The potential season-ending Achilles injury to Michael Crabtree could have a huge effect on the NFC West race this season. Crabtree, who had 85 catches for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns last season, was clearly Colin Kaepernick's favorite target and was turning into one of the better receivers in the NFL. The 49ers do have the talent to overcome the loss. They added Anquan Boldin to the receiving corps this offseason. They have an offensive line built around three first-round picks and a dominant runner in Frank Gore, so they could easily adjust to running the ball more. And they have a great tight end in Vernon Davis, who could become more of a focal point of the offense again. But not having their top receiver will hurt.
The one team that may benefit most from Crabtree's absence is the Cardinals. In two games vs. Arizona, Crabtree had 13 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns. In the 49ers' 24-3 win in Week 8 with Alex Smith as the quarterback, he had five receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Playing with Kaepernick in the final game of the regular season, Crabtree torched the Cardinals for eight receptions for 172 yards and two more touchdowns in a 27-13 victory, and in the process became the first 49er to go over 1,000 yards receiving since 2003.
So if Crabtree does indeed miss the entire season, Arizona will be one of many teams who won't miss him.
I'm really disappointed at how good Cahill's stuff is and how average (at worst) or inconsistent (at best) he is as a pitcher. Keep in mind though, he is pitching much better than Jarrod Parker, whom he was traded for. Cahill is 3-5 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Parker is 2-6 with a 5.76 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP.
Everyone's all over you for leaving Roy Hibbert on the bench for both of LeBron's drives to the bucket. They're right. You're a great coach who just out-thought the room. I know why you did it, but you were wrong to do it. Which is worse, Hibbert caught in a mismatch because you're switching screens or the greatest player in the world in a lay-up line?
So many people think it's a no-brainer that he's a Hall of Famer. Is he a no-brainer if he spent his entire career in Jacksonville? I don't think so.
He's a great player who's had a great career. He's also getting a boost from the "Monsters of the Midway" mystique and his positional link to Butkus and Singletary. I'm not standing at attention guarding the Hall from him. It's not blasphemy if he gets in. Pete Rose once said, "If you have to think about it, they're not a Hall of Famer," and I'm thinking about it.
On the MLB standings page there's a column "POFF." It stands for "Playoff % chance." In the National League West, there's a 3-way tie for third with the Diamondbacks, Giants and Rockies all possessing a 26-21 record. Despite having the same record, the Rockies have the highest percentage chance to win the playoffs. Arizona is second and San Francisco is a distant third.
I love Sabermetrics. I find the work of Bill James fascinating and I've learned so much about baseball reading his work. Current statistics for run differential determine playoff percentage. So if the D-Backs would have just won Monday by a wider margin and lost Wednesday by a smaller margin, they would have a higher win percentage despite the same record and same win/loss result from this week's series. Any formula that counts a run in Coors Field as being equal to a run scored in another ballpark is ludicrous. I can safely say the Rockies will not win the National League West despite ESPN's calculator.
In real-life, the ability to operate "outside the box" is considered a compliment. It's a trait that's highly sought-after and well-compensated.
In baseball, it's an illness. And it's slowly killing the game. In the eyes of the masses, all the time spent outside the batter's box turns into wasted time. More than ever, that's time that people feel can (and will be) better spent elsewhere.
Now, have we commissioned some sort of Mitchell Report? No. (Although, if we did, we would eventually read it -- unlike Bud Selig.)
Our data is strictly anecdotal. Frequent encounters with sports fans who feel the need to vent (do I look like Dr. Phil or somethin'? Wait, don't answer that).
Typically, the conversation evolves into the following observation: "I find myself yelling at the game of baseball more than ever."
We're not talking about disagreeing with an ump or a manager. Not even yelling at the airing of concession stand infomercials during key moments in the late innings.
Instead, we're talking about yelling at batters like you're a Marine Corps drill sergeant: "Get back in the box already!" "Don't make me come down there!" "Do you really need to readjust your batting gloves - again?!" "And you definitely don't need to tighten ‘em up after a pitch you didn't even swing at!?!"
