Revis vs. The Jets. Who you Got?

The Equator vs. Rex Ryan's Belt. Who You Got?

Do I want to write an entire post about the Jets?  Not really, but it’s football season.  Or, it’s almost football season.  The good news out of Philly in today’s paper was that the Eagles defense was no longer baiting Kevin Kolb into throwing picks “at will.”  Good times.  High times.  The only story that is really worthy of national attention is Darelle Revis’ hold out in New York.  It helps a bit that the Jets are a team who was already in the spotlight to a certain extent.  For all the jokes I make at Rex Ryan’s expense, he came in last year and did a nice job.  He reintroduced the world to defense and the running game.  It was a concept so foreign to most, that the Jets were completely discounted as contenders in the AFC.

Their surprising run, along with some off-season moves, had them looking like a team that was organizing to make a run this year.  I’m retaining my skepticism on that issue.  I just can’t be completely sold on Mark Sanchez, not yet, but the Jets are probably much more likely to survive another mediocre year from Sanchez than they are the loss of the player that makes their defense something unique in the league.  Darelle Revis is holding out, and with both sides talking tough, a resolution doesn’t appear to be near.  I don’t want to discuss the impact of this on the Jets necessarily, just wondering what people’s stances are on the whole process of holding out.  In some ways it feels like choosing between the lesser of two evils.

In a lot of these holdout cases, I look to see who has the hammer.   The front office always has the contract on their side, but there are cases when a player can gain some leverage.  No team wants to be known as a franchise that doesn’t take care of their players, and so when a guy like Darrelle Revis outperforms his level of compensation there is often a chance to get some kind of deal done.  Something else quickly that strikes me when looking at NFL holdouts:  It’s just another reminder that the MLB players association has it all over the NFL guys.  If this were baseball, Revis would be getting set to make a mint in salary arbitration.  In football, a player holding out is often the only tool they have in the renegotiation process.

Getting back to who has the upper hand, I would say this is an odd case in that both sides probably feel they have the advantage.  The Jets have Revis signed, he’s not going anywhere, so he’d be giving up a year of his prime if he didn’t play in 2010.  Not only that, with the lockout looming, it stands to reason that Revis would want to make some money this year.  Is Revis prepared to wait for his money until 2012?  I’m sure the Jets don’t think he is.  On the other hand, Revis can use the looming lockout to his advantage as well.  The Jets are obviously making a push for a Super Bowl.  This is the only year that’s guaranteed at this point.  The 2010 season could easily be the high point of this Jets core.  Are they willing to risk tackling this season without Revis holding down one of the corners?

It’s hard to sift through all the talk in this case right now.  The Jets are acting as if they are ready to move on without Revis.  Their owner, Woody Johnson (his actual name), said he didn’t expect to see Revis play for the Jets this year.  This is most likely posturing, and Revis’ current contract demands are probably a good bit north of what he’d ultimately accept, but for now the two sides seem quite far apart.  My gut feeling in these situations is that a deal will almost always get done.  The animosity in this case, though, seems more intense and the stakes seem a little higher than usual.  It makes me wonder which side should get my support?

In most cases I’d probably side with the owners in cases like this.  Obviously at some point Revis was content with his current contract and now suddenly he is not.  I also don’t think there have been many cases where a sports superstar has been vastly underpaid for his entire career.  At some point, Revis will likely end up being overpaid.   I also don’t like to side with agents in any way.  The way they do business, often sticking guys in these bad contracts, making promises, taking on new clients and advising them to hold out, it’s all a nightmare.  It’s not the purest side of the game.  So, if you have a deal, I almost always think you should play, but the NFL does have its frightfully short careers and Revis has been a bargain since the day he walked through the door.  Because this might be Darelle’s one chance to strike it rich with a contract, especially before a new CBA, I think I’d side with him this time around, as long as his demands aren’t too outrageous.  After all, the guy’s a corner, and I’ve never heard, “Corners win championships.”

Who do you think should give in?

The PGA Championship.

Glory's Last Sho.....Whatever.

I don’t know what it is about the PGA Championship.  It has the history, the field is appropriately deep, several great players have the title on their resume, but it still is by far the least respected of the Majors.  Players are elated when they win (see the Yanger above), but not many other people seem to notice.  When you go through Jack Nicklaus’ resume, where do his record-tying 5 PGA’s come up?  2nd page?  It’s 6 green jackets, 18 total majors, 4 US Opens, greatest player of all-time, and oh by the way…he won 5 PGA Championships.  Perhaps it is the spot on the schedule, or perhaps the PGA just hasn’t been able to distinguish itself.  The Masters has Augusta National, the Open Championship is played in the U.K. and the U.S. Open has always been known as the most  complete examination of golf.  The PGA doesn’t have much to latch onto, and because of that, they are left with the unfortunate slogan, “Glory’s Last Shot.”  Not exactly the Masters theme song….

