Who should the Mets take first in the 2014 MLB Draft?

*Publisher’s note: You can also find this article on my blogging colleague Steven Inman’s Mets-centric blog www.Brokemets.com. I highly recommend reading it, especially if you are a Mets fan. My heartiest congratulations to Steven for graduating from St. John’s University.

What name will Bud Selig call for the Mets on June 5th?

c What name will Bud Selig call for the Mets on June 5th?

With a week remaining before the 2014 MLB Draft kicks off, the Mets have a very big decision to make. Armed with the tenth pick, which was protected from being lost to a team that let go of a big money free agent, the Mets have myriad options for their next big prospect.

Before going into who the Mets should take, let’s take a look at the first round strategy of GM Sandy Alderson.

Ever since Alderson took over as the Mets’ GM, he’s opted to take high ceiling talent out of high school; in fact, of the five first round picks he’s had (this includes the compensatory picks he’s gotten from losing Pedro Feliciano and Jose Reyes), only one, catcher Kevin Plawecki of Purdue University, came out of college. The players he’s taken in the first (and compensatory) rounds are as follows:

2013: Dominic Smith, first baseman, Serra High School, Los Angeles, CA.

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Smith, who was viewed as one of the top hitters in his class, was valued for his stroke as well as his fielding ability. He’s been compared to Adrian Gonzalez, and in a particularly weak year for first base prospects in MLB, he’s ranked second, although he’s made strides to justify that ranking after a slow start in Low-A Savannah. Given the team’s unsurprising trade of former top pick Ike Davis and commitment to Lucas Duda (who will be 31 or 32 by the time Smith makes his MLB debut) it’s almost a certainty that Smith will be playing first base at Citi Field in the latter half of the 2010’s.

2012: Gavin Cecchini, Shortstop, Alfred M. Barbe High School, Lake Charles, LA

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Cecchini is a big time hit or miss prospect who was taken for his value as a defensive star. Although he’s had a slow start to his career due to injury, the fact that he’s only 20 years old serves as a reminder that high school talent often takes more time to develop, meaning he could conceivably be held in the minors until 2017, much like Smith. Cecchini seems to be destined to make up half of a double play combo with one of two top international prospects: Dilson Herrera, who was acquired in the Marlon Byrd trade, or Amed Rosario. Whomever is the odd man out in that group is either going to be traded or coerced into playing third base. Should Cecchini lose out on the shortstop battle, he could be tried out as a third baseman, in fact, his older brother Garin is a top third base prospect for the Boston Red Sox.

Kevin Plawecki, Catcher, Purdue University

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When Kevin Plawecki was drafted, one of the big things that stood out about him was the fact that he’s a guy who constantly gets on base. A guy who also rarely strikes out, Plawecki reminds some Mets people of Daniel Murphy, except he’s slower and plays a more challenging position. As I’ve made mention before, teams are starting to understand the importance of carrying two starting level catchers on the big league club, and Plawecki with Travis d’Arnaud could actually prove to be a solid combination. Should the Mets opt to deal him, he may have some value for a team that could use a starting catcher, as evidenced by the Mets’ discussions during the offseason between the Diamondbacks.

2011: Brandon Nimmo: Outfield, Cheyenne East High School, Cheyenne, WY

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Alderson’s first pick as a Mets GM is either going to be one of the biggest gem finds or a major novelty gone bad. Nimmo, who gained fame for not playing high school ball (Wyoming doesn’t sanction baseball as a sport in interscholastic competition), was valued for his athletic upside. Nimmo has overcome a predictably slow start in the minors and is currently tearing the cover off the ball in High A St. Lucie, enough to land him in the top 100 prospect list at the final spot. Should he continue that pace, expect him to make a return appearance to the Futures Game in Minnesota.

Michael Fulmer, Pitcher, Deer Creek High School, Deer Creek, OK

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Fulmer is the only pitcher that Alderson has drafted in the first round, and for good reason. 2011 was a great year for Oklahoma prep pitchers, and Fulmer has followed Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley’s success pattern. Although he suffered a setback from his development after injuring his leg, he should be with the major league club by 2017, likely as a long reliever/spot starter.

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Sandy Alderson’s strategy deviated from his predecessor, Omar Minaya, who drafted low ceiling/high floor talent. Although most of Minaya’s choices were destined to be average (or in the case of 2007 and 2008 first rounders Nate Vineyard, Reese Havens and Brad Holt, marred with injury and unfulfilled promise) Minaya does have the claim to fame that his final first round pick, Matt Harvey, is one of the best young pitchers in baseball.

Moving on, the question remains: Who should Alderson select with the tenth overall pick?

Generally, given the amount of time prospects take to develop, coupled with the choice between high school, JUCO and college talent, general managers go with the Best Player Available. Although Alderson didn’t necessarily need a first baseman, and many experts thought he would have gone after a college outfielder like Fresno State’s Aaron Judge, Smith was the best player available.

If we went by the best player available based on Baseball America and MLB.com’s top 200 and 100 prospect lists, then the Mets would have two different choices: Baseball America’s #10 player in their top 200 is LSU ace Aaron Nola, who’s bounced up and down the draft board, going as low as the 20’s and as high as top ten. MLB.com has University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer as their ten pick. Zimmer has stayed pretty consistent, getting picked in the top 15 in most mocks.

Looking at the Mets’ top 20 prospects, which is what I use as a basis for my mock drafts, it’s clear that once Noah Syndergaard makes his big league debut, the Mets will not have a legitimate top ten right handed pitching prospect. With Rafael Montero and Jake deGrom likely up for good, and Syndergaard coming up, Alderson, unless he invests his pick in a bona fide arm, will not have a top pitching prospect to advance through the system and excite and distract the fan base. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the options that Alderson has:

First, let’s get one thing abundantly clear: Carlos Rodon will not fall out of the top three. Despite his struggles this year at NC State, Rodon’s still got an impressive resumé, as well as covetable attributes that will make him a top pick. The same goes for Brady Aiken, the prep star from Cathedral Catholic. His stock has risen to the point where he’s in the conversation to be the top pick as well. That, and they are also left-handed pitchers. Tyler Kolek, the consensus top right handed pitching prospect, will also not fall out of the top five.

Let’s take a look at the pitchers that are in range, and that’s 5th best player to 15th best player on Baseball America’s and MLB.com’s lists:

BA:

Jeff Hoffman, East Carolina (6)

Erick Fedde, UNLV (8)

Aaron Nola, LSU (10)

Touki Toussaint, Coral Springs Christian High School, Florida (13)

Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt (15)

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And now MLB.com’s list:

Nola, (5)

Beede (7)

Hoffman (8)

Grant Holmes, Conway High School, South Carolina (12)

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In my two mock drafts, I had the Mets taking a right handed pitcher for the reason stated above: They will need to add a right handed pitching stud in order to balance out their top ten prospects. In the first mock, I picked Touki Toussaint: a high school arm whose raw talent, coupled with his loose arm could make him a deadly young pitcher with #2 starter potential. However, given Alderson’s Moneyball background, which actively discourages the drafting of prep arms in the first round, the chances of Toussaint wearing a Mets jersey seem slim.

In the second mock, I had the Mets taking Tyler Beede. Beede is a familiar name, as he was a first round pick three years ago by the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Beede decided against going pro and went to play for Vanderbilt. Beede’s game is great, but some mechanical fine tuning could make it better. He’s been consistently challenging both Nola and Rodon as the top college pitcher this year, and his Golden Spikes nomination last year indicates he has high level pro potential.

