Feb 05

Some Reflections On 49ers And Ravens, Before The Mets

One of the true beauties of sport is the ability to generate conversation and debate. Before we dive head first into baseball let’s take one more swipe at the Super Bowl, which will go down in history as one of the most compelling in history.

What I root most for in watching games – regardless of sport – are interesting story lines and close games. Yesterday’s game hit on both counts.

As I wrote yesterday, I didn’t have a dog in the fight, but leaned toward San Francisco because of my Cleveland roots. I didn’t waiver, but found myself happy for Joe Flacco because of the heat he’s taken, some of it from his own team.

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While Flacco is easy to root for, Jim Harbaugh is the opposite.

Harbaugh went from hard to root for to almost impossible to root for because of his whining. After saying he wanted to handle things with class, he proceeded to rip the officiating. Although he was right on that last non-call – it was holding – be gracious and congratulate your brother. Not a lot of warmth in that post-game handshake.

Brother John said he thought his brother is the best coach in the NFL and would be honored to work for him. He also said he loved him. Jim said no such thing. I wonder if Jim will truly be happy for John?

That was a horrible non-call, and I can’t stand that term. “That was a good non-call,’’ said Phil Simms, who praised the officials for “not making a call late in the game.’’ I normally like Simms, but he’s as off-target on this one like a Mark Sanchez pass. Huh? If it is holding, it is holding whether on the first play of the game or the last. What is it? Then call it. I bet he wouldn’t have been that forgiving had he been throwing the ball.

That wasn’t the only bad call in the game. As a matter of fact, two Ravens were caught holding on that play. They were also holding on the kickoff return. And, how does Cary Williams not get thrown out of the game for shoving a ref? He later went on to make several key plays, including tipping a pass in the end zone.

There were numerous other blown calls that cost both teams. It isn’t like the 49ers got screwed; both teams were affected. Like, how about a late hit on Flacco wasn’t called?

I heard a lot about the officials “letting them play,’’ which is garbage. Your job as an official is to call the game, not arbitrarily decide how the game should be played. It is like an umpire’s “personal’’ strike zone. Rules are rules, so enforce them.

That being said, I don’t want to hear how the officials cost the 49ers the game. They had a 300-yard passer, two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher, yet still lost the game. I wonder how many times that has happened. The bottom line is when you score 31 points, you should win the game. The 49ers defense and special teams were horrid, and Jim Harbaugh was outcoached by his brother, John Harbaugh.

Outclassed, too?

Jim Harbaugh inexplicably abandoned the running game at the end, despite Frank Gore’s success in the game and on that drive. Harbaugh, as a former quarterback, should know timeouts are more precious than five yards.

Colin Kaepernick burned a timeout earlier rather than take a penalty, and as the clock ticked down on that final drive, Harbaugh screamed for a timeout rather than take the penalty, despite the five yards possibly helping the receivers maneuver easier around the end zone.

As far as Kaepernick is concerned, he came alive in the second half, but clearly was unnerved early in the game. As Kaepernick struggled, I was somewhat surprised – considering the score – not much was made by Simms on going to Alex Smith. Bill Cowher mentioned it at halftime, but Simms threw an incompletion there.

And, about that safety at the end of the game, there was blatant holding there, but I’m not totally buying it meant nothing because a penalty in the end zone still results in a safety. However, had the penalty been called it there might have been more time on the clock for maybe one more play.

And, who wouldn’t have wanted one more play from a game like last night’s?

Feb 03

Who To Root For In The Super Bowl?

Just came in from a walk and it is a frigid 27 degrees. Interesting that I saw a couple of kids playing catch. Not with a football, but with a hardball and glove. Damn, that must have stung their hands.

To me, baseball season gets underway in my mind the day after the Super Bowl.

Is it me, or does the pre-game get longer every year. The game starts at 6:30 p.m., but the pre-game began before 11 a.m.. Seriously, a pre-game that lasts twice as long at the game itself? I’ve always thought the NFL was a little full of itself, but more power to them if their showcase lets the networks sell the time.

I usually find some hook for a rooting interest in the game, but I don’t have a dog in this fight.

On one hand, after growing up in Cleveland, it is extremely difficult to back Baltimore. Even without that variable, there’s always the Ray Lewis factor. He’s been one of the most self-glorifying figures in sport and it is tiresome. Dancing after the Indianapolis game and taking off his jersey after the New England game was just another example of his me-first attitude. And, by the way, the Ravens aren’t in the Super Bowl because God willed it.

From his Look At Me dancing, to this new image, it is just boring. Now, I’m hearing some commentators on ESPN call him “great” and “the greatest leader in the history of team sports.” What about Mickey Mantle, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Peyton Manning, Roberto Clemente, Johnny Unitas, Walt Frazier, Babe Ruth and countless others.

Lewis has been a great player, but he’s not even the greatest linebacker of all time. Say hello to Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus. I’d even take Jack Lambert over Lewis.

My Cleveland roots aside, the Lewis story has grown boring and tiresome. The NFL is so concerned about its image, yet they continue to glorify Lewis, as if those two people were never killed and he had nothing to do with it. He’s been given a free pass by virtually everybody and it is disgraceful.

I have never seen the attraction with Lewis, who is one I wish would just disappear. Of course, he’ll be on TV. Maybe he’ll preach at halftime.

The 49ers aren’t a day at the beach, either.

