Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday 02/18 A.M. Quickie:
A-Rod, NBA Trade Rumors, NFL Combine

It's not that I don't care that A-Rod cheated. It's just that -- in the grand scheme of the era -- I simply can't get outraged about it. And I certainly can't get sanctimonious about it, like so many mainstream sports pundits.

There has got to be some data out there confirming that the outrage is as artificial as A-Rod's inflated stats; I haven't seen it, although there are folks out there (like Neyer) who do a damn good job articulating just how value-less the sanctimonious outrage from some corners can be.

Here's a great quote from another sage sports pundit, King Kaufman:
That's the bottom line in this whole steroid business. It was the culture. That shouldn't absolve anybody of blame or deprive you of the right to get on your high horse if you want to -- nothing should deprive you of that --- but if you're looking to honestly figure out what happened in baseball in the late 1900s and early 2000s, you can't ignore the context. There weren't as many question asked. Not by players, not by management, fans, the union, reporters or anybody else.

It's easy to click and cluck about moral relativism, but if a few years from now our culture decides that jaywalking -- which is against the law now -- is a heinous crime, we're all going to have to look contrite at our own press conferences.

And so today's SN column leads with the A-Rod spectacle from yesterday, but I hope it's the last time that happens -- beyond things that happen on the field. Did he try to self-flagellate? Yes. Did he leave a bunch of reasonable questions unanswered? Yes. That's all to be expected.

Far more interesting, at least to me, is that the Hornets gave up on contending for a title yesterday. And, approaching the NBA Trade Deadline, will the Rockets join them?

There are only a handful of teams actually competing for the NBA title this season -- Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, Cavs, Rockets...maybe the Magic (although losing Nelson hurts). That's it.

As I said in yesterday's column: Everyone else appears to be either preparing for the 2010 free agent class -- which, by inference, means that they are basically punting (even tanking, depending on how you define "tanking") on both this season AND next season -- or by SAYING they are preparing for the 2010 free agent class, but are really just trying to cut costs in the face of a terrible economy. The NBA: Where...cost-cutting happens.

(I loved that Michael Lewis article on Battier this past weekend, although Battier came across as weirdly defensive -- and not in reference to his on-court talents.)

Here is what I would like to see -- REAL "Moneyball" in the NBA. Given, say, a $20 million budget, could a savvy GM put together a playoff team made out of bargain and/or cast-off parts? You can't field a team of 5 Battiers and hope to win -- you could definitely find the underappreciated values at each position, though, and win. But who would be on that team?

Meanwhile, today starts the NFL Draft Combine, which has gotten very big -- it is the NFL, after all. I'm looking forward to finding out who runs the eye-popping 40 times; who is the next Chris Johnson?

Get the complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

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