If I were Alderson, I’d want a battle tested pitcher, a pitcher that has faced top flight competition. Right off the bat, that eliminates Toussaint and Grant Holmes, a big pitcher from Conway High School. Because high school baseball talent is relative to the state that it’s played in, even if Toussaint and Holmes were among the best talents that year, keep in mind they were facing typical prep talent. Not every South Carolina and Florida prepster is going to play division one ball in college, and even if they did, they wouldn’t all play in the power conferences like the SEC or the ACC.

The second aspect of a battle tested pitcher is the college conference they play in. The Mountain West and Conference USA, once upon a time, were college hotbeds, but now they’re essentially a tick below the real power conferences. Sure, pitchers like Hoffman and Fedde may get the opportunity to play a power conference team here and there, but ultimately, unless it was consistent, it’s a waste of time for Alderson to even think about Fedde and Hoffman.

This leaves it to two pitchers: Nola, and Beede.

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Nola, the ace at LSU, is a pitcher who, while he isn’t going to blow you away with any special pitch, has great command and control of his offerings. He won’t be an ace at the major league level, but his dependability will be an asset to any team that needs a pitcher who can go deep into innings.

Beede, on the other hand, is an anti-Nola. His fastball is his best major league offering, going from the low to mid 90’s, and his ceiling is a front-end starter, possibly as high as #2. What Beede lacks in his game is pitch consistency. While Beede does have devastating offerings, like his fastball, curve and change up, they are only effective if he can consistently locate the strike zone.

So who should Sandy pick if it comes down to Nola and Beede?

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In a perfect world, Nola will fall to the tenth spot where Alderson can nab him. His consistency and even strength in his offerings mean that either he’s going to be an above average hurler with little to no need to tinker, or, if there is room for improvement, establish a dominant pitch or make each pitch better. Nola’s mechanics are excellent and he is battle tested against the highest possible level of competition in college baseball. It seems that Nola is one of the very few high ceiling/high floor talents, and although Alderson isn’t the type of general manager who goes for safe picks, getting that combination will pay off rather quickly.

 

 

2014 MLB Mock Draft 2.0, part 1

With Baseball America releasing their top 200 player list earlier today, it’s time to finally release the second — and final mock draft of the year, especially with two weeks to go before the draft. This mock will just look at the first round and compensatory selections, no competitive balance picks, no second round. Although the general strategy is to go with best player available, let’s assume that the best player available is also a team’s top need. So without further delay, here is the 2014 MLB mock draft.

1. Houston: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State

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(Original selection: Rodon)

Houston lacks a dominant top ten left-handed pitching prospect in their system, and in the prospect rankings, there are three top arms. However, two of the three, Brady Aiken and Kyle Freeland, are untested against power competition, and generally untested arms are riskier investments than proven college arms. Even though Rodon has struggled this season, I doubt that the Astros, unless they were looking at another prospect all along, are going to deviate from an already-established plan. Despite Jonathan Gray’s rising stock last year, the team opted to go for the consensus top prospect at the beginning of the year, Mark Appel. Rodon has more experience and polish than Freeland and Aiken, and he will undoubtedly fit in what is already seen as a deadly future rotation.

2. Miami: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS, California

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(Original selection: Tyler Kolek)

Alex Jackson may be one of the more power hitters in this class, and the Marlins may be one of those teams who could find themselves in need a high level catcher in the future. Kyle Skipworth, the team’s first round pick in 2008, has just started as a major leaguer, but all signs point to him being a bust. Jackson’s arm and bat will ensure him a shot at a position which requires more athleticism, so if he decides that catching isn’t in the future, then he does have some projectability as an corner infielder or outfielder.

3. Chicago White Sox: Brady Aiken, LHP Cathedral Catholic HS, California

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(Original selection: Alex Jackson)

Brady Aiken was a top 5 pick in my initial draft, and if it weren’t for the stigma that is attached to high school arms, he’s probably hit the top spot, but top three isn’t bad, especially for a team lacking a dynamic pitching prospect like Chicago. Really, it could go either way between him and Tyler Kolek, but Aiken does have the benefit of having actually played the previous season while Kolek was hurt. Having Aiken and possibly Sale in the same rotation will be a boon for the Southsiders.

4. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville

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(Original selection: Jeff Hoffman)

 

The Cubs have spent that last few drafts upgrading their position players, so now must be the time for a pitching upgrade. Like their crosstown rivals, they are especially deficient when it comes to left-handed pitching. Kyle Freeland’s stock has done nothing but rise this year, and it is a theoretical possibility he could be a top five pick given how the picks may fall. The only knock on him is his propensity to try too hard when he pitches, which could lead to arm injuries, but tweaking his delivery shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

5. Minnesota: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS, Florida

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(Original selection: Brady Aiken)

Even though the Twins would benefit from grabbing another outfield prospect to take some load off of Byron Buxton, the general consensus among Twins fans is that they need a shortstop given the failure at the position and from their last shortstop draft pick, Levi Michael, and the best outfield prospect available is a reach at 10. I talked about Gordon a lot in my previous mock draft and my Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop article, and since then, he’s risen from the #3 shortstop in the class of 2014 to the #1. Gordon’s best assets are his legs and his arm, and if he can improve his hitting, he’ll definitely be a better shortstop than his brother Dee.

6. Seattle: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, Texas

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(Original selection: Trea Turner)

Here’s the first really big fall of the draft, as Tyler Kolek, who was viewed by many at the beginning of the season as the top high school prospect, could potentially fall to here. Seattle could add him to their growing list of arms, especially if Taijuan Walker or another high level pitching prospect ends up leaving in a trade. Kolek’s fastball is explosive and he has healed fully from his injury, which means that he should be ready for the transition to pro baseball.

7. Philadelphia: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco

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(Original selection: Michael Gettys)

Philadelphia may be one of the few teams that is in a bad situation here, as the fallout from Wetzler-gate has destroyed trust between the team and some major college programs. Still, the Phillies need to develop a true outfielder, and unfortunately the best prep outfielder in the top 100 is at best a top 30 pick. Bradley Zimmer may be a bit of a reach, but he’s still got top ten talent, and would certainly be a solid addition to the Philadelphia outfield. His arm is solid, and he will make it as a low order slap hitter. Part of the reason why he’s so attractive is his pedigree, his brother Kyle was the fifth overall pick in 2012 by Kansas City.

8. Colorado: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU

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(Original selection: Jacob Gatewood)

If there was ever a prospect I would happy to be wrong about, it’s Aaron Nola. Initially, I said that Nola’s dependence on finesse instead of strength was going to affect his stock, potentially triggering a fall to a team like the Indians, but given Nola’s dominant spring, it’s safe to say barring any surprises or Scott Boras-type contract demands, Nola has cemented his position as a top ten arm. Given also the fact that he pitches in the same conference as college baseball’s third best big name arm in Tyler Beede, he’s really accelerated his stock even further, and Colorado could use another big name college arm to draw crowds.

9. Toronto: Trea Turner, SS NC State

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(Original selection: Tyler Beede)

While it may seem odd drafting a college shortstop while there’s a particularly good one playing in the majors, Toronto could afford to upgrade by going for a younger model, especially with Jose Reyes about to turn 31. Turner has Reyes’ speed and glove, but needs to develop his hitting if he wants to be a top of the lineup threat. Having him and top prospect DJ Davis in a future lineup together just screams terror on the base paths, and would usher in an era of inside baseball which would allow Toronto to compete with the other AL East clubs.

10. New York Mets: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt

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(Original selection: Touki Toussaint)

Sandy Alderson prides himself on getting at least one good pitching prospect in the team’s farm system, as evidenced by Matt Harvey (2011-12), Zack Wheeler (2012-13) and Noah Syndergaard (2013-14). With Syndergaard likely coming up next month, and Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom already making their impressions, Alderson is in serious need of a new pitcher to develop. Beede, who I honestly think is better than Rodon, if not also Nola, does have the ability to be a number two starter in a major league rotation like the Mets. He will need to fine tune his command, but otherwise, he could be the next big arm that Met fans get excited about.