The delays are constant. And, for most folks, so is the agony. Yet, here's the thing -- it's all so unnecessary. That's the good news/bad news: baseball can be fixed. But, by failing to force batters to stay in the box, America's Past Its Prime…err, Pastime is cannibalizing itself.
Forget that I'm trying to sell a 6-year-old on the game of baseball. No doubt, it's a challenge to direct his attention towards the TV when the screen inevitably shows batters (and some pitchers) channeling their inner Mike Hargrove (nicknamed "Human Rain Delay" for good reason).
What's really alarming is how many people I speak with (many old enough to remember Mike Hargrove), who grew up with the game, who now report that baseball hasn't grown with them. "I can't take it. I don't watch any more…" is a common refrain that I hear over and over from (former) baseball fans.
Pick up the pace. Step on the gas. And don't change the rule book or the game itself. Simply force the big leaguers to play it.
Believe us Major League Baseball, it's in your best interest. Right now, life is passing you on the right. And you're doing ten miles under the speed limit with your hazards on…
Read an interesting sabermetrics-type article on Paul Goldschmidt by Scott Spratt of ESPN the other day. His article was about how Goldschmidt was "Setting the MVP Pace".
Now for anyone who listens to the show, they know I am the furthest thing from a sabermetrics geek. I'm just not that interested in some of those crazy numbers. I prefer the eye test and your basic average, home runs, runs batted in, doubles and steals numbers. I was intrigued by the facts in the article that Goldschmidt was the 11th first baseman selected in that 2009 draft, the 246th player and the 13th D-back selected.
So I decided to do some homework as to why Goldschmidt wasn't picked higher, why there were so many players at his position picked ahead of him. I picked the brain of former D-backs skipper and director of Minor League operations A.J. Hinch, who now is in San Diego with the Padres. In a nutshell, he said the report on Goldschmidt at the time they drafted him was that he was a pretty good offensive player with legitimate power, plus make up who was solid defensively. The concerns on Goldy were competition in college (Texas State) and questions as to whether he could hit enough to get to his power.
It was D-backs scout Tom Allison who was big on drafting Goldschmidt and thought he would be a good Major Leaguer. But no one in the organization could have seen this coming.
Goldschmidt is an MVP candidate and a Triple Crown threat. Goldy is second in the National League in home runs with 12, third in runs batted in with 36 and seventh in batting at .323. He has become a player that can carry a team. And his defense, while not at the Keith Hernandez/Don Mattingly level, is awfully good.
Just for fun here are the players Arizona drafted before Goldschmidt that year.
A South Carolina 4A state championship soccer game between Irmo and Lexington was not settled after two overtime periods, so they turned to penalty kicks.
And as anyone who has watched soccer knows, that situation is none-too-favorable for a keeper.
Anyway, the score was tied at 3-3 heading into the last round of kicks, which is when Irmo's Mattison Gossett lined up for his chance against Lexinton goalie Jacob Parton.
Parton, who basically had to guess where Gossett was going to kick the ball, did so correctly. He moved to his right and dove to the ground, getting his hands on the ball and seemingly making the save.
However, the ball bounced off his hands and, while the keeper was celebrating the save, rolled into the net anyway. Oops.
As far as ways to lose a game, this one easily has to rank as one of the most painful.
The NFL is doing it again. Roger Goodell is desperately trying to find a solution to creating more revenue and the easiest way for him to do that is to expand the regular season or the playoffs.
Forget about the integrity of the game or what's good for the game.
"I hear from fans consistently that they want to make every NFL event more valuable. They see the preseason as being less valuable to them because they don't see the best players and the games do not count," Goodell said. "We have to address that, whether we are looking at 18 [regular-season games] and two [preseason games] or 16-and-two and expanded playoffs."
"Valuable," it's an interesting choice of words. Regular season games are more valuable than preseason games and playoff games are even more valuable than regular season games. This truth applies to fans and we know it applies for the league.
But it doesn't create value for the game.
What value is there really when coaches start sitting players in December over the last 3 or 4-weeks of the season because they have already locked up their playoff seed? What value is there for the fans when players start missing more games due to injury because the season is too long? What value is there when half the league gets into the post-season? What value does each NFL event have when regular season games are suddenly treated like preseason games because teams are preparing for the post-season? And we're talking about December games!
