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MLB-WS2017: Sabrmetrics, the Rush to Forgive & Ensconced In Anaheim..of Greater Los Angeles

19 Nov

Hail the Houston Astros, MLB17’s World Series champion.

Last year it was the Chicago Cubs ending the drought of all baseball droughts (1908) in taking the title which’d seemed pretty well in the Cleveland Indians’ grasp (4-3). This year it was a first-time winner, the Astros, who joined the Major club back in 1962 as the Colt .45s and having failed in their one prior Series opportunity in falling to the White Sox in 2005 (4-0), those Pale Hose nabbing their first WS in quite a spell (1917).

The opinion amongst media is that this Astros team is a template for the future MLB. Meaning, a steady, snoozy diet of numbers and more numbers (Zzzzz).

Why the Cubs (2016), Royals (2015), Red Sox (2013) and Giants (2014, 2012, 2010) weren’t touted as such, who knows? It probably has something to do with the fact these present champions are what some are calling a sabrmetric special, aka, analytics. There’s an apropos pun if there ever was one.

Houston operators in manager A.J. Hinch (formerly of the Athletics (See; Moneyball)), GM Jeff Luhnow and club PBO Reid Ryan all relied heavily on statistics, aka, “data,” to shape, guide their roster to the promised land, making the Astros the first sabrheaded organization to grab-hold of that brass ring.

But don’t bet the farm on Houston just yet, no matter how the numbers crunch.

Astros team ERA in WS17, a whopping 4.64.

Astros team BA: .230; OB%: .297; and SLG: .467. Those #s mean the Houston dudes hit poorly throughout but slugged for go-ahead runs in key moments as the Dodgers’ slightly better pitching faltered at the worst possible times (4.45).

Those numbers, the trophy, they suggest one word: Opportunistc. That’s a good trait but not one that’ll bedrock for a dynasty.

— — —

Not too surprising to know that winning a World Series is no guarantee for lifetime employment in the Major League baseball ranks as both former skippers of note, Joe Girardi (NYY 09) and John Farrell (BOS 2013) discovered in being fired post-playoff runs by their respective ball-clubs. John was canned after the Red Sox fell to the Astros in the 2017 ALDS, 3-1, Joe pink-slipped when his Yankees lost to the same Houston club in the ALCS, 4-3.

Not every owner accords that achievement (a WS title) with such an ephemeral appreciation. Some hold it close to their hearts, or so it would appear.

Case in point, billboard billionaire (OutdoorSystems) and Angels’ owner since 2003, Tuscon native Arturo Moreno. The wheeler-dealer seems to hold the view that such achievement should afford a manager his job as long as he wants to continue in the position. Bully for him.

Mike Scioscia completed his 18th year at the helm of the Halos at conclusion of 2017. It was his 2d consecutive sub-.500 finish, in a total of six. In all, Scioscia has compiled a 1570-1346 record (.538), managed seven post-season appearances, one 100-win year (08) and one World Series in 2002, the Angels only Pennant that resulted in a championship win over the Giants, 4-3.

♪♫ And the beat goes on ♪♫.

— — —

Consider how World Series 2017 will NOT be best remembered:

The Astros first MLB title.

It’s fan-friendly watchability: G5 (Astros 13-12) ended at 1:17 AM – EST.

Cries of foul for what appeared an official ball juiced to the threads.

Clay Kershaw finally performing, for one start (G1), anyway, like the pitching great his regular season stats have predicted for years.

No, it won’t be remembered best for any of those.

What World Series 2017 WILL be best remembered for is racism, it’s knowing expression through the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel and its appeasement by Major League baseball’s Cufflink-in-Chief, Commissioner Rob Manfred.

You could say, prejudice got a pass, until spring. Sigh.

The setting: G3 in Houston with the Series knotted-up at 1-1. It’s bottom of the 2d, the Astros’ Gurriel, a 33-year old Cuban in his first full major league season, hit’s a solo shot off of Dodgers’ starter and Japanese native, Yu Darvish (b.1986) who’d been a Texas Ranger (13) through the first-half of 2017.

After all the celebrating, taking his dugout seat and of course seeming in good spirits, Gurriel threw a racist brick at Darvish (Because Yu was thoughtless enough to toss a homer pitch?) in putting fingers to his eyes in childish Western-mimick of an Asian appearance, laughing and thinking himself cute. Not done, he also was overheard spewing the word chinito, meaning Chinese boy.

In Bugs Bunny speak, Yuli is a “maroon.” But he claims to understand this mental state, at least its wrong, so MLB, his ‘mates, Astros’ fans, major and junior media have all rushed to forgive the offender. How wonderful (ugh).

Commissioner Rob Manfred did not suspend YG, not even for one contest in a Series that went seven (I‘d have banned him from entering either stadium for two (2) games). Instead, Rob gave Gurriel a 5-game delayed supension to commence at the start of the 2018 season, assuming he’s still on the team. He turns 34 in June, per his birth certificate.

And with that deferred susp’n which presently amounts to no punishment at all, an awful message was sent to the public: In the rush to forgive and return to calm waters (Darvish took the high road but was in no good position to protest), racism will be tolerated by MLB if the offender “understands” his wrong, claims non-intent and an immediate susp’n in penalty might upset the balance of play when TV ratings ($) are at stake.

And what DIDN’T Baseball’s response do?

It didn’t help Baseball, domestically or internationally. That it was the Dodgers on the receiving end of Gurriel’s racist buffoonery works double damage to the national pastime’s image, the team that in Brooklyn under the Walter O’Malley, Branch Rickey, Mulvey & Smith ownership, rostered Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier (47) and has since been a leader in making the game a showcase of diversity for all races including Hispanic Central America (Fernandomania) and throughout much of the Orient (Nomomania).

It didn’t aid in the fight against racism.

It didn’t help Rob Manfred who is now a symbol of weak leadership, defined forever by his failure to take the bull by the horns.

And it didn’t really help the Astros whose title is now tainted, reminiscent of the Italian national soccer team’s World Cup win in 2006 (Germany).

When deadlocked in the championship match, Marco Materazzi hurled a harsh, family insult to France’s superstar Zinedine Zidane who head butted the offender to the ground. ZZ of course received the red-card (expelled), Italy received the advantage in OT and went on to win the Cup yet left their pride on the field.

Astros won the Series. I don’t know how much Gurriel’s presence shaped the result. He did contribute. Exactly how much of a factor his presence in all games 4 thru 7 had is neither here nor there, for justice, doing the right thing, shouldn’t balance on whether the wrongdoer is a star player or off-the-bench reserve.

But as disturbing as Gurriel’s goof and Manfred’s knee-buckle was how the Astros rallied around their teammate, acting as if his friendly clubhouse persona absolved each of them from holding the Cuban to a standard of decency and he to any sort of symbolic sacrifice in Series time lost.

