Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for July, 2008

Thoughts on the Broncos and Rod Smith

Posted by mizzou1028 on July 30, 2008

– What happened to the summer?  The Broncos’ first preseason game is a week from Saturday, and it doesn’t quite feel like football time yet.  Not that I’m complaining, I still get way more excited for football than all of the other sports combined. 

– The more I think about the Broncos the more optimistic I am they can at least compete for a wild card.  I really like the idea of D.J. Williams moving back to outside linebacker, for that should have more impact on defense than people may realize.  He will have more freedom to make plays than he did at middle linebacker last season, and that will have a trickle down effect on the rest of the defense.   I also like the addition of Dewayne Robertson at defensive tackle.  His presence should improve the team’s ability to stop the run and generate a pass rush, which could have the trickle down effect of more interceptions for Champ Bailey and friends in the secondary. 

– I also am convinced Jay Cutler will have his best season yet.  Keep in mind he was battling diabetes last season and didn’t know it.  This year he is better prepared to handle the situation.  He is also entering his third year in Mike Shanahan’s offense.  The offensive line will be improved by the simple fact that they are entering the season healthy, something they never were last year.  The offense really has the potential to be explosive like it hasn’t been in a couple of years.  That being said…….

– I really hope Brandon Marshall has learned his lesson.  I also hope that Roger Goodell isn’t too hard on him, even if Marshall may deserve some punishment for his off the field behavior in the past year.  Even a four game suspension would have a big impact on the Broncos, for that would cause Marshall to miss division road games at Oakland and Kansas City.  Those are both winnable games, but with Marshall out would become that much tougher to win, not to mention the Broncos would be significantly shorthanded at home against San Diego in week two.  That’s tough enough, but if Marshall is suspended for eight games, not out of the question considering how tough Goodell has been on those that don’t toe the line, than I shudder to think about where the Broncos would be before Marshall could return in November.  The amount of games Marshall is suspended (and word is it will be two at the bare minimum) could end up being the most important number for the Broncos in 2008. 

– Regardless of any suspension, the fact that Bronco great Rod Smith has taken Marshall under his wing means we shouldn’t hear about any more off the field incidents for Marshall.  Smith’s presence around Marshall and the rest of the team can only mean good things for the organization.

– Speaking of Smith, I don’t think he gets his due nationwide.  He should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame based on his numbers and contributions to the organization, but his name doesn’t seem to come up when talk turns to great receivers of the 90s.  Considering that only two Broncos are in the Hall of Fame (John Elway and Gary Zimmerman), it doesn’t seem as though the national voting panel will be that quick to acknowledge Smith. 

– You don’t think there is a bias against Smith nationally? Let’s compare him with Michael Irvin, who got inducted into the Hall last season in his second year of eligibility.  The only reason Irvin didn’t get in on the first ballot was because of his off the field issues.  Irvin in his career caught 750 passes for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns for the Cowboys.  Smith? He caught 849 passes (99 more than Irvin) for 11,383 yards and 68 touchdowns.  Both receivers played an identical 12 seasons, and while Irvin won one more Super Bowl than Smith, Irvin had the luxury of Troy Aikman throwing to him most of his career.  Smith compiled a lot of his numbers with Brian Griese and Jake Plummer throwing to him, after just four seasons with John Elway.  Considering Smith has been as clean as a Boy Scout his entire career, he should be a first ballot lock right? Or rather, he would be if he wore the jersey of an east coast team his entire career.  It will be interesting to see what actually happens when Smith is eligible for induction in five years. 

– I am convinced that the Broncos should have more guys from their past in the Hall of Fame.  It is absolutely inexcusable that the Hall doesn’t include Randy Gradishar, Floyd Little and Lionel Taylor.  I also would make a big case for Terrell Davis, who has been a finalist a couple of times, but it is fair to wonder if he played long enough.  The point is, if any of the above mentioned players played for the Giants or the Cowboys or the Redskins, they would have been in easily.  The voters say there is no bias, but it is obvious that there is one. 

– Next winter will be interesting because Shannon Sharpe will be eligible for the first time.  If he isn’t inducted immediately, they should blow up the place.  It would a real farce if the greatest tight end in the history of the game didn’t get in on the first try.

