Bud Selig the Poker Dealer…

"Suicide Kings, One-Eyed Jacks, Deuces, Red Fours and Jokers Wild."

Bud Selig will not rest until he turns baseball into his own personal circus.  Selig competes with Jamie Moyer as my true baseball nemesis.  I thought SI’s Moyer feature yesterday was enough to fuel my hate engine for the entirety of Spring Training, but no, Bud Selig has to go all ham-fist and force through his double wild-card plan for 2012.  For a commissioner, Selig seems a bit too concerned about his “legacy,” for my taste.  He wants too badly to leave a mark on the game.  Inter-league play, wild-cards, ruining the All-Star Game…they’re all in play for Bud.  His main concern seems to be making September baseball count in as many cities as possible.  The problem is, there’s a ceiling there.  At least I hope there is.  Eventually, you’re going to have to stop adding teams to the playoffs.  What he doesn’t seem concerned about is any type of integrity or credibility for the playoff system.  How about we add a 3rd and 4th wild-card team to the mix and instead of a 1-game series, they’ll do something only slightly less arbitrary like, I don’t know, play a game Words with Friends.

In this post from last Fall I detailed several seasons where the 2nd wild-card would be rewarded to a borderline team and completely invalidate the regular season.  I haven’t changed my opinion on that.  I can’t get behind a scenario where the 3rd place team in a division makes the post-season.  Even if that team happened to be the Phillies, you’ve got to look big picture.  A one-game playoff, in baseball, is a complete joke.  I understand that they can happen at the end of the regular season, but that’s the regular season.  Once you qualify for the post-season in baseball, I believe you’re entitled to some margin for error.  This isn’t football after all, it’s a game we’ve come to digest in terms of a series, not a winner take all, one-off, coin flip.

And, to say that this benefits the division winner is a stretch.  The most common argument is that the wild-card team will have to use its ace pitcher in round 1 (the prelims?) and therefore will be at a bigger disadvantage against the #1 seed.  Well, it is often the case that a wild-card team will need to use its best pitcher in the last or next to last game of the year just to get into the playoffs.  You’ll remember that Chris Carpenter pitched the last day a year ago and was pushed back to game two in Philly.  In this scenario, Lohse probably pitches the playoff game and then Carpenter lines up for game 1 against the Phillies.  Also, remember that the final day of the 2011 season, considered the most improbable and exciting day of regular season baseball in recent history would have been rendered completely pointless.  But, hey, as long as those fans in Colorado thought they had a sniff for an extra week.  That’s what matters.

The real way to go would be to make the 1st round seven games (apologies to the dead horse), or there are some more radical plans that call for the #1 seed to get 4 home games in the opening round, which I don’t see as much of an advantage.  The way I see it, the more rounds you add, the more the playoffs become random and with the exclusivity at baseball playoff’s roots, that’s a bit hard to swallow.

***

Phillies/Baseball Notes

1.  Phillies beat the Florida State Seminoles, 6-1.  John Mayberry went 0-3, Dom Brown was o-1 and was hit by a pitch.  Tyson Gillies scored a couple of runs, Pete Orr doubled, and Hector Luna homered.  That’s about it.  The pitchers, many (if not all) of whom will not make the team looked pretty good against that rough ACC competition.

2.  Ryan Howard is shelved.  He had an infection “cleaned out.”  Whatever.  Who knows what’s going on with the guy’s Achilles.  There’s no damage to the repaired tendon, but he’s still sitting out for a while.  No one has any clue when this guy’s going to play.

3.  Mike Stanton, prodigious Marlins slugger of the future, would like to be called Giancarlo Stanton.  Oh yeah, well I’d like to be called…oh, wait, apparently that’s Stanton’s actual first name.  Fine, then.  As long as we’re cool with me still calling you Mike Stanton in casual conversation.   Stanton’s idol is Roberto Kelly, so this really comes as no surprise.

4.  Cole Hamels to get the start Saturday against the Yankees.  I’m predicting 2 IP, 0 Runs.  Those bats always lag behind for a week.

Mid-Week Mailbag.

Headphones? $1,000,000. Teeth? Not Sure.

Welcome to Leap Day.  I like when February gets stretched out to 29 days.  Twenty-eight days is very symmetrical, but it  feels a little disrespectful.  It’s like someone designed a great golf course and realized there were only 17 holes, so they knocked the back-end off the driving range and made a 90 yard par-3.  That’s crap.  Also, if February is uncommonly short, I think we should have a long, luxurious month.  Why can’t September be a good 33, 34 days?  That’d be heaven.  To celebrate this once every four years occasion, a mailbag seems quite appropriate.  