So much progress yet still a ways to go. I’m hopeful Yuri helps us get there.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: can-of-corn; YuriGurriel, wc.cca, 7.23.17, Baltimore, K.Allison, 1.8m; MikeScioscia, 12.9.15, A.PardavilaIII, wc.cca, MLB-WinterMeet, 5.2m; RobManfred, wc.cca, 7.15.14, wc.cca, fanfest, A.PardavilaIII, 3.5m; Y.Gurriel, 7.23.17, wc.cca, Baltimore, K.Allison, 1.2m;
Posted: 11.18.17 @ 8:28pE, edit 11.19; Copyright © 2017

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Mayweather Win Settles It: ‘Report of (Boxing’s) Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated’

30 Aug

The big boxing news from the Floyd Mayweather v. Conor McGregor trans-tactic fight last Saturday nite (8.26): Pugilism still reigns supreme in the world of wingding combat. As writer, humorist, philosopher and fight fan (?) Mark Twain would’ve likely put it: “The report of (boxing’s) death was an exaggeration.”

Here’s the line of questioning to listen for to get a good sense of whether a sport truly matters to the masses. On the big day the general public, young and old, men and women both, will be overheard to ask these three (3) questions:

1) Who’s fighting?
2) Who’s winning?
3) Who won?

Even my better-half, who ponders sports about as much as a lifeguard follows the morning farm report, was aware of the Big Bash. If it’s on National Public Radio (NPR) in the car, she’s listening. And when “something is in the air there’s no stopping it (R.Whorf, YankeeDoodleDandy (42))!”

Were UFC to hold championship MMA bouts in every weight division and give away a year’s free supply of any flavor Baskin-Robbins® ice cream to the first million pay-per-view customers, that in all likelihood STILL wouldn’t make a ripple in Lake Media.

And how did the Conor v. Floyd fight play out? To say it was competitive would be a bit generous to the loser, though, fans who paid big bucks seem to‘ve been overall pleased with the product, if reports are to be believed (See above; “exaggerated”).

Floyd won by a TKO in the 10th round but ruled the scorecard by comfortable margins nearly throughout the bout, the current co-record holder (Marciano) in undefeated wins (50-0) connecting on 170 punches to 111 for McGregor.

Most interesting is that many casual observers across the nation seemed genuinely interested in the bout, even excited. That hasn’t happened since George Foreman returned to the ring in the 1990s. No high voltage event like that generated by the Fight of the Century in 1971 when, on March 8th at MSG, Smokin’ Joe Frazier defeated the previously undefeated Muhammad Ali by flooring the former Cassius Clay in the final of 15-rounds to win a unanimous decision. But even so, M&M surely was an electric affair that returned boxing, however briefly, to the stature it had formerly held as a matter-of-course.

The winner was gracious in victory while the loser appeared less than so, partying afterwards like only the money really mattered.

But with the champ Mayweather now riding off into the sunset and the Hall of Fame his next big stop on the box-trail, one has to wonder if the sport made more practical by the Marquess of Queenberry rules (1867) can keep the momentum going?

With boxing having been marginalized in recent decades by changing tastes and a promoters pay-per-view greed-grab that keeps championship bouts reserved for only the most devout and financially fluid followers, it’s not likely that ANY individual or clan of boxers (1980s Sugar Ray Leonard – Marvin Hagler – Thomas Hearns) could today resurrect the competitions to their former top-tier status enjoyed for over 100 years.

Be that as it may, and regardless of how long young media males push the UFC product, it won’t be MMA that ever steps in and fills the void where pugilism once ruled the hearts of Americans, a peoples who will always be ready & waiting for that next, great boxer or match to light the marquee, if not the actual ring.

StevenKeys
StraightShooter
Posted: 8.29.17 @ 10:36pE, edit 9.1; Copyright © 2017
Photo credit: Floyd-Mayweather, 6.28.11, wc.cca, ChamberOfFear, thm; Floyd-Mayweather, wc.cca, thm, 6.29.11, DeWaltPower; Conor-McGregor, wc.cca, A.Petrucenia, thm, 3.30.15, London; Straight-Shooter-produce-label
Reference: thisdayinquotes.com, B.Deis, Reports of Mark Twain’s (5.31.15)

MMA17: In a Machiavellian Age, Hitting a Man When Down Is All Good Sport

29 Jun

Opposites in boxer Floyd Mayweather and MMA (UFC) man Conor McGregor have, through their agencies, now negotiated an attraction in (K) for a fight this summer to take place August 26th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Constituting the first high-stakes, trans-tactic fight, it’s a contest that supporters in the respective fan bodies are hoping its winner to settle the question they’ve wanted answered since the brutish, queer combo of kicks, canvas-clinches and blood-letting pummels was imported onto North American soil back in the 1990s. The query: Who are the best fighters on the Planet?

That said, even if this match of muscle does receive all proper sanction from relevant governing bodies (so many “bodies’) and does take place, its outcome is not likely to end the debate on which manner of fight is most champion.

For starters, Floyd Jr. is no spring chicken. Correction, Mayweather’s not young anymore. For a boxer he’s an old rooster: “Cock-a-doodle-do!”

The reigning WBA and WBC, undefeated welterweight champion (49-0) and Grand Rapids, Michigan native is in his 41 year (2.24.77) while McGregor, UFC lightweight champion (21-3) and product of Dublin, Ireland, is still priming and will turn 29 in July (7.14.88). Mayweather hasn’t fought since he went the distance (12) to defeat Andre Berto in a unanimous decision on September 12, 2015 at, where else, the MGM Grand in Paradise, Nevada.

Weigh-in would size the Irishman a bit bigger:

Mayweather: 5’8” -> high 150s -> 72 inch reach
McGregor: 5’9” -> high 150s -> 74 inch reach

More important than what would appear to be both an age (energy) and bulk advantage to the Islander is that the proposed combatants have been fighting in formats that’re quite different, one could say apples and oranges different.

— — —

I won’t beat around the bush, I like oranges & apples but I don’t like MMA.

Why? You can figure that yourself. Clearly, it’s the ugliest sort of competition. Rollerball has more style. If I wrote MMA had no sporting spirit, no dignity, would it make any difference?

Be that as it may, what I dislike more is unfairness. How noble, right? Wrong.

When you don’t have money, power or position but were blessed, or burdened, with a sense of empathy, fairness matters. And the word is, is that this fight format will be of a strictly boxing nature: No kick or grapple allowed. And that just doesn’t seem fair to the European.

No more fair than it’d be to ask Floyd to find a kicking game in prep and learn to subjegate long held habits like no-grapple nor canvas-attack.

But ‘Conor already knows how to hit with his hands,’ you say. Balderdash. Not like a top boxer he doesn’t, and not with those li’l hand-wraps. So why agree to fight in the first place? Biggest payday ever, over-confidence, I suspect.

The semi-incongruent state reminds me of the Kirk Douglas – Woody Strode gladiator fight in the first hour of Spartacus (1960), the original, as the combatants are armed with different weaponry, KD a stabbing-sword and hand-shield, WS a throw-net and trident. Though ostensibly equal in value, Woody’s weaponry proved the better but he honorably sparred the “Thracian dog” his death blow, then rushed Crassius before getting a javelin in his back and…well, lost his life in the brave attempt. Let’s just say, Olivier’s daggar-wielding character needed a splatter guard (ugh).

— — —

It’s been called MMA (mixed martial arts) since the 90s, more popularly known by its business acronym, UFC (ultimate fighting championship), owned by the investor group WME-IMG with its overseeing authority based in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas. It’s financial face is a man named Dana White, a CT-born boxer turned promoter / president. The female pull has been Ronda Rousey, a woman who doesn’t look the part but also doesn’t win much anymore, either.