Where's the drama? Where's the import of every game? Where's the weekly tension and significance as each week passes by and teams that finish 9-9 are suddenly wild card teams?
More games or more playoff teams do not make NFL events more valuable to anybody but the league. They can charge higher ticket prices, sell more merchandise and sign bigger television deals. The league benefits greatly from expanding the regular season or the playoffs. Fans will turn out and support the game they love and owners will thrive in the comforts of capitalism. And that's fine, it's the American Way and God Bless America!
But the game will suffer.
The commissioner has a responsibility to increase revenue for his league but it cannot be at the expense of the game. There was a time when commissioners respected the sanctity of the game, loved the game and made decisions based on what they believed was good for the game. The bottom line can't always be the fulcrum for every decision that is made in regard to the game.
The bottom line does not understand the concept of less is more. With each game the NFL adds or each team that is included in the playoffs or both, the product is diluted. And that's a dynamic the NFL has always had over other professional sports leagues: every game really does count. The NFL is an event-based league with a premium placed on each game. The NBA, NHL or MLB cannot make that claim.
The bottom line: be careful what you wish for, Roger.
And even though the league has "cracked down" and is fining players for taking dives in attempts to draw fouls on opponents, there is still a healthy amount of the act going on.
Case in point -- Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in San Antonio Tuesday night. In a four-point game with under 30 seconds left, Manu Ginobili of the Spurs loses the ball and Memphis' Zach Randolph passes it ahead to Tony Allen. Ginobili challenges the play, prevents the layup and gets called for a flagrant foul.
Allen writhed on the floor in "pain", holding his head like he was about to die.
Except replays show that not only was Ginobili's foul not flagrant, but Allen's head was never touched by the San Antonio guard -- nor did it hit the floor at any time.
Allen, miraculously healed, would go on to hit both free throws and his teammate, Mike Conley, sent the game into overtime with a jump shot.
However, the Spurs prevailed 93-89 to take a 2-0 series lead.
"Cheaters never prosper," the old saying goes. Well, we guess floppers never win either.
Gambo and I didn't win the Powerball. The Suns didn't win the lottery.
Life goes on.
In the end, the result is something you can certainly live with. Gambo and I couldn't retire, but we still have a pretty cool gig. And the Suns have the fifth pick in the draft. While it's always preferable to improve your lot in life, Ryan McDonough will have plenty of decent options to sift through:
It would be wrong to assume there are no impact players in this year's draft. Just ask Golden State. A combined 22 players went off the board before they selected Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. They're out there and now it's up to McDonough to take his reputation for a test spin and find them. Maybe it's one of those players. Maybe it's Trey Burke, Alex Len, C.J. McCollum or Shabazz Muhammad.
On an unrelated note, if you're a conspiracy theorist (I'm looking right at you, Doug Franz), it's pretty easy to decipher why the top pick landed in Cleveland. Clearly David Stern knows LeBron is going back to the Cavs in a year, so he's doing his best to make sure LBJ has a talent crew around him.
You do not lose baseball games based on umpires. The D-backs lost to the Rockies because they were down 4-0 in the seventh inning. They lost because Ian Kennedy isn't pitching to his level yet. They lost because of an unearned run and Colorado going 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Now that we're clear, what is going on with umpires? How does Johnson look at his employer and justify the strikes he called on two outside pitches to end two different at-bats with the bases loaded in the seventh? Angel Hernandez (one of the worst umps in history) ruled a check swing for Miggy that was so horrendous he should be fined. Dana DeMuth wasn't going to be short-changed as he put the unearned run on first base when Paul Goldschmidt tagged out Nolan Arenado at first on Didi Gregorius' throwing error.
This is no longer a replay issue. This is a union issue. If the Major League Umpires Association wants to defend the employment of so many bad umpires, it's time to bust the union.
Because of Justin Upton's hot start, everyone wanted to talk about the Braves. In case you haven't noticed, the Pirates are just as good and Cleveland is only 1/2 game worse.
Only leagues without integrity need them.
I can see the new marketing campaign..."Please recycle, Jodi does"