11. Toronto: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana

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(Original Selection: Schwarber)

Like the NFL and running backs, in baseball, it’s always a good idea to keep at least two solid catchers on a team. Catchers are not the most durable players in baseball, and in all likelihood, one will presumably move to an infield position that doesn’t require constant stress on the knees. Schwarber is a big man at 230 pounds, and his presence behind the dish will certainly prevent plenty of runs. He’s a solid hitter as well who projects to be a mid to low level part of a major league lineup. Having him and AJ Jimenez behind the plate will be quite the boon for the Blue Jays, who would greatly benefit from their presence.

 

 

 

Journalism and Society in the Microcosm that is Michael Sam

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It’s been exactly a week since the NFL Draft ended, and yet still people are talking about it. However, it isn’t for the reasons you think it is. Ever since the draft ended, there have been two prospects whose names have been highlighted. One is a polarizing athlete who is expected to be the next big star for the hapless Cleveland Browns, the other is a 7th round draft pick who’s being admired for his courage for being the first openly homosexual football player.

Days after days on end, football fans have been told that Michael Sam is a hero, and that the St. Louis Rams did the right thing in using one of their picks to get him. Also, footage of his reaction to being drafted has somehow made it on TV every day this week, of him kissing his boyfriend. ESPN, NFL Network, plenty of news networks, President Obama, all of them have admired Sam for his courage. Sam is the ultimate human interest story, despite being milked to the point where there is nothing to milk, his kiss is still being shown, his courage and heroism is still being lauded, and so on.

The question that we must ask ourselves is whether or not this is actual courage, and whether or not he is a hero.

First off, let’s start off with the dictionary definitions of courage and hero.

Courage is defined as strength in the face of pain or grief. while hero is defined as a person who is admired for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Let me be the first to ask the question, how is Michael Sam courageous?

When he admitted his homosexuality, first to his football team, then to the media, he was embraced. lauded, and touted as courageous. People said that he overcame adversity through strength. How exactly did he do that? Unless the Missouri football team treated him poorly after he came out, unless the media bashed him for being homosexual in possibly the most testosterone injected sport in the world, I don’t see any adversity. Sure, there obviously were people against him, the Westboro Baptist Church, plenty of fundamentalist groups, and such, but those represent the lunatic fringe, not society in general. We get that his father wasn’t exactly supportive of his sexuality, and probably still isn’t, but again, this is the smallest minority. In fact, plenty of people, homosexual or not, were praising him for coming out. Even when he did his workouts prior to the draft and bombed them, there still was a great majority of people behind him, people who wanted him in the NFL. The NFL wanted him in the NFL. And when he did get drafted, people cheered, and there was talk of progress, and a great step forward in society.

I’m sorry, where’s the courage? Where’s the adversity?

Sam was practically carried to the point where he was drafted. He’d be more courageous if he was a prospect during the years that homosexuality was ridiculed. If he had been a college football player eligible for the 1998 draft and had come out sometime between the draft and the Matthew Shepard murder, then he would be courageous. The only real adversity he has endured during the period between coming out and getting drafted was the uncertainty of whether or not he was going to be drafted. However, there were those who believed that him not being drafted would have caused a backlash in the LGBT community. Former football player Wade Davis, who came out after retiring from football, said that it would have been seen as homophobic if he wasn’t drafted. Exactly who is struggling through adversity now? You have 32 teams, with 256 selections divided among them. The options are clear cut. Either draft him, be constantly praised by society for “doing what’s right” and have the media converge on your practice facility just to watch Sam to the point where it is a Tebow-like media circus, or let him become an undrafted free agent, have everyone who doesn’t know about football cry discrimination and deal with the impending PR fiasco. It comes to the point that there was a slippery slope here.

Frankly, I’m not bothered as much by that, but rather by the constant showing of Michael Sam’s kiss. Before accusing me however, at least hear me out though.

Sam has every right to kiss whom he wants, He could have kissed his mother, he could have hugged his father, he could have done whatever he wanted to do, and he did want he wanted to do by kissing his boyfriend. We saw it. Plenty of people loved it, some obviously hated it, others have no reaction. However, instead of leaving it at the one kiss, we have to see it again and again on TV  for the first few days after the draft. It’s almost as if the media is forcing us to accept something that we can clearly formulate our own opinion on.

I was fine with the kiss. I saw it exactly for what it was, a kiss. However, like an english major writing a term paper on a book and rereading a passage, looking for symbolism where it shouldn’t be, the news networks felt the need to play it over and over and over to the point where it became more ingrained in my head than that annoying ear worm of a song they played during ESPN’s coverage of the draft. I had to change the channel a few times to stop seeing something I already had an opinion on.

This unfortunately is what’s wrong with media and journalism today. What was once objective and based on fact has devolved into fluff and an overabundance of human interest. It’s someone saying “People are too stupid to form their own opinion, let’s force it down their throats and make them join our side, and if they don’t like it we can label them as anti-gay.” Exactly what is being accomplished here? Are you trying to ferret out those who really don’t like the kiss by pulling a Clockwork Orange-like Ludovico technique, waiting for them to jump on social media and say “stop showing the kiss, it’s been way overplayed” so that people can accuse that person of homophobia? Is it not enough that two athletes who watched that same clip the first time voiced their displeasure and are now being ostracized for their opinion?

Moving into that, we saw the negative reactions from ordinary people, but it was the sports world that saw two really bad examples of negative reaction. Miami Dolphins cornerback Don Jones tweeted “OMG” and “horrible” after watching the kiss, and has now been slapped with a fine, been forced to undergo education training in order to be reinstated, and has had to apologize to Sam for what he tweeted. I’m not supporting Jones, but I’m fairly certain he had a right to his own opinion and if he didn’t like what he saw, he had every right to voice his displeasure. Sure, he played for the same team that last season underwent major media scrutiny because of a massive bullying scandal, but really, was Jones going to do anything after voicing his displeasure? And of course it’s a miracle that GLAAD, the anti-defamation alliance for homosexuals, hasn’t called for his head like they did with Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson after he made public his opinions on homosexual marriage.

Similarly, Mississippi basketball player Marshall Henderson posted a series of tweets condemning the Sam kiss, but cited being a subject in a psychology experiment done by his friend. Here’s the problem with Henderson, however. He was a top basketball prospect, but unfortunately his tweets incriminate him as a homophobe, psychology study or not. His draft stock has definitely taken a gigantic fall, probably to the point where he wouldn’t even be offered a tryout with an NBA team. While we will never really know if Henderson’s tweets were his own personal opinion or those for a study, it’s clear that his actions have made him a pariah.

So really, the question is whether Sam is really showing courage, or if people are laying out the red carpet for him. Here’s the thing. If Sam really was facing adversity, we’d know it. The lunatic fringe is not the majority, rather, it represents a microcosm of society. Almost widespread acceptance and adulation from the public is not adversity, and Sam is not showing courage by walking down a red carpet. People are calling Sam a role model, and he is, most definitely for LGBT people, maybe for those who support gay rights. But Sam shouldn’t have to be a role model to everyone, nor should people be forced to accept him as a role model. If there are people who want to view him as just another football player, fine, let them. If there are people who don’t want him as a role model, then they have every right to say no, and nobody should force them to say otherwise. The media should stop forcing the “openly gay football player” epithet down our throats, and let us decide whether we want to refer to him as such, or refer to him the way we want. We have a right to our own opinion, and if we want to say that Michael Sam isn’t special, then we have every right to that opinion.

Lastly, we have to ask ourselves, what about Michael Sam? If he saw what was coming forth, the reactions, the positive, the negative, the witch hunts for the homophobes, what would he say?

