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MLB18 Chin Music: Baines Just Latest Cooperstown Confection In Hall of Good & Plenty

24 Dec

Journalist and junior-media alike expressed great bewilderment last week upon hearing the annoucement that long-time Chicago White Sox’ batsman Harold Baines had been elected to the 2019 baseball Hall of Fame class of induction.

But to this fan, it was the sizable squawk that proved positively bewildering.

Created in 1936 in central New York State in a town founded in 1786 by William Cooper, father of famed author James Fenimore Cooper, the Cooperstown HOF has had an open-door policy on enshrinement for quite some time now.

When names like Ryne Sandberg, Mike Piazza, Bert Blyleven, Orlando Cepeda, Barry Larkin and John Smoltz get in without nary a squawk, even as Curt Schilling and Fred McGriff get a collective cold shoulder, you have to feel the HOF door has been propped wide open, letting in good but less-than-great ballplayers to keep the fun times rolling (promotions, parades, etc.).

For the past 20 years, the typical inductee has been a guy who had great moments, even a great year, but didn’t inspire thoughts of greatness during their lengthy careers, except amongst kids and sabrmetrically-inclined who always seem to think their heroes can walk on water.

Named on less than 5% of writer ballots in his last year of eligibility (2011), Harold was elected instead by the Veterans Committee based, I believe, on these career batting numbers (rank in brackets): In 22 seasons with five teams, 2866 hits (46), 1628 RBI (34), 1299 runs (128), 384 HR (65), .289 BA (T-408), 6-time All-Star, led AL one-time in one category (SLG%-84) and in 31 post-season games hit .324 with 16 RBI, 5 HR and 14 runs. All good, but great? I guess so.

— — —

But the bemoaners will want to save some gripe for when Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens gain entrance (< 5 years), because THAT is when the Hall will no longer be the Hall of Fame, but rather, the Hall of Shame, or Sham, if you prefer.

Like today’s fat Olympic fields, Halls are diluting on steady-stream of marginal inductees as younger, collectible-crazed voters turn what used to be a days-long walk amongst immortals into a three-day trek through Halls of Good & Plenty.

It’s a little like when Charles Schulz expanded his franchise and grew his Peanuts gallery with Woodstock and Peppermint Patty, or when Fred Flintstone found a new friend from outer space, Gazoo. The funnies just weren’t the same.

Was Harold Baines a user of performance enhancing drugs himself? Who the Sam Hell knows. We, the mass of baseball followers, like to think not. But with all the liars and cheats around today, it’s hard to know who to trust.

With the field of great HOF candidates so small, coupled with the current PED-testing policy that players have filled with holes you could drive a Mack truck through, beggers can’t be choosers. Baines will have to do.

If Harold was clean his entire career, it’s a cloud-of-doubt hanging overhead that seems unfair. But that’s the price he and his retired-MLBPA membership must pay for staying silent and NOT demanding the highest, Olympic form of testing.

— — —

There are two battles raging today over baseball’s Hall of Fame composition: One is the long-standing issue of quality control, i.e., is the candidate truly great, of a stature such that it separates him from his peers, as say, Warren Spahn and Bob Clemente, or, is he a ballot choice that develops a patina of greatness over time, building support for election in a campaign for votes.

The other battle is of a more recent development, PEDs, were the emerging standard among junior media and collectors goes like this: ‘He gets my vote because he was a Hall of Famer before he started juicing.’ Ooooh, brother.

Assuming you have the powers of Carnac the Magnificent and can accurately pick the first year a PED suspect ‘Got needles,’ then by that absurd line of logic, bad boys Pete Rose and Joe Jackson should get induction because both were Hall-worthy before they messed-up with the gamble and game-fixing.

Okay, so the Hall is growing fat on suspect inductees and a niche of players keep playing fans for fools (Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, etc.), but at least we have the baseball record book, right, a safe harbor for greatness buffered from the winds of changing mores and personal extremes? Wrong.

Officially maintained by Elias Sports Bureau, baseball’s record rolls are now tainted, with some of its most cherished marks held by seriously-suspected or proven performance-enhanced pretenders of excellence.

