The NCAA & NIL $$

Ed O’Bannon, a former UCLA Bruins basketball player who led his team to a national championship in 1995, saw his college-era image on the cover of a video game, and got upset. Then he got a lawyer, eventually bringing an antitrust class action lawsuit against the NCAA which would change college sports forever. The suit was first brought to court in 2009, finally tried in 2014 as Ed O’Bannon v NCAA, with a verdict declaring that college players are entitled to own & sell their Name, Image & Likeness (NIL) rights for money. The NCAA appealed, and as this case bounced around higher courts, its ruling was amended in the process until it finally was appealed to the US Supreme Court, which denied to hear the case in October 2016.

It was a slow rollout for NIL rights in their inception. No one in the NCAA knew how to do this under these new legal guidelines. Finally, in July 2021, NIL rights became codified into NCAA bylaws, and universities could now allow their student athletes to be paid. NIL rights means endorsement money. Micheal Jordan was the first modern athlete who was highly charismatic & marketable in this sense. NIL deals go to players who can win, but also those who are marketable. Winning makes you marketable in sports. Having a famous father who was/is a great athlete helps even more.

Bronny James is the eldest son of NBA superstar LeBron James. Bronny James is a freshman at USC, averaging 5.0 pts, 2.8 rebs, 2.4 asst coming off the bench for the 6-12 Trojans. Yet, Bronny James NIL valuation is $6.1M, the highest in college athletics. “Will he go to the NBA?”, the pundits ask. My reply, “Why should he? He’s the six million dollar kid, paid though a corrupt system of glorified paternalism. As far as making money goes, it doesn’t get much easier than that. Stay in school, son.”

Of course this NIL money doesn’t disappear once the athlete goes pro. But in turn, it’s harder to win in the NFL & NBA, the competition is tougher & more skilled. It’s easier to win and be a star in the NCAA, so staying makes sense with the money involved. Case in point is Angel Reese, the LSU women’s basketball star in her junior year.

Angel Reese’s NIL valuation is $1.7M. She has at least 15-20 deals where she sells her NIL rights to a business that uses her for their commercials, advertising & marketing campaigns. This allows any university booster to directly pay an athlete through legal channels. It’s an advertising expense for the booster’s business, and it’s NIL money for the athlete. Slush funds for top recruits are no longer necessary.

The rookie salary for top WNBA draft picks is ~$70K/year. Angel Reese is considered a top WNBA draft pick, but why come out early after her junior year, when she’s winning at LSU and making NIL money that dwarfs her expected WNBA salary? Obviously there will be endorsements for her as a pro, but it’s easier guaranteed money if she stays.

NIL money incentivizes athletes to stay in college, so now we have 5th-year & even 6th-year seniors with NCAA eligibility. Iowa basketball star Caitlin Clark just announced she will forgo her 5th year of eligibility and declare for the WNBA draft. It wasn’t an easy choice for her.

A lot of the men’s athletes aren’t good enough for the NFL or NBA, but they can help their college team win, and that means NIL money for them. This is what the transfer portal is all about. Free agent college athletes looking for the best deals for themselves, at the expense of team & university. This has hurt college football & men’s basketball irreparably. There are very few college football & basketball programs anymore.

Here’s Tom Brady in The Athletic last November: “I actually think college players were better prepared when I came out than they are now. Just because so many coaches are changing programs, and I would say there’s not even a lot of college programs anymore. There’s a lot of college teams, but not programs that are developing players. So as they get delivered to the NFL, they may be athletic, but they don’t have much of the skills developed to be a professional. When I played at Michigan, I essentially played at a college program that was very similar to a pro environment. When I see these different players come in, they’re not quite as prepared as they were, and I think the game has shown that over the last 12 to 13 years. I think things have slipped a little bit.”

The blueblood, win-at-all-cost universities are all-in on paying athletes NIL money. Take a look at this list below, published less than 6 months ago, which gives the reader a good indication of which college teams are going to be good this year. These are the going rates for top players, and if your school isn’t paying, it likely isn’t winning.

Top 20 College Athletes With The Highest NIL Valuations
Published on September 15, 2023

Bronny James – $6.1M (LeBron’s eldest son) USC hoops freshman
Shedeur Sanders – $4.1M (Deion’s son) QB junior Colorado
Livvy Dunne – $3.2M gymnastics LSU junior
Arch Manning – $2.9M (Peyton’s son) Texas QB freshman
Caleb Williams – $2.6M junior USC QB
Travis Hunter – $1.8M soph Colorado CB
Evan Stewart – $1.7M Texas A&M soph WR
Angel Reese – $1.7M LSU junior hoops
Drake Maye – $1.5M QB UNC, redshirt soph
Bo Nix – $1.4M QB Oregon, QB senior
Marvin Harrison Jr. – $1.4M WR Ohio State junior
Michael Penix Jr. – $1.3M QB Washington senior
Bryce James – $1.2M (LeBron’s 2nd-eldest son) Committed to Duquesne University
Quinn Ewers – $1.2M QB Texas, redshirt soph
Hansel Emmanuel – $1.2M Austin Peay freshman hoops
Jordan Travis – $1.2M QB FSU redshirt senior
Nico Iamaleava – $1.1M QB Tennessee freshman
Jared McCain – $1.1M V Duke freshman hoops
Flau’jae Johnson – $1.1M LSU women’s hoops freshman
Blake Corum – $1.1M Michigan RB senior

NCAA cheating used to consist of boosters creating a slush fund to entice top recruits to attend their university. Suitcases of cash, money secretly wired into accounts, expensive cars, and other perks were funneled to players through the boosters using hidden means to evade NCAA enforcement & sanctions. Bluebloods are allowed to get away with an acceptable level of this because their programs have great traditions of winning which makes money for everyone involved. Pony Exce$$  (2010) is the ESPN ’30 for 30′ film that best examines this style of “old school” cheating in NCAA football.

ESPN’s ’30 for 30′ film series was perhaps the best thing that network has done in the 21st century. For those too young to remember, ESPN used to show regular sports, new sports (X-games, monster trucks, Asian kickboxing, etc), PLUS the highlights of all the MLB, NBA & NHL games. That was ESPN’s staple programming from its 1979 inception through 2000.

When ESPN started broadcasting Texas Hold Em poker in the early 2000’s, the network changed forever. Gambling & fantasy sports became mainstream, and thus football boomed, because the NFL is by far the highest-wagered sports book, with NCAA football second. This is when Stephen A Smith, Michael Wilbon, Chris Russo, etc, rose to prominence by screaming about sports on ESPN.

Classic ESPN at least had Bob Lea going Outside the Lines once in awhile, in an effort to educate sports fans. But when ESPN became Skip Bayless & Pat McAfee yacking everyday, all day, sports journalism became so degraded that it wasn’t taken seriously anymore by most sports fans. ESPN’s decline is a large reason why so many Americans have cut the cord. ESPN is a large part of your cable/satellite TV bill, whether you want it or not.

Sports are expensive. It costs a lot to broadcast & televise these games (NCAA & professional league), and that is reflected in the number of commercials you see during a game on TV. It is reflected in the salaries of the players in the professional leagues, the high cost of team merchandise, and now in the Name, Image & Likeness money available to college athletes.

Epilogue: What we have in college sports now is a few great individual performers and then a bunch of crap. Not only are coaches & players coming & going at will, but major conferences are falling apart. USC & UCLA are abandoning the Pac-12 to join the Big 10 in 2024, which will then have close to twenty teams from coast to coast. The travel & logistics of all this scream “DON’T DO IT”, but it’s about to happen and it’s all about money. The SEC is the power conference everyone else in the NCAA is chasing. The SEC is absorbing Texas & Oklahoma from the Big 12. Gee, I remember when Texas was in the Southwest Conference and Oklahoma was a Big 8 football powerhouse under Barry Switzer. Back then, coaches stayed at their schools forever and their teams were arguably better and certainly more entertaining to watch. It’s the big money that turns everything to crap.