Q:  What do you think is worse, leaving the house without putting on deodorant at all, or leaving the house with a rogue deodorant streak down the side of your shirt?  Armand Hammer, Pottstown, PA.

A:  Are we in the Continental United States?  Because, I’m assuming in the more “musky” areas of the globe, no deodorant wouldn’t be a problem at all.  When I worked at a golf course, I’m not going to say I was afraid, but I was constantly aware that my morning routine relied on not getting anything on my shirt.  When you’ve got to open up the cart barn at 6 am, you can’t waste precious seconds.  Toothpaste drool, rogue deodorant, these are morning killers.  Of course, anyone with any discipline knows that you brush your teeth, then put your shirt on, then put the deodorant on.  That’s the answer to the puzzle.  No one is perfect, though, and so there are days when you forget to apply or accidentally decorate your shirt with some Speed Stick (no one actually uses Speed Stick, correct?).  I think the deodorant on the shirt is worse.  It makes you look a bit harried, a bit of a MESS.  If you happen to forget, you can probably fake it through the day.  I once had a gel deodorant that when combined with fine cotton golf shirts would change their color. True story.  I’d have a navy blue shirt with aquamarine pit-highlights.  Now that’s embarrassing.  

Q:  The Phillies play Florida State today and I was surprised to see some regulars in the lineup.  I am rational enough to know that this game doesn’t matter, but what about the weekend?  And, should we be concerned if the Phillies aren’t winning games this Spring?  Chuck Ward, Tallahassee, FL.

A:  Oh, didn’t you hear?  Today against the Seminoles is MUST WIN.  It would actually be a bit embarrassing to lose to a college team, but we’re still a few weeks away from needing to pay attention to wins and losses.  The Spring schedule is odd this year.  Three straight against the Yankees to open up, and deep down all Philly fans will want to take 2 of 3, but it’ll be all right if that doesn’t happen.  I don’t want to say that Spring Training records are meaningless, but for a team like this one the wins and losses aren’t important.  If I had a younger team, a team that was supposed to be on the rise (say Washington?), then I’d want to win Spring games.  Just to set the tone, to get used to being successful to a certain extent.  The Phillies don’t need any of that, they can just remember back to last year when they won 102 times.  By late March you want your pitchers to have their velocity and the hitters to be looking comfortable and hitting line drives.  Specific numbers are far more important to individual players trying to win a spot than they are to the team as a whole.  What I’m saying is, don’t bail on the season if they lose to New York on Saturday.  

Q:  I feel like there’s a strong chance the first time my kid has alcohol it will be “stolen” from my own house.  I’m going to try to use this fact to get my wife to stop drinking Bud Light Lime.  Do you really want a kid that goes off into world with a taste for lime-flavored beer?  I don’t think so.  Willie Corona, White Plains, NY.

A:  Interesting stance.  I imagine policing a teenager’s drinking or non-drinking has to be a complete nightmare.  And, people take wildly different approaches.  On one end you’ve got the locked liquor cabinets and then on the other we’ve got people like you who are just concerned their kid drink the RIGHT beer for their time.  I remember going to a high school graduation party once and the kids were freely drinking with the adults and it was a mind-blowing scene.  I didn’t start drinking until I got to college.  One hassle I spared my parents, I suppose.  We had beer in the garage and unguarded liquor and wine, but I never touched the stuff, despite being home alone plenty.  It’s strange I never tried it, considering I buckled to peer pressure at college in about four seconds.  What was your question?  Oh, can you ban your wife’s BL Lime?  Negative.  There’s no correlation to what you drink first and what you become a drinker OF, I can state that with full anecdotal conviction.  If a kid really wants to drink, he’ll try anything, and then years later it’ll just be a funny story, “Remember when we did shots of Blue Curacao?”  So, nice try, but the Bud Light Lime is there to stay.  

Q:  Is the toaster not the most disappointing appliance in your kitchen?  My whole life is floating around in a “cloud,” but I can’t get a properly toasted piece of bread?  Are you bleeping kidding me?  Izel Jenkings, Philadelphia, PA. 

A:  Toast is tough.  It makes you work for it.  I think your standard 4-slice toaster probably works OK.  You’re going to need some trial and error to find the ZONE, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it.  The problem with the 4-slice is: it’s not versatile, and it sometimes isn’t conducive to MEGA-BAGELS, or giant artisan loaves.  For those reasons and others, I prefer a toaster oven.  It’s HANDY.  But, toaster ovens do not do a good job of toasting.  The bigger the toaster oven (it’s comes with a rotisserie attachment!) the worse it’s going to do with a simple toast job.  The best toaster oven I ever had kept the toast and oven functions separate.  The toast had the button you press down (best part of a real toaster) and a dial to control everything else.  Now, that’s all combined.  You have to use the timer for toast, which is a nightmare.  And, you never know what function you’re on.  WHICH WAY SHOULD MY BAGEL FACE?  It’s troubling.  The best advice I can give you is to advance to a point in your life where you can afford a lavish kitchen with acres of counter space so you can employ both the toaster oven and the standard 4-slice.  That’s living.  