While I can’t speak personally for Sam, I can probably say that Sam didn’t want this type of media frenzy. At the end of the day, he’s just another football player trying to make the team. As a seventh round draft pick, he has less of a shot at making the team’s 53 man roster than a higher round pick. His homosexuality is not going to be used as a means to advance his career. I can’t possibly imagine coach Jeff Fisher going over a roster and saying, “Michael’s going to make the team because he’s gay”. If Fisher wants Sam on his team, he’s going to award the spot to him because of his ability and his performance in training camp, not because of Sam’s sexual preference. And if Sam is cut, it isn’t because he’s gay, it’s because he didn’t do well in training camp. This is obviously going to present the biggest problem, because Sam is literally a moneymaker right now. He already is going to be doing a series on his experience as a football player, produced by Oprah, no less, and his jersey is currently the second best selling jersey among rookies on NFL.com’s shop. Cutting him will send the wrong message, not only to those who view him as a barrier breaker, but those who were impulsive enough to by the jersey before figuring out if Sam made the team. Again, I point out. if he doesn’t make it, it’s nothing on his sexual preferences, the team isn’t discriminating against him and Fisher isn’t a homophobe, and honestly, the consumers are the real idiots because they felt the need to show their solidarity by putting an investment into a 7th round draft pick’s jersey.

So in conclusion, Michael Sam is a human interest story, but in no way did he overcome adversity, or is courageous. It is the media, and society who has made him to be a hero when in truth, he is another football player looking to make an impression through his play. Let Michael be who he is, but don’t put him on a pedestal quite yet. Being gay doesn’t necessarily qualify you as a hero, and to be completely honest, nobody should be a hero simply by stating their sexual preference.  I wish Sam the best of luck as a football player, but I hope that he knows that his sexual preference does not serve as an advancer on his career.

 

Small School Football Prospect Prepares for NFL Draft Opportunity

I wrote this article for my school newspaper about our star running back prospect, Octavias McKoy, who you may remember as the guy who broke LaDainian Tomlinson’s single game NCAA rushing record. With less than three weeks before the draft, I think it would be an interesting read for draft nuts to see how small school prospects prepare for the possibility of standing out.

When Western Connecticut State running back Octavias McKoy put himself among college football’s elite after breaking the NCAA single game rushing record, he set off a domino effect that would lead to good publicity for his school, his team, and possibly the opportunity to achieve what so few can dream of, a career as a professional football player in the prestigious NFL. With the NFL Draft coming next month, there is a possibility that McKoy may hear his name called that weekend. According to McKoy, the interest in him actually started before the record day. “The Indianapolis Colts scout came in the summer time, they were the first team to show interest.”
After the record day, in which he ran for 455 yards against Worcester State, the interest grew exponentially. According to him, “Up until this point [we] probably spoke to 12-15 teams and that interest has grown since then”. McKoy also appeared on television, for networks like ESPN, YES, local news outlets, even high profile sports websites like Bleacher Report and SportsEdge covered his game. This is impressive, since very little attention is given to football at the Division III level, the lowest level of NCAA athletics, and very few Division III stars go on to star, let alone have careers in the NFL.
However, a big game and a big season for McKoy wasn’t enough. In order to prove that he could be a pro football player, he had to sell himself to teams further. This meant participating in workouts where he would show off what he could do to more NFL scouts. McKoy attended Yale University’s Pro Day, a showcase for top college football players from the New England area.
McKoy, however prides himself on his performance at a regional scouting event in Atlanta. As he rattled off his measurables, there seemed to be a gleam in his eye. “I ran my fastest 40 [yard dash] at my regional combine out in at Atlanta. That was a 4.6 [second] electric. I jumped a 10’ broad [jump], I had a 37.5” vertical leap. Some of my numbers got better, some didn’t improve, but as far as field drills, I didn’t drop one pass and I nailed every field drill.” His 40 yard dash would have placed him 20th among running backs, his broad jump would have placed him 17th, and his vertical leap would have placed him 7th had he participated in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, according to CBSSports.com.
It was also through that event that more teams communicated with him. “On a one on one level, it was actually very cool because when I was in Atlanta I talked to the Dallas Cowboys, I talked to the [New Orleans] Saints and I talked to the [Atlanta] Falcons so they’re showing some more interest.” he recounted.
McKoy admits that preparation for the Draft is difficult at times. “Day-to-day, you can’t do a lot of things. You gotta kind of be in the shadows, keep a low profile, can’t really go out, but it’s only for a period of time.” However, he’s not concerned about teams judging his character or his football IQ. “My stock has definitely risen because I’m a high character guy… I’m a true student of the game. I’m not just a player, coaches will want a student of the game so I study the game”. He also said that in preparing for the draft, he has a great support system. “My family, my coaches, my agents back me, my friends… as far as your family and your team of people, they pretty much keep you in line, keep you focused.”

McKoy’s humility could play a factor into his future with a team, as he already knows what to expect should he be on a team’s roster. When asked about what he thinks about his future role should he be drafted or signed, he acknowledged the fact that he’d have to start small. “As a rookie going into the league, you got to play special teams, especially if you come from a small school… Basically you got to go and play wherever the coach asks you to play, you go out there and give it your best, and hopefully, you’re good enough to earn a job… I feel like whatever team I go to, I feel like I’ll be a part of it and I’ll contribute. I’m just patiently waiting, and we’ll see.” However, he knows that even with the lower expectations, he’ll still try and make sure he works hard. “I’ll be myself, go out there, work hard, stay dedicated to my craft, try to be my best, and we’ll see what the future holds”, he said.
McKoy gives all credit to Western, going so far as to say that the school changed his life. Reflecting on it as if he had already left, he gushed, “The opportunities I got at Western changed my life so I could never really truly thank them enough. I think about it all the time.” He showed an incredible amount of maturity in realizing that he has become one of the faces of Western, not just their athletics, but also the school as a whole. “I look forward to just staying positive and becoming a role model for my school, my community and try to be at my very best… I want to see our school succeed, I want to see our sports succeed, definitely football succeed, and anything that could come from me breaking records or me getting notoriety for getting our school benefit, I’m all for it.”
If McKoy is given the chance to play in the NFL, not only will he give Western athletics the notoriety he knows will come of him playing, he will also help further blur the stigma that comes with the disconnect between playing at a lower level college program, possibly paving the way for more outstanding Division III football players to make their mark in the NFL.

 

Daniel Murphy, Fatherhood, and the Abhorrence of Radio Hosts

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New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy became a first time father the day before the 2014 regular season began, and like most responsible husbands and fathers, decided to be by his wife’s side when the baby was delivered. He then stayed by his wife and child’s side an extra two days on paternity leave, missing both Opening Day and the second game of the Mets-Nationals series. Before coming back into the lineup in an 8-2 loss against the Nationals, Murphy’s actions were criticized by sports radio hosts Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa.

Esiason made a controversial comment about how Murphy should have asked his wife to undergo an emergency C-Section so that he wouldn’t miss any time during the regular season. The quote is as follows:

“Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”

Esiason wasn’t the only WFAN radio host to echo the job before family sentiment. Mike Francesa also made negative comments about Murphy’s situation:

“One day I understand. And in the old days they didn’t do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help,”

To address the abhorrence that is Esiason and Francesa’s comments, let’s begin by addressing the C-Section comments that Esiason made. I’ll start off by saying that as someone who was delivered by emergency C-section, I am absolutely appalled by what Esiason is saying. It’s almost as if he’s saying that a c-section is more convenient, and less of a burden. And while I’m trying to wrap my head around Esiason’s talk of the long term, may I point out that the baby was literally born three days ago. Yes, the baby will be set in the long term because of what Murphy does for a living, we get that, but really, sometimes you do have to focus on the now, and the now is that Murphy became a father and actually acted like a father, staying by his wife’s side. And while his wife did have the C-section and Murphy ended up taking only three days, he could have taken more. Still, you have to applaud Murphy for his priorities. Look at Mariners catcher John Buck. Last year, he was granted paternity leave so that he could be by his wife’s side while their baby was born. Did you hear Esiason say that Buck’s wife should have made it easy and he should have immediately gone back? It’s also a good time to point out that Esiason, a former athlete himself, was still active when his son Gunnar was born.