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Bluebloods

Bluebloods means privileged status. Until the very end of the 20th-century AP sports-writers were the pollsters who decided the NCAA football champion. Then came the BCS (one letter too many), and now CFP.

This writer has been advocating for a 16-team playoff format since the days of the AP writers picking the winner. Next year the CFP goes from 4 to 12 teams, which will make a lot of this Michigan shit easier for others to swallow.

Conor Stalions was a “low level” Michigan football staffer who advanced scouted opposing teams in clear violation of NCAA rules. He’s been fired by Michigan in the wake of revelations of grainy images (fan screenshots) of Conor Stalions disguised in Central Michigan University coaching garb, standing on the sidelines wearing sunglasses at night to advance-scout Michigan State.

Apparently, no one has been able to contact Conor Stalions since his firing, and here we have this game of cat-and-mouse Michigan gets to play with the NCAA.  The University of Michigan is intentionally not cooperating with an open investigation by making Conor Stalions unavailable for questioning by independent media writers, legal experts, etc. Michigan gets the NCAA nod because they are the bluest of the bluebloods. Plenty of  Wolverine alumni running the NCAA.

Bluebloods rake in BIG buck$ and alumni elites are INTENSELY interested. Football bluebloods are Michigan & Notre Dame, distantly followed by USC, Texas, Oklahoma, FSU. Bluebloods always get favorable treatment because they have prestigious journalism & law schools with alumni who will do anything to support winning in football & basketball.

Basketball bluebloods come from traditions of winning and include Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA & North Carolina. These programs always get the legal wink & nod from the NCAA & conference commissioners. Big 10 commissioner Tony Petitti is in an impossible situation, where all the other football coaches are pointing to evidence of egregious misconduct in sportsmanship, but bluebloods rule.

What Michigan did was clearly against NCAA rules and everyone has seen some of it. There’s a lot more that isn’t being shared because the rule is you don’t punish bluebloods, especially during a championship run even when they’ve been caught cheating to their advantage. It’s Alabama, Oregon, Texas, Washington (in alphabetical order) that are hurt most by Michigan cheating. What it’s really about is who makes the final Football Final Four.

Tomorrow (Friday) is apparently a court holiday and I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know how that precisely impacts a potential University of Michigan legal challenge to an unfavorable Big 10 ruling. Everyone is expecting a ruling by tomorrow, with Michigan @ Penn State on Saturday. A ruling on punishment has been delayed as long as possible in this matter, all to the advantage of Michigan football.

The Pac 10 is dust with UCLA & USC joining the Big 10 next year, so Oregon & Washington are expendable in the Michigan advanced scouting scandal. Texas is a blueblood, but they don’t trump Michigan. Alabama is SEC so forget about it. My prediction of punishment is that Michigan gets a slap on the wrist fine, and Jim Harbaugh stays on the sidelines & at practices. You can’t take away a potential championship season that Michigan cheated so hard for, they’re bluebloods.

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Padres 2023: the final countdown

Preface: First posted on Facebook just before the Padres-Cardinals series began @ Petco. Updates will continue until they are mathematically eliminated, or (miraculously) make the post-season.

Padres have won 7 in a row to increase their chances of making the post-season from <0.1% to 0.7%. RHP’s Joe Musgrove & Hu Darvish, along with C Gary Sanchez & UT Jake Cronenworth, etc, all shut down for the season. The Padres still have a strong rotation with Blake Snell, Michael Wacha & Seth Lugo, but they NEED a 4th starter. Young righty knuckleballer Matt Waldron (PTBNL in the Mike Clevinger deal with Indians) starts for the Padres tonight against the Cardinals.

Pedro Avila is their 5th starter but he can be skipped this time through the rotation because the Padres just had a off day. They’ll either need Avila to win a game in the Giants series next week, or continue to be an effective bullpen option. Pedro Avila is a young promising righty arm, who has been a good bullpen guy that can also spot start. AJP got him in the Derek Norris heist from the Nationals in December 2016. That farm system depth needs to play more for the Padres in 2024.

Sat 23 Sep 2023 10:30 AM CDT

Matt Waldron (pic above) pitched great, as the Padres won 4-2 last night for their 8th straight (post-season chances now 1.7%). It’s RHP Nick Martinez starting for the Friars tonight, not Pedro Avila. Martinez is the other duel use Padres option. It just shows how much talent this roster has.

The Padres are being aggressive and using their 5th starter now, at home against a poor team, instead of against the Giants next Wednesday. It will be Matt Waldron for that start, then an off day, allowing their rotation to flip back to Wacha-Snell-Lugo @ White Sox to close the season. I describe all this to prove this team is well managed. Bob Melvin is a good manager. That’s not the problem.

The Padres now sit four games behind the Cubs with eight left. Padres lose the tiebreakers to the Cubs & Snakes, so it ain’t happenin’, but as a fan you kinda have to follow your team until the end… The 2023 Padres are the most frustrating & confounding team I’ve ever rooted for.

As a Reds fan in 1981, that was the most frustrating. Most baseball fans don’t recognize that season as legitimate. The post-season should have been the Brewers v A’s in the AL, and the Reds v Cardinals in the NL. But MLB owners wanted to reset the season for everybody after the players strike was settled, so the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the WS that year. Total joke. Fans don’t blame their teams for that.

When the Rays traded ace LHP David Price in 2014, that was frustrating as a fan. Same goes for Brewers fans with dumping ace closer Josh Hader last year. Fans rightly blame ownership & management for that crap.

But the 2023 Padres were given everything they needed to win, by management & the fans. Padres set an attendance record this season, and they had their highest payroll ever, both 3rd in MLB. But the Padres players never showed any urgency, and seemingly lost every close ballgame they played, until these final three weeks of the season. For the first 5+ months, they underperformed with very little fight.

I honestly never expected the Padres to win the NL West this year, as they finished 22 GB the Dodgers last year. But they were expected to nab a Wild Card and be a dangerous team in the playoffs again. Instead, GM AJP was forced to consider selling at the trade deadline, but the market was cold, so he flipped to being a soft buyer and got cheap reinforcements for his squad. It was better than doing what the Mets did, but nothing worked for the 2023 Padres and sometimes it’s just not your year.

As a fan you have to applaud the player effort up to the end, but then ask, “Where was this all season?” This franchise will be in the news again this winter, you can be sure. AJ Preller has some team chemistry issues that need to be addressed if the Padres are going to be a serious WS contender going forward.

The Padres lineup was clicking in spring training. I know ST doesn’t matter, but in this case they had Fernando Tatis, Jr. Then the season started and Tatis was placed on the suspended list until April 20, as a carry-over from his PED suspension in 2022.

This happened because Tatis hurt his wrist in a motorbike accident(s), and it happened in the Dominican Republic during the MLB owners lockout, so the Padres didn’t know about it, as teams were not allowed to communicate with any of their players during this collective bargaining stand-off. The CBA was ratified just before 2022 Spring Training, and then the Padres found out he had been hurt. Tatis then used a banned substance out of stupidity & recklessness, and was busted for it just as he was about to return from his wrist injury. This is why AJP had to empty the farm system to get Juan Soto. The 2022 Padres never would have made the post-season without all the deals AJP made that trade deadline.

Tatis, who was once hailed as the franchise leader, wasn’t there with his teammates on Opening Day 2023. The Padres struggled out of the gate, anxiously awaiting Tatis’ return, fans were told. When he re-joined the team, he’s now the RF, with splash FA signing Xander Bogaerts taking over at SS. But the question remained, “Who is the leader of this team?” It can’t be the PED guy, he’s got to produce and win back the team, organization & fans. He ALONE has to face to the jeers, boo birds & harsh critics. That divides a team, and it was inevitable.

Padres got very little production at CF, 1B & DH in 2023. When AJP nabbed C Gary Sanchez off waivers on May 29, it filled a HUGE hole– until he got hurt in September. It still begged the question, “How come this expensive team has so many holes?”