Q:  What percentage of kids do you think are cute?  Brutal honesty.  I’m talking like 5-years old and younger.  All adolescents are vile creatures.  Seena Mirror, Cleveland, OH.

A:  I don’t have any kids, but I have this theory that deep down parents know when they don’t have the best-looking baby.  I’m not saying they don’t LOVE the kid, but they’re secretly hoping old junior grows out of the ugly phase.  Maybe that nose will look distinguished once his head is full-sized?  I’m just running with a hypothesis here.  I think these parents probably also get a bit annoyed with people patronizing them about their kid’s adorable rating.  Say you post a picture of your very average looking kid on Facebook, out of obligation, and then you get the standard, “OMG Stop it, TOOOO Adorable!!!!” comments.  That would bother me, just because people are so full of horsebleep.  I wouldn’t want my kid overly praised for his/her appearance anyway.  Whoa, let’s keep the ego in check.  If I had a toddler I’d rather it be praised for having great comedic timing, or something WORTHWHILE.  Oh, what percentage?  41%.

Q:  I saw in an excerpt from Hank Haney’s book that he’s claiming Tiger seriously considered leaving golf for a military career, specifically the Navy SEALs.  If that happened, would it have been the biggest non-scandalous sports story of all-time?  Henry Hanie, Plano, TX.

A:  This Hank Haney book is going to be something else.  It’s going to be terribly painful to read.  Haney had “help” from Jaime Diaz, but have you ever heard Haney talk?  Probably the most boring storyteller of all-time.  You’re going to want to focus on excerpts, believe me.  This one is particularly juicy.  We all know Tiger is fond of the military and was very proud of his father’s service.  I don’t completely dismiss the claim that Tiger was interested in joining the SEALs.  You’re talking about a guy who is a competitive freak, so taking the challenge of SEAL training is something that probably appealed to him–at least in theory.  It would have been a massive story.  You think about the coverage that Pat Tillman got, and at the time he gave up football to join the Army, he probably had 1/100th the profile of Tiger Woods?  If that.  So, I don’t know how you’d rank potential stories, or what you mean exactly by non-scandalous, but it’d be way up there.  Top-3 at least.  Up there with Magic’s HIV announcement, things of that magnitude.  

Q:  I saw that Lil’ Wayne was wearing a pair of million dollar headphones at the NBA All-Star game.  That’s a lot of diamonds.  If you had the means, what object would you encrust with diamonds?  M. Pulsebuy, Beverly Hills, CA.

A:  You mean after my headphones?  Maybe my toilet brush?  Then you’d feel like a real aristocrat when you were servicing your loo.  I’m having a hard time brainstorming this one.  I think the best answer I can come up with is my putter.  I feel like I’d get the most mileage out of it in that case.  It’s something I use with some frequency, it doesn’t ever wear out, I’m not expecting a massive improvement in the putter that will make mine obsolete, and it certainly wouldn’t impact performance.  It’d be nice to have a little distraction on the green.  Did Grossy just 3*-putt again?  I think he did, but check out the bling on that flat stick!  The only downside would be having to use a putter cover.  I hate putter covers.  I hate watching people use them, I think they add 10 minutes to every round of golf.  AWFUL.  But, I could sacrifice that for all the sweet, “His putting stroke looks like a million bucks,” jokes.  

 

My 2012 Phenom Obsessions, AKA Who Not to Take in a Baseball Fantasy Draft.

Brett Lawrie: Tattoos and Walk-Offs.

I just mentioned in the comments today about how I get irrationally excited about prospects in all sports (except basketball).  Every year I do my NFL Draft preview that focuses on which defensive back I’m obsessed with.  Last year:  Patrick Peterson.  2010: Joe Haden.  Spoiler Alert 2012:  Morris Claiborne.  As you can see, my recent track record with DBs is unparalleled.  No one picks sure-thing corners like me.  Unfortunately, in other sports it’s not as easy to hone in on future stars.  Those pesky four, five levels of minor league baseball have a way of turning 1st rounders into insurance salesman.  I’d argue that nothing is more exciting than a baseball prospect.  That you never really know just cranks up the intrigue.