With Tiger off the grid, searching through the dirt for the key to breaking 75, this week’s PGA could be another exercise in wearing out the snooze button.  The course, Whistling Straits, is spectacularly unique,  but it has hosted the event before.  It’s not going to be as big a storyline this time around.  If this is going to be another Tiger free major, and people are going to be expected to watch, I think one of the following things has to happen…

1.  A dark horse not named Greg Havret.  Havret was a great story at the US Open, and Louis Oosthuizen came out of nowhere (from the US perspective) to win the Open Championship, but for this to resonate in the States, the underdog is going to have to have a face we recognize.  The logical choice would be John Daly, who teased for a day or two at St. Andrews.  The only problem is Whistling Straits is not exactly JD’s kind of track.  He’s a 1000 to 1 shot.  If not Daly, perhaps the public could get behind a character like Bubba Watson.  Similar game, engaging personality, and certainly an underdog.

2.  A real young gun.  We’ve been teased since Sergio at Medinah in ’99.  Eleven years later, Sergio has announced he’ll be taking 2 months off after this week.  The fire of ’99 has been replaced by burnout and no Major trophies on the shelf.  This has been the year of the twentysomething, or so we’ve been told.  Young players have done spectacular things, and if one of them came through at Whistling Straits it would be great for golf.  Apologies to the late-twenties veterans like Justin Rose.  I’m talking McIlroy, Kim, Ishikawa.

3.  Old Phil.  Of the top names in the game aside from Woods, Phil is probably the only one that can carry a telecast.  Lee Westwood is out, but he wouldn’t create interest anyway.  No one wants to watch Stricker, or Furyk or Goosen.  Perhaps Ernie Els could turn on a TV or two, but it’s really Phil’s show if Tiger is absent.  Phil has the ability to produce strong reactions in people.  Like him, loathe him, whatever your choice, the chances are most people will watch if he’s there on Sunday.  The reason as always is he could do something like he did at Augusta this year, or he could completely throw up on himself like he did at Winged Foot. With Phil, they are equally likely.  He seems off form, but Phil can snap back quicker than most guys, and he had a decent result back in ’04.

Will any of these three things happen?  Probably not, but we can hope.  In 2004 there was a 3-way playoff between Vijay, Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco (remember him?).  Vijay won, but what you seen in common is solid ball-striking, accurate iron play, and the winner this week will probably be a good ball-striker.  Stricker may actually be the favorite, but if you are looking past the top-5 in the World, Paddy Harrington seems to be coming into form, there’s Hunter Mahan, maybe a wild card on Stuart Appleby off his win and 59.  We’ll see, I’m hoping for something worth watching.

For those not interested in the PGA and in honor of the hideous and horrendous shank that Tom Kite hit in the U.S. Senior Open a couple of weeks back, I thought I’d regale you with the story of my first real shank.  Talk about a loss of innocence.  Some could say my game was never the same.  It occurred on the 4th hole of the famed West Chester Golf and Country Club, a quaint 9-hole layout with greens the size coffee tables.  It was short, tight in spots, but it was a good place to hone the ball-striking.  It was where I played the majority of my golf through middle school.

There were a bunch of kids that played there and we all fancied ourselves to be much better players than we actually were.  Things could get a little competitive as well, and I think on especially frisky occasions we played for sodas that would then be put on our parents’ tabs.  The only real tournament of any significance was the junior club championship.  It was broken down by age groups, and I managed to win on occasion, but during my first year in the highly competitive 12-14 yr old category I had an unwelcome visitor.  We were playing the last nine of the tournament, and I had built a pretty comfortable lead over my main competitor.  I’m certain I was quite pleased with myself, and I was going along as happy-go-lucky as I could ever be.  Not a care in the world.

We got to the 4th hole which is one of many short par 4s.  It’s lined by a row of trees and then a street on the right (which is OB) and there was also some trouble on the left in the form of a large ditch that seemed to attract an amazing amount of golf balls.  I wasn’t seeing the trouble, though.  I just piped one down the gut, and it left me a relatively short 2nd shot.  I honestly don’t know what club I had left, but it was a short one.  Probably no more than 9-iron.  I swung, looked up expecting greatness, and saw my ball traveling at a 45 degree angle toward the trees/road.  What the bleep?  I shanked it, but I don’t even think I knew what a shank was at that point.  I’d hit countless atrocious shots, and heard the term shank, but I didn’t know its true meaning until I felt those hosel vibrations in my hands that day.