Everyone should know how to physically defend themselves, a formal training probably best initiated in grade school. When cowards cheat (unawares, 2-to-1, etc.), results can get skewed, but no one should take a beating because they can’t muster the mind-set or the moves. And women in competitive fighting for profit (boxing / MMA), that’s just disturbing.

I call MMA a plague and a sure sign American culture is fast headed in the wrong direction, no matter which side of the political aisle you seat your keaster.

Of course, pugilism too can be a blood bath and on rare occasion deadly. For those who survive a career in the ring it is not uncommon after enduring years of body blows to then manifest the maladies that come with repetitive physical trauma soon into or before retirement (See; Requiem for a Heavyweight (62)).

But then there is something called assumption of risk.

Along with the waiver (AoR), the moral variety that both boxer and mixer grant upon entering their respective rings, are rules of civilized conduct, even in battle, that pugilists must honor. Chiefly among them are the Marquess of Queensberry (drafted by John Graham Chambers, London, 1865: mits, no grapple, 3-minute rounds, etc.) which set a standard of sportsmanship on the hue and cry of a sport crazed public that had grown angry with corruption, brutality and unfair practices coming to dominate the boxing show.

To some it was irony that John Douglas (MoQ), possessing a mixed reputation, some of its bad aspects undesevered by the ire he had raised in his secularist views and boxing advocacy, through the use of his name, would become the face, the sign of the progressive move towards civility in a sport that, up to the mid-1850s had been and would for years to come, remain quite brutish.

Other rules were incorporated in decades since MoQ took hold, most notably a return to neutral corner at knockdown, made common knowledge in Dempsey – Tunney II on September 22, 1927 at Soldier Field in Chicago when the challenger Jack failed to adhere to his own contracted term, resulting in a longer count for the floored champ Gene who arose to win the rematch on decision.

Do boxing’s rules ensure a fair competition, an honest result? Because of the sport’s checkered past, the fix will always come to mind if a decision appears seriously flawed, but when it’s not, I’d say for the most part, I think they do. The rules set a framework whereby good sport can be achieved. Better yet, nobody gets hit when he (she) is down for the count or in a clinch.

I‘ll be pulling for the man I believe will win the match, boxer Mayweather.

McGregor enters the fray with eyes wide open, mitigating the uneven skills issue. Maybe too wide. Youth gives Conor, presumably, edge on energy in a longer bout but also means the challenger has not realized the wisdom, in all its forms, that comes with age, evidenced sometimes by boyish, pre-fight bravado in mask of having begun to realize one’s bitten off more than one can easily chew.

And a win by Floyd might help slow the media monopolies ill-guided campaign to make MMA a family TV fixture, male teens, anyway. “Good grief.”

Steven Keys
MacroSport
Photo credit: macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc.cca, 2011; C.McGregor, wc, 3.30.15, London, A.Petrucenia; F.Mayweather, SanDiego, 8.21.10, Gen.T.Conant, Sgt.D.Gallagher, Cpl,S.Posy; Marquess-of-Queensberry, John-Douglas, wc, 1914, J.Long; blue-boxing image
Posted: 6.29.17 @ 1:50p, edit 7.2; Copyright © 2017
Reference (names / numbers): Wikipedia (UFC / MoQ)

ESPN17: Start Bailing ‘Little Buddy,’ This Skipper Can’t Steer a Ship Either

4 May

ESPN president and Disney Suit John Skipper would never be confused on sight with Alan Hale’s seafaring TV character of the 1960s shipwreck comedy, Gilligan’s Island (’64-67 CBS). Now “Thurston Howell III,” Jim Backus’ sarcastic and always well-attired millionaire on the high-traffic but officially deserted key, he might bear a slightly better resemblance, at least in trappings.

Hale Jr. (“Skipper”), the son and near image of his famous actor father (mother was silent star Gretchen Hartman) and namesake who teamed with many greats including Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (38) (“Little John”), played the perpetually frustrated captain with the half-dozen castaways and bore little physical likeness to the contemporary Cufflink and Columbia graduate.

But were you to compare the two on their judgment and disposition of respective charges (“S.S. Minnow” v. ESPN), “Mr. Howell” might very well say this of both leaders: ‘Now I say, Lovie, there are two men cut from the same cloth…burlap!’

Disney ≠ sports

Last week the Disney (ESPN) sports network made the real news page when they announced the firing of 100 or so employees, some of long standing like NFL reporter / insider, Ed Werder and anchor Jay Crawford.

You want details on the pink-slip parade? You’ll have to peruse the net yourself. I can’t afford the megabytes, not with usage rates soaring skyward (oy vey).

Suffice to write, if these terminations are consistent with the industry approach in recent years, most of the pinkees were male, white, older (35+) and performed their jobs with overall skill and dedication, i.e., too many college degrees for too few jobs and with too many niche markets to meet.

Do we care about the cut-down, even as sport fans? Hmmm, not really. Aside from the smidgen of camaraderie I feel for the majority in that I too am male, white, degreed and older, those fired should’ve seen this coming years ago and prepared accordingly with resume updates in phone #s and references.

This mass, forced exodus may be just one more phase in a pattern of ill-advised changes that’ve been steadily implemented since Skipper took to steering content calls in 2005. Though, in the case of fired NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, the former QB had not been the same since he seems to’ve taken that bad (saboteur-ish (?)) advice from “Kenny Mitchell” on the set to develop an edge (See; Rob Parker).

What the downsize does do is provide a sounding-board for this former Disney devotee to vent views on likely motivations behind the on-going chintzy changes being wrought by Skipper & Co. to the network’s motif & mission, and then the big markers along this sad journey that have turned what had been a sport fan dreamland (1979 – 2010) into a nightmare that seems to have no good end.

♫ Those Were The Days My Friend ♫

I was a regular of ESPN’s early entrée in the 1980s. I think those like me had grown up on ABC Wide World of Sport and figured this was the next best step.

Diversity in race, gender and games was absent in the anchorage and content in this Mercury stage of cable media, so to speak. But by Apollo phase (85 >) pay-load in variety had launched, hit pay-dirt ($) and has been in orbit ever since.

Bottom-line: Everybody was welcome. Male or female, black or white, young or old, USA-born or foreign, most viewers had a common thread running through their collective letter jacket: A sincere love of sport. We didn’t care if you were a purple octopus from Venus reading the copy, if you knew your stuff, we could tell and we watched. And if you didn’t, we could spot that too. But those fakes never showed up on the Sportscenter back then or were awful terrific actors.

If a fan of the American majors (MLB, NFL, etc.) and highlights, you were in clover. Sport news served piping hot, before poker (Zzzz), college aid (ESPNU), morning fashion plate, kid content (X Games), music promos, Sportscenter specialty segments and all those boorish talking heads. Had the foreign sporting fare been served up (soccer (fútbol), rugby, béisbol – 野球 – 야구), their fans too would be waxing sentimental and grinding their teeth over ESPN’s devolution.

And there was always the ticker at the bottom of the screen as your fall-back to get scores, sans the endless sabrmetric snooze for today‘s fantasy gambler.

For $12 a month, basic cable gave you a whole new world of information, not as broadly capable as the internet but less pricey and totally cool.