The Phillies haven’t had a real phenom in camp since Dom Brown two years ago.  Remember the day he hit two homers and then was sent back to Minor League camp?  That’s buzz.  Nothing has come of it since, not really, but those were some fun days fantasizing about Dom Brown going 30/30 for the next decade.  Before that, you probably have to go back to Cole Hamels and his obscenely low and laughable Minor League ERA (1.43) to find a Phillie that would be on this list.  There will be no Phillies this year, which means I’ll be a lot higher on these guys until they start costing the Phillies games.

I don’t have anything to document my record of picking baseball prospects.  I was a little early (like 8 years) on Josh Hamilton.  Mark Kotsay never quite lived up to my expectations.  Same with Jacque Jones.  Remember that guy?  Billy Koch?  Obsessed with Billy Koch.  Todd Walker?  Infatuated.  Anyway, those are some blasts from the past.  Let’s take a look at this year.  I’ll probably draft all these guys for my fantasy baseball team, and then they’ll all be back in AAA by Mid-May.

***

1.  Bryce Harper–Nats.  Where is my first Bryce Harper story of the Spring?  I know he named his puppy “Swag,” I know he was rooting for the Yankees in the playoffs, but what’s new, Bryce?  Sometime this Spring a pitcher “getting some work in” is going to leave a fastball there for Bryce and he’ll hit it about 450 feet.  This will create about 48 hours of hysteria and speculation, followed by an eventual landing spot in AAA.  At least, that’s what I hope.  I want some more time with the uber-idiot prospect before he’s competing directly against the Phillies.

2.  Brett Lawrie–Blue Jays.  Lawrie hit .293 with 9 homers and 25 RBI in 150 ABs for the Blue Jays last year.  Project that out to a full season and we’re looking at 30/100 at 3b–a position that seems to be in massive decline.  I would kill for the Phillies to have Brett Lawrie.  He’s going to be in the Blue Jays’ lineup, it’s just a question of how quickly he develops.  Obviously, I’m ready for him to start his perennial All-Star run this season.  Lawrie is my favorite Canadian since Larry Walker.

3. Eric Hosmer–Royals.  Hosmer was hitting .436 when the Royals called him up last year.  Tee-hee.  Seriously?  .436?  Where do I sign?  The Royals are so non-threatening, and have been down for so long that I’m actually rooting for them to turn it around a little bit.  They might be my 2nd favorite team.  Hosmer hit .293 with 19 homers after his call-up, mostly in anonymity.  For this year, I’m thinking Will Clark with more power.  In a snake draft, I’d gleefully take Hosmer in the 2nd round and then finish in dead-last.

4.  Addison Reed–White Sox.  What is it about starting pitchers that get shifted to the bullpen and gain velocity?  Reed shifted to the closer’s role and started touching high 90s.  Pretty much everyone who throws in the high-90s I become obsessed with, so there’s no surprise here.  Reed could become Chicago’s closer this year or he could totally implode and you’ll never hear from him again.

5. Mike Moustakas–Royals.  Moustakas runs about 5′ 11″, 220.  He plays 3B.  He’s a converted shortstop.  Once considered a better prospect than Hosmer, Moustakas got passed by last year, but I think a little less attention will serve him well.  He struggled with the Royals during his call-up last year, hitting .263, but his 2010 Minor League line was .322/36/124.  That’s pretty serious.

6. Dustin Ackley–Seattle.  Ackley played over half a season with the Mariners last year, but no one pays any attention to Seattle, so I’m still including him.  He only hit .273, but there’s this perception that Ackley is a hitting savant that will eventually start collecting batting titles.  He’s like Todd Walker-lite.  I love second baseman with moderate power numbers.  But, let’s be honest, there’s only one Todd Walker.  The guy once hit .345 at Salt Lake City, and as we know from Bull Durham–that’s a career.  In any league.

7.  Mike Trout–Angels.  Apparently Mike Trout is about the fastest living human who doesn’t run track.  That’s the impression I get.  I’m all about taking one exceptional skill and blowing it out of proportion.  Trout struggled in 40 games with the Angels last year and faces a crowded outfield in camp, but eventually he’ll break through and you’ll start seeing him running around the bases with a stopwatch graphic.  At least, that’s how I see it playing out.

8.  Yoenis Cespedes–A’s.  I’m slightly cooled on Cespedes.  In part, because the Phillies didn’t get him.  Can we still trade Victorino for him?  Also, it’s since come to my attention that the real hitting phenom in Cuba is Jose Abreu.  If that guy was available, he’d be at the top of the list.  His numbers in the Cuban league make Cespedes look pedestrian.  But, I don’t want to turn my back on Cespedes, mostly because if he turns out, I want to rub it in everyone’s face.