LF Juan Soto had a great season, and that’s the guy the Padres give money to this off-season, if ownership insists on making a splash. Not DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani, due to his 2nd TJ. That’s how much the market has shifted on that.

With Tatis, Machado, Bogaerts & Soto the Padres should be competitive. They have a decent pitching staff and a good farm system (again), as they’ve gotten better at drafting & player development, which they needed to do to catch the Dodgers. At this point, the Padres need to get better than the Phillies & Brewers before they can set their sights on the Dodgers & Braves. The 2024 Padres need to be younger & more homegrown, otherwise they will turn into the Mets & Yankees.

Sat 23 Sep 2023 11:30 PM CDT

Padres stacked righties Nick Martinez (4.0 IP) with Pedro Avila (2.2 IP), and it worked for six scoreless innings. But Avila cracked for two runs in the 7th, and the Padres lost 5-2 to the Cardinals in 11 innings. Padres fall to 0-12 in extra innings in 2023, and in many ways it capsulized the Padres season. They had a solid game plan to win. They had a lead & pitched well, but couldn’t tack-on when opportunities arose, either through bad luck or bad play. They couldn’t produce good AB’s when it mattered most. Just enough to beat them.

This time a main culprit was Luis Campusano not running hard out-of-the-box and getting hosed easily at second base to kill a potential rally in the 6th. The normally supportive home fans booed, and deservedly so. In 2023, that crap happened over & over against bad teams in front of capacity Petco crowds. Padres players have work to do to win back their fans in 2024, as Friar faithful feel betrayed by a careless lack of effort this past season.

Padres then started to press and it snowballed into defeat. Ha-Seong Kim got picked off 1st base to end the 8th. Bottom of the 9th, Padres down 2-1, they load the bases with no outs, and the top of the order coming up. Bogaerts grounds into a force play for a game-tying RBI, then Tatis & Soto strike out, which means extra innings. A couple of GIDP’s late in the game were leitmotifs for the 2023 Padres. Twelve walks, but only six hits in 11 innings for the Padres, all singles.

Cubs & Marlins won, while the Giants & Reds lost, so the Padres are virtually eliminated, which means I’m done after this update. The Diamondbacks were weathered-out @ Yankees on Saturday by Tropical Storm Ophelia, and will try to make it up as a doubleheader on Monday (hopefully), as they have no more off days. Sunday’s game is questionable at this point. The most likely NL team to collapse down the stretch is the D-backs, who along with the Reds & Marlins have a negative run differential.

Climate change has created havoc with the MLB schedule this season, and it’s hurting the Snakes here. Earlier in the summer (June 27-29), the Padres played a series @ Pirates where Canadian wildfire smoke choked the air for three games. Players weren’t allowed to complain too loudly, as getting the games in was primary. What was supposed to be a soft spot in their road schedule turned into a disaster, as the Padres got swept in Pittsburgh and then lost 2-of-3 in Cincinnati. There were times during the season I felt players were put in a position where winning the game was secondary compared to what was going on around them. No doubt this affected their effort & performance at times. This happened to every team to a varying degree.

Padres hot stove season outlook

Austin Nola, the older brother of Phillies RHP Aaron Nola, is an interesting Padres arbitration case. He’s gonna be 34, which is very old for a catcher, and he was sent down to the minors in July after posting an anemic .146/.260/.192 batting line in 2023. Austin Nola has 3.1 years of MLB service time, making him arbitration eligible this winter after making $2.35M this year. He’s possibly/likely a non-tender for the Padres. Look for AJP to try to package him in a deal, if possible– or re-sign him to a minor league contract.

Padres are still hopeful on C Luis Campusano who is about to turn 25. He’s had defensive issues and injuries have hampered his development. Health is a skill, but the raw talent is there. He can really hit. Also recall, the Padres went all-in on C Ethan Salas during the Jan 15, 2023 International Draft. He was the top prospect available and the Padres gave Salas all their slot money to get him. Ethan Salas is the Padres #1 prospect, playing at AA at age 17. Padres need a veteran C to start 2024, so re-signing Gary Sanchez remains a possibility. AJP will explore the market, but their catching future appears to be in the system.

LHP Robby Snelling is the Padres #3 prospect, one of three finalists for minor league pitcher of the year. This high school draftee, above-slot bonus baby, the #39 overall pick in the 2022 Draft, could be competing for a Padres rotation slot some time in 2024. Padres #6 prospect, 2018 International Draft selection RHP Jairo Iriarte, age 21, is expected to compete for the Padres rotation in 2024. RHP Adam Mazur, a 2022 college draft pick, age 22 has a 2025 ETA. Padres farm system doesn’t have the depth it had a few years back when it was the best in baseball, but it has some high-end talent.

Padres have RHPs Joe Musgrove & Hu Darvish locked up, so it’s ‘however AJP decides’ to fill out his rotation after losing LHP Blake Snell (NL Cy Young 2023) to free agency. Padres will take the compensation pick on Blake Snell, and for Josh Hader too. Those were a couple of GREAT trades that will continue to bear fruit for the Padres. One way to build talent & depth in a farm system is by acquiring compensation picks* and using them well. For the record, AJP was set up to deal Blake Snell, Josh Hader, and possibly Juan Soto at the 2023 trade deadline– the BEST rental starter, closer, AND positional player available. When the seller market froze (due to East Coast Bias collusion), AJ Preller pulled back and left the Mets high & dry as they proceeded to dump for pennies on the dollar because they had no choice.

* Compensation picks are more valuable than many of the top prospects that were dealt this past trade deadline, including the players in the Max Scherzer & Justin Verlander deals. The Mets paid $43.3M to the Rangers to get SS/2B Luisangel Acuña in the Max Scherzer trade deadline dump. Luisangel Acuña is now the Mets top prospect (#38 in MLB), expected to arrive in 2024 at age 22. A compensation pick costs a team <1/10th (top pick, ~1/5th) of that in terms of dollars, which means if the player busts, it’s not devastating. But if this “$43M prospect” doesn’t cut it in the Big Apple, then fans, players & media will immediately point fingers.

That’s the risk of overvaluing prospects, which GM’s tend to do when their farm system is barren and a re-build is in order. RHP Justin Verlander was also dumped by the Mets, to the Astros for OF Drew Gilbert (#2 Mets, [#52 MLB], 2025 ETA), and OF/1B Ryan Clifford (#6 Mets, 2026 ETA). Mets paid $39.1M to get those two prospects, neither of them a pitcher. In total, the Mets paid $82M on August 1, 2023 for three non-pitcher prospects (now #1, #2 & #6 in their system), in exchange for their two veteran aces. Was it worth it? Probably not, but we’ll see.

The bigger point is a GM should never put an organization in that situation. With all those resources made available, the Mets had no back-up plan if their 2023 team collapsed, which it did– and it cost them dearly. Mets GM Billy Eppler then had to do as ownership commanded at the trade deadline and recoup what he could regardless of the cost, knowing all along he was going to be replaced by David Stearns. It was the worst kept secret in MLB for over two years.

This is the Amazin’ Mess which new GM David Stearns now inherits. He’s a bright guy who built the Brewers pitching staff of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff Freddie Peralta which is as good as any trio in MLB. The Brew Crew have a deep bullpen, and a manager who knows how to use it. Craig Counsell is a top-3 MLB manager every year. David Stearns also made great trades over the years to build the Brewers into a consistent winner on a budget. He leaves Milwaukee in good hands and will now have a top-tier payroll in the #1 media market. It’s comparable to Andrew Friedman leaving the Rays for the Dodgers in 2015. The Mets will be good again very soon with David Stearns as their GM.  ****

Padres have an interesting decision on RHP Michael Wacha, age 32, who has a player option for $6.5M, while the Padres hold a $16M team option for 2024 & 2025. Wacha earned $7.5 in 2023, and was their 2nd-best starter, behind Blake Snell. I suspect the Padres will pick up Michael Wacha’s option for $16M.