Now, let’s look at Francesa’s comments. Probably the most offensive thing that he said in that quote was the “Hire a nurse”. Knowing that Francesa is the father of three children, let’s imagine that he did take paternity leave when his children were born. Would you have a bunch of listeners clamoring and saying that he should “hire a nurse” so that he could get back to his job immediately? Francesa is often viewed as poison for the other New York Sports teams. Listeners would recall back in 2011 when he tried to interview Darrelle Revis after he picked off a pass and ran it 100 yards for a touchdown, he continually badgered Revis about possible pass interference until Revis hung up on him. Francesa is also a Yankee fan who loves to bash the Mets on a continuing basis. However, WFAN somehow puts up with him. It’s a miracle he’s lasted this long as a Yankee guy on a Mets station.

Moving on from the character analysis, it’s clear that both analysts are so far removed from first time fatherhood that they feel that athletes aren’t human and shouldn’t have the right to spend time with their children. The thing about baseball though is that there are 162 games to play, and missing two just because of childbirth shouldn’t be considered as bad. It’s the beginning of the season; Mets fans would probably agree that given the choice between seeing one of 162 games and being at their wife’s side when their first child was born, they’d probably pick the child 99 times out of 100. You can see a game anytime between April and September, but the birth of your first child, you’ll only have a chance to witness in person once. If you can’t handle that responsibility, then perhaps you are unfit to be a father.

Nonetheless, I applaud Murphy for what he did, and I’m glad the Mets were completely behind him. On the emotional side, Murphy acted like a good father, and went the extra mile by staying by his wife’s side, On the professional side, it’s not like he left a gaping hole at second base. Eric Young is more than capable as a defensive replacement, plus his speed makes him a dangerous leadoff hitter.

I’m not going to call for Francesa and Esiason’s heads, but I feel that they need to understand the sensitivity of the situation before they make comments like that. There’s a fine line between professionalism and stupidity, and both of them clearly danced across that line.

You Don’t Have to Like Michael Vick, But Don’t Let His Past Cloud Your Team Allegiance.

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When it’s come to writing about touchy and/or controversial points in my editorial style posts, I come in with an open mind, and generally play devil’s advocate. You saw it when I defended John Rocker’s steroid comments, defended Geno Smith and EJ Manuel, when I voiced my support for the Redskin name, when I ran a big risk by voicing my opinion on gay athletes like Jason Collins and Michael Sam, and most recently, my defense of Jets general manager John Idzik’s offseason strategy. Now, I step into yet another touchy subject: Michael Vick.

We all know the story, gifted athletic quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, had a couple minor incidents early in his career, then in 2007, it was discovered that Vick had financed a dogfighting operation out of a Virginia property he owned, as well as personally killing dogs. Long story short, he was arrested, incarcerated for 18 months, let go, found himself back in the NFL, resurrected his career, and on March 21st, signed a contract with the Jets.

The feeling that I get among Jets fans is that it’s a mix of support and outright disgust. Some people like the idea of Vick stepping in as either a mentor to Geno Smith, or an insurance policy should he get hurt or have another meltdown. Then of course there are those who feel that the signing of Vick prevents them from being Jets fans, period. There have been plenty of comments on Facebook, Twitter, any social media site or comment board has a good amount of fans saying that they will “boycott the team unless the Jets cut that ——–” and that “I love dogs, I loved the Jets”. Pretty much, the idea here is that Vick is a bad idea because of something he did in his past which was off-the-field.

As a pet owner, although it’s cats, not dogs, that I like, when I heard what Vick had done in 2007, I was appalled, disgusted, and disturbed. Animals do not deserve to be treated that way, and for people to finance an operation and also personally kill animals for sport is vile. I was glad that he was going to prison. So what if he had game changing speed or a good throwing arm? The man let his off field actions speak louder than his on field actions, and unfortunately those off field actions involved killing animals.

When Vick was released from prison in 2009, I was slightly apprehensive. 18 months for killing multiple animals was a slap on the wrist, but apparently it changed him. A man who was once viewed as a moneymaker, a marketing boon was now a pariah, broke and abandoned.

When Vick signed with Philadelphia, I had no opinion. Yes, he had found a team that was perfectly willing to let the past be the past and see what he still had in the tank. Granted, it was Philadelphia, the same city known for booing Santa Claus, throwing batteries, booing and cheering injured players, having the most unruly fans (I can attest to that, having nearly gotten crushed by a throng of rabid Phillies fans who wanted Jim Thome’s autograph), and essentially being the cesspool of North American sports, but still, if he could make it back in Philadelphia, then he could make it anywhere. What ended up happening showed that Vick still had his athletic traits in him. He brought Philadelphia to the playoffs in 2010, and completely torched the Washington Redskins along the way on Sunday Night Football, just in case people forgot, and served as an effective replacement for Donovan McNabb and failed franchise savior Kevin Kolb.

Off the field, Vick rehabilitated his image, becoming an advocate against animal cruelty, returning to his former status, essentially the protests that Vick was an animal killer were pretty much silent, save for one game in Oakland, and a few bad-taste jokes, as well as the infamous “Hide your Beagle, Vick’s an Eagle” from opposing fans.

Vick also matured on the field. When he got hurt in 2013, and Nick Foles took his stead, he showed his support for the move. Now, to be displaced by a young quarterback is obviously not fun, but for Vick, who had been viewed somewhat as a character concern, the fact that he took it in stride really showed growth.

I find it particularly odd now that Vick has signed with a new team, that people are bringing back the past, and that people are so upset. Then again, signing with a team in the largest media market is obviously going to have its share of polarizing opinion. Detractors and so-called fans are now ripping the team to shreds, dropping their allegiance because they still can’t cope with what he did a long time ago. Is it that hard to move on? Has he permanently earned the epithet Dog-killer despite the fact that he’s paid his debt to society?

Let me give you my feelings on the situation. I forgave him a long time ago. However, I’m not going to forget what he did. Some people have told me that there are two things that are unforgivable: killing children and killing animals. And rightfully so. However, as a Catholic, one of the biggest things you learn is to forgive, to hate the sin, not the sinner. You forgive people because what is the hatred going to accomplish? Is calling for Vick’s head going to bring back every dog he killed? Is it going to get the Jets to void his contract and put him behind bars on a life sentence? Obviously not.

Furthermore, to drop your allegiance with your football team because of the actions of one player is outright foolishness. Is associating with Vick going to make Eric Decker, Geno Smith, Mo Wilkerson or Rex Ryan an advocate for dogfighting? How about Woody Johnson, John Idzik, or even Roger Goodell, for that matter?

Jets fans should know that there is at least one positive result of Vick’s signing; Mark Sanchez getting cut, saving the team an additional $8 million in cap room, which $5 million was used for Vick’s one-year deal. Plus, Geno Smith is essentially a younger, more malleable version of Vick. Having a mentor whose prime is essentially your ceiling is going to be a huge benefit for Smith.