9.  Gerrit Cole–Pirates.  Much like the Royals, I feel for the Pirates.  Don’t you want my pity, Pittsburgh?  Doesn’t that feel nice?  Basically, I’m offended by the team the Pirates put onto their immaculate yard.  Some signs of improvement for Pittsburgh, but they haven’t had a prospect really go through the roof yet.  It could be Cole, with his 100 mph heat, it could be Jameson Taillon, but hopefully some help is on the way soon for Pittsburgh.

10.  Bubba Starling–Royals.  One for the more distant future.  Obviously, another Royal.  Starling was drafted last year, and doesn’t have a professional at-bat, but he’s still ranked as the 24th best prospect by Baseball America.  Starling was a two (maybe three?)-sport phenom in high school.  Another one of my weak points.  He was set to play QB for Nebraska before the Royals dropped a pile of cash on him.  Throws 95, freakish raw power, I think that about covers it.

The Real Beauty of Seinfeld.

If You're Ever in the City...

I continue to watch Seinfeld.  Considering it’s still on multiple times a day I probably watch it more than any other show. When I think of it that way, a show being off the air for 14 years, and still being my #1–it’s a little disturbing.  They always promo the show that will be on the following day, and I found myself getting irrationally excited when I saw the Soup Nazi “trailer” a week or two ago.  YES!  That’s what I thought to myself.  I’ve probably seen the episode six, ten times?  It doesn’t matter.  I’d watch it right this minute.

How is this possible?  I like Modern Family, but if you want me to sit down and watch a re-run?  Eh.  Probably not happening.  I’ve seen this one.  That’s probably what I would say.  Of course, I’ve seen every Seinfeld.  Someone told me the other day that they liked watching syndication because sometimes they’d catch an episode they’d never seen before.  That amazes me.  I don’t doubt that it’s a thrill, but there’s really a Seinfeld episode out there you’ve never seen?  There were only 180 episodes.  What are you doing with your life that you haven’t seen all of them?  You can’t spare 90 hours?

Anyway, at this point in my Seinfeld watching career there are two things that I really enjoy about watching the show.  The first is small and simple.  I can watch Seinfeld without really watching.  I can be making dinner.  I can be sniffing around on the internet, I can be just flipping to it during a commercial, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing really, I’ll always be able to jump right into the episode.  Each one is that ingrained that I can watch a two or three-minute chunk, overhear a line, and immediately put it into context and still get the full entertainment value.  The other reason I still like watching the show is you never know who you’re going to see.  It feels like almost every person who went on to be a TV star after 1998 was at one point on Seinfeld in some capacity.  Last night I’m watching and poof, there’s Amanda Peet.  A couple of minutes later Elaine is complaining about her threatening co-worker (Molly Shannon) to a cop on the street that happens to be the father in The Middle.

It’s retroactive guest-starring.  The most common role for future stars was certainly Jerry’s girlfriend.  By the time the show was in its prime the best way to land a sit-com or get some real work was to do a few episodes as Jerry’s love interest.  Courtney Cox was Jerry’s wife (according to the dry-cleaner).   Jerry was fixated on breaking up Debra Messing and Cary Elwes so that he could date her.  Of course, she turned out to be racist (and an anti-dentite) before ending up on Will and Grace.  Who was the dentist being discriminated against?  Bryan Cranston.  There was Teri Hatcher, Catherine Keener, Kristen Davis and Jane Leeves as well.  It wasn’t all Jerry, though.  Sara Silverman played Kramer’s girlfriend.  Megan Mullally (who now does 4-7 pilots a year now for some reason) was George’s girlfriend in the famous double-dipped chip episode.  That’s like putting your whole mouth in the bowl.

Those are the easy ones, though.  The real joy is seeing the more obscure, bit parts, like seeing Neil Flynn as that cop.  Jon Favreau was Eric the clown in the episode where George panics during the fire and tramples children and grandmothers on his way out of the building.  Jeremy Piven auditioned to play George when he and Jerry were trying to sell their pilot.  Just last year I started watching a bit of a show called White Collar.  I had no recollection of ever seeing the show’s main character, but then a few weeks later I’m watching my Seinfeld reruns and there’s the guy from White Collar as bizzaro Jerry.  It’s truly amazing.  Frickin’ Seinfeld.  Every episode is like a Before They Were Stars.

 

Robert Griffin: Bust Out, or Just Bust?

Griffin Knocked off the 40 in 4.41 at the Combine.