For news you got locals, networks and CNN Headline 24-7 with neutral anchors who just read the copy. For sport you got TBS (Braves), WGN (Cubs), USA network and Bristol-based ESPN: Also 24-7 with anchors in standard-issue blazers. Then came the acquisitions by ABC (‘84), Capital Cities Communications (‘85) and in 1996 the game-changer in The Walt Disney Company.

The anchor personalities were memorable (Tom Mees (d.1996) and Charley Steiner come to mind), all clear, often clever without being cute. There wasn’t a clunker among ‘em. The savvy Linda Cohn and Bob Ley are the two remaining but most moved on to greener pastures ($) only to fall off the map, so to speak.

And now it’s all gone, gone with the wind in Turner vernacular.

Youthenization

In the 90s began the serious expansion and then dilution of the ESPN product.

First came ESPN Radio (‘92), ESPN2 (93), ESPY nite (Only SAG name is worse) and then the X Games (95), the start of a youthenization that’s swept the TV dial (Expect a “Harry Potter” marathon on TCM in the not too distant future) and all consumerland (See; Honda Civic). All reasonable enough ventures but started a process of change that’s become OCD with the Suits & Skirts in charge.

With Disney’s stewardship an arrogant air began to permeate the place. Contra-indicated, given the history of Walt‘s baby, but this wasn‘t your father’s Disney.

Media high-hats arrived like Tony Kornheiser, Stephen Smith, Skip Bayless, most on the Sports Reporters not named Dick Shaap or John Saunders, radio Colin Cowherd, onliner Bill Simmons, host Trey Wingo and former jocks in Marcellus Wiley, Tedy Bruschi and Mark Schlereth, all displaying to differing degrees, that boyish bravado to stoke confrontation and then have come to define the new ESPN gestalt: Edgy and most often annoying as hell, for sport fans, anyway.

Once at the content wheel, John put his Disney-sized staple-remover to work.

Out went trusty ESPN News (b.96), bread & butter for the sport junkie.

SportsCentury, the hour-long documentaries hosted by Chris Fowler, before he took residence in the weight room, that did more for sport and history than anything Ken Burns ever did (or likely will), was given the boot in 2007.

Pulled from premium, mid-level satellite – cable package was ESPN Classic where light-hearted (Cheap Seats) and thought-provoking diversions (Woody’s World), made with equal parts of insight and comedy, were showcased.

And due to the network coined ‘instant classic’ phrase, any game, even from the nite before, qualified as vintage, meaning, Howe v. Hull, Lasorda v. Herzog, Bird v. Magic, Marino v. Kelly, were permanently shelved as pre-historic.

Then came the clearest sign that Disney no longer had any interest whatsoever in keeping up the pretense that their ESPN property was a sports network.

Even as 1st and 10 had became the most highly anticipated daily sport debate in all of American media (2003-11), sometimes as a segment (Cold Pizza / First Take (AM gab-fest format)), later stand-alone but always diverse, Skipper pulled the plug and replaced it with a niche-market sabrmetric / diversity combo show called Numbers Never Lie, then His & Hers. Perfect.

I don’t watch much Disney (ESPN) anymore. I’d suspect not many sport fans do (unless an engineer or heart surgeon, “numbers (can) lie” plenty). Why go where you’re not welcome, especially when the time allotted for real sport news is thinner than the newest female anchor?

Who’s likely to watch the “leader” in sport coverage nowadays?

1) College females and family with a connection to Title IX;
2) College males and young brothers with fantasy play lineups;
3) Foreign-born citizens and residents (ESPN Deportes 2004);
3) NBA followers; and
4) NFL fans who have by August developed a ravenous appetite for anything football. The exits of the too comfortable Tom Jackson – Chris Berman can only fuel the hunger to feast whatever‘s put onto the plate.

Cohn spoke recently about the firings, stating that she believes “politics” played a role in the employee upheaval. That’s very likely but something long standing, more deeply engrained in the Disney dynamic is really at its root.

Youthful whimsy in cartoon defined the Disney company Walt and his brother Roy began in 1923 Los Angeles. That core purpose in selling to children and adult sentimentalities to that end has remained the focus in today’s diversified media and entertainment giant. Modern empire-builders, the Disneys understood the emerging, malleable market that were Amercia’s youth (plus their giving parents) and designed a template for success that worked as a sort of incubator of early youthenization marketing which John has simply carried over to the ESPNs.

Even as yesteryear’s cartoons and theme-park pirate patches have been replaced on the network with slinky club-wear, rap music motifs, fantasy-driven stat-parades and ESPN phone-apps, the goal remains the same: Selling to kids.

What’s good for the Donald has not always been what’s good for the Daisy.

Most perplexing in John Skipper’s management of the ESPN monopoly is that in its multitude of channel options, sufficient to cater to all their target markets in kids, females, foreign fare and angry men (radio), he could’ve quite easily stayed connected to the substantive news format on one of those channels to retain the base viewership that had always been the network’s real sustenance.

But when a better, more sport-centric, likely more popular product is juxtaposed along-side a channel that runs so much niche stuff or downright gobbledygook, that arrangement can make programmers, not necessarily prospective viewers, very uncomfortable for having slotted the ephemera in the first place.

Me and my ilk departed from ESPN Islands long ago. There’s a free charter on the south end with weather updates on the hour. It’ll take you anywhere you want. All you need to board is a suitcase full o’ frustration and a love of sport.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: TheWaltDisneyCompany, wordmark, wc.cca; A.Hale.Jr., 9.12.66, wc, GilligansIsland, CBS; ESPN, wc, word mark; ESPN2, wc, word mark; ESPN, wc, 2.26.10, Jaworski, Wingo, Schlereth, Bruschi, J.Kern; ESPN-studio, wc, Jkinsocal, Bristol-CT, 2.2.13; StraightShooter, citrus.fruit-label
Posted: 5.4.17 @ 12:28am EST, edit 5.4; Copyright © 2017

MLB17: Cubs Atop, Everything Old Is New Again, Even 19c. Championships, SABR-Snobs

9 Mar

Set to defend their first MLB title since 1908, the Chicago Cubs have stepped off cloud nine and back onto terra firma to begin their quest for a 2nd title-in-tandem (1907-08) by taking to spring training in their longtime Arizona locale.

Success has a way of opening passage ways in the mind heretofore unexplored and the Cubs brains must be booty-laden with new discoveries. Not likely, though, that franchise history is big on their brains, not since their World Series win over the Indians (4-3) and subsequent victory parade that wove its way through the Windy City last November.

What else is not on the Cubs’ brains is pre-season predictions.

Spring training will trigger in the mind of baseball writers a slew of topics to typically include new roster additions, departures and the all important pitching rotation with ancillary arms in relief included.

To those media who matriculate in the sabrmetric school, the last degrees of winter and early buds of spring will always lead to, ta-da, the ranking, i.e., ‘Who‘s #1?’ It’s click-bait and best served when the entrée has cooled down (all-time greats) and won’t burn the palate with rank predictions.

Almost any other March in any other year the question of who is baseball’s pre-season best would be a small curiosity.

But if you have to ask ‘who’ in this particular spring (See; Cubs), even in rhetoric, you may be better suited to the mock draft department, all leagues and associations, where the minutia of musings on the ephemeralia of college hopefuls never ends, if you can find a seat. Crowded in there.