Amazingly enough the ball hit a tree and stayed in bounds.  I managed to scrape together a double bogey, which still kept me in the lead, but I was flustered.  Big time.  On the next hole it took me a few shots to get out of a green side bunker, and that was pretty much all she wrote.  I ended up losing by a few shots, and it was years and years before I hit another shank in competition, but wow that first one was something else.  Golf.  It takes up permanent residence in your dome.

A Rare Moment of Optimism.

Back on Top of the Pat Burrell See-Saw.

A few months back, I think it was around the start of the Phillies season, I wrote a post lamenting the fact that Philly fans had lost their cynicism.  Drunk on wins, the edge was gone, and I felt like the fans had lost the desire to challenge management at every turn.  It was disappointing to me, not because I don’t want the teams to be successful, but because I thought the hardcore fan was getting drowned out by the mobs of fair-weather hooligans.  The newly minted fan, first game attended in the Fall of 2007, knew only winning and their blind faith in everything Phillies was getting to me.  It was a slap in the face to history as well, and maybe that is part of the reason why the Phils stumbled so clumsily through a couple of months of this season.  While the losing was frustrating, it sent the bandwagon jumpers back into their holes and allowed the cynics to ride again.  Aside from the brief “Jamie Moyer is a Hall of Famer” debacle, the fans feel like they’ve started to return to normal.  Even with the recent surge there are a lot of “buts” floating around.  The bullpen, the injuries, there are still plenty of questions.  Oddly enough, I’m feeling as good as I have all year, and if I wasn’t worried about rousing the Kool-Aid drinkers, I might be a little more vocal with my optimism.

Several things have gone right for the Phillies in the last few weeks.  We can start with the unexpected, and move our way slowly toward the inevitable.   Perhaps the most surprising development of the recent hot streak has been the performance of Kyle Kendrick.  Kendrick returned from his 72-hour banishment to Lehigh and started giving the Phillies quality starts.  Roy Oswalt replaced JA Happ in the rotation, and Halladay and Hamels have had the best stuff, but it is the back end guys that sustain winning streaks.  If it’s Halladay’s job to put an end to a skid, keeping the momentum going falls on guys like Kendrick.  You don’t win 15 of 18 or whatever it is with bad starting pitching.  Every Kendrick win may be a bonus, but the couple he picked up recently have been huge.  He’ll get a chance to continue the trend when the Phillies open up with LA on Tuesday.

Up next in the good news category are the hot streaks of Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez.  I’m not sure which is more unexpected, but if I had to choose, I’d call Raul’s surge the more important one.  The contributions of Ruiz, and his growing legend as a clutch hitter, cannot be underestimated, but the Phillies were in dire need of a bat in the middle of the order.  This was exacerbated with the injury to Ryan Howard, and Ibanez has managed to stay red-hot, even without the big names surrounding him.  He’s approaching the form he showed in the first half of last season when he carried the team single-handedly, and to think that after his horrendous start he could approach 20 homers and 90 Rbis is pretty remarkable.  Not only has it helped the Phillies get back into the race this season, but it makes you just a tiny bit less sick about his contract for 2011.

I’d say the most inevitable of the things going the Phillies’ way lately has been the decline of the teams around them.  Sure, the Braves are still in first place, but they don’t quite look like the team that streaked through June.  On Monday they lost big to Houston, an almost unforgivable offense at this point in the season, and allowed the Phillies to close within one game in the loss column.  The six-game lead Atlanta had in mid-July feels like ancient history, and if they continue to struggle with teams like Houston, Washington and the other NL bottom feeders, it’s going to make the Phillies’ job a lot easier.  Remember this is a team that took advantage of a very weak NL the last two years, and while it is slightly improved, the Phillies still have a much easier path being in the NL East than they would in the AL East. Along with the Braves coming back to Earth, other borderline contenders like LA/NY and Florida have fallen back significantly.  The fewer teams in the hunt, the easier it will be for the boys in the red pinstripes.

The current stretch the Phils are on might end up being their best of the season, but I think they will put a better team on the field once we hit September first.  Utley will hopefully be back, Howard will return, and the original starting eight might finally get some games together.  Throw in the versatility of the 40-man roster expansion and the bench should be better, they should have a couple more options (especially from the left-side) in the bullpen, and maybe that will be enough to overcome the flaws and close the gap to get into the post-season for a fourth straight year.   I admit I was ready to write this season off a month ago, but I am starting to feel a bit optimistic about things.  Things have changed. On paper the team will continue to improve, and perhaps a team that had become listless and painful to watch will slowly regain their swagger.  At the very least September should be full of must-see baseball.