Saturday, August 20, 2011

08/20 (Very) Quickie

(1) Oklahoma is AP preseason No. 1: Hard to believe that 36 so-called college football experts who make up more than half of the AP college football poll actually believe that Oklahoma would beat Alabama in the national title game. Because that's what ranking OU No. 1 ahead of Alabama says.

(2) Peyton Manning's neck? Uh oh. If it's bad enough that Jim Irsay is tweeting about it and that Manning might miss the season opener, it's MUCH worse than you think it is.

(3) Get on the Beckwagon! Journeyman-to-starter Redskins QB John Beck might be the most intriguing player in the NFL this season.

(4) Oregon RB Lache Seastrunk -- at the heart of its recruiting scandal this summer with Willie Lyles -- has been granted his release to transfer. Both Oregon and Seastrunk are better off for it.

(5) So I was in DC last night but didn't go to the Nats game -- so I missed Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off grand slam to beat the Phillies...

...And I left this morning -- so I'm missing the "Capital Punishment" summer hoops showdown between the stars of DC's Goodman League (featuring Kevin Durant and John Wall) against the stars of LA's Drew League (featuring Brandon Jennings and James Harden), which is going to be one of the most unique basketball experiences of the past decade.

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

08/18 (Better Late Than) Quickie

(1) Day 2.5 of the Miami scandal. I'm less convinced they'll get the death penalty than yesterday; the fact that it's still remotely in the conversation remains staggering.

(2) NFL lets Terrelle Pryor in, but bans him for 5 games: This is kind of appalling. I'm with Craggs: In an ideal world, Pryor sues the NFL and makes them go to the mat on this. Then again, I'm so anti-NFL draft-eligibility rules as it is, I'm way too biased on this. But most seem to think this is absurd.

(3) Mike Vick article in GQ: The NFL denies they steered Vick from a starting gig in Cincy or Buffalo to 3rd-string (but more stability) in Philly. But Vick seems pretty happy with how things turned out -- as has Philly and Eagles fans (and, frankly, most of the rest of us).

(4) Georgetown brawl in China: Wha???

(5) Tim Tebow laughs at the Miami bounties on him: Of course he does.

More tomorrow a.m. Catch up on all the best of the day at Quickish.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

08/17 (The U!) Quickie


The scope of the news about Miami's runaway booster is jaw-dropping, but the real damage is in the details -- specific payouts, favors, bar tabs, hookers and more. Dozens upon dozens of players. (Coaches!) Not just "many players were involved" but 70-odd players specifically named, each with a page of specific details.

I never thought that the NCAA would be able to toss around the word "death penalty" again after the SMU debacle of the mid-1980s, but the conventional wisdom is that it is at least worth mentioning in the wake of last night's story being broken.

Mostly, it seems ludicrous that something this institutional could merit the old "reduction in scholarships" or "bowl ban" or "vacated wins." You have to wonder what the NCAA thought as they went through the allegations and evidence (or what they are thinking today).

(Quick sidebar: You also have to wonder what the Miami beat reporters have been doing for the past 10 years. It's not like Nevin Shapiro wasn't the most ostentatious booster around the program. He had a fight with the compliance director in the press box, for god's sake. I would make a point about recruiting "reporters" and how they had to have known, but they are closer to part of the problem than a watchdog keeping things honest.)

The point is that it's a really big story and it will likely subsume the storied Miami football program. If someone asked me for a percentage, I'd put it stronger than 50/50 that The U. gets the death penalty. Partly, it's because it's warranted; partly it's because the NCAA -- under so much fire from so many different angles -- will feel pressure to do it, to satisfy the blood lust from some corners for a poster program for the largely lawless excesses of college football.

It may take a season for everything to pull together -- and oh what a brutal season Miami is in store for, with every mention of the team being paired with "scandal!" -- but the hammer will come down.

(I've been trying to think of a way for the program to avoid a flat-out "your program is shut down" -- maybe a voluntary move to 1-AA for some number of seasons? God: Imagine what happens if they shut the program down and current Miami players are allowed to transfer to other schools without sitting out a year. Talk about a recruiting frenzy.)

Anyway, there's a ton going on -- over at Quickish, we're trying to help you keep up by curating out the best takes, columns and tweets and anything else, all day long. Pop by!

-- D.S.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On Jim Thome's 600th HR

There's something I've been dabbling with over the past few years -- it's sort of like a "bucket list" for athletes: The ones I really want to see in person before they retire.

It started a couple years ago when I was in Denver and had the chance to see Allen Iverson play in person for the first time.

Now, AI was at the tail end of his career -- it didn't matter, he was still mesmerizing in person. The Nuggets were playing the Cavs and even LeBron didn't captivate me like watching Iverson.

Jim Thome is one of those legendary players -- and whose legend will only increase with time, as fewer and fewer players join the "600 HR Club" -- I didn't appreciate until recently. I certainly appreciate it even more now that he has hit that 600th.

I just tweeted out a link to an SI cover story by Posnanski from last September about Thome (here it is). That helped, as great sportswriting often does.

I didn't come to appreciate Thome until far too late in his career - a career that might be over relatively soon. I'd like to see him play in person.

