Friday, November 18, 2005

Sans Stats

When did politics become ridiculous enough that a show like Comedy Central’s The Daily Show could not only be created, but thrive on a daily basis from the absurd material being pumped out of Washington? Or were politics always like this, and new media forms like the 24-hour news channels are just there to expose – er, cover it?

Whatever the answer, there is no doubt as to the hilarity of absurdity. And since everything said by anyone remotely important will be published somewhere, there is no shortage of people to rip on. This applies not only to politics, but to sports as well.

Making fun of sports players and teams is no new idea. In fact, much of the content on ESPN’s Page 2 (particularly the Daily Quickie) is dedicated to just that. Problem is, other than the Quickie (which isn’t necessarily funny), the poking of fun is a sporadic component of a column, and only Bill Simmons remains consistently good/funny with his craft.

Let it be known that I do not purport to be funny. I just try really really hard and usually fall flat on my face. Regardless, this is an idea I want to run with, as I can see it becoming interesting over time. My apologies, as I know the first month or so is going to suck big time, just like most new shows trying to find their niche (ahem: Comedy Central’sThe Colbert Report).

So, without further ado…

This week’s top story: Marlins’ ace Dontrelle Willis may only receive a one-year contract this off-season, most likely via arbitration. At a time when teams like the Twins and Brewers are locking up their top arms long term, the Marlins think it’s a good idea to once again offer Willis arbitration for 2006, which could be as high as $4 million.

The reason is relatively self-evident: the Marlins know a thing or two about injured pitchers (Burnett, Pavano, Beckett), and don’t want to gamble on a pitcher who has spent no significant time on the DL since debuting in 2003. Willis, who has 2.144 years of service time (according to mlb4u.com), still needs four more years of service to qualify as an unrestricted free agent.

If the Marlins are willing to shell out $4 million in arbitration dollars for one year of Willis’s services, why not go the extra mile and wrap up this guys, who by all means could be the future of the franchise. He turns 24 in January, and while he is young and his durability hasn’t really been tested yet, it still seems an appropriate gamble on the Marlins part. You’re telling me that the Marlins can’t paste together a deal similar to Ben Sheets’s 4 year, $38.5 million deal? That would take Willis through his arbitration years, so if he continues to improve, the Marlins won’t be stuck with rising arbitration salaries.

It would also make Willis a happy camper, knowing that the team is willing to invest in him. What won’t keep him on the Marlins bandwagon are false notions spread to his agent, as implied in the first paragraph of the article:

After meeting with the Marlins' front office in July, the agent for pitcher Dontrelle Willis was encouraged that the team would offer its ace a multiyear contract after the 2005 season.


My message to the Marlins: make sure you get the fire sales you’re about to hold on the front pages of the newspapers, and offer all of your young players arbitration. That way, you can be in full rebuilding mode in the near future.

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In football, New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards is rumored to be headed to Kansas City in 2006 if current coach Dick Vermeil drowns in a river of his own tears. Edwards confronted the rumors, saying that he wants to be a Jet for life. "When they tell me I can't coach here anymore, I'll move on,” Herm says.

But what is Herm supposed to say when asked the tough question? “Yes, it is my full desire to coach in Kansas City, and if Dick Vermeil isn’t there next year, I’ll make it known that I want the position.” A statement like that is a veritable PR nightmare. The lowly 2-7 (soon to be 2-8 as soon as the Broncos cut them down) can’t afford any more blows to their already tortured roster. If the players lose faith in Herm, they might as well forfeit the remainder of the season, because without him as a figurehead, the team would be a lock for 2-14.

Of course, that would affect how Herm is perceived around the league both by management and players. Why, then, would Kansas City hire him? It’s like the whole deal with cheating on a girlfriend: do it once, and you’ll most likely do it again. If Herm wants so badly out of New York before his contract is up, what precludes him from doing the same in Kansas City?

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And now it’s time for a segment I like to call the Idiots of the Week. This space will be dedicated to athletes, executives, and coaches who say and/or do things that classify them as, well, an idiot.

First up, Chicago Bulls forward and former KnickTim Thomas, who thinks that the Bulls aren’t playing him because they plan to trade him in the near future. Thomas is used to this kind of treatment, having been traded by the Nets (well, his draft rights for Keith Van Horn’s draft rights), the Sixers, the Bucks (once again for Van Horn), the Knicks, and now apparently the Bulls.

But who is going to take a flier on Thomas, highly overpaid and largely ineffective? If the other NBA teams have learned anything from New Jersey, New York, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia, the Bulls might be stuck with that contract. In good news: getting rid of Thomas was Isaiah Thomas’s crowning achievement.

Next up, Minnesota Timberwolves rookie guard Rashad McCants, who claims that acting like a jackass is just part of his game. From the Minnesota Star Tribune:

By the light of day, Rashad McCants' two technical fouls for taunting, and the automatic ejection they brought in the fourth quarter at Denver, still looked needless and unprofessional to Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey.

To McCants, though, the emotions that led to them are as inseparable from his game as fingerprints.

"It's just the disadvantage of being me," McCants said after practice. "What I did [Sunday] night was who I am."


Do you think, if they knew that McCants had such a penchant for making refs form a “T” with their hands, they would have blown a lottery pick on him? And who thought McCants would be more of a distraction than former UConn forward Charlie Villanueva, or even his former teammate Raymond Felton?

Finally, we move away from the NBA (where the land of outspoken stars vastly outnumbers all sports except maybe…) to the NFL, where Green Bay Packers tailback Ahman Green is feeling hurt because the team hasn’t offered him a long term contract. Where do I begin with this one?

Ahman, you gotta realize a few things. First off, spending significant time over the last two seasons on the sidelines with injuries does not bode well for your case. There are plenty of able bodied fellows who can take your place, which brings us to the second realization that Green needs to come to: the saturated running back market. There are a few teams that even have two quality tailbacks. When combined with a plethora of talent in the farm system we call college football, it leads to a dilution of the market. Just ask Shaun Alexander and Edgerin James, two running backs superior to Green (Green was actually traded to Green Bay by Seattle because of Alexander’s presence) who were slapped with the one-year franchise tag over the off-season.

Ahman, quit your pouting, play a full 16 games, and lose a few years off that age of 29 you’ve got. Then get back to the team about a long term deal.

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On a happier parting note, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays announced their new manager this week, Joe Maddon. He was a bench coach for the Anaheim Angels, and is said in the headline to bring “cheer and diligence” to the Devil Rays. In addition, Maddon “is known as eclectic and gregarious, personable and open-minded, well-read and technologically savvy - traits not typical in a major-league manager.”

Funny, I always thought managers should be a smart baseball guy. I guess Maddon doesn’t fit my mold.