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What Are They Thinking?

Posted by mizzou1028 on July 16, 2008

Wow, what a bang up offseason so far for the Nuggets!  Not only have they done nothing to make the team better, they’ve actually gotten worse.  Last night at dinner I wasn’t sure I was seeing things correctly and was briefly wondering if I shouldn’t visit the eye doctor when I glanced at the TV on the other side of the restaurant.  Was that a headshot of Marcus Camby with the Clippers logo behind it?  Couldn’t have been, he’s not a free agent.  Before the idea of Camby as a Clipper sunk in, I saw the next graphic showing details of a trade: Clippers get Marcus Camby.  Nuggets get a second round pick in 2010.  What???  Not only that, but later i find the Nuggets simply got the rights to swap second round picks with the Clippers in 2010, they didn’t even get an extra pick!  This after the team already lost Eduardo Najera to New Jersey in free agency. 

So let me get this straight: a team that has been awful on defense gave away its one consistent good defender in Camby for essentially nothing.  They have also lost one of the few players on the team in Najera that consistently hustled and provided energy on the court.  It is obvious the team made this deal purely for financial reasons to try and avoid paying the luxury tax.  I get why they wouldn’t want to pay that for the results they’ve been garnering, but it is appalling that there don’t appear to be plans (at least at this point) to try and make the team any better.  It appears as though they are throwing away the 2008-09 season in hopes of trying to clear cap room and reshape the team for the following year.  While perhaps a sound strategy in the long run, it still doesn’t make any sense to get NOTHING in exchange for Camby.  This is a team that already has not achieved, losing in the first round for five straight years.  Instead of trying to make the team better, the Nuggets are worse today than they were they day they lost their final playoff game to the Lakers in early May.  I suppose you could say (and unfortunately it’s not a joke) that the team defense can be just as bad without Camby in the middle as it was with him, but I shudder to think of just how bad it will be without Camby’s shot blocking ability covering up for the lazy effort of Anthony and Iverson on the defensive end. 

The Nuggets are fooling themselves if they think they are among the elite in the Western Conference.  With the improvements made by the Warriors and Clippers this offseason, plus the potential emergence of other young teams, the Nuggets are squarely so far behind the elite of the conference they can’t even see their taillights.  Perhaps they’re trying to ride out the last year of Iverson’s contract to try and clear cap room to make a run next offseason.  Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt and see if there is something coming this offseason I’m unaware of.  Based on the track record though, it certainly doesn’t seem likely that any improvement for the team is coming this offseason.  Between management’s lack of effort in the offseason and leftover fallout from the referee scandal, I am continuing to sour more and more on the NBA.  Point is, I’m not planning to waste money on tickets anytime soon.  If the team isn’t going to try to improve, why should I finance the product on the court?

Speaking of which the call I got this morning was very comical: It was from a representative of the Nuggets front office asking if I was interested in purchasing advance tickets for the coming season.  Seriously, you give away a key player for nothing while simultaneously making a call asking me to buy tickets????  You have got to be kidding me.  There is about as much chance of me buying tickets to see the Nuggets this winter as there is the team winning a playoff series.  That is to say a zero percent chance.  That is, unless something dramatic happens to where the team actually has a semblance of a chance of putting together a solid product on the court.

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Home Runs and All Stars

Posted by mizzou1028 on July 15, 2008

I have to give a tip of the cap to Josh Hamilton for his performance last night in the Home Run Derby.  I have generally thought in recent years the event has lost some of its luster compared to what it was in the late 90s, but last night Hamilton had me hooked.  It wasn’t just his 28 home runs in the first round, it wasn’t just that he set a single round record, it was the way it was happening.  Three of his blasts were over 500 feet, and as each home run was hit the event became more of the spectacle I used to remember.  The way the Yankee Stadium crowd was behind him only added to the aura. 