It can’t be denied that the legion of Bruins fans numbering more than the ancient Roman and Yankees empires combined, coupled with story-driven media, will be, on regular occasion, reveling this season in that long, glorious Cubs chronicle of great teams and players, right up until the present version take to the post-season in hunt for that dynasty-affirming, fairly elusive, back-to-back World Series win (See; SF, LAA, LAD, KC, PIT, MIN, CHW, STL, BAL, etc.).

The Cubbies have hit, pitched, fielded and run those bases all the way back to elite status, making it entirely appropriate now to take those moth-balled memories, some sweet, some bitter, out of storage to put on display to keep reminding us from where we came and then where we hope to go.

William Hulbert

Feeling Western baseball was getting the high-hat treatment from Eastern snobs, Chicagoan William Hulbert (1832 – 82) founded and, after its initial campaign (1876), assumed presidency of both the White Stockings (Cubs) and the National League, holding the fledgling 8-team organization together through its toughest times in bravely tackling issues in game-fixing and scheduling indifference by banishing offenders, and corralling destabilizing players on the money chase in instituting movement restrictions, i.e., the first reserve clause.

1876 – 77 White Stockings: The first MLB championship

Al Spalding
Deacon White
Ross Barnes
Cal McVey

Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson (1B – Mgr, 1876 – 96)

When recounting the history of the National League Chicago baseball club (1876), first known as the White Stockings, then Colts, Orphans and today’s Cubs, or for that matter the chronicle of major league baseball itself, it begins with Adrian “Cap” Anson, the profession’s early notable batsman, manager and personality. His numbers, no matter disingenuous efforts by contemporary sabrmetric tinkers & twiddlers to deplete, do remain, as his tenure (1871 – 1898), stellar benchmarks (1939 (HoF)) for baseball hopefuls.

Noteworthy in Anson’s career is having managed the Stocks to five (5) championships in seven seasons (1880-86), the major’s first dynasty. That’s championships, NOT pennants, for where there’s one pennant-winner in a season there necessarily must be an opposite organization with their own flag-waver, both of whom meet in an official, culminatory contest. And when a team does all that the schedule permits, even with no money-grab playoff or opposite League face-off (which is no perfect test, anyway (See; Cubs 1906 & Pats 2007-08)), and compiles the best record of the assemblage (8), THAT is a championship as worthy as any World Series won in 2017.

Those achievements would tarnish after his death (1922) as Cap’s role in setting the color barrier, in particular the ban of Fleet Walker, the first American black player to roster in the majors (Toledo 1883-84). Though his stance is of record, Anson’s impact is much debated. Of no debate is that no Caucasian of note, in sport or politics, called to break the ban until Mr. Rickey, testament that we are a product of our times. Do we then strike all names from MLB annals pre-1947? What thinkers had done since Gutenberg’s press was to balance the good against bad, expecting that Anson today would regret his greed. And given that the mass of sport media in 2017 would enshrine misdeeders Clemens & Bonds if given the chance, striking such a balance should come easy.

1880 – 86 Stocks: Five (5) championships, three in-a-row

Larry Corcoran
Fred Goldsmith
Michael “King” Kelly
Frank Gore
Abner Dalrymple
Tommy Burns –
Ned Williamson
John Clarkson

1890 – 1900 Colts – Orphans

Clark Griffith
Bill Hutchinson

Frank Selee (Mgr. 1902-05 (d.1909))

Former Braves championship manager (x5) shaped the Cubs’ roster that would, under Frank Chance’s leadership, gel into the greatest team in baseball history.

1906 – 1910 Cubs: Four pennants, back-to-back WS titles (1907-08), the Merkle Boner game (9.23.08), its resulting tie-breaker playoff at hostile Polo Grounds (10.8) taken by the Bruins (4-2) and “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (Franklin P. Adams)” in Tinker to Evers to Chance (’10) 

Joe Tinker
Johnny Evers
Frank Chance
Jack Taylor
Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown
Orval Overall
Ed Ruelbach
Frank “Wildfire” Schulte (.994 outfield 1908)
Heinie Zimmerman (triple-crown winner)
Harry Steinfeldt (3B) & Jim Sheckard (46 sacrifices ’09)
Johnny Kling (catcher)
Carl Lundgren
Jack Pfiester, King Cole & outfielder Jack McCarthy who in facing the Pirates on 4.26.05, threw-out three baserunners at homeplate to set a major-league mark.

1914 – 15: Chas. Weeghman Park (Wrigley) opens – Whales (Federal)

1918 NL Pennant (L v. Boston (4-2))

Though falling to the Speaker – Ruth – Red Sox, the Bruins scored more runs and fashioned a lower team ERA than the Beaneaters.

Hippo Vaughn
Claude Hendrix
Lefty Tyler
Charlie Hollocher
Fred Merkle
Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander (1918-25)

1921 – 22: Bill Wrigley acquires majority holding in the Cubs while in 1922 first-bagger Ray Grimes sets the consecutive-game RBI streak at 17 and selective batsman Charles Hollocher whiffs a mere five (5) times in 592 at-bats.

1929 – 1945: Pennants (5), Hack-Attack and Ruth’s called shot (‘32 WS)

Joe McCarthy (Mgr. 1929 WS)
Charlie Root
Kiki Cuyler
Rogers Hornsby
Hack Wilson (191 RBI in 1930)
Lon Warneke
Charlie Grimm (player-Mgr. 1932, 35, 38 (H) & 45; ashes on Wrigley (83))
Billy Herman
Dizzy Dean
Bill Lee
Claude Passeau
Stan Hack
Bill Nicholson
Phil Cavarretta
Andy Pafko

Gabby Hartnett
Mgr. – player 1938 World Series: “Homer in the Gloamin’”

With the 1938 season closing and Pirates clinging to 1st place, the leaders headed to neck-breather Chicago for a key 3-game clash where catcher Charles “Gabby” Hartnett won G2 on a thrill by clouting a 9th inning tator at twilight (gloaming (Scottish)), inspiring his Cubs to sweep that series and St. Louis to grab the flag. Sadly for the Faithful, inspiration waned as the Yanks swept Chicago in four.

1950s Lean Years

Hank Sauer (MVP 1952)
Ernie Banks (MVP 1958-59)

I met the great Ernie Banks in his baseball gloaming, aka, twilight (Are you paying attention?), in the summer of 1971, not long after he’d retired from the game and was holding a signing for his new book titled, Mr. Cub, on the sidewalk outside a store in my suburban Chicago town of Glencoe. My parents provided well for me and my five siblings, always top Christmas and birthday gifts, but getting a toy or $15 (?) book on short notice off-holiday was out of the question. I’d eventually get Ernie’s book, still have it, but not until the next year. So, I being 9 yrs old, wanting his autograph, a bit bold but lacking in full discretion, asked Banks for his signature on my Mickey Mantle Rawlings® ball glove. The legend obliged, sans that signature smile. But I, not satisfied (‘Hey, hey, let’s (get) two!’), put an ever-so-small piece of paper no bigger than a JFK 50 cent piece, onto the table for another mark. Well, Ernie Banks was not pleased, not pleased at all. But I was pleased as punch and skedaddled home. I lost that scrap signature but still will with regularity gaze and smile upon the Mantle glove with Banks name in green-felt pen. Thanks, Mr. Cub.