Back to the fans though. You don’t necessarily have to forgive Vick for what he did, Obviously what he did was outright despicable. Heck, you don’t even have to like Vick for his football skills now. He’s not what he was back in 2004, or 2010. But still, think rationally, not emotionally. Emotion driven decisions rarely succeed and make people look bad, but thinking with a clear mind does increase the success of your decisions. What happens if Vick does end up helping Geno, or in the worst case, comes out in relief and brings the Jets to the playoffs? What now? If you’ve decided to boycott the team and/or drop you allegiance because of your moralism, what do you do? Do you admit that you were wrong? Do you miss out just because of the past actions of one man?

While it personally disgusts me that fans can’t let the past be the past and are letting emotion get the best of them, I realize that my words serve little purpose other than to highlight what’s going on. I’m not going to call anyone out for their opinion. They have a right to it. However, I will call people out on their stupidity. And if you’re going to make that rash of an emotionally charged decision, then I personally think you are stupid. You don’t have to forget what Vick did, but you can at least support your team.

 

The Rationale Behind John Idzik’s “Wait and See” approach

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Any Jets fan or reporter who expected second year general manager John Idzik to pounce in free agency has been left sorely disappointed, irritated, or at the very worst, calling for his head. It’s been a little over a week since the real offseason began and so far the only notable moves that the Jets have made have been losing valuable right tackle Austin Howard to the Oakland Raiders, replacing him with Super Bowl starter Breno Giacomini, signing former Peyton Manning target Eric Decker to a team friendly contract over five years, and cutting embattled wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

Idzik has left the team with a Cromartie sized hole at cornerback, a need for another target for second year quarterback Geno Smith, and enough questions to make a game out of figuring what the team’s offseason strategy is.

In an offseason rife with talent at any position other than quarterback, Idzik has repeatedly lost out on cornerback options in free agency. First to go was arguably the best cornerback on the market Alterraun Verner, who left Tennessee for Tampa Bay, followed by Vontae Davis, who returned to Indianapolis, then Darrelle Revis, who ended up being the Golden Goose of Free Agency, who was cut by Tampa Bay then signed by the Jets’ most bitter rival, the New England Patriots. On Sunday, after negotiations with former Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the sixth year cornerback ended up signing with the New York Giants. Details came out that Idzik wanted Cromartie to prove himself after having a decent year in Denver after two miserable ones in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Giants ended up giving Cromartie exactly what he wanted, a 5 year deal worth a little less than $8 million a year. In terms of a contract, that’s top flight cornerback money, and DoRoCro is certainly not a top level corner.

Going back to Idzik though. his actions, or rather, inaction, has led to several theories: that he’s a stubborn negotiator who refuses to find a middle ground, (ostensibly true, given his handling of the Howard situation), that he’s more concerned with building the team through the draft, (also true, given that he’s already attended Texas Tech and Louisville’s pro days to scout tight end Jace Amaro and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater rather than meeting personally with former top target Emmanuel Sanders) or that he’s deliberately sabotaging Rex Ryan so that he can blow up the team and remake it the way he wants it (although there’s no credence to that theory, the way that he handled Ryan’s coaching staff indicates that he’s still smarting over having to deal with someone whom he didn’t hire).

What disgruntled fans, columnists like Manish Mehta and Rich Cimini, and agents fail to realize is that there’s more to the offseason than free agency. There’s no such thing as an open-book general manager; if there was, then all his targets would be gone. Idzik is fiscally conservative. In a salary cap driven league, that may not be a bad thing. He’s not going to throw money at just anyone because that player can temporarily fill a need. While admittedly upset at losing Revis to New England, I get why he didn’t sign him. Revis may be a top flight cornerback, but really, is a corner worth $12 million a year? In addition, Revis established his status as a greedy money grubbing mercenary when he held out of camp in 2010, and cemented it when he signed a 1 year deal for $12 million with the Patriots.

Idzik knows that prices for players do drive up when rookie contracts expire. Look at Colin Kaepernick. He’s only been playing for three years and already he wants $18 million a year. This is for a quarterback who, while he did make the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter, is in no way elite quite yet.

Another realization is that Idzik’s strategy has paid off. The Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl with a roster built almost entirely out of players acquired in the draft. Richard Sherman was an Idzik pick. Russell Wilson was an Idzik pick. Golden Tate was an Idzik pick.

What Idzik does need to realize is that he’s not in Seattle anymore. Seattle is more calm and reserved when it comes to dealing with football outside the season. New York, on the other hand, is a hyper frenzied media market. Every move is watched, every player is overanalyzed. Fans don’t know the meaning of patience. Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson, both imported products of the New York way, aren’t patient. However, is it necessarily a bad thing to wait? Is waiting until the draft a crime?

Idzik prove many doubters wrong with his first draft. He found Revis’ replacement in Dee Milliner, reaped the immediate benefits of the deal as well by getting future Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson, a pick, mind you, that Jets fans booed (although Jets fans will boo practically any pick), and patiently waited and picked up a viable, if slightly shaky option at quarterback in Geno Smith at #39. In addition, Idzik completely revamped the running game by trading for Saints running back Chris Ivory. Prior to the deal, many fans wanted Idzik to pick up a running back, like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy or UNC’s Gio Bernard.

Although Idzik’s strategy may wear thin the patience of fans who were expecting the team to actually do something in free agency, perhaps he’s biding his time and hoping that his magnum opus is in this year’s draft.

The Jets do have up to 12 picks this year after the purge of 2013. Up to 5 of those picks are protected thanks to the compensatory rules. There’s actually a good chance that one of those picks ends up being the prized end of the third round selection. In addition, the Jets have two fourth round picks, and history has shown that the fourth round has been one of the Jets’ best rounds, see Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes, Leon Washington, Brad Smith, and Bilal Powell for reference.

Idzik may be using one or two of the picks that he has to strike a deal for a cornerback. While he won’t be getting a Sherman, he may be going after someone who’s dependable, like a Brandon Flowers or a Byron Maxwell. It’s not like he’s going to pull a St. Louis and stash all his picks.

Idzik also knows a late round talent when he sees one. Seattle’s defensive backfield was constructed practically out of late round picks, save for Earl Thomas. Maybe he’s scouting late round cornerbacks who fit the Ryan system.

Look, I get it. The Jets defied expectations last year. They finished 8-8 while perched precariously near the salary cap without an established franchise star or a legitimate receiving corps. They’re off the hook for $27 million. The obvious thing to do is to pounce in the Free Agent market. But here’s the thing. Idzik isn’t an obvious person. He’s biding his time and obviously planning to strike when he feels comfortable. Idzik’s a draft man, just like Mike Tannenbaum was a free agent man before him.

Idzik knows what he’s doing, that he’s got plenty of time. Jerry Reese, the GM of the Giants knows that his time is coming, which is why he’s been making moves like offering 5 years to a cornerback who really isn’t worth the money. Reggie McKenzie of Oakland is also making desperation moves because he knows another 4-12 season will likely mean that he’ll be out of a job. Bill Belichick is making moves because he wants to capitalize on whatever time he has left with Tom Brady, especially after seeing him at his worst last year. And John Elway knows that Peyton Manning is one bone crushing sack away from calling it a career.

There’s a saying in football which could be rephrased for most professional sports (the NBA excluded) that says that you don’t win a championship by winning free agency. Who won free agency last year? And what happened to them that season?

Fans often act spoiled and entitled. We saw it in Sunday’s episode of Family Guy, although in that case, it wasn’t Peter and his buddies crying about the Patriots not making moves in free agency, rather it was the team’s inability to win because of divine intervention. (Frankly, the thought that the Patriots could actually suck with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still playing is actually intriguing.) In fact, Peter put it on the mark with this quote.

These are good drunk people who work hard to get absolutely nowhere in life. There are 3 million fisherman and only 7 fish left in the sea. But they live to watch football. Many of them on Zenith or Sylvania televisions.