Little less combine buzz this year?  I didn’t see one shot of an overweight offensive lineman jiggling his way through the 40.  I don’t know what Rich Eisen’s time was.  I didn’t hear of anyone “listed” at 6’3″ who measured out at 5’11″.  Has Andrew Luck as consensus #1 taken a little bit of luster off the combine, or are people still recovering from the NFL season?  For me, the most interesting player in the draft is R0bert Griffin III.  We could be on the verge of a great philosophical shift in the type of athletes that are drafted to play quarterback.  There may come a time when if a QB like Griffin and a QB like Luck are both available that the Griffin-mold will go 1st every time.  But, we aren’t there yet, and Griffin’s performance in the NFL will go a long way to determining the trend.

I think before Cam Newton came out last year I was probably less impressed with him than I should I have been.  I don’t think I declared “bust,” but I didn’t see a runaway rookie of the year coming.  Did anyone?  As a fan you pick up all this secondary information about Newton’s intelligence, his priorities, work-ethic–things of that nature, and you make an initial judgement.  Mine stuck with me until I read some quotes from Newton himself partway through last season.  He went out of his way to rip JaMarcus Russell, maybe rip isn’t the right word, but he mentioned specifically how Russell’s colossal failure impacted people’s perception of him.  He still went #1, but he had to deal with a lot of negativity and I guarantee you, if Luck was in the draft, he wouldn’t have gone any higher than #2.

Newton said he was motivated to succeed, in part, because he didn’t want his legacy to taint the future of the QBs that followed him.  Players like RG3.  The “athlete” QB.  The “running” QB.  If you want to throw African-American in there, you can certainly do that as well, they all come with stigmas.  For QBs like Newton, or like Griffin there is going to be a bigger obstacle than usual to overcome.  You’ve got decades of history on the side of the “pocket-passer,” it’s going to take more than one Cam Newton to change the thinking.

There’s no doubt that Newton’s success last season has helped Griffin’s draft status.  That Griffin comes without any of the character question marks that surrounded Newton is also a bonus.  His blistering display of speed at the Combine might be moment that he clinched being the #2 pick.  Griffin put up mind-boggling stats at Baylor.   4,293 yards passing.  72.4% completions.  700 yards rushing.  His accuracy is what stands out, but you must consider Baylor’s offense and their conference–a league where gaudy numbers are the norm.  I don’t think Cam Newton ever got enough credit for his accuracy and arm (he certainly didn’t from me), and Griffin could be an even more accomplished passer.  To me it looks like the players that were once classified as athletes playing QB are becoming better and better throwers.  We might eventually come to the point where that distinction is not even discussed, but we’re not there yet.

The other issue surrounding Griffin is his status as the 1-A QB in the draft.  Does the 2nd-best QB in the draft get over-valued because of the importance of the position?  It now seems likely that the Rams might end up with a blockbuster deal, a bidding war if they sell off that #2 pick.  Is Griffin worth that?  Or is the combination of his skills and the huge drop-off to the #3 QB making people want to overpay?  The history of the 2nd guy taken after a perceived franchise guy was taken #1 overall is mixed.

NFL DRAFT RECENT HISTORY, QB Taken 1st Overall and 2nd QB Taken:

  1. 2011:  Cam Newton #1, Jake Locker #9
  2. 2010: Sam Bradford #1, Tim Tebow #25
  3. 2009: Matt Stafford #1, Mark Sanchez #5
  4. 2007: JaMarcus Russell #1, Brady Quinn #22
  5. 2005: Alex Smith #1, Aaron Rodgers #24
  6. 2004: Eli Manning #1, Philip Rivers #4
  7. 2003: Carson Palmer #1, Byron Leftwich #7
  8. 2002: David Carr #1, Joey Harrington #3
  9. 2001:  Michael Vick #1, Drew Brees #32
  10. 1999:  Tim Couch #1, Donovan McNabb #2

As you can see, if Griffin goes #2, it’ll be a pretty rare occurrence.  You have to go all the way back to 1999 to find a Draft where QBs went 1 & 2.  Oddly enough, there as well you had a prototypical pocket passer at number #1 and the guy looked at more as an athlete at #2.  It’s important to note that not a player on this list has anything to do with RG3 (it’s more to see if you think the 2nd guy taken was overvalued), but that 1999 comparison might be the best one you can make.  If you go back further you have the Bledsoe/Mirer and Manning/Leaf debacles for the teams drafting #2, but that is now ancient history.

I don’t see a definitive conclusion or trend in this list.  I’ve seen some people limit it to QBs taken in the top-5 after a QB was #1 overall and then you get Sanchez, Rivers, McNabb, Akili Smith, Leaf and Mirer.  That’s a far uglier list than the one above, but I think that’s fixing the data a bit in favor of a negative Griffin outlook.  There are, though, certainly examples of teams reaching for a QB.  I think Sanchez is obvious.  I think Jake Locker last year was a reach.  Tim Tebow as well.