Ken Hubbs Cut Short

Were he alive today he’d be 75 (12.23.41), but promising young 2nd bagger Ken Hubbs, whose slick field and capable bat won him a gold glove and 1962 ROY honors, along with his small aircraft passenger Dennis Doyle, both tragically died in plane crash near Provo, Utah on February 13, 1964 enroute to Doyle’s home and wife who’d recently given birth, in Colton, California.

Durocher’s Revival (1965 – 72)

Leo “The Lip,” who’d rostered with Murderers’ Row (‘28-9), Gashouse Gang (34), guided the Bums to a flag (41), Giants to glory (54) and then returned the sorry Cubs back to respectability, takes most the flak for their late season swoon in 1969 when their All-Star laden squad appeared headed to their first World Series in almost a quarter century. And poppycock to that. Durocher gets his share, of course, but cry-babies and clueless vets must bear most the burden for the old man. Those of us who remember (I was just a gerbil then, but I do recall Gramps telling me, ‘Hey Steve, Kessinger went 4-for-4 yesterday!) point no fingers but form a half-smile at what might’ve been and the joy that was.

Ernie Banks
Billy Williams
Fergie Jenkins
Ron Santo
Don Kessinger
Glenn Beckert
Randy Hundley
Don Young
Bill Hands
Ken Holtzman
Phil Regan
Ted Abernathy
Jim Hickman
Dick Selma

1970s Malaise

Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock: BA titles 1975-76
Rick “Bid Daddy” Reuschel: 1973-81, 83-84

1981: Tribune Company buys Cubs

Dallas Green Unstitches ‘Loser’ Tag

It seemed to come outta’ nowhere, the super and ultimately sad season of 1984. If ‘Big Brother’ was watching he must’ve had a good laugh on us Chicago Cubs fans, with unexpected help from corporate Commissioner and Evanston native, Peter Ueberroth who saw fit to give 2nd best NL record-holders but nite-game capable, the San Diego Padres, home field which proved decisive in the short series (3-2). The Cubs were sunshine supermen in G1 (13-0) and G2 (4-2), then should-be HOF’er Steve Garvey and electee (07), Tony Gwynn took control for San Diego, frustrating the Northsiders and their fans once more.

Jim Frey
Don Zimmer
Harry Caray & Steve Stone
Ryne Sandburg
Rick Sutcliffe
Leon Durham
Thad Bosley
Greg Maddux
Bob Dernier
Ron Cey
Henry Cotto
Gary Matthews
Lee Smith
Tim Stoddard
Steve Trout
Larry Bowa
Dennis Eckersley
Richie Hebner
Jody Davis, ♫ catcher without a peer (H.Caray) ♫

1989 NLCS (L 4-1 v. SF)

Don Zimmer
Ryne Sandberg
Andre Dawson
Shawon Dunston
Lloyd McClendon
Mark Grace
Greg Maddux
Jerome Walton
Dwight Smith
Mitch Webster
Rick Sutcliffe
Mike Bielecki
Scott Sanderson
Mitch Williams

1998 NLDS (L 3-0 v. ATL), Mgr. Jim Riggleman

2003 NLCS (L 4-3 v. FLA)

Call it reasonable fan interference, meaning, Steve Bartman wasn’t obliged to remain seated with 1) real chance of being hit by a foul ball, and 2) expectation no Cubs player could’ve snagged it. As such, no ejection. But because Alou did have a chance to grab the wall-straddling foul-ball, hence his protest, umpires were obliged to call fan interference yet cowered from their duty in not charging the out to eventual rally team, Florida. But Cubs were 88-74 in 2003, making fans unbridled expectations unreasonable and the outcome digestible.

Dusty Baker
Sammy Sosa
Moises Alou
Mark Grudzielanek
Corey Patterson
Alex Gonzalez
Kenny Lofton
Mark Prior
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano
Matt Clement
Joe Borowski
Aramis Ramirez
Kyle Farnsworth
Mike Remlinger

The Piniella Years

2007 NLDS (L 3-0 v. AZ)
2008 NLDS (L 3-0 v. LA)

The Ricketts (09) – EpsteinMaddon Years

2015 NLCS (L 4-0 v. STL)
2016 WS (W 4-3 v. Indians)

Dallas had a certain touch in managing (PHI ‘80 WS) and generaling (CHC ‘84, 89), but Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon have a clobber between ‘em, like in that Weavers’ song ( If I had a hammer…), forging winners like a blacksmith did a wheel frame for proper strength and balance in the long journey. Yee-hah!

Joe Maddon
Anthony Rizzo
Dexter Fowler
Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Travis Wood
Ben Zobrist
Hector Rondon
Addison Russell
Trevor Cahill
Javier Baez
Kris Bryant
Jason Hammel
Aroldis Chapman
John Lackey
Jake Arrieta

Play ball!

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credits: Cubs-logo,1914, Wjmummert, wc.cca; E.Banks, Bowman, 1955, wc; K.Bryant, wc, 7.9.14, M.Haas; W.Hulbert, NYPL, wc; Chicago-White-Stockings, 1885, wc; Cubs, 1906, wc, BPL; G.Hartnett, Goudey, 1933, wc; GlennBeckert, wc, 1967, TSN; H.Mason-D.Green, SABRO, wc, 8.1.09; can-of-corn
Posted: 3.9.17 @ 11:10am EST, adds 3.10, 6.20, 10.12; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Conference Cherry Picks: Top Dogs Hunting & Halasing on Way to Houston

17 Jan

If the Pittsburgh Steelers chatty guru Mike Tomlin is a “cheerleader” coach as one sport personality recently opinionated, then all I’ve got to say (write) is this:

Give me a W!
Give me an I!
Give me an N!
Give me another N!
Give me… … you get the picture. Mike’s a winner.

tomlin-wc-m-rooney-9-16-07-405kWhether he’s a skilled tactician in offensive (Sid Gillman) or defensive (Bud Ryan) scheme or a leader who prefers delegating those duties to specialize in the emotional game (rah-rah), Mike wins alot, regular (.644), post (.615) and is 1-1 in Supers. Tomlin & team went through a rough playoff patch in recent period (2012 – 2016 (1-3)) where Steelers went one n’ done, twice, then lost in 2016 divisional.

But Pittsburgh is 2-0 in their march on Houston (SB51), prevailing over a slightly off-center Miami club who were without starter Tannehill, and then Sunday won a gutsy road game over a scoring-lite Chiefs who’re back to the drawing board.

Tomlin is a bit off-center himself, showing poor judgment in the nationally-televised 2013 Thanksgiving contest in Baltimore, stepping into the pathway of Ravens return-man in a clear effort to disruption, hence the whopping $100G fine. More recently Mike was recorded making crude reference to his next week’s Conference title opponent, the Patriots. Stay classy, MT. Ugh.

halas-1922-wc-therakishfellow-188kThere’s been speculation that former Steelers Super Bowl QB and present Fox analyst, Terry Bradshaw and his curiously-timed critique of Tomlin, just prior to playoffs, was more than simple opinionating but instead intended to stoke the fires of Steel City players, a crew that’s been fizzling out early in recent playoff ventures.