Jim Harbaugh is another who I find it hard to cheer for. I don’t like how he handled the Alex Smith situation and he’s got a lot of chest thumpers on his team.

The NFL is making a big deal about player safety, yet Smith, who was having a good season completing 70 percent of his passes, did all the right things yet lost his job after sustaining a concussion. What kind of message does that send? Harbaugh’s decision hasn’t bitten him because the 49ers reached the Super Bowl. But, who is to say they wouldn’t have gotten there with Smith?

Both these teams are difficult to root for outside their home areas. There’s not heart grabbing hook, although Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh is a great storyline, although it doesn’t have you gravitate one over the other.

For me, I’ll watch the Celtics this afternoon, enjoy the Super Bowl from an objective perspective and maybe a rooting hook will emerge. If not, I’ll just have some more wings.

Take care and enjoy the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 02

Jordany Valdespin Throwing Away Career

The Mets are bringing Marlon Byrd, he of the PED suspension, to spring training. Byrd is 35 and hit .210 with one homer and nine RBI.

My first reaction was a yawn and my second was thinking how badly Jordany Valdespin is throwing away his career. The Mets have a huge hole in their outfield, but you never hear Valdespin’s name mentioned. And, here’s a guy with speed and came off the bench last year to hit a handful of pinch-hit homers. This is a guy with the potential to make an impact and he’s a virtual non-entity.

Valdespin began to shoot himself in the foot at the end of the season with a sour, combative attitude which included not hustling. What does it tell you when a bench player doesn’t hustle?

What does he do next?

With a chance to redeem himself to make an impression for the future, he’s suspended for insubordination.

What is wrong with this guy? He has a chance to be a major league player and be set for life financially. He has a chance to earn a starting outfield job in New York. It isn’t hard to be a popular player in this city. Hustle, play hard, be enthusiastic and demonstrate some success and the fans will love you. Just look at Lenny Dykstra and Wally Backman. Neither were great players, but were productive and played hard.

Valdespin had a chance to be a player like them.

Maybe he’s not another Carl Everett or Milton Bradley, but he’s headed in that direction. Valdespin has a chance to be a major leaguer and he’s throwing it all away.

His loss, not ours.

 

Feb 01

Report: Mets Considering Valverde As Closer

Maybe Sandy Alderson believes the Mets might be ready to compete this year.

That was my first impression – perhaps wishful thinking – after reading an ESPN report they are considering signing former Detroit closer Jose Valverde to replace Frank Francisco. No problems there. Actually, I have no problem with anybody replacing Francisco, who was a bad signing.

Valverde saved 35 games last year for the Tigers before unraveling and was replaced in the postseason by a committee pen. Valverde’s agent is Scott Boras, but the Mets say they need this on their terms, with a reported $4 million base plus incentives. Valverde earned $9 million last year, but with how he finished nobody will bite on that figure.

With spring training less than two weeks away – my, where did the winter go? – Valverde falls under the category of beggars can’t be choosers. If he’s signed and does well, he can try the market again. There are always a multitude of relievers every winter.

Reportedly, the Mets thought of asking Roy Oswalt to convert to closer like John Smoltz, but he was cool to the idea. He might have second thoughts if he doesn’t get any offers. Actually, if the Mets are in a spending mode, why not invite Oswalt and give him a minor league contract to start? They signed Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal as the fifth starter, but does anybody believe the Mets will make it through the season with only five starters? Not happening.

As Alderson attempts to build a bullpen at the last minute, he should not consider bringing back Francisco Rodriguez, who punched his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field, hurt himself and was traded to Milwaukee. The Mets don’t need that headache.

Evidently, this does not bode well for Bobby Parnell’s future with the Mets. He’s had several chances but spit the bit. It was thought he could get another chance if Francisco – who was injured at the end of last season – faltered again.

Parnell pitched well in place of Francisco, but there was admittedly no pressure on him. If Alderson thought the Mets could not be competitive this year, it would have been the perfect opportunity to force-feed the role to Parnell. If I’m Parnell, I’d be wanting to leave town.

By adding Valverde, Alderson believes the Mets could make something of the summer, but even with an improved bullpen there remains an enormous hole in the outfield, a thin bench and several questions in the rotation.

Jan 31

The Parallels Between Jose Reyes And Darelle Revis

When I hear of the Jets’ dilemma with Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, I can’t but help think of the similarities with the Mets and Jose Reyes.

Both are supremely talented athletes who excel at their positions, but have apparently outgrown their team’s financial structure.

REVIS: Reminds me of Reyes.

REVIS: Reminds me of Reyes.

Make no mistake, the Mets had the resources to bring back Reyes and the Jets have the funds to renegotiate an extension for Revis.

The Mets let Reyes walk because they didn’t want to spend the money and tie up their budget in future seasons for a player with an injury history. No, they haven’t been able to fully replace Reyes, especially on the offensive side, but they have more financial flexibility than they have in recent years.

The Mets also let Reyes depart because he wasn’t the missing piece. Even with Reyes, the Mets had – and still have – numerous holes.

Reyes, a player whose living depends upon his legs, was frequently injured during his last seasons with the Mets, including going on the disabled list twice in his final summer.

By all accounts, Reyes was a positive in the clubhouse, much like Revis is in the locker with the Jets.

For the third time in his career, Revis wants to renegotiate his contract, which has prompted some NFL executives to suggest he’ll never be happy, and quite frankly, this must wear on Jets management.

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