— — —

Soon, those voters who grew on a steady diet of ESPN (Disney) news on Barry and Roger will make-up the majority of the BBWAA. Unfortunately, they’ve shown a collective lack of judgment capability with a boyish, sabrmetric bent as evidenced in their 2018 National League Cy Young awarding to the Mets Jacob deGrom (10-9 / 1.73e / 217i / MVP-5th) over the Nationals’ Max Scherzer. They are that same group which watched in awe as Bonds piled MVPs, Roger garnered CYs and they filled binders of memorabilia.

Bonds and Clemens, once taboo to voters, have been steady risers the past five years in Hall of Fame vote percentage, corresponding directly with the steady decrease in the average voter age. As such, there’s no motive for either to ever come clean on PED use, for their lie is also their supporters lie.

Were they to come clean, overnight those supporters (voters) would turn into their harshest critics for their collectible stock would drop like a rock in water. For now, the fallacy keeps their cards marketable.

Could it be that ridiculous? Sure it could, sport.

Roger and Barry will win election to the Cooperstown Club in the not too distant future. They’ll jump for joy and their rookie cards will soar in value once again.

But in the court of rational, mature, baseball-loving public opinion, resentment will keep growing over their ‘getting away with it’ in tarnishing the game’s sacrosanct record book and Hall of Not-So-Greats.

Bonds and Clemens have a great opportunity to man-up, set the record straight and pay back to a game that which has given them both so much.

But it takes a great man to seize such an opportunity and the Hall of Fame is fast becoming the place where the less-than-greats are being given immortality.

StevenKeys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: baseball, 9.24.06, wc.cca, Tage-Olsin; H.Baines, wc, K.Allison, 2011; B.Bonds, wc, 7.21.07, guano; Can-of-corn
Posted: 12.23 @ 8:00pE, edit 12.25; Copyright © 2018

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NFL18 Cherry Picks W7: On Jim Taylor’s Death, One Can Ask, Where Are the White Ball-Carriers Today?

21 Oct

Perspective can be everything.

The angle, the light, the timing, the placement, they’re all important.

When you’re talking about performing a biopsy or having a tire mounted properly on your automobile, perspective matters not very much, but for many a circumstance in this life, it can matter plenty.

Debating the greatest ball-carrier in NFL history requires perspective.

Many believe the Vince Lombardi Packers of the 1960s, a team that won five (5) NFL championships and the first two (2) Super Bowls, to be the USA’s greatest pro football team of all-time (See also; CFL).

And a key cog in that magnificent machinery was fullback, Jim Taylor (1935 – 2018), who died recently at the age of 83.

Jim was a regular 1000-yard rusher in the mid-60s when 12-14 regular season games was the schedule and when the ground game, at least in the high-tone NFL (See also: Gillman, Hadl & Alworth (AFL Chargers)), was still the gridiron game plan.

So, arguably the best offensive player (Paul Hornung, Bart Starr and Boyd Dowler were three pretty key cogs, too) on the best team ever could fairly be called the greatest ball-carrier that ever laced ’em up, right? But that might be called having too narrow of a perspective, eh?

Around the same time JT was churning out yards and scoring TDs (83 career), there was another guy in Cleveland named Jim Brown who was doing what the guy in Wisconsin was doing but even better (led NFL in rushing eight (8) times, amassing 1863 yards in 1963 and averged 104 per game for his career), on a team you could say he carried on his back, or with his legs, more specifically, leading the original Brownies to the 1964 NFL title under head coach Blanton Collier.

Okay, so Jimbo Taylor might not’ve been the greatest ball-carrier in NFL annals, but he’s certainly in the discussion and was probably the biggest money back you could find in the golden age decade of the 1960s.

Both which, Taylor’s death and his football legacy, beg the question, where are the white ball-carriers in today’s NFL?

The last one of note I can recall was Mike Alstott, who played his entire career with the Tampa Bay Bucanneers (1996-06), being chosen All-Pro three (3) times and helping the Bucs to their first Super Bowl and victory in 2007. And of Mike’s eleven (11) campaigns, just over half could be considered highly productive.

White man can’t jump? Don’t tell that to Dick Fosbury or Dwight Stones. And don’t tell Paul Hornung or John Riggins he can’t motor with the pigskin, either.

But coaches at both the collegiate and pro levels are opting almost strictly for black running backs, a preference (bias) that carries over to the defensive side of the ball where the secondary is as well, almost entirely of one race, black. What Jim Taylor thought of the development I can just image. I’m sure he was asked.