Whether staged or sincere, Bradshaw’s statement on Tomlin’s coaching style seems to have had no negative impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers championship run, one that looks to be unified and motivated to the gills, a necessary group mental state given that their next destination has been most typically an opponent’s graveyard-of-dreams in Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts.

cherries-ripe-chirak-wc-605k-6-24-7

Conference Cherry Picks 2017: Crème de la crème

Packers (12-6) @ Atlanta (12-5): 1.22 Fox 3:05 EST (Halas Trophy)

Conference play presents the best in competition as none of four remaining teams is a pretender. Nobody gets this far on smoke & mirrors. Experience over exuberance is how GB got back to the NFCC (2012). A-Birds punched their return ticket (2013 (Smith)) by topping the same Seattle and being the most offensively juggernautious team in NFL16, ranked #2 in YGPG, #1 in points scored and led by MVP-caliber Matt Ryan. Packers ranked at #8 / 4 and were rising at W17. For most of his coach career (1994 W&M), Falcons Dan Quinn has been a defensive specialist but that skill has not been apparent in Atlanta with poor 2016 team ranks indicate (#25 / 27). Lucky for the hosts, Packers didn’t fare much better on the D-side (#22 / 21), a group that nearly served up a Cheese-Melt II (See; Seattle 2015) in the Dallas divisional game. I like Falcons’ resolve: Behind early to the Seahawks (0-7), roar back with a killer 2Q (19), maintain matriculation and the D bolts it down (2H-10p). Kicker Crosby was cool late for GB (2-50+) but A-Birds Bryant (K) & Bosher (P) are toppers too. Clubs are very comparable, as it should be, except Atlanta’s run game is more est’d, and then they’ll be Benzing…the dome, not the hydrocarbon. Pack should’ve gotten hot earlier. Falcons win.

afc-hunt-trophy-a-kirk-wc-2-4m

Steelers (13-5) @ New England (15-2): CBS 6:40 (Hunt Trophy)

Media pounced on New England who lost but one quarter ((2) 10-3) to offensively tepid and defensively cranky Texans (34-16). Only surprise is that Brady’s O-mates failed to pounce on the QB’s crank (Clowney). Not in their job description (ugh)? Tom’s 2 INTs of tipped variety. Pitt had tougher time in KC but like Falcons, showed resolve. Must go back to ‘05 for Pittsburgh’s last AFCC visit to Foxborough, a 41-27 loss. Cowher’s out and Big Ben wants to forget (3 INT). Comparable clubs, too, on both O-side (NE: #4 / 3 – PIT: #7 / 10) and the stoppage (NE: #8 / 1; PIT: #12 / 9). Steelers #1 horse is clear (Bell) but I wonder why Blount (8c (HOU)), Pats proven gainer, fell to #2 behind Lewis (13c)? Pressure on the QB sets the tone: Pats OL is a wall (24sk (HOU 2)), Pitt’s is a bigger one (21 (KC 1)). Putting on pressure, both were…capable, Steelers made 38 sacks (1 KC), New England 34 (3 HOU). Weather folk see Sunday in Boston metro as 42°, clouds and no flakes, not from above, anyway (See; Mike). If not the AP-MVP, Tom should have shot at the Super variety. Patriots win.

Record: 85 – 93 – 3

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject; MikeTomlin, wc.cca, M.Rooney, 9.16.07; GeorgeHalas, 1922, wc.cca, therakishfellow; cherries-ripe, wc.cca, 6.24.07, Chirak; AFCC-LamarHunt-trophy, wc.cca, A.Kirk;
Posted: 1.17.17 @ 11:37am, edit 7:59 EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 Cherry Picks W17: MVP Field Is Fat But Houseman Meter Says Brady Ain’t In It

27 Dec

Even as New England Patriots starry signal-caller Tom Brady, on a brilliant but semi-season (12g), may win the MVP on the anti-Goodell vote, a group not dissimilar to that which decided Election 2016, Brady nevertheless must be ineligible, opening the door to the widest field of candidates in years, winner who won’t be clear until the regular season is in the books. With Falcons’ Matt Ryan frontrunner entering final Week 17, its match-ups bearing on this rank, player and to a smaller degree team performance will decide the winner, making the baker’s dozen below as tight a pack as a Friday afternoon subway.

Top contenders for NFL 2016 MVP:

1. Matt Ryan
2. David Johnson
3. Landon Collins
4. Dak Prescott
5. Ezekiel Elliott
6. Alec Ogletree
9. Kwon Alexander
10. Le’Veon Bell
11. Aaron Rodgers
12. Bobby Wagner
13. Justin Tucker

— — —

The football MVP might just be an award more valuable than a championship ring, at least Cam Newton and Rich Gannon hope so.

The biggest personal prize in professional football this side of the 49th parallel is about momentum, early on (W5 >), on-going (consistency) and uninterrupted.

ryan-m-10-19-14-k-allison-702kWith one more game remaining for all 32 in NFL 2016, one more chance for players with MVP aspirations to prove their worth in the eyes of the Associated Press, the obscure but finely calibrated John Houseman MVP Meter is presently pointing to Matt Ryan as the most valuable and deserving player for the coveted prize.

Be aware, this meter gauges the player who most deserves to win the MVP, not the man who ultimately receives the most AP votes and then the hardware.

Wondering, as you should, what is the Houseman MVP Meter?

John Houseman (1902-88) was a noted producer of theater (Federal / Mercury) and then films who later in life became an actor of note in supporting roles in such movies as The Paper Chase (73 (Oscar®)), Three Days of the Condor and the classic sporting flick, the original Rollerball (75). But he may be best remembered for his Smith Barney TV ads uttering in his distinctive high-hat voice, “They earn money the old-fashioned way, they eaaaaaarn it.” Get it?

— — —

The time of announcing the MVP winner should change.

In recent years, the NFL – NFLPA decided it’d be cute to announce MVP winner at a ceremony the nite just prior to playing the Big Game (SB), someone I expect who has no real knowledge of athletics or interest therein. For if they did, they’d know that receiving word of having won what is admittedly a terrific recognition, is about the LAST thing a player, his coaches & teammates, want (or need) to hear < 24 hours before suiting-up for the biggest game of their lives.

Think Cam Newton needed to know he was voted League’s top player in 2015 the nite before kickoff? I doubt it (See; SB50).

— — —

Who Won’t Win

ogletree-wc-8-15-13-johnmaxmena2-119kDefenders

The AP – MVP awarding is, of course, a flawed process, not unlike the Heisman awarding for the supposed best player in a collegiate season. One defender has taken the college equivalent to MVP in its 83 years in Michigan’s Charles Woodson (DB / 97), two NFL defenders winning MVP in Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, Alan Page, as member of the vaunted Vikings’ Purple People Eaters (71) and Giants’ game-change linebacker in Lawrence Taylor (86).

As in most years, a defender will not win the MVP. Not because Landon Collins, Alec Ogletree & Kwon Alexander don’t deserve it, quite the contrary. When the fat field of contenders is assessed with a football savvy mind, tacklers rank high. And with no clear-cut offensive frontrunner this season, a defender should rate high. But AP voters, like most sport observers, think they understand offense best and can’t get enough (sticky-gloves), on field or off (MVP).

Receivers

2016 Toppers like Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, they’ve gotta’ have well over 1500 yards gained in reception, along with 20+ TDs just to be considered. No qualifiers this year.