There is a list of baseball players I'd like to see play in person. Many/most are (or could be) eventual Hall of Famers. Some I have already seen -- Jeter, Chipper, Papi, Tulo.

Other players who make the list:

*Albert Pujols
*Roy Halladay
*Tim Lincecum
*Justin Verlander
*Lance Berkman
*Prince Fielder
*Adrian Gonzalez
*Ryan Braun
*Joey Votto
*Robinson Cano
*Justin Upton
*Jose Reyes
*Cliff Lee
*CC Sabathia
*Felix Hernandez

I think there are some -- like Pujols, possibly Berkman, probably Lincecum and Verlander -- that we can all agree on. Otherwise, lists like this get very personalized. You want to see Chase Utley and couldn't care less about Justin Upton -- more power to you.

I'd love to see them -- particularly the pitchers -- at the height of their powers, rather than the downside. For some, that's a multi-year window; for others, it's closing. And for others, like Berkman, I just want to see before my opportunity to do so evaporates with their retirement.

But for now, I am thinking about Jim Thome, the gigantic number that is "600" and how I wish I had caught him in person along the way.

-- D.S.

PS: Scanning the list of potential "600" club members in the future, Pujols obviously could make it (437 career HR). Adam Dunn looked like he might have had a shot (365), but not after this season. Mark Teixeira is over 300 and is "only" 31 -- that means he has to hit as many HR between age 31 and 40 as he did between age 22 and 31... yikes. Ryan Howard is only at 279 and is already 31. Miguel Cabrera is at 270 and is only 28 -- he has a shot. Prince Fielder has 219 and is 27; it is crazy to think that if he hits 35 HR a year for the next TEN years, he still falls 30 short. Ryan Braun is 27, too, and has "only" 150 career HR. Matt Kemp is 26 and has 117. Jay Bruce has 94 and is 24; let's see if he can put up 30 a year for the next three years and put himself around 200 by age 27. For half these guys, they'll be impossibly lucky to hit *500.*

The lesson is clear: You need to start your career early, hit home runs often and have a career that lasts until you are 40. You need longevity just as much as you need power: 30 home runs a year for 20 years. Absurdly, beyond Pujols and Cabrera, the most "realistic" candidate is Bryce Harper, who has 30-HR-a-year power and could make the majors at age 19. All the others simply fall off the pace too quickly, either from their age or lack of production or both.

It's when you look at the current prospects that you gain an even greater appreciation for Thome entering that "600" club (or even guys in the 500 Club, like Frank Thomas and Gary Sheffield, or not-quite-500 Club, like Fred McGriff, who had 493, or Carlos Delgado, who had 473. And it makes Pujols' 437 that much more awe-inspiring. Might have to go see Pujols play a few times.

-- D.S.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

08/14 (A&M) Quickie

I just can't get agitated ("aggie-tated?") about the idea of Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, even if it triggers all sorts of other things that impacts conferences all over the place.

I'm not sure why the fixation on college football as some sort of runaway train mis-managed by conference commissioners suddenly happened now.

Why not last summer, when Nebraska, Utah and Colorado all moved? Why not when the ACC poached BC and Miami from the Big East? Why not when the Big 12 was formed? Why not when Penn State joined the Big Ten? Why not when the SEC created a playoff game?

The folks who seem aghast at the latest like to fall back on decrying the end of college football "tradition." But nothing has been more core to college football's tradition than the loose confederation of conferences basically doing what is in their best interests, whether that means poaching teams or creating playoff games or creating their own TV networks or schmoozing with corrupt bowl committees or creating a championship cabal. That IS college football tradition.

When you look back on all the "us-first" moves over the past 20 years, almost all of them have actually been pretty good for fans and pretty good for the game (at worst, value-neutral).

Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC doesn't erode the fabric of college football. The Longhorn Network doesn't erode the fabric of college football. The SEC poaching a 14th (or even 15th and 16th) member doesn't erode the fabric of college football. Anymore than Ohio State or USC's scandals eroded college football.

The game is so much stronger than that, and it is surprising to see so many really smart college football pundits so bearish about the game, when historical precedent -- not to mention last season's TV ratings -- prove otherwise so conclusively.

Is it a shame if Texas and A&M stop playing each other? Sure. But that result appears to be from Texas pouting, more than anything else; its alums should DEMAND the annual game against A&M continue. Is it kind of ironic if A&M gets walloped in the SEC? No one will cry for the Aggies.

I just can't stress this enough: In reality, college football is better than it has ever been. The elite teams are awesome. The mid-tier teams are competitive. The best players are thrilling. The coaching is phenomenal. The TV numbers are huge. The games are fun. And the system -- for all its flaws -- still means that every week matters in a way that is unique in sports.

Conference realignment -- Texas A&M to the SEC, specifically -- is a distraction, maybe, at a moment when we should be entirely focused on the upcoming season. But it is hardly the signal of some larger infrastructural problem with the sport. Not when it is more popular than ever.

(UPDATE: SEC folks met and decided against extending an offer to Texas A&M... for now, at least. All the more reason for people to just chill out that the sky is falling.)

-- D.S.