RHP Seth Lugo also pitched great, after being signed as a 5th/6th starter, he ended up as the Padres 3rd starter. Seth Lugo has a $7.5M player option for 2024, but may decline that after having a nice age-33 season for the Friars. He might be looking for a multi-year deal on the free agent market. The Padres are looking to get younger on the pitching side, but on the other hand, if Seth Lugo exercises his player option, the Padres would be ecstatic. You can never have too much pitching, especially when it’s a reliable team player.

Padres #2 prospect, SS Jackson Merrill, age 20, is expected to arrive in 2024. I don’t envision AJ Preller dealing any of his top prospects, as they’re part of his plan to get younger, cheaper & better. If AJP deals any of them, it’s this one, and only for a young stud pitcher. CF Trent Grisham & UT Jake Cronenworth are different stories. Unless they can become invaluable bench/utility pieces, they don’t fit on the Padres active roster, and thus become tradeable.

Trent Grisham is my favorite Padres player, but he’s done two things I don’t like. He changed his number, and he grew a porn mustache which has coincided with his two-year hitting slump. Go back to the old #2, and shave the stache! That’s old school coaching. As far as advanced metrics go, Trent Grisham is a pure lefty, so I don’t understand his splits. According to his 2023 numbers (with ~ a week to go), Trent Grisham (overall .199/.315/.353) can’t hit righties. He’s a punchless .180/.300/.329 with three times the at-bats against righties, while hitting .252/.355/.420 against lefties. This is the opposite of what’s expected in lefty/righty splits for a lefty hitter.

It’s just one of the MANY things that is so confounding about this Padres team. Why can’t Trent Grisham hit righties? It would solve so many problems! Perhaps the most difficult part of evaluating a player like Trent Grisham is distinguishing what a player is from what you want him to be. For prospects, its infinitely tougher because they are all so far away from the Majors that projections are tentative at best & always subject to change. Baseball is the toughest game to predict.

Padres just signed Jake Cronenworth to an extension through 2030 last winter, while Trent Grisham has two more arbitration years remaining, after earning $3.175M in 2023. Of the two, CF Trent Grisham is a more coveted asset because he’s younger, cheaper, and plays a more valuable defensive position at a gold glove level. He can be seen as a guy who needs a change-of-scenery, and still has upside. Jake Cronenworth has value, due to his positional flexibility, good defense & lefty bat. He needs to be a utility guy for the Padres, not a DH or 1B. The Padres would have to eat contract to maximize his trade value. How much is the rub, so most likely the Padres keep Jake Cronenworth, but he could be floated this winter.

AJP reserves the right to do that with all his players, except those with no trade clauses. GM’s maximize the value of their players & prospects by offering deals for them. If another organization over-values that player, a smart GM will know what players he/she wants from EVERY organization, top to bottom. That’s when they make a deal. If that organization also undervalues their player/prospect, it becomes a steal.

2B Ha-Seong Kim is an underrated player signed to a team-friendly deal through 2026. Padres want to keep him, but they have too many middle infielders, so he could be dangled as trade bait. AJP refused Ha-Seong Kim-for-RHP Pablo López from the Marlins last winter, so the righty pitcher went to the Twins instead, who extended him before his arbitration expired. Good move by the Twins. That was also a good ‘no trade’ by AJP. Marlins new GM Kim Ng moved on and made a great deal getting 2B Luis Arraez from the Twins for Pablo López. This ‘non-trade’ was a vast improvement in team relations, as AJP couldn’t even talk to Marlins ex-GM Mike Hill after the 2016 trade deadline.

The best thing about being a Padres fan in this era is knowing the management side of things is being taken care of. This team no longer gets ripped-off in trades. They do that to other unwitting franchises now. Padres scouting & drafting has improved by light years from when AJP took over in 2014. It’s a long way to the top, it’s VERY competitive, and success isn’t always linear. Padres need to stick with their process, even as the doubters persist. This was a necessary step back year for them, as they still owed on Fernando Tatis Jr’s PED baggage. They weren’t as good as they finished in 2022, but they aren’t as bad as they played in 2023. The hardest part is recognizing, understanding & accepting this.

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The Steve Bartman incident: a baseball & social analysis

Preface: Every sports fans knows this event well enough and its run-up, so I’ll spare the reader a detailed account and skip to my analysis.

We’re nearing the 20th anniversary of this infamous sports incident, so let’s review how to avoid becoming a victim. 1) Know the ground rules on fan interference, especially if you have a front row seat. That’s a responsibility you have as a fan. 2) Stand up for your dignity at all times. Do NOT let yourself be abused for the sake of the team. 3) Give Fox Sports the middle finger when they keep focusing the camera on you after your fan mistake. I guarantee they will stop showing you on TV. 4) When the attention & scrutiny becomes too much, leave the stadium IMMEDIATELY. Don’t sit there and let fans hurl verbal abuse & beer on you. 5) Pick better friends. Evidentially, the two people to Steve Bartman’s right were with him, but never stuck up for him after the incident and completely abandoned him when they were escorted from their seats by security. 6) The next day, after you’ve been identified in the media, make a statement declaring your remorse for what you did, while also focusing the blame on the players & coaches in the field/dugout who failed. Make THEM own the responsibility for the Cubs losing, instead of absorbing the blame yourself. 7) Give the Marlins credit for a great rally. Just after the incident happened, Marlins LHP Mark Redman said to his team in the dugout, “Let’s make him famous.” They did. 8) If you’re gonna go for it (and I say don’t do it there!), then at least make the play. He missed badly, and that caught him more hell with Cubs fans. 9) Re-evaluate why you are a fan and what it means.

I’m one of those people who never hated Steve Bartman, or felt sorry for him. I felt like he needed to grow a pair. Recently re-watching the ESPN Film Catching Hell (2011) brought all these thoughts to me, and many of them weren’t mentioned in the documentary film. The film is a different experience now from when it was released, because the Cubs finally won it in 2016– thirteen years [!] after the Bartman incident.

In Catching Hell, there’s not enough awareness & discussion of Fox Sports singling out a spectator and making HIM the story, all in the name of bigger ratings. They kept going back & back to it, instead of focusing on the action on the field. Steve Lyons was a main culprit, and a good example of an ex-jock who isn’t qualified to be in a broadcast booth.

Furthermore, when Bill Buckner says he would violate baseball ground rules as a front row spectator if that situation came to him, I don’t believe him. I understand why he says it, but I don’t believe it, and neither should any baseball fan. Their experiences were completely different, and hard to compare, except that they were both made into scapegoats. ESPN has all the resources in the world available to them, and they still miss the story.

Catching Hell also had too much lame arguing that fan interference should have been called by the umpires. Two Cubs fans with too much time on their hands even made a 187-page legal brief on it, making their case for FI. Let me refute that weak stuff here. First, this was before video replay in umpiring, so the call on the field stands no matter what.

Second, at least half a dozen other Cubs fans were reaching into the field of play to catch the foul ball too. If hometown fans prevent their own player from making a play, and it’s too close to call on the field (as it was), then the umpires CAN’T bailout the Cubs. I’ve seen Yankees fans make way for Derek Jeter, etc, to make a play in the stands at Yankee Stadium. Same thing for fans at Fenway for their team, and of course they do the opposite when it’s an opponent going for the ball– and that’s their right as fans.

If Cubs fans weren’t ‘heads up’ like they should have been, then they deserve to suffer the consequences of their baseball ignorance. If fans turn a home field advantage into a disadvantage, then they only have themselves to blame– collectively. I believe Cubs fans hated Steve Bartman for two reasons: 1) his actions hurt their team’s cause; and 2) they know deep in their hearts they would have done the same.

Epilogue: After the Cubbies finally won the World Series in 2016, management & ownership did the right thing and sent Steve Bartman a World Series ring. By all accounts he was deeply moved & appreciative, while saying he didn’t deserve it. The truth is no one deserved it more. This guy who just wants to remain an anonymous Cubs fan took a bullet for the 2003 Cubs and was forced to endured shameful abuse from fellow fans & the entire media. No one deserves that.

