two paragraphs:

The heave to Johnson gave the chatty receiver a chance to make good on his promise of a new touchdown celebration. He stretched high above Deshea Townsend to make the catch, landed on the cornerback's back and rolled into the end zone, then popped up and did a jig that involved punching like a fighter.

[Kelley] Washington got to do his little touchdown dance – a squirm-and-shake called The Squirrel – after catching a 19-yard pass from Palmer, who finished 13-of-25 for 165 yards with three sacks.

Dance coverage! I love it.

But in the revised recap, the AP story reads like this:

Afterward, coach Marvin Lewis uncharacteristically screamed at his team in the locker room.

"This is the angriest I've been," said Lewis, who always tries to accentuate the positive. "We're not going to accept mediocrity. If we accept getting close, if we accept leading in the first half, we're not going to get any better. We're not going to accept that."

With Pittsburgh out of sync in the first half, the Bengals did a little dancing.

Chad Johnson made good on his promise of a new touchdown celebration, an end-zone boogie after his acrobatic 36-yard catch. Kelley Washington also swayed and squirmed in the end zone after his 19-yard touchdown put Cincinnati up 14-10.

In no time, the dancing ended and Lewis' screaming began.

"Everybody feels like that," said Palmer, who was 13-of-25 for 165 yards. "Everybody's frustrated. It makes everybody feel the way Marvin feels. Everybody knows he's right."

Not a kinder, gentler rewrite.

I may be alone with this opinion, but I'd like to see even more expanded coverage of the dancing players do on the field. Think about it. Would you rather read the revised version, with the light details of Johnson's "end-zone boogie," or the earlier revision, with the fuller details reporting how Johnson "popped up and did a jig that involved punching like a fighter." Also note that while a "jig" is in fact a dance, a "boogie" is not really a dance but a kind of music conducive for dancing. To really do an end-zone boogie, the receiver would have to squat and feign like he's playing the piano, Will Bradley-style.

Every generation has to take what they inherit from their grandparents and make it their own. The flying wedge; the forward pass; crash helmets and body armor; obviously the time has come to replace for the rising generation to re-make football. Why not replace the extra point with a dancing event? If the fans demand it, we can make it happen. A scoring player can spike the ball or slam-dunk it over the goal post for an easy one. By attempting more riskier, difficult, and potentially embarrassing moves, the scoring player should be able to earn (or give back) three additional points. The refs can use instant replay if necessary. What better way to bring the game of football into the twenty-first century?

I wouldn't be able to joke about all this if the Steelers lost, so here's to winning and getting other coaches all out of character. All hail the Steelers! With nine wins, I think we can start thinking about the playoffs without making the usual Jim Mora jokes.

Steelers at Bengals

I see a lot of reasons to like the Steelers today. If they win as they should against a well-known division opponent, they'll maintain that status, in my eyes, as Super Bowl contenders. If they fall on their face, I'll have serious doubts.

...well, the kinda fell on their face, but they still managed to win convincingly. Good omen.