Is the state explained by a clear and substantiated superiority of strength, speed, technique and tenacity by one race? I would think not.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 7

Titans @ LAC (Ldn): 10.21 9:30aE: Bolts
Houston @ Jacksonville: 1:00 CBS: Jags
Carolina @ Philadelphia: 1:00 Fox: Eagles
Minnesota @ NYJets: 1:00 Fox: Vikings
New England @ Chicago: 1:00 CBS: Pats
Cleveland @ Tampa Bay: 1:00 Fox: Bucs
Detroit @ Dolphins: 1:00 Fox: Lions
Saints @ Baltimore: 4:05 Fox: Ravens
Cowboys @ Washington: 4:25 CBS: DC
Cincinnati @ Kansas City: 8:20 NBC: Cats

Record: 24 – 17

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Jim-Taylor, wc.cca, 1967, New-Orleans; cherries, Hispalois, Caceres-Spain, wc,7.2.12; Jim-Marshall, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 10.21 @ 2:29aE; tag edit 11.27; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Super Cherry Jam: Eagles Win Proves Pocket-Passer Still Surest Route To Promised Land

10 Feb

The Take from SB52? Eagles don’t even get close to the Lombardi trophy with a run-QB subbing for Wentz on short-notice. Not a snowball’s chance in Hades or even the 70° cozy confines of US Bank Stadium.

Pocket-passer quarterback is a rare bird, endangered species in the pros due to emergence of collegian flash-QB, a place where he thrives like a Georgia robin in spring (they move in herds here) under laissez-faire tutelage of Coach-Lite.

But the traditional, stand-tall-in-the-pocket signal-caller who matriculates well past the RIF-stage to read D with proficiency, rabbits as a last option rather than reflex, is still the surest, quickest way to reach that wonderous state we call Titletown, aka, whatever metro currently holds the Silver Swag (Philly).

— — —

Hail the Philadelphia Eagles, coach Pederson, owners Lurie, SB-MVP Foles, regular-season super-QB Wentz, a defense that played well for 18 of 19 games and the rest of the E-Birds rosterees and staff, the 2017-18 NFL Champs!

In besting the Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl 52, Philly nabbed their first NFL title since 1960, a club led by Chuck Bednarik (D) and Norm Van Brocklin (QB), that topped Lombardi’s first title-game Packers, 17-13.

And what a shocker it was.

Not because these Eagles weren’t impressive all season long, excepting a pathetic regular season finale (6-0 loss at home v. Dallas), but because they finished their run with a back-up quarteback that had started a mere one contest (KansasCity) since 2016 (22-14 career) yet defeated the juggernautious Patriots to do it while Nick’s defensive teammates allowed said New Englanders a whopping 600+ yards in total offense on way to hoisting the prized Lombardi hardware.

Nobody picked Philly to win SB52, nobody who wasn’t a fan, gambler or media hoping for some office bragging rights.

I don’t think anyone, not even Eagles brass and players, saw this kind of time-line for a championship. Maybe in 2-3 more years but SB52? Not on your life.

— — —

It’s the top topic for sportswriters in the days following every Super Sunday: What’s the champ’s template for success? In Philadelphia’s case, there is none. Forget about it. Eagles have no template for Titledom. Doesn’t exist. Nope.

What these present E-Birds DO have is, if not a wholly unique GM / coaching skill-set, a not altogether common ability to accomplish the two following tasks:

1) Execution of draft-picks with a certain wisdom (Wentz); and

2) Rostering a quality back-up QB (Foles), something the Patriots too have shown a panachee for finding (Cassel 10-5 (08) / Garoppolo 7-0 (NE / SF)).

But as important as are those two abilities, the 2017-18 Eagles were recipients of a gift from Lady Luck. That being that they competed in the least competitive NFC in this writer’s recent memory. A tale of the tape:

Giants (3-13): OB was out but we now know TC wasn’t the big problem.
Packers (7-9): Mike dodged one on Rodgers ill-advised return at Carolina.
Seahawks (9-7): Maybe the most disappointing winning-mark this decade.
Cowboys (9-7): Elliott’s on-off susp’n was disruptive but Dak’s still learning
Cardinals (8-8): Loss of star Johnson early-on is big blow cuing Arians exit.
Buccaneers (5-11): Tampa was expected to contend but barely made a ripple.
Falcons (10-6): Defending NFC champs were clearly a lesser grade in 2017.
Lions (9-7): Detroit is becoming the pretender of all 20-teens pretenders.
Redskins (7-9): Like TB, maybe higher expectations are not a good thing.