The guy got too excited for a moment and did something he shouldn’t have done. No one died. This should have been the call, “Foul ball… out of play. Maybe some Cubs fans are a little too exuberant in their desire to catch a foul ball, as Alou is upset…” [replay, then live camera shot to the area– once. Then move on with the broadcast of the game].

Thom Brennaman’s call on Fox was similar to what I just wrote, but the producers in the truck kept pushing the cameras onto Steve Bartman, while color analyst Steve Lyons kept harping, “THAT could be BIG,” which gave Fox a compelling human narrative they could keep going back to, and they did. Steve Bartman should have sued Fox for malice. He may have, I don’t know, but he surely had a case. That’s why guys who looked like attorneys kept pushing their business cards in his face after his foul ball muff.

Being a sports fan is a dangerous thing, because it has the potential to become a drunken mob where things can get out of control. People are so passionate about sports that they lose their heads and do crazy thing they normally wouldn’t do. It’s the excitement of the game, the desire to participate and be a hero for 15 seconds, to be on TV, gambling & fantasy sports, etc. Some of that is vanity, or simply a natural desire to recognized for doing something good.

What the Steve Bartman incident teaches us is that if you get carried away with all this exuberance for sports in the form of fanaticism, it can come back to haunt you if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Network TV cameras pick up EVERYTHING now. If you get caught in that situation, refer to my checklist at the top to avoid becoming a victim of circumstance.

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The sorry state of US soccer

Preface: Many nations didn’t even allow adult women to play soccer back in the 1990’s. Muslim nations in particular. The US was the only country that allowed a large pool of boys & girls to compete together at a youth level. That helped catapult the USWNT to soccer dominance which lasted for 30 years. This is a follow-up piece to USWNT out early at World Cup 2023: no one cares

The USWNT trained at the sprawling Markham Woods soccer complex (AKA: Lake Sylvan Shores) in north Orlando, throughout the 1990’s and at least into the early 2000’s. It has multiple fields, and the USWNT shared this space with all the youth league teams, including my (then) step-son’s summer teams from 1998-2000. When looking in their direction (as every cognizant soccer spectator did back then), I immediately noticed it was men coaching the USWNT.

My step-son was a good kid and enjoyed playing soccer, though he never had any scholarship or professional ambitions, which helped him fit-in well with all the coaches he played for. His mom made him choose soccer over football in high school on my advice.

He actually liked band better, and played trombone during the football games, so he was much happier for it. I often remarked to her in the bleachers, “The Mount Dora football team sucks, but their band kicks ass– best in conference!” She would laugh, and was proud of that.

His summer coach was a good-hearted father whose son was the center-midfielder. Everyone got along well, and the coach would often admonish his young players for being lazy & unserious by screaming, “Do you see Mia Hamm over there?! She’s won two World Cups & Olympic gold, and she STILL gets pissed at herself when she fucks up! So why are you laughing at your stupid shit when you’re on the same field as her?!!” That was really good stuff from a boys summer league coach– I liked him.

After the USMNT made the Round-of-16 in World Cup 1994, MLS was born. I saw early MLS exhibition games at Disney/ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex which had opened recently in Buena Vista. We were given tickets from a cousin, the head secretary of WWOS— which is nice. They were sparse crowds, so we always had a good view. Up close, I instantly recognized Lexi Lalas, Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda and the rest of these hippies & high-strung pretty boys by their “free spirited” west-coast playing style.

I saw it for real when I played my 1985-86 high school year in San Jose. These kids were talented for sure, and they had skills, but they were afraid to be really great, and that’s why they never won anything. I saw it over & over from the bench my junior year in San Jose. I finally had a great coach, and he knew I needed to catch up on skills before I could get serious playing time, but I was ambi-footed & serious about putting the ball in the net for my team.

I was excited to play for this coach my senior year, and was ready to dedicate my 1986 summer to getting better per his suggestions, but my family moved back to Wisconsin before the Cali soccer season ended and that was that. The level of talent & coaching in Oshkosh, WI wasn’t/isn’t anywhere close to Cali, so I only played summer league for a two more years, then gave soccer up for academics. Sports taught me a lot, including when to quit.

Sports also taught me that rich, spoiled Cali boys are the kind of teammates who always yell at you or try to show you up in front of everybody and never apologize for it. You would think a few of these hippies would understand karma or team philosophy, but no, they only care about themselves. They do whatever they want on the field, and waive off any criticism. THESE are the stars, and they are fixed– nothing can re-align that.

These enabled crybabies get where they are by politics, influence & money, more than actual talent. I’m not saying they were terrible, but I am saying they really weren’t that good, and most of it was for the cameras. The 1994 USMNT didn’t even have to qualify because the US was the host nation– for the first time ever. The time had finally come, and these pretty-boy brats simply had the right backing. That only gets you so far on the world stage, and the USMNT has never made it past a Round-of-16 in any World Cup. No one fears them.

Soccer was a winter sport in Cali when I played, as compared to a fall sport in the Midwest. Soccer is a winter sport in Florida too. I feel like soccer skills & basketball skills go together, and that young athletes should be allowed to play both. I think Bo Jackson would agree. California & Florida are where many of the best athletes come from, but forcing boys to choose in high school limits their ambidextrous skill development.

Basketball requires ambi-hand skills, while soccer is ambi-feet. If developed correctly, the ambi-skills reinforce each other, producing a formidable athlete. But in Cali, FL, and elsewhere in the deep South, where there is perhaps the most money for soccer, boys have to choose, as hoops & soccer are BOTH winter sports. Climate has something to do with this, so it’s a complicated regional sports issue, that seriously impacts the quality of the USMNT, and it goes unmentioned.

I saw a few high-school kids in Florida who tried to play soccer after fall football, but often they were too hurt from gridiron action. In some cases, it took most of the winter soccer season for them to recover. Just in time for spring football.

Football & soccer often share the same playing fields in high school, which is another factor in good ol’ boys insisting on staggering high school football & soccer, versus competing head-to-head with soccer for young boys talent. Football coaches get hysterical about their home fields during their season. They don’t want to share it with anyone. This is just some of the politics I’m talking about.

This needs to change for men’s soccer to improve. Otherwise, the US is giving up on men’s soccer. Soccer needs to compete with football for boys. NFL fans don’t want to hear that, and that’s the root of the problem. If soccer acquiesces to football, and insists on competing with basketball, then US men’s soccer will continue to stink.

The talent pool in soccer needs to be enlarged, and you can get that from parents who don’t want their boys playing football. Stuff like this never gets discussed when American fans ask, “How can the USMNT ever become competitive at the WC level?” It requires a revolution in thinking & in deed, because rotten politics controls every game. Politics controls the funding, the coaching, scholarships, grants, etc. They own the huge complexes. They have deals with the corporate media giants, with the Star-Spangled Banner waving behind them.

As this actors & writers strike continues, sports programming will become more coveted by networks looking for fresh content. Sports affects many levels of our thinking & actions. People LOVE sports, they want their children to play sports. It’s nearly a universal childhood dream to be a sports star of some type.

The hardest thing to do is get control of all these emotions that go into our passion for the game, and make rational objective decisions based on all the facts, to come to a conclusion of what’s the best course of action for the good of the game. That requires revolutionary leadership to start, and it’s finished when parents, fans & athletes come together everywhere to get rid of the filthy capitalist politics that are ruining ALL our sports.

Wrap-up: By the late 1990’s, most of the best soccer brains in the US went into helping the women’s national team, as they must have recognized by then that the USMNT was hopeless. These brains were mostly male, but there were more & more butch lesbians working their way up the coaching, political & media ranks. It has been an American feminist agenda to make US womens’ soccer entirely female at its highest levels. All these major phenomenons in womens’ soccer (positive & negative) happened exclusively, or at least most sharply, in the US.