Okay, there’s an obvious exaggeration there and the context is different, but that’s the point. Fans feel that they know what their team needs, and it’s not just the generality of a position, they feel that they know which players their team needs and how much money they should spend, and when things don’t go their way, they whine and call for people’s heads. In truth, what does a blue collar worker know about the inner workings of a football team? What does a news writer know about cap room and how to use it other than how much there is? What does an unemployed deadbeat, a product liability attorney, or a student at a college living on their parents’ dole know about how football, the business works?  They think they know football, but what they know is the on field product, like knowing what a Lamborghini looks like. They don’t know what parts go into a car unless they specialize in that field, or dabble in it as a hobby. If a fan wants to get into the business of football, they need to learn about the business of football. That’s why colleges offer sports management courses nowadays. If fans ran a team, they’d run it to the ground. They’d have no concept of what cap is, and how to manage it. They’d know next to nil about player values.  In truth, unless they did the actual research into what it takes to run a team, they’d play it like they would their fantasy team. A fantasy team and an actual NFL team are two entirely different things. In fantasy, unless you invested a ton of money in it, you can make moves without consequence, and in all likelihood, your team is full of stars. In pro football, you can’t afford it unless you manage your money wisely. So again, unless you actually know about how football, the business is run, it’s advisable that you stop yelling for your GM’s head.

So yes, while Idzik may be annoying a lot of people with his supposed glacial pace in free agency, we can’t pass judgement on him until the offseason ends. There’s months to go before the first preseason game, and free agency obviously isn’t over yet. So don’t panic and don’t yell for his head. Good things come to those who wait.

Welcome to the Hell that is March Madness

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I hate March.

I hate the beginning of allergy season. I hate, as a Catholic, not having meat on Friday for Lent, (although if it’s replaced by fish, I can slightly tolerate it). I hate waiting for baseball to start and having to endure the grueling bleh that is the 3/4 mark of hockey and basketball season, the overdoing of St. Patrick’s Day, where everything is either ridiculously green, puking out alcohol, or both, every Shakespeare nut quoting that famous line in Julius Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March”, the realization that football has been over for a month (don’t even start with me on arena football), and I especially hate March Madness.

Yes, I said it, I really despise the hullabaloo that surrounds the NCAA Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. The time where practically everyone who’s breathing fills out a bracket in the slim hope that they win their office, church or even school pool. Where productivity grinds to a halt because every schlub with a brain has their eyes glued to a television screen or a computer monitor, praying that somehow the team they picked to win wins despite the increasingly obvious possibility that it won’t happen. I hate hearing the word Cinderella mentioned in conversation to the point where I refuse to even watch the Disney movie in March, or any movie associated with the tale. I hate how people suddenly become experts about teams they barely knew about when the season started in the first place. When ESPN and every other major sports network continually puts up college basketball highlights despite the fact that I want to watch a Spring Training game once in a while. And probably my biggest pet peeve of them all, brackets, brackets everywhere, for every inane aspect of life. Last year I remember seeing a meat bracket. All it did was make me irritable and hungry at the same time. A few years back I think there was a tv show bracket. Again, stupid and pointless. You get the point, I hate March Madness. 

Besides my vitriolic rant against everything sacred to a March Madness enthusiast, I wanted to put down the five things I hate the most about the tournament and provide reason why I hate them, instead of doing something like this:

So without further delay, here are the five biggest reasons why I hate March Madness:

5. Productivity Declines

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly the best worker, or the hardest, unless it’s something that I’m good at or know well. Regardless, one thing that constantly irks me is the stories about the decline in workplace or classroom productivity because of the tournament. Let me provide an example: In my junior year of high school, we were allowed to watch ESPN on tv in the cafeteria, provided we had a free period, or lunch. We were allowed to watch the games on TV only if they didn’t interfere with our class time. Take a wild guess what happens next. Because of what happened, we ended up losing the television and that was that. All because of a few idiots who couldn’t wait to watch a game of basketball. Of course, that wasn’t the only place where it happened. The library was often a hotbed of March Madness viewing. Streaming had gotten a foothold, so people could watch the game on the computers. For someone who had to do a report on, say, an interpretation of Nathaniel Hawthorne, if you didn’t get a computer early, you were S.O.L. Thankfully, we did have someone who was monitoring the computers, and if they were caught, they were kicked out. Unfortunately, for every one person kicked out, another two would take his place. It was ridiculous, down to the point where they stopped caring and let little viewing parties go on, so long as people were quiet. This was before I had a personal computer which I could get my work done, so I ended up having to do a lot of work at home. You also hear the stories about teachers who end up dropping the lesson plan so that they can watch the tournament with their class. Yeah, that’s nice. Great to know that the salary money that parents payed is going towards a glorified 3 week long viewing party.

What’s even worse is when it happens in the office. Now I don’t work in an office, but I’m sure everyone has heard the stories about workers bringing up streams on their computers, watching the games and then if they sense danger, hastily putting up an email inbox as if they’re trying to avoid watching porn. In fact, when CBS offered their stream last year, they INCLUDED a button that said something along the lines of, “Click in case of boss”.  Priorities people, priorities. It got so bad that some offices set up firewalls to try and curb viewing time. At the worst, there is the risk of being fired. Whether it’s for making an illegal pool, streaming the game on your work computer, taunting another worker whose alma mater may have lost, it’s dumb, Imagine coming home and telling your spouse that you lost your job because you were watching college basketball instead of working. Yeah, that’s going to carry over well. What especially annoys me is seeing our president on ESPN filling out his bracket. Whee, so now we know what he thinks. Except here’s the problem. Do you have to make it such a lavish ceremony? Do we really need to see your face on television for the zillionth time filling out your picks? Uh, Isn’t there a little situation going on involving the Ukraine, Crimea, and Russia that needs your attention more than a silly little bracket, or in your case, a really big bracket? Yeah, priorities, Mr. President, priorities. Nice to know that you got Michigan-Wofford and Arizona-Cal Poly right when there’s a plane that’s gone missing and all signs are pointing to it being hijacked. Yeah, I really feel safe now. So that pretty much summarizes productivity decline.

4. It Consumes Everything and Everyone

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In the time period that the NCAA tournament is on, probably a good 80% of chatter that I hear involves the words, “basketball”, “tournament” “seed”, or something along the lines. I also here people who I swear are not basketball fans talking as if they are team insiders for their designated pick, girls who I swear couldn’t care less about sports suddenly shouting “Go (insert college name here)” and obviously, pointing to the picture above, the yearly ritual of dressing a statue in a jersey. It’s ridiculous. It’s chintzy, it’s worse than a meme. Tournament fever is arguably one of the worst non-illness epidemics that hits every year. I’m surprised no one has died from it, although last year, when Ohio State advanced to the next round, I was mobbed by my overzealous Ohio State fan friend, who nearly broke my glasses and caused me headaches for weeks. If I could compare the whole March Madness phenomena, it probably goes hand in hand with the Hunger Games. However, you aren’t legally obligated to watch it, at least not yet.

3. Hearing the word, “Cinderella” 

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God help me, if I ever use the word Cinderella to describe a college basketball team outside this article, you have my permission to take me out back and shoot me. The origin of the term is debatable, as there were two big examples that ended up winning the whole thing. There was Texas Western in 1966, who destroyed the reestablished racial lines and shocked the world by beating Kentucky while starting an all-black lineup, and then there’s the more well known North Carolina State team that beat heavily favored Houston. I believe the term first came to college basketball in the NC-State Houston game. NC State was a 6 seed, Houston was a 1. Obviously the shock was that the Wolfpack had beaten a team that had the soon-to-be top pick in the NBA Draft, as well as Clyde Drexler.