And yes, the Vikes and Rams infused some much needed competition into the NFC but it hardly made up for the general malaise that permeated, not all that much worse than a rather weak AFC itself in 2017.

It’s not the Colin Kaeprnick effect that explains the malaise. Better chance it’s the plethora of run-QBs, the never-ending flood of poorly-trained, modern single-wing tailbacks masquerading as quarterbacks coming into the League unprepared for the pro-style play. Oh yeah, throw in the mass of DCs who rely on glory stats (INTs / PD / sacks) to stop the score, and not too effectively at that. Translating into most defenders today who couldn’t skillfully tackle an opponent if their life depended on it. There’s that, too.

StevenKeys
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, 2011, wikiproject, 6k; Eagles, SB52-Victory-Parade, souvenirs, 2.8.18, wc.cca, 7Beachbum; SB52, Kitten-Bowl, wc, 2.3.18, B.Allen-VoA; Eagles, SB52, Parade, N.Foles, 2.8.18, PA-GovWolf, wc; Eagles, SB52, Parade, VL-trophy, 2.8.18, wc, PA-GovWolf
Posted: 2.10.18 @ 4:49pE; Copyright © 2018

NFL17 Cherry Picks W17: Like Unique Gifts & Good Men, A Franchise QB Is ‘Hard to Find’

27 Dec

Ever wonder why a quarterback’s never been drafted U.S. President?

They’re popular enough, the well-decorated variety, anyway.

Most signal-callers possess a pretty good leadership ability. Most of ‘em, not all (See; JohnnyManziel and ColinKaepernick).

Nearly all of ’em can audiblize at the line, i.e. think on their feet. That would prove helpful with the testy press-corps.

I don’t know how ‘threading-the-needle’ would help as Chief Executive but you’ve gotta’ figure it would have to come in handy somewhere.

There’ve been a few close calls.

There was Jack Kemp, former championship Buffalo Bills’ QB (64-65 AFL) and 1996 VP candidate on the Bob Dole ticket.

President John Kennedy and clan were known to engage in a spontaneous touch football before and during his White House tenure (1961-63).

Ronald Reagan, 40th US President, portrayed an early-era quarterback, known then as a single-wing tailback, as the legendary George Gipp in the 1940 bio-pic, Knute Rockne All-American, co-starring Milwaukee native Pat O’Brien as the equally tragic and successful Notre Dame head coach.

But never has there been an ex-college or professional gridiron field-general to call signals from the Oval Office on Pennyslvania Avenue.

It’s true, the game itself has only been around less than half as long as the nation (1776), and then highly-prized less than one quarter of that time (1910 >).

With the popularity QBs enjoy throughout North America (+ CFL) and World NFL (London / Mexico), a starship lift-off in junior high and on up to the pros, a cheer resonating louder than that heard by most politicians and even war-heroes (post-WW2), you’d think a gridiorn field-general would’ve connected for an Electoral College touchdown at some point these past 100 or so years.

You’d think.

But I suppose when you endure enough heavy hits in the pocket, for those QBs with poise, you’d be kinda’ crazy to venture forth into the pressure-packed position of President to suffer even more “slings and arrows.”

Be that as it may, ever since MickeyMantle, BillRussell, CassiusClay and BobbyOrr retired, the quarterback has reigned supreme in much of NorthAmerica’s non-soccer sports world. There’s no doubt on that point.

Which all leads to this troubling observation on an unsettling state of affairs in World NFL: We’re running out of professional grade quarterbacks, making it even less likely one will ever man, or woman, the Oval Office.

TomBrady, BigBen and DrewBrees won’t play forever, even as they’ve been giving good imitations of such capability in their long and illustrious careers.

Flash-QB’s the culprit, and the collegiate coach-lite mentality that leans heavy on the modern-day single-wing tailback. As long as the RIF-challenged signal-caller keeps running and winning Heismans & NCAA championships (Young, Tebow, Manziel, Newton, Winston, Watson), the pro-prepped, poise-under-pressure pocket passer (PPPUPPP) will be a rare NFL commodity.

And the social sins of greed and arrogance are only making the matter worse.

The Elway Effect: John, on fatherly advice, refused to report to Baltimore after the Colts made him the first selection in the 1983 NFL draft. UCLA’s Josh Rosen seems to be following the same gameplan. Maybe good for him, not for football and its fans.