Watching Hamilton last night brought back memories of the Home Run Derby I was fortunate to attend at Coors Field in 1998.  At that time the big names would all participate, great home run hitters like Griffey and McGwire.  That was of course the season Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs, and while his derby performance was unimpressive overall (four home runs and a quick first round exit, although one was over 500 feet) it was the workout portion of the day that stood out for me.  I remember standing on the walkway above the left field bleachers amongst a packed crowd, watching McGwire and others hit ball after ball up onto and beyond the walkway.  I remember balls hitting off the scoreboard, flying into concession stands, one clearing the wall entirely into the parking lot beyond.  Perhaps most vividly and even comically, I remember seeing a full cup of beer fly into the air while a fan tried to catch one of the balls (he didn’t).  For a variety of seasons it seemed as though the event had started to decline in popularity and excitement.  Maybe it was because we were disgusted that steroids likely played a role in the colossal blasts of the late 90s and early 2000s, perhaps it was because more and more often the biggest stars would back out (see Alex Rodriguez last night in front of his home fans no less).  Hamilton’s effort last night reminded me of that day because for the first time in several years of Home Run Derbys there seemed to be something to get excited about.  It seemed as the participants were actually into the event and truly were enjoying being involved, actually giving the crowd their moneys worth.  Perhaps the only unfortunate thing was that Hamilton didn’t win, losing to the Twins’ Justin Morneau in the finals perhaps due to fatigue from his first round show.  It turns out this event did not need A-Rod, and maybe it was he who missed out by declining participation in his home ballpark.

The Home Run Derby is of course a prelude to the All-Star Game, which will take place tonight.  It will of course be the final one at fabled Yankee Stadium, so that adds to the lure of the game.  There is a certain amount of irony that the American League will be managed by Terry Francona of the hated Red Sox, a reward for Boston winning the World Series last year, and that three members of the hated Red Sox will be in the starting lineup for the “home” American League.  It is also somewhat ironic that the NL will be managed by the Rockies’ Clint Hurdle, by virtue of the Rockies’ World Series appearance last year.  As bad a season as the Rockies have had, it seems somewhat odd to see Hurdle managing the National League in this event.  Regardless of this, the MLB All-Star Game is clearly the best in sports.  It is the only one where the players actually seem interested in winning the game, quite the contrast to the Pro Bowl where everyone wants to be selected to the game but no one wants to play.  The players will play hard, unlike the NBA where defense is optional anyway especially in an  all-star game, and unlike the NHL where the midseason exhibition has more scoring but lacks the hitting and physical play.  While I’m not exactly a fan of the World Series being influenced by an exhibition (the league that wins tonight will have home field advantage for the World Series), it definitely adds to the event that both teams will try to win. 

As a side note, I am intrigued by tonight’s starting pitchers, the Indians’ Cliff Lee for the AL and Milwaukee’s Ben Sheets for the NL.  If I was making the pick, I think it should be the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay for the AL and San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum for the NL.  Of course, every pitcher that has been selected to the game is worthy of being there, and it is hard to argue against Lee or Sheets.  I am just hoping the National League can actually win one of these: the AL has won every one of these since 1996, not including the infamous tie in 2002.  Regardless, the MLB All-Star Game is always a fun event and a must see.

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Favre or no Favre?

Posted by mizzou1028 on July 9, 2008

I don’t know any more about the nuances of the rumors surrounding a possible return to the NFL by Brett Favre than the man in the moon.  I don’t know if Favre is really feeling the itch to return just months after an emotional retirement press conference, or if this is just being fueled by the media to fill up time when they have nothing else to talk about.  I don’t know what Packers management is thinking on this.  What I do know is that if Favre does want to return, and the Packers say no thanks, than they had better be prepared for it to backfire.  There is not a good track record in NFL history for replacing legend quarterbacks.  In fact, it is about as close to guarantee for failure as there is in the sport.  Nothing against Aaron Rodgers, who played well against Dallas last year when Favre was injured, but if the Packers really think they’re better off with Rodgers than they would be if Favre came back, they are probably in trouble.