I don’t think we’re going to be adding Robert Griffin to that list.  Especially with the restructured rookie salaries, I think he’s definitely worth a chance at #2, and that might be bumping his stock up as well.  This is no longer a 45-50 million dollar commitment.  It’s typical that there is really no bust talk surrounding Luck.  It seems the pocket QBs are still immune to those assumptions.  I don’t really see any “traditional” passer above that was subjected to a lot of scrutiny over their ability to play the position.

I’m in need of a conclusion here.  I think the point is, it’s possible we’re in a state of transition in the NFL.  It might not look it when guys like Aaron Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Eli are the ones piling up Super Bowl wins, but it’s got to start somewhere, right?  And, maybe it started with Cam Newton.  Maybe 10 years from now, the evolution of the league will have diminished Andrew Luck’s skill set and turned an “athlete QB” like RG3 into the best player on the planet.  Is it possible?  I think it is, but it’s unlikely if Griffin can’t make the NFL grade.

Ryan Howard, LeBron, and Stuff.

Didn't Know "The Ladies Man," Played for the '83 O's.

I was looking for an insulting picture to depict Baltimore.  The point being, not only does Ryan Howard have to leave Clearwater to get his Achilles looked at, but he also has to go to Baltimore to get it done.  Good old B-hole.  A great city to visit if you have no sense of smell.  My image searching skills must be a little off this morning, though, because I didn’t see many good candidates.  The sheer randomness of this shot of Eddie Murray in full curl and facial hair regalia was too much to pass up.  Hopefully Howard has more luck in Baltimore than the ’83 Phillies.

Howard’s mysterious “wound” at the site of his Achilles surgery incision is probably a cause for concern for many Phillies fans.  There’s a lingering doubt about when Howard will return and anything but the best possible news is just going to fuel the belief that the targeted May return is nothing but a pipe dream.  There are people out there who think Howard is going to miss the whole season and this “scheduled check-up,” is another in what’s becoming a long line of instances where the Phillies massively downplay injuries.  At this point last year, Chase Utley was still just “generally sore.”  The good sign is that Howard was still doing his baseball activities up to the point when he left, so it’s not like he was totally shut down.  We’ve got nothing to do but wait on Howard, but this is surely going to be a process.

Health could be the biggest issue the Phillies face this year.  Yes, the offense has had declining numbers in recent years, but they’ve also had several guys miss large chunks of time.  When you’re never putting your best lineup out there, you’re going to score fewer runs.  So, I’m actually less concerned about “is the Phillies offense good enough,” and more concerned about, “are they going to be on the field?”

***

Other Phillies Notes:

1.  Gary Sheffield thinks Dom Brown is going to be great.  If Ryan Howard really is out for a long period of time I think the rose-colored glasses scenario is Mayberry plays 1st and a rejuvenated and new-look Dom Brown forces his way into left field. Chances of this happening?  About 11 percent.

2.  Cliff Lee missed a bullpen with abdominal soreness, but has since thrown and reports himself good to go.  Lee has had abdominal issues in the past, but so far, this one sounds less serious.  I hate to keep coming back to health, but I think the first thing we ask after every game this year after we found out if the Phils won or lost is if they came out unscathed.

3.  First game Wednesday, but the real action starts Saturday against the Yankees.  Both games this weekend on MLB Network.

4.  Mike Schmidt is Clearwater for his yearly…well, I don’t know what to call it, an opportunity to hear himself talk?  That seems a little harsh, but once you get Mike rolling he doesn’t often come up for air.  He’s already expressed some doubts about Ryan Braun’s innocence.  Schmidt loves to talk about steroids and how he would have been tempted to use them if given the opportunity.  The Phillies are hoping Schmidt can do some talking in more productive areas, like discussing approach with some Philly hitters.  Schmidt was a rare veteran who switched things up and probably became a better “hitter” late in his career.

6.  The Nats locked up Ryan Zimmerman for 6yrs/100 million.  When I saw the number, I said, if that’s for 5-years I’m going to vomit.  I like Zimmerman, but this seems like a bit of an overpay, especially for a guy who missed some time last year.  And, though he’s the face of the franchise, that’s probably a position with an expiration date.  Good news is, that’s 100 million the Nats don’t have to sign someone else.