So where does that leave the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears of the National, teams that seem to forever be trying to fill their field-general void?

The quick answer, based on our obsession with guys under center who must lead their offense that scores-at-will in what’s come to be known as a quarterback league, is a revolving-door of QB experimentation. Pick the best one available and hope your coordinators can inspire bravery in the pocket and hobble his rabbit habit.

Better answer: Defense. Build a 60-minute crew that can tackle, front to back, and then settle for a capable signal-caller who won’t be expected to carry the offense but merely protect the ball and execute the game plan with a certain courage and savvy. Simple, eh? Oy vey.

Cherry Picks Week 17

Packers @ Detroit: 12.31 Fox 1:00: Lions
Texans @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Texans
Redskins @ NewYork: Fox 1:00: Giants
Cowboys @ Philadelphia: Fox 1:00: Dallas
Jacksonville @ Titans: CBS 4:25: Jaguars
Buffalo @ Dolphins: CBS 4:25: Miami
Raiders @ LosAngeles: CBS 4:25: Oakland
Cardinals @ Seattle: Fox 4:25: Seahawks
SanFrancisco @ LosAngeles: Fox 4:25: LAR
Panthers @ Atlanta: Fox 4:25: Falcons
Kansas City @ Broncos: CBS 4:25: Chiefs
New Orleans @ Buccaneers: Fox 4:25: Saints

Record: 71 – 52 (Won’t include W16 MIN @ GB)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; J.Garoppolo, wc.cca, CaseyMcNeil, 12.17.17; C.Wentz, 9.10.17, K.Allison, wc, Hanover-MD; Cherries-cloth, 2011, picdrome, wc; JimMarshall, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 12.27.17 @ 3:47pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W10: It’s Elementary, Watson, Poise’n-In-the-Pocket Is the Cure

9 Nov

It’d be easy for Houston Texans to get gloomy about the Deshaun Watson injury, an ACL tear that occurred in practice after their W9 nail-bitter loss in Seattle.

But it’s not all doom. There is reason for hope.

The fine young field general in-the-making might actually come out the whole, long ordeal a wiser, better quarterback. Really.

The anterior cruciate ligament spans the knee. It’s tear will result from a sudden, hard twist of that joint as the foot is well grounded or caught in the turf. The knee bears weight better than it turns, as this common athletic injury attests.

Things were looking rather promising for the Texans (3-3) and their rookie starter who took to the NFL like a duck to water (61.8%, 19t-8i, 8.3 ypc), fresh off a national championship at Clemson. One complaint: The Gainesville, Georgia native is flash, a run-QB who’s a strong tendency to rabbit under pressure, a habit that carried him to many a football victory from grade school to his Carolina college but won‘t fly for long with the big boys of the pro circuit.

The glass-half-full observer can look to the Arizona Cardinals’ veteran running back Adrian Peterson as example of how a player can recover and return to top form even after an ACL tear, operation and rehabilitation.

Adrian, who, in 2017 began his first NFL season in a color other than purple after signing with Saints, only to be cut after W4, then picked up by Arizona after all-purpose David Johnson went out with a dislocated wrist, suffered his ACL tear in 2014 opener. He was back on the field in 2015, miraculously winning the NFL rushing crown with the 3rd highest season run total in his long career (07).

In 2016 Peterson suffered his 2d ACL tear on the other knee. While it’s still early and Father-Time will someday catch up to All-day, he looks to be fashioning a second miracle comeback in the Sunset State. In three games Adrian has run 74 times for 314y on a 4.2 ypc. Pretty spiffy stuff for a 2-time ACL rehabber.

The glass-half-empty set will cite Peterson’s running style (less lateral plant than run-QB Watson) and the sad case of former aspiring signal-caller Rob Griffin as examples of how the ACL rupture can change things for the worse.

RG3, as he was tagged by the junior media, took the Heisman at Baylor even as he had suffered an ACL tear in his sophomore year and was selected #2 overall in the NFL12 draft. And before DW, Griffin too would take the NFL by storm.

Entering week 14 play against Baltimore, the later-to-be-named ROY and Pro-Bowler, had led the Redskins offense to a 6-6 record. Then it happened, another knee bang. Not a tear this time but a sprain of the LCL that would mark the beginning of the end for Griffin’s professional game. He would sit out W15 but return to action to lead Washington to the Wild Card game but again tear his ACL in the loss to Seattle. There were no more high points for Robert whose last season was with Cleveland in 2016, cut short by a broken shoulder-bone.