Most soccer-crazy nations in Europe & Latin America viewed fútbol as entirely a mens’ game back in the 20th century. Now the big money is everywhere, so other nations have built better womens’ programs because they have better mens’ players to instruct them. This is why the USWNT is in so much trouble. They have neither the coaching, nor the skill required to beat the best on an equal playing field.

Globally, women’s soccer is now equal, in the sense that the US women don’t scare everyone anymore, Furthermore, they aren’t going to get better– they’ve peaked for the historical reasons I’ve outlined. The USWNT has milked it for as long as they could, but now it’s over, and they have no direction back to the top. You’re not allowed to even whisper that truth on ESPN.

You need more than talent to win at team sports. You need organization, a serious work ethic, and a spirit of community & sacrifice for the greater good. In soccer, if it’s not being taught at the elementary youth level, then it’s hopeless, because every other competitive nation is doing precisely that. You can never win when you’re always behind from the start.

It’s not difficult to find reasons why the USWNT won’t regain its past glory. The US team is no longer formidable, but beatable, and the whole world knows it, so they’re going to get everyone’s best shot from now on. It appears the USWNT is too proud to admit they aren’t the best anymore, which is a problem. So it’s a losing combination of 1) the opponents burning desire to beat those loudmouth American bitches, along with 2) hubris & denial on the US end.

I’ve got online friends from HS, college, and beyond who have raised boys & girls that play soccer. I’m sure they’ve read what I’ve posted with great interest, whether they agree with my conclusions, or not. My job as a sports blogger is to make readers think outside of the corporate box. Soccer parents have been led to believe that they are part of a great social progress, but are they?

Today’s young American boys & girls are behind on soccer skills because the coaching is so poor everywhere. None of these girls are the next Michelle Akers, or anything close. The US men never win. There’s too much mediocrity & politics at the youth & HS levels, and that’s a shame considering the ever-growing American interest in soccer over the past 25 years.

Furthermore, many of today’s professional athletes didn’t play in youth leagues or high school, like we did in the past. If you are recognized early as a prodigy, and your parents have the money, then you are sent to a sports academy, such as ING. Here, kids receive top-level, sports specific training– the best that money can buy. This gives these talented (& privileged) kids an unfair advantage at the collegiate & professional levels, because most kids have never seen that level of competition & skill in their sport.

This ‘youth talent drain’ into the private sector hurts broader youth development for the same reasons. Normal-level kids can’t improve if all the best players are at private institutions. Soccer, tennis, golf, even basketball are now dominated by this private sports academy model. It has created an unlevel playing field for athletic scholarships, etc, and stagnated overall development in every sport– to the benefit a privileged few.

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USWNT out early at World Cup 2023: no one cares

Is anyone going to miss these bitches? Megan Rapinoe misses a PK that would have won it (she didn’t even put it on-frame), and then she smiles & shrugs it off during the post-match presser. Is that a leader? Is that a role model? She’s too chicken-shit to put a GW PK on-frame [!], and then none of her teammates call her out for her shit. This USWNT totally mailed-it-in for World Cup 2023. This is so far from 1999, it’s pathetic.

This is what happens when a MeToo campaign takes over an institution. Megan Rapinoe is a LGBTQ+ activist, a pawn of the CIA Democrats. This 2023 USWNT had no soul, because their appointed ‘leader’ is soulless.

Her Subway ad campaign (which has been scrubbed from YouTube) goes down in marketing history as perhaps the most disastrous commercial blitz in TV/internet history. In 2021, loyal customers STOPPED going to Subway until corporate pulled all their Megan Rapinoe advertising spots, as they were killing local franchises EVERYWHERE. Subway needed Steph Curry again, and QUICK!

People just don’t like her, and it’s not because she’s a lesbian– it’s because she’s unappealing. She’s not nice, honest, or brilliant, and she’s certainly not pretty. It’s a universal male fantasy to turn a hot lesbian straight, but I (like many others) have no such desire towards her. I only mention that because it’s important to women. It’s a different standard when measuring women athletes. It doesn’t matter how many titles you have, if you are marketable, then you’re shit.

I was a soccer player in middle school & high school when the sport was in its infancy in the US. Boys & girls played together on summer league teams and in high school– on JV & varsity. I was a soccer step dad in the late 1990’s, and I remember our then-family watching the 1999 Women’s WC final, USA v China, live on ABC. It was maybe the most dramatic sports contest ever, with the US winning in PK’s.

Like many, many others, I still remember the players on that team because they are worth remembering. In 1999, a group of determined under-appreciated young women changed the sports world forever. This 2023 USWNT wasn’t a group of women coming together as a team for a greater good, but a bunch of self-serving bitches wearing the same-colored jersey. That’s why they lost.

I mention my personal history because that’s how girls soccer started in the 1980’s. Boys had to play with girls, and we had to play nice– even in high school. All the girls who stuck it out were better for playing with boys. It wasn’t easy (on all sides), for sure. Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, etc, all had to deal with those circumstances. It pushed them, in a way girls can’t be pushed today, because there are now girls soccer leagues everywhere– as it should be. It’s all part of global sports progress.

Postscript: So where does the USWNT rank globally now? They finished 2nd in their Group, and lost in the Round of 16 in Australia 2023. That objectively means they are anywhere from 9th to 16th globally. The competitive edge the USWNT has had over their global opponents, starting from the inaugural women’s World Cup in 1991, has been completely eroded. What is the cause? Politics is always a factor in big money sports, and women’s soccer is clearly no exception. The wrong choices are being made for the wrong reasons, and this is what you get. I leave it to the experts analyze the details– that’s what they’re supposedly paid for.

No longer can the USWNT waltz onto the World Cup stage & dominate, or even win. They couldn’t even score this time around. Lack of skills, creativity, chemistry & poor player development are the reasons. Too many egos need to be massaged all the time, and that creates resentment for team players. This drains a team, and it’s almost always the reason a team loses, at any level. You might not expect this ugly pettiness from the USWNT, but then you would be giving them too much credit.

The resources the US sporting establishment has poured into girls/womens soccer since the 1990’s have helped keep the US women ahead of everyone else– through World Cup 2019 which they won. The USWNT had a huge head start by the process I described above in my personal experience. There were hundreds-of-thousands of other boys like me who played fair and (unknowingly) helped develop the original USWNT. I only mention this because I’ve never seen it written anywhere else, yet it surly had the impact I’ve described.

Now that it’s all-girls leagues, US soccer is going to struggle to recapture the glory of its early years. How are you going to make players better when it’s favoritism, enabling & cynical politics at every level? This is the reason why the men’s national team always sucks. I don’t ever see the USWNT team returning to prominence on a world stage. Other counties such as Sweden & China are far better organized at this point. The processes that have undermined the quality of women’s soccer run too deep in American society, and are also part of a global revolution to come.

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Jets acquire HOF QB Aaron Rodgers from the Packers

Monday evening, it was announced that the Green Bay Packers agreed to deal quarterback Aaron Rodgers and their 2023 first-round pick (No. 15) and a 2023 fifth-round pick (No. 170) to the Jets for New York’s 2023 first-round pick (No. 13), a 2023 second-round pick (No. 42), a 2023 sixth-round pick (No. 207) and a conditional 2024 second-round pick that becomes a first if Rodgers plays 65% of the plays this season.

This is a convoluted deal that doesn’t end until 2024 with a lot to unravel. In short, the Packers get a 2023 2nd-round pick, while swapping their 5th for the Jets 6th, etc. There was lots of haggling over the past months, but what we see in the final deal is that not much moved. The Jets were offering a 2nd-round pick and likely a 4th-round pick, while the Packers needed to get more. They only way that was going to happen was by getting conditional picks based on Aaron Rodgers’ performance with the Jets. The excessive haggling in the exchange of picks is a way of making the return for Aaron Rodgers look bigger than it really is from a Packers’ standpoint.