Since then, the term has been overused. Look, I don’t necessarily hate the word, but the way that it’s been used. A Cinderella team is a team that’s made it to the final despite the odds against them, like NC State, like Butler, VCU, George Mason, the 1985 Villanova team. Nowadays, when people talk about Cinderellas, they refer to lower seeds that beat higher seeds in one game. I’ll give some credit to Florida Gulf Coast University last year, being the first ever #15 seed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, but good God, Lehigh and Norfolk State in 2012 were not Cinderellas. They beat a 2 seed, which is the second least likely scenario to happen, but then promptly got beaten the next round. If that were a Cinderella metaphor, that would be the pumpkin carriage hitting a pothole en route to the ball, turning everything back to the way it was. Cinderella in rags, horses are mice, you get the picture here. The better term would be “Giant Killer”. This term is especially popular in English football during the FA cup, as there are plenty of lower pyramid teams who manage to stun a higher pyramid team until they inevitably get beaten by someone in the Football Championship or the EPL in the proper rounds. That is, unless you’re Millwall.

Further misuse of the term is derived from broadcasters’ lack of research. When the supposed Cinderella team loses, they often say the team is “turning back into a pumpkin”. Really. I had no idea that Cinderella was a vegetable to begin with. As I recall, the carriage WAS the pumpkin, not Cinderella. Really, read a book or even watch the movie if you have to, just get your facts right. It’s like Katy Perry singing “Dark Horse” with the music video set in Egypt and right out of nowhere, she says “Make me your Aphrodite.” That’s Greek mythology, sweetheart. The Ancient Egyptian goddess of love is Hathor. Again, read a book, don’t make yourself out to be an idiot.

2. The overcoverage

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Maybe I’m overreacting a bit here, but when March Madness comes, ESPN and the other major networks find some excuse to put on college basketball highlights. I’m not kidding. Sportsnet does it, CNN and Fox News have done it, it’s hard not to find a channel without going through at least three seconds of college basketball highlights in March. What does bother me though is that ESPN acts as if they are broadcasting the tournament, by showing highlights of every game, and analyzing each game, each team, each player, each meme or Youtube worthy moment to death. When that happens, all other sports are pushed aside. We’re talking baseball, which is usually in the middle of Spring Training, NFL free agency, maybe a few marquee NBA games. It’s incredible. For a network that prides itself on being the Worldwide Leader in Sports, there is a major coverage bias. Might as well change it the the Basketball and everything else network. It’s ridiculous. 

1. Brackets, Brackets everywhere.

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Of course, what March Madness hate-o-rama would be complete without blasting brackets? Some people do them on paper, others online, heck, some do both. Some do one, some do maybe 30. And what for? If you get the best bracket in your pool, what do you get aside from a small money pot and the ultimate realization that you probably have no life? Great, you filled out your bracket. Enjoy the Tournament. Great, you got the Final Four all right, your parents must be so proud of you. Great. You got all but maybe 10 games right. You want a cookie? It’s inane, it’s time consuming, it’s just a major bore. I mean really, what are you getting out of it. Your expertise or dumb luck isn’t going to get you a job on ESPN or CBS College Sports now, so why bother? And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk brackets in general during the time of March Madness. It’s not just confined to basketball. Some businesses or people or both make brackets for the most inane things. Meat, TV, Simpsons Characters, girls, men, life, the only thing they could make for a bracket that trumps everything in inaneness is the air molecules you breathe. Brackets are ridiculous and inane and a complete waste of time, and it’s only the fact that we’ve been doing them for so long that makes it more culturally acceptable.

And that concludes my hatred of March Madness. Don’t worry, baseball will be coming back soon.

Why the Marlins and Major League Baseball are wrong to fine Boston

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Spring Training is essentially a lot of nothing: players getting in shape by actually playing baseball against minor leaguers, prospects being highlighted as the potential future without much consequence, the usual golf, fishing, maybe some joking around.

However, no one apparently sent the memo to the Miami Marlins, who after a game against the Boston Red Sox, filed a grievance alleging that the Sox, a champion organization cheated both Miami and its fans by fielding a lineup of minor leaguers, save for Jackie Bradley. The Marlins had hoped for the actual championship team, and had thus inflated ticket prices.

The Red Sox responded with a personal tweet from owner John Henry which read as follows:

Major League Baseball responded by fining the Red Sox a small amount, but that small amount was way too much for an “offense” like not fielding a lineup of regulars during a spring training game. In fact, the logic behind the fine was that the Red Sox needed to put “at least four major leaguers, or players with a good shot at a major league roster spot” in the lineup.

This is stupidity to the nth degree; a team should have every right to field whomever they want in their lineup and shouldn’t have to acquiesce just because another team expects them to. In fact, what would have happened had the Red Sox done it, then gradually substituted the starters out? Would they have called the game?

A year ago, the San Antonio Spurs were fined for opting not to let their starters play in a game against the Miami Heat. Coahc Gregg Popovich defended the action as a means to let his star players, all except for one are above the age of 30, get a well deserved rest. Then-commissioner David Stern fined the team because according to him, the benching was not “In the best interests of basketball”.

Professional sports are a corporation by and large, but star players do deserve rest and should not be forced to play because of marketability. Granted, Popovich should have mentioned that he needed to rest his starters to avoid injury, but still, players are human beings as well.

The Marlins and Major League Baseball should be ashamed too. For one, Miami exploited fans by driving up prices for that one particular game. For another, Major League Baseball sided with the same team that has been viewed as having the worst management, is the prime example of a team entirely dependent on fire sales which gut the team of talent in return for players who may or may not pan out, who swindled the Miami taxpayers into building a stadium with public funds with the promise that a championship team would play there, only to sell off the championship pieces a year later, in short, it’s downright despicable and it shows the darker side of business in baseball.

Generation K won’t repeat itself for Mets

By Steven Inman

Photo By Newsday

Photo By Newsday

Most naysayers believe the Mets are making a mistake by trying to build their franchise back up with young pitching. They refer to Generation K, a trio of young pitchers who never made it in New York. Jason IsringhausenBill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson all came up through the Mets system as top prospects with blazing fastballs. Although it sounds very similar to the trio of Matt HarveyZack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard it doesn’t appear that history is due to repeat itself.

Isringhausen was the only pitcher of the trio to make it in the big leagues, and he did it for the most part as a closer in Oakland and St. Louis. Harvey and Wheeler have already had more success in their young careers than the trio from the 90’s did with the Mets.

The difference that I see between the three pitchers of 2014 and Generation K is Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard all seem to throw much more free and easy than most young pitchers. Harvey and Syndergaard seem to throw 97mph without putting much stress on their arms. Wheeler when his mechanics are right, has the easiest delivery of the three.

Also in the past 20 years due to video, scouting has gotten much more accurate. A much higher percent of top prospects are making it to the big leagues and establishing themselves as the cream of the crop in Major League Baseball. When Generation K came out, for the most part scouts really didn’t have the technology to look at a kid’s delivery and say “he’s not going to hold up for 200 innings” Now we do and those kids are quickly switched to the bullpen for the most part.

Also 20 years ago guys were throwing 130-135 pitches in the minor leagues regularly. In 2014 pretty much every pitching prospect is on some kind of pitch limit per game, and innings limit for a season.

Teams have learned from the Generation K’s of the world and have put some work in to protect their young pitchers to give themselves a better chance of holding up long-term.

Two of the three pitchers from Generation K blowing out their arms within the span of a year is just unlikely and not likely to happen again this time. Harvey undergoing Tommy John surgery is a pretty simple process and he should come back just as good as before as long as he doesn’t rush his rehab.

Wheeler and Harvey already look like the real deal and Mets coaches in spring training can’t stop raving about Noah Syndergaard. Mets fans, fear not Sandy Alderson is building this team the right way and the Mets have a very bright future.

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