The list of quarterbacks that have tried to follow legends in NFL history is a rather dubious one.  By the nature of it, trying to follow a Hall of Famer is not an easy task anyway, particularly when a young signal caller is trying to replace a guy who’s an icon, like Favre is in Green Bay.  Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls in the 1970s with Pittsburgh, but it wasn’t until Ben Roethlisberger in 2005 that the Steelers really had any stability at the position after Bradshaw’s retirement.  Bradshaw was followed by among others Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, David Woodley, Scott Campbell, Bubby Brister, Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart.  The Steelers had a number of good teams between Bradshaw’s retirement and their Super Bowl win in ’05, even making the Super Bowl in 1995 with O’Donnell, but all of those guys had to play in Bradshaw’s shadow.  How about guys who have followed John Elway in Denver?  Try Brian Griese, Gus Frerotte and Jake Plummer.  The Broncos went 6-10 in 1999 the first year without Elway, and this was with a team that won back to back Super Bowls in ’97 and ’98.  There is no doubt that the Broncos would not have been near that bad in ’99 if Elway had returned to play for another season.  As a side note, you could even make the argument (however thin) that Terrell Davis never would have torn his ACL had Elway returned.  See, that happened on a play where Griese threw an interception into double coverage that Elway never would have thrown, and Davis got injured trying to make the tackle.  How about the Miami Dolphins post Marino?  Again you’ll find Brian Griese’s name among the replacements, and actually Frerotte’s as well, in addition to Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, A.J. Feeley and Sage Rosenfels.  Miami STILL has no stability at QB since Dan Marino retired in 1999.  There is no doubt that Miami fans would have gladly taken one more season with Marino at the helm in 2000, if nothing else for one more shot at a run before the inevitable rebuilding process.

The point of all this is not to say that Aaron Rodgers will fail.  Truth is, we have no idea how he will do.  It is reasonable to say however that being quarterback of the Packers for a full season is quite different than coming in as an injury replacement for one game.  The point is that if the Packers are that fast to say goodbye to Favre, and are ready to take their chances with Rodgers, they should be prepared for the team to struggle.  In fact, history shows they are likely to miss the playoffs with Rodgers at quarterback based on the track record of teams the season following the retirement of a legend quarterback, particularly when that quarterback is the face of the franchise.  If Favre wants to come back and play one more season, the Packers should welcome him back with open arms, period.  Favre had one of his best seasons last year, and there is no reason to think he can’t still play at a high level if he wants to.  Can you imagine Mike Shanahan in 1999 if Elway said he wanted to return a week before camp, even in the wake of his retirement press conference?  Can you imagine Shanahan telling Elway, “no I think we’re set with Brian Griese, thanks”?  Me neither.

Whether Favre actually plays this season or not will be interesting to see.  It will more interesting if he wants to play and the Packers wave him off.  If that were the case, the Packers would have to either release him, allowing him to play for another team, or they would have to trade him, neither of which would be an easy pill to swallow for Green Bay fans.  If the thought of Favre in another uniform makes a Packer fan want to throw up, than imagine Favre playing for arguably the one contending team that is missing a quarterback.  The one team in the league that is set at pretty much every position except for quarterback.  A team that made a big splash in the offseason bringing in Jared Allen (arguably the league’s top defensive lineman) and a good receiver in Bernard Berrian.  A team with one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks and a team that in recent years has been amazingly stingy defensively against the run.  A team who’s current top QB is very young, inexperienced, and could use a year under Favre.  A team that as currently constructed has been picked to win the Super Bowl by Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman.  That would be the Minnesota Vikings, prime division rival of the Packers.  If the Packers are that sure they would rather take their chances with Aaron Rodgers, they should envision this scenario: Week one, Monday night at Lambeau Field, Packers-Vikings, Favre coming out of the tunnel in Vikings purple.  It should be enough to make any Packer fan want to throw up.  That is, until they envision Favre holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season in a Vikings hat, after the Packers have suffered through a 6-10 season under Rodgers.

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Rocktober is a Distant Memory

Posted by mizzou1028 on July 1, 2008

This year’s Rockies beg the following question: has a team ever hit this rock bottom the season after making a World Series?  I’m not counting the 1998 Marlins because ownership blew up the roster in the interest of saving money after they won the World Series in 1997.  The Rockies are back in last place after last night’s collapse against San Diego.  They somehow managed to turn an 8-3 sixth inning lead into a 15-8 loss that had my head spinning by the bottom of the 9th.  At 32-51 the Rockies have the worst record in not just the NL West but all of Major League Baseball, behind doormats such as Washington, Seattle and Kansas City.  A casual look at the standings shows the Rockies 10 games back of Arizona in the NL West, which team officials claim still puts them in striking distance if they can make a run.  A closer look at the picture reveals that the Rockies would be 19 games back of Tampa Bay if they were playing in the AL East, and would face similar deficits if they were in any other division but their own.  This season for all intents and purposes is over.  The Rockies were a team that caught lightning in a bottle last year and had everything go right.  This year they’ve become the official team of Murphy’s Law, where everything that can possibly go wrong has gone wrong.