***

I think hating on LeBron might be the 3rd most popular sport in the country.  This time of year it could be number one.  I’m generally amused by LeBron hate, but I can’t believe the uproar over him passing up a shot at the end of the All-Star Game.  I didn’t see this, of course (unwatchable) but I was in the car this morning and call after call to sports talk was about LeBron.  Summary:  LeBron is the A-Rod of basketball.  And/Or, LeBron will go down as the greatest player ever who had no heart.  This feels like an extreme reaction to an All-Star Game.  I know it’s cumulative, but the hair-trigger on LeBron hate is uncanny.  Only Tiger can approach it right now.

***

Bobby Valentine banned alcohol in the Red Sox clubhouse and on their flights over the weekend.  I’m wondering if this whole Valentine thing isn’t self-sabotage by the Red Sox.  Are they bringing Bobby in to drive everyone crazy so they can go running back to another “player’s manager” in a couple of years?  Strange things going on in Boston.  I don’t know why you need to drink in the clubhouse, but I know that baseball players won’t like the perception that they’re being scolded or their behavior is being regulated.  If this had come up for a different reason it wouldn’t be a big deal, but this way it looks like Bobby V is saying you lost because you’re a bunch of booze bags.  Not a terribly endearing stance for Bobby V to take, not that he cares in the least.  For the record, I think alcohol will eventually be removed from every clubhouse (and probably far fewer players drink after games than you might think), but how it goes over in Boston this year?  We’ll see.

***

NHL trade deadline today.  I guess the Flyers are on moderate Rick Nash watch.  It’s always a struggle not to call him Steve Nash.  But, it looks like Columbus is tearing it down (already traded “Cartsy”) and the Flyers are always a possible landing spot for anyone.  Of course, Nash doesn’t play goal.  Or defense.  But, maybe the new thought is, we’re never going to get a goalie, so maybe we’ll just try for 6 goals a game.

Apologies to My Former Self, But…

The Guinness Book Should Be Wiped From the Earth.

I saw this morning that Evan Turner of the Sixers briefly entered the annals of Guinness by making 14 shots from behind the backboard in 60 seconds.  Apparently there is a record for such a thing, and the NBA is getting all wild and crazy by kicking off All-Star weekend with such festivities.  There’s buzz, and then there’s NBA All-Star buzz.  Unfortunately for Turner, minutes after his heroic performance, the Spanish Jason Williams (white chocolate version) shattered the record with 18 baskets.  As I write this, Turner could be going for 19.  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  That’s the point.  The Guinness Book of World Records has to be one of the five dumbest things in print.  If I was a big Guinness drinker, I’d be upset with the association.

My new stance on the Guinness Book would come as a horrifying surprise to my elementary school self.  When I was in the 8-year old range, the Guinness Book of World Records was about the only book I’d crack that wasn’t about the Berenstain Bears or the kid with no arm in left field.  I have vague memories of having a copy of this book in my classroom one year.  During SSR (sustained silent reading) there would be a mad dash to snag the Guinness Book.  It was a damn treasure.  The thing was probably 500 pages long, but you’d never explore past the first section which was chock full of human anomalies.  The fat motorcycle twins, fingernail lady, the tall guy, the woman with the crazy-long neck–that could exhaust any SSR period, no problem.

I eventually got a Guinness Book of my own.  I’m going to say approximately 1991 and I got a lot of mileage out of it, even if some things, like Nolan Ryan’s record fastball seemed dubious at best.  I don’t remember ever having any desire to be, “in the book,” it was just like dropping a quarter to see the “freak show,” at the old carnival.  I guess that doesn’t sound very PC, or tolerant, but that’s what it was, a kid getting excited about seeing a guy who was 8-feet tall.

And, back in the day, the book seemed to have some standards.  You couldn’t just do any old thing.  Breaking a Guinness record, or setting a new record wasn’t some PR stunt, it was just something that happened.  What I’m saying is, most of the people in the book to start with didn’t set out to be in the book.   It’s the Funniest Home Video phenomenon.  The first videos they got were organic and then for the next 20 years they air staged stunts.  It’s embarrassing.  Saget knew.  He got out.  The Guinness Book is all about the staged stunt now.  Oh, let’s get the most guys with a mustache in one building, or have the most simultaneous games of checkers.  Well excuse me if I think that is horsebleep.  Not in the spirit  of the Book.

There should be tallest, fattest and oldest person.  That’s the holy Guinness trinity.  Anything else is just weakening the brand.

Here are some recent Guinness Records:

1.  Largest Online 1st-Person Shooter Battle

2.  Most People in an Easter Egg Hunt

3.  Largest Pong Tournament

4.  Fastest 100K (Team Treadmill Division)

5.  Longest Handshake Chain

6.  Most Facebook Comments

7.  Most Pizzas Made in 1-hr

8. World’s Largest Video Game Controller

9. Largest Coffee Bean Mosaic

10.  World’s Largest Sock