INT quarterbacks

Big Ben, Luck, Brees (71.C%), Jameis & Eli have too many INTs, i.e., mistakes. Hit the high-40s in TD passes and double-digit INTs won’t weigh so heavy, a huge toss total none of the above mentioned have approached in 2016. In fairness to field generals, until NFL starts judging INTs with an eye for accuracy, detracting deflected-pass INTs from QB tallies, we can’t know for certain exactly how many true interceptions signal-callers actually threw in a season.

Who May Win

Running backs

The last to haul in the AP was…AP, Adrian Peterson in 2012. If he’s the standard, your team need not win their division (NFCN – GB), you need not score a ton (13 TD) nor forge top receiving stats (40 – 217). But pass that 2000 rush barrier (2097) and get good mojo going with media (and blogisphere (moi)) around mid-season and you’ve got a serious shot at the MVP sans a blazing QB.

1. David Johnson (Cardinals): 1233y – 16.TD (run) // 77 – 841y – 4 (rec)
2. Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys): 1631 – 15 // 32 – 363 – 1 (ROY)
3. Le’Veon Bell (Steelers): 1268 – 7 // 75 – 616 – 1

brady-11-29-15-wc-j-beall-2-45mQuarterbacks

Firstly, Tom Brady does NOT qualify for the 2016 MVP. Derek Carr doesn‘t either, going out in W16 with injury, but he’s closer than Tom.

Tom’s terrific but missed one-quarter of the season due to his Deflategate suspension. That’s weighty. Knowingly choose to destroy a phone in an inquiry and you’ll suffer consequences that celebrity won’t deflect.

And if you think the late start somehow worked a burden which TB’s fine play overcame and then now deserves some reward, you can throw that cockamamie theory in the trash with all that Xmas wrapping.

I like Brady. He’s a champion, looks un-enhanced by weight room residency or PEDs and when he speaks, people listen because he thinks about what he says. You won’t hear words like “poopfest” coming from Tom, not publicly, anyway. And it’s that thinking that’s made him maybe the greatest pro QB ever.

But the 2-time winner does…not…qualify. Period.

When Brady receives votes for the award, and he will, those casting will likely have done so, not because they really believe Tom to be 2016’s most valuable man, but instead as pay-back of sorts to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who ultimatley approved the QB’s Deflategate suspension. But one who thinks it better to show-up Goodell for meting out discipline than to vote with sincerity should not have that vote to cast in the first place. Period.

No Tom in the pool, no problem. It’s a QB league and there are plenty of MVP-caliber quarterbacks in 2016 to fill the bill without working pay-back (See; top).

The QB standard

1) TD-ratio
2) W-L (QB League)
3) Completion %
4) yards-per-pass (ypp), and
5) GWD (CC: clutch & composure)

As nearly every starting quarterback today will, with relative ease, surpass the 3000 yard passing mark, that category’s of lesser importance in MVP think.

Unlike the 1960s – 80s where completion percentages (%), even with great QBs like Bart Starr and Roger Staubach, were often in the mid-50s, in the 2000s the MVP-caliber quarterback should be well over the 60.C% mark.

1. Matt Ryan; 34-7, C% 69.5, 10-5, 9.3, 2gwd
2. Dak Prescott: 23-4, 68, 13-2, 8.0, 5gwd
3. Aaron Rodgers: 36-7, 65.5, 9-6, 7.2, 2.gwd
4. Derek Carr: 28-6, 63.7, 12-3, 7.0, 7gwd
5. Matt Stafford: 22-9, 66.1, 9-6, 7.2, 8 (4Q) gwd

Who Will Win?

Not the reigning MVP. Cats’ Cam Newton, for whatever reason (Super pout or strains of fatherhood?), has probably performed more poorly in defense of the prize than any prior (QB) winner since Brian Sipe in 1980, and, like Camster, proceeded to end his season too with a disastrous post-season game versus Tom Flores Raiders when Sipe went 13-40 with 3 INTs in the loss (Plunkett: 14-30, 2 INT). 2016 Newton: 6-6, 54.C%, 17-9, 7.1 (ypp); Sipe: 5-11, 55.C%, 17-25, 6.8.

It’s a tight race so this final slate of game is crucial for all the candidates.

Rivalry match-ups are in store, most of which could decide the outcome and then be fairly termed as ‘the MVP game.’

New Orleans @ Atlanta (Ryan)
Green Bay (Rodgers) @ Detroit (Stafford)
Dallas (Prescott & Elliott) @ Philadelphia
Arizona (Johnson) @ Los Angeles
Giants (Collins) @ Redskins

Of course, New England @ Miami, a GTW no doubt, is not listed.

Tom Brady would be eligible for the Super MVP if Patriots make it that far. But while Brady is ineligible for the regular MVP, fairness & logic are not always in play for voters, as Tom knows full well. If he performs in Miami, expect the junior-media element in the AP (anti-Goodell) to swing the vote, the trophy and the annoying night-before-the-Super-Bowl phone call, Tom’s way.

Ezekiel Elliott is having a tremendous rookie review but his scoring and multi-facet skill-set falls just short of Johnson’s.

Matt Stafford & Derek Carr’s GWD tallies are super but both relied more heavily on the short pass (7-7.3 ypp), an MVP detractor. It’s a measure which should boost ranking of the other resplendent Dallas rookie in Dak Prescott who’s been very careful with the ball (4 INT) in Ted Bridgewater fashion but unfortunately looked very average in Cowboys’ losses and a few wins, as well.

And Aaron Rodgers, already a vested member of the MVP Club (‘11 / 14), he played pedestrian in clutch time in season’s first half and didn’t get on radar soon enough to build sufficient voter support, especially when Tom is in the mix with many. And Rodgers’ 7.2 ypp , that’s junior league for a quarterback in his class. But there is the Favre Factor (Packer power in the press since 1992) and if Pack pound the Lions, Aaron could steal the trophy.

Who Should Win?

See above list and final game performances. Falcons’ Matt Ryan should take the trophy with strong final show against arch-rival Saints but New Orleans has been playing like contenders this second-half and might derail the Ryan Express, opening the door to the next in line (Johnson), and so on and so forth.

cherries-cloth-picdrome-6-2011-thmCherry Picks Week 17

Texans (9-6) @ Titans (8-7): 1.1 CBS 1:00: Titans win
Carolina (6-9) @ Tampa (8-7): Fox 1:00: Panthers win
Cowboys (13-2) @ Eagles (6-9): Fox 1:00: Philly wins
New England (13-2) @ Miami Dolphins (10-5) GTW: CBS 1:00: Patriots win
Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) @ San Diego Chargers (5-10): 4:25 CBS: Bolts win
Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-11): 4:25 Fox: Cards win
Oakland Raiders (12-3) @ DenverBroncos (8-7): 4:25 CBS: Broncos win
New York (10-5) @ Washington Redskins (8-6-1) GTW: 4:25 Fox: Giants win
New Orleans (7-8) @ Atlanta Falcons (10-5) GTW: 4:25 Fox: Falcons win
Green Bay Packers (9-6) @ Detroit Lions (9-6) GTW: NBC 8:30: Lions win

Record: 73 -88 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-MVP-trophy, wc.cca, 6.23.13, Teo’s89; M.Ryan, wc, K.Allison, 10.19.14; A.Ogletree, wc, Johnmaxmena2, 8.15.13; T.Brady, 11.29.15, J.Beall; cherries-cloth, picdrome, wc, 6.2011; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.27.16 @ 2:42pm, edit 6:06 EST; Copyright © 2016