It’s hard to fathom that the Rockies are 1-9 since the return of Troy Tulowitzki.  This is not to say the skid is his fault, in fact he has actually been swinging the bat better the past few games, hitting a home run in Detroit Sunday and getting a big RBI last night that gave a Rockies what turned out to be a short lived lead.  It’s very ironic the team has hit the skids since his return because they were actually picking it up prior to his arrival.  The Rockies had actually won five consecutive series without him, including two on the road.  There is no question that Tulo was in many ways the heart and soul of the team last year.  For whatever reason, it hasn’t been the case this year when he’s been in the lineup.  His numbers don’t seem correct (.161 BA, 2 HR, just 14 RBI) especially compared to last season (.291-24-99).  Again Tulo is not solely responsible for the team’s funk by any means, this is just a reflection of how different things have been for the Rockies this year.  I love Tulowitzki’s game, and I am still convinced he’ll turn it around before the end of the year. 

The pitching especially has not been the same.  While Aaron Cook has actually had a much better year than last year, and should get a nod to the All-Star Game next week, the rest of the staff has been, well less than terrific.  Jeff Francis won 17 games last year and was clearly the staff ace.  This year Francis is 3-7 with an ERA of 5.67, compared to 4.16 last year.  Manny Corpas was terrific as the closer last year, posting 19 saves after taking over the role midway through the season.  The Rockies rewarded him with a new contract over the winter, and saw him save just four games before losing the closer’s job with four straight blown saves in late April.  Corpas’ ERA has ballooned to 5.77 after it was just 2.08 last year.  Don’t even get me started on Brian Fuentes, who actually lost the closer job last year with a similar meltdown in June before settling in and doing a great job in the setup role toward the end of last year.  Fuentes reclaimed the closer job in April after Corpas lost it, and did ok for awhile, but he still lacks the resolve to consistently get the job done.  Fuentes actually has 13 saves this season, but also has an ungodly five blown saves already.  His overall numbers actually aren’t bad, but he has spectacularly blown up in his last two appearances, blowing a ninth inning lead Saturday in Detroit after the offense came back to take the lead, and giving up 5 runs in just a third of an inning in what had been a tie game last night against San Diego. 

The expectations that were placed on the Rockies prior to the season were interesting considering many just assumed they would be able to get back to the playoffs and the World Series.  It seemed as though no one noticed that other teams made an effort to get better during the offseason, while also forgetting to take into account the extraordinary circumstances that allowed the Rockies to make their run last year.  Sure they got hot, but their making the playoffs also required big time collapses by the Mets and the Padres to allow them to have a shot at the wild card.  It goes to show that every season is different.  I still think there is a lot of potential on this Rockies roster, but I’m still not convinced ownership and management are committed to consistently putting forth the effort, especially financially, to maintain a good product.  With Matt Holliday due big money, I will be curious to see if ownership steps up to the plate to retain him, rather than allowing him to cash in with a big market club.  There are rumors he could even be dealt before the trading deadline because ownership doesn’t want to lose him for nothing.  If they don’t keep Holliday, there isn’t much hope for ownership ever making the commitment to keep up with the rest of the league.

Regardless of all this, I love baseball and will continue to follow the Rockies and root for them until the day I die.  I remember what it was like to grow up in this town without Major League Baseball.  The Rockies didn’t come into extistence until I was a seventh grader, so I will always appreciate the opportunity to go see games here and to have a team to root for.  In that sense, it is important to keep that perspective.  That being said, I do expect the team to make an effort to put a good product on the field.  For them to sport MLB’s worst record the year after making the World Series is not acceptable.  There really isn’t a magic answer for this year as far back as they are, but I hope they take steps to make sure this isn’t repeated in 2009. 

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