The conditional 2024 pick depends on Aaron Rodgers staying healthy & playing all season, and it’s the best the Packers could do with the mess they created for themselves. In essence, the Packers have to give the Jets their blessing in this deal, in the hopes of maximizing their return in the form of a 1st round pick in 2024. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers & the Jets will be trying to win a Super Bowl. Give Aaron Rodgers credit for protecting himself after the Packers moved up to draft Jordan Love in 2020. He played a tough situation beautifully.

There seems to be very little appreciation for what Aaron Rodgers did for the Packers among the Lambeau faithful. Players are never perfect, even though this is what fans often expect. Serious fans embrace their stars (warts & all) because they are rare and in the end it’s about winning. For whiners & complainers, that’s never enough. So to them, welcome to 5-12 for awhile, give or take a win or two.

The Packers ominously lost to the Vikings to start 2022. A dropped opening 75-yd TD pass loomed over their season. They responded by winning three straight before hitting the skids losing 7 of 8 games. At that point, Aaron Rodgers was the only one who still believed the 4-8 Packers could make the playoffs and stated it to the press. The Packers responded by winning 4 straight to put themselves in position to make the playoffs with a home win over the Lions in Week 18. Every Packers fan saw that result and felt the disappointment of all hope draining away. Every Packers fan felt that if they could’ve beaten the Lions then they could’ve made a run in the playoffs— woulda, coulda, shoulda.

But realize it was #12 that gave everyone that hope. He couldn’t deliver, largely because the Packers didn’t have #17, etc. The lying part about Packers management is their not admitting to Aaron Rodgers (and the public generally) that their plan has been Jordan Love in 2023 ever since they traded-up to draft him in 2020. Aaron Rodgers was the first to understand this.

Lying & deceptive management really cost the Packers here. Since their ‘secret’ plan was to go with Jordan Love all along, they should have kept Davante Adams and let Aaron Rodgers go (or traded him) last off-season. Davante Adams would have likely stayed for a quick rebuild, and everyone in the organization would be on the same page. Instead, Packers’ management wasted 2 MVP seasons from a HOF QB by planning for the future instead of trying to win it all when they had a chance. Special teams was particularly an Achilles heel.

The fact is the Packers never had a great player to galvanize their defense after Charles Woodson departed. Brett Favre had Reggie White. The Packers missed an opportunity to get J.J. Watt when he left the Texans a few years back. That’s the kind of difference-making player the Packers needed to get past the 49ers/Rams/Bucs. Just when a bold move was required for winning, Packers management was positioning itself for the upcoming rebuild.

Beyond this, Packers special teams were atrocious in Rodgers’ final years. Blocked punts & kicks, fumbled returns, allowing big returns, missed extra points, penalties, etc. That final playoff loss at Lambeau to the 49ers, which turned on a blocked punt, was emblematic & inevitable. It defies reason & credibility to blame this mismanagement on the QB, but it’s the easiest thing to do. Where’s the organizational accountability?

Many NFL fans are front-runners by nature. Do hardcore Packers fans realize how many ambivalent NFL fans just signed up with the Jets and how many they just lost? That’s a sad day for any organization. It hurts in all respects. The Packers entire future is now hinged on Jordan Love and there are unrealistic expectations which isn’t fair, inviting failure. If this kid isn’t the next Patrick Mahomes or Jalen Hurts, he’s a disappointment. This is all on management, not Aaron Rodgers.

Sat 29 Apr 2023 3:30 PM CDT

Packers fans are numb right now, so this draft is like, “Yeah, whatever.” The Packers, who have been in existence for over a hundred years and have more wins than any other NFL franchise, just traded way their most valuable player ever. Why? Because management never established a real relationship with Aaron Rodgers. Stars come with their baggage, which must be MANAGED, as no human is perfect. When it was time for Tom Brady to leave the Patriots, he did so quietly & gracefully with the blessing of the entire organization and their fan base. That’s because Bill Belichick had a relationship with him. None of that happened with Packers management & Aaron Rodgers.

My analysis of the situation is that Aaron Rodgers wanted to finish his career in GB, but Packers management had other plans. I understand most Packers fans disagree with that assessment, but I stand by it. I say that most Packers fans are too emotional to get this, because football is such an emotional game. But it’s also a business, which means there will always be people in ownership & management who want to run things their way, no matter the cost. That problem doesn’t go away until it’s handled.

Another disappointment in this trade is that Packers fans were looking for closure, and they haven’t got it. The conditional draft pick in 2024 ties the Packers to Aaron Rodgers for at least two-thirds of next season. It was bad enough they had to deal him, but they needed to finish it cleanly. Two 2nd-round picks in 2023 were the best they were going to get from the Jets, and that’s what they should have settled on, so they could move on. Instead, Packers management mucked it up again, and no one in Packerland is happy with this deal. I understand that everyone gets to keep their job until the season starts, but when the product on Lambeau Field pales to what it has been for the past 30 years, Packers fans are going to demand accountability in the front office. I’m merely articulating what most Packers fans are thinking and afraid to say.

Obviously the 2023 season is all about quarterback development for the Packers. It starts with preventing Jordan Love from getting too injured, too quickly. Concussions need to be a red flag. DON’T be like the Dolphins with Tua Tagovailoa. Jordan Love’s situation will probably be similar to Justin Fields with the Bears the past few years where he’s been running for his life most of the time.

All this begs the question, “Who’s the Packers backup QB?” Smart game-planning combined with an adequate backup option, can prevent a team from wrecking its young quarterback. From what I’ve seen from current Packers management, I’m skeptical they can do this.

Who is the Packers backup QB in case Jordan Love gets hurt? I can see the headlines now: “Love Hurts”. A washed-up starter would’ve been ideal for the Packers in 2023, but unfortunately they’ve all been signed. Unless they get creative with a trade or pull off some magical late free-agent signing, the Packers are going low cost on this which is risky.

As a final point. It’s ridiculous that only one team was in on Aaron Rodgers. What the hell are the Vikings, Colts, Commanders, etc, doing? This collective stupidity made the Packers situation much worse. Some people call it “collusion” but since these owners & executives all talk to each other regularly and it’s reported, it’s considered to be out in the open, so it’s more accurately understood as typical ownership/management stupidity.

There are always a minority number of franchises that are hapless and don’t know how to seriously compete. This is true in all sports, but most profoundly in the NFL. Too much owner/management stupidity is what allowed Aaron Rodgers to go to the Jets on their terms. It was Packers management (& their fans) who got squeezed. Packers management having no meaningful relationship with their franchise superstar made this drawn out divorce all the more messy & painful, with a bitter aftertaste that lingers.

Post Script: Sunday April 30, 11:30 AM CDT

In the NFL at any given time there are only a handful of franchises who know what they are doing. The Patriots, Chiefs, 49ers, Rams, Bucs & Eagles are among today’s teams. The Bills, Bengals, Jets & Giants are legitimately trying to get there. The rest include the (relatively few) up & comers (Lions), the perennial flakes (Vikings, Cowboys, etc), and the hapless (Bears, Jags, etc) to some degree or another. With Aaron Rodgers at the end the Packers were always somewhere in between, below this top tier while above the second. The NFC North has been by far the weakest division in the past 20 years, meaning with a healthy HOF QB the Packers easily dominated most seasons. Now they will be hapless. The Packers desperately need the right veteran backup so Jordan Love survives 2023. If Packers management is serious about what they are doing, then impress us skeptics by addressing this.

Aaron Rodgers has been remarkably durable over his career, only getting hurt enough not to play, twice. There’s only one Brett Favre. In 2013 the Packers were 5-2 when Aaron Rodgers went down against the Bears. They finished 8-7-1 and lost to the 49ers in the Wild Card. The Pack were 4-1, when #12 broke his clavicle against the Vikings in 2017. That season they finished 7-9 with a cast of nobodies at QB, when there was a free agent available who could have helped, but Packers management (like all the rest), blackballed Colin Kaepernick. That blacklisting was collusion. Following media reports from ESPN which stated Colin Kaepernick’s settlement was in the range of $60-80M, the former 49ers QB and teammate DB Eric Reid received less than $10M total from the NFL settlement, as reported by the WSJ in 2019.

The final take home lesson here is that you can’t naively believe the NFL’s reporting or the narratives promoted by any of their teams, from ESPN down to the local news, because it’s almost all fake. There are analytics sites with stats (old school & advanced) to help you figure things out if you need that help. Whatever metrics you use, it’s inferences & conclusions should match reality. Packers reporting on Aaron Rodgers has been filled with misdirections, deflections, petty criticisms & throwing their star QB under the bus. If you buy this, then you’ve been duped. Please seek help.

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The NCAA Tournament & NIL rights

The NCAA Tournament is more random than ever. This is because all the best high-school ballers either skip college, train in Europe, or are one-and-done. The game isn’t as good as it was from say 1979 through the mid 1990’s. When Shaq left LSU after his sophomore season, after he would have been the #1 overall pick after his freshman year, it seismically shifted the NBA draft standard for college kids.

Today, to win in the NCAA Tournament a team must grow through experience to play well TOGETHER when it matters most. Experienced teams with low seedings now make more Elite 8 & Final 4 runs. Miami was a good example in 2022. Virginia coached by Dick Bennett when they won it, etc. Please note that much of this pertains to women’s hoops too. It used to be a #1 or #2 seed was pretty-much guaranteed to make the Sweet 16. Not so anymore.

Smaller conferences have gotten more competitive, while the bigger conferences (blue bloods) suffered most from the talent drain. NIL rights changed everything too. If a state has laws passed for NIL rights, they ignore all NCAA rules.

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Roger Goodell cancels Bill-Bengals MNF game: A true Hollywood story

After Roger Goodell conferred with the top Vegas bookies & ESPN fantasy leagues for three difficult days, it was decided by the owners of football to be in their best interest to cancel the Bills-Bengals game. According to NFL records & the Black Hand, it never happened.

The NFL had cancel this game, but they REALLY didn’t want to. League officials & executives needed to confer behind-the-scenes with bookmakers & the biggest fantasy leagues for council on what to do, which is why it took three long days for the NFL to make it’s final decision, when it really had no choice from the start.

The fantasy leagues are a particularly sticky situation, because those are hardcore football fans who invested 4+ months in drafting, building & cheering their teams. The Bills-Bengals game was to be the final MNF contest of the season, and it’s the Super Bowl in most fantasy leagues. If this event had happened during a typical Sunday afternoon game, it wouldn’t have been as harmful to NFL interests. But it happened on Monday night, when the entire sports world is tuned-in, and not just any Monday night, but the biggest MNF game of the season.

Instead of being a nationwide football festival, the plug was pulled & the excitement killed. Most sports fans understand the situation and don’t blame the players, or cry foul, but there are interests that want to make sure this NEVER happens again. Docking wages for leaving the field would probably be bad optics for the NFL, so look for the owners to get together after the post-season and establish a “protocol” to prevent players from mutually leaving the field before a game is finished. Owners consider what happened as an unauthorized work stoppage, and that is strictly prohibited by the powers-that-be. This could become a CBA grievance if the owners take too much of a hard-line stance.

So how did Roger Goodell arrive at his judgement, three days after an on-field medical event stopped the Bills-Bengals MNF game, with the players refusing to resume the contest? First, the NFL Commissioner had to take heavy flak from all the East coast dweebs screaming in his ear about sponsors, ratings, fantasy leagues, etc– imagine a scene from Network (1976) and apply it here. After absorbing all this abuse, Goodell then had to fly to Las Vegas and stay at the Flamingo to take a meeting with Ace Rothstein & Nicky Santoro. After that, he had to hustle over to the Tropicana to see Moe Greene, and you know what that means— Don Barzini. Roger Goodell had to earn his paycheck this week.

Nicky Santoro: Hey commish, what happened?! I got all these betting slips and I don’t know what to do with them. I’m thinkin’ I’ll keep all the money. What do you think, Sam?

Ace Rothstein: You’re the muscle end Nicky, I just tell you the point spread.

Nicky Santoro: So commish, a player feints on the field, he’s taken-off, and the game just ENDS?!! Since when do we do THAT?!! Are we gonna put pink dresses on them next? [Lots of expletives…] I’m feeling like a chump for holding all these markers. The game was two nights ago!! [Lots of expletives…] I’m just trying to run a respectable bookmaking business here, I gotta pay the winners & collect from the losers to get my vig, you understand? How can I pay when there’s no game?!! [More expletives…] Since I’ve been holding this money for so long, I’d almost feel like a chump to return it. I’m thinking I’ll keep the money. What do you think, Sam?

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Nuances of the Milwaukee Brewers dumping Josh Hader

David Stearns dealt ace lefty closer Josh Hader to the Padres for a demoted closer, two fringy prospects, and a pitcher they DFA’ed 2 days later. They did this because ownership didn’t want to pay Josh Hader’s final arbitration raise this winter. It’s a chicken shit move, I agree.

The key to this deal (and it’s a long-shot) for the Brewers is LHP prospect Robert Gasser who posted a 4.18 ERA across 18 starts at High-A Fort Wayne this season. Lefty reliever Taylor Rogers isn’t close to Josh Hader, and OF Esteury Ruiz is a bench guy with no pop. RHP Dinelson Lamet needed Tommy John surgery after 2020, but refused and went with platelet rich plasma [quack] treatment instead. It failed probably costing him his MLB career.

“Dinelson [Lamet] has a good arm and was included in the trade to help balance out the deal,” said David Stearns. “As subsequent transactions played out, the roster fit became a little tougher. We are hopeful we will be able to keep him in our system.”

So why did the Brewers trade Josh Hader, only to DFA a guy in that deal two days later?  The answer is that Padres GM AJ Preller made David Stearns take Dinelson Lamet because he wanted to dump him. The GM rule is: if someone dumps to you, you get to dump (something less) back. When someone dumps the best closer in baseball, and you get to dump an arbitration expensive pitcher who has been derailed by injuries, that’s quite a nice gift.

This was a shameless dump by Brewers ownership, comparable to when the Rays dealt ace LHP David Price to the Tigers in 2014. That move deflated the team & killed their season. Rays GM Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers after that season, and Joe Maddon went to the Cubs. The Mets have been after David Stearns for awhile and this deal may finally convince him to leave. He didn’t want to make it.

It’s the RF Christian Yelich extension ($26M per thru 2028, then $6.5M buyout) that hamstrings them. The Brewers made the same mistake with RF Ryan Braun and didn’t learn. That’s the truth Brewers front office & ownership can’t tell you.

The fans aren’t fooled. David Stearns had been asked by the Yankees, etc, for years about Josh Hader, and he always refused them by putting an exorbitant price tag on his elite, cost-controlled closer. Then Stearns gives Hader to the Padres when no one expects it. What explains that?

When David Stearns was told by team owner Mark Attanasio to trade Josh Hader, he must have realized that this was going to be his end in Milwaukee. David Stearns knew all the consequences, it’s his job to know. Viewed as his last trade deadline as Brewers GM, Stearns made sure the Yankees didn’t get Hader. It was the best he could do. This was a payroll dump to an organization Stearns could tolerate. I believe the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals & Dodgers were considered intolerable, meaning Brewers fans would never forgive him.

As mentioned, the Mets are interested in David Stearns, and have been for some time. Therefore he couldn’t trade Hader to them, as it could be construed as a conflict of interest down the line by MLB. Stearns had to trade Hader to a team he wasn’t going to potentially interview for this winter. Those were his interests in a deal he didn’t want to make. Knowing all this makes this murky deal much more understandable.

Ownership didn’t care about the return, so it’s the team & fans that lose. It’s yet another reason I’m against private ownership, because roughly 99.9% of Brewers fans hate this deal. The entire team hates the deal. After this season, David Stearns will be allowed to talk to other teams and he will get snatched up by one that has the payroll to win a World Series. The Brewers window to win, which opened in 2018, has now been closed by ownership.

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