Both the Peterson and Griffin cases point to two conclusions: 1) Modern medicine, for those who can afford it, will work wonders in orthopedic injury, and 2) every medical case is somewhat unique in its prognosis, treatment and recovery. Cost is the same, all of it high, but outcomes are hard to predict.

On return to the playing field, Watson will need to make quick adjustments: Changes in his mental approach to the game.

First off, he must ditch the flash form of quarterback play (3-3, 36r – 269y) and learn for the first time in his career, pocket poise, finding the tenacity to take the hits behind-the-line as they come and where he’ll have more means to handle the blows. Why: 1) rabbit will expose his knees to greater risk of injury downfield where funny footing is more likely and defender hits can be more damaging, and 2) poise’n-in-the-pocket will force Deshaun into RIF, ‘reading is fundamental.’ The best field generals in the pro-ranks are read proficient.

Some QBs use their top physical skills in arm strength, accuracy and mobility behind the line to find time to read the defense and find gaps. Others use their fluid-intellect and 20/20 vision to make-up for lesser physical traits. Run-QB is typically weak on defensive vocabulary and in every NFL case so far has failed to make the adjustment. It’s like learning a whole new language as an adult: Very difficult. The best hope: Complete commitment and immersion.

In the long run the poise’n pro-style is the better way of NFL quarterbacking, affording a longer career for the player, happier fans in point totals & wins and then more hardware for everyone involved, MVPs and rings (See; Brady, Big-Ben, Rodgers). And as flash QB will keep dominating in the college ranks on its great success by Heismans, CFP titles and perpetuation of coaching-lite, the disconnect between the pro and amateur QB styles with remain.

But maybe most important of the mental adjustments will be that Deshaun regains his former confidence. This holds true for his coaching staff as well, that they too find confidence again in their former QB. And they must keep in mind that Peterson didn’t have to learn a new language as will their man Watson.

NFL17 Cherry Picks Week 10

Seattle @ Arizona: 11.9 NBC 8:25: Hawks
Packers @ Chicago: 11.12 Fox 1:00: Bears
Los Angeles Bolts @ Jags: CBS 1:00: LA
New Orleans @ Buffalo: Fox 1:00: Saints
NewYorkJets @ Buccaneers: CBS 1:00: TB
Vikings @ Washington: Fox 1:00: Redskins
Cincinnati @ Tennessee: Fox 1:00: Cincy
Cowboys @ Atlanta: Fox 4:25: Falcons
New York @ SanFrancisco: Fox 4:25: NYG
Miami @ Carolina: 11.13 Disney 8:30: Cats

Record: 38 – 27

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; D.Watson, wc.cca, 1.10.16, Atlanta-Falcons; A.Peterson, wc, 1.28.12, Arvee5.0; R.Griffin, wc, L.Boyd, M.Green, USMC – NYC, 4.26.12; cherries, B.Kua, 6.1.08; J.Otto, TCG, 1970
Posted: 11.9.17 @ 3:20pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W7: Minus Rodgers, Packer-Backers Brace For Future Shock

21 Oct

For the Green Bay Packers and their frothy fandom, NFL 2017 has poured them a big brimming beverage of Future Shock to imbibe. Drink up, blessed ones.

But the title of their novel state reads different than the 1970 best-seller: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Football Without a Great Quarterback Under Center. It should fly off the shelves. Sure, Steve.

— — —

Future Shock was a non-ficition write penned by New Yorker Alvin Toffler (1928 – 2016). It was a well-received prediction on how change, through technologies and their profit-seeking managers, will become a constant in the lives of every person on the planet. It’s a prediction that’s proved fairly accurate.

Now the Pack are faced with the toughest change any team, any not sporting a defensive leader the likes of Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly, will face in a season: The loss of their offensive field general in Aaron Rodgers. A difference here: Most changes today are designed to optimize profits. This one wasn’t designed and definately won’t spur gains as Rodgers happens to be that rare, well-decorated four-star variety commander (five-star: Baugh, Graham, Clark, Layne, Van Brocklin, Starr, Namath, Griese, Jurgensen, Staubach, Unitas, Bradshaw, Montana, Brady, Aikman, Favre, Roethlisberger, Mannings).

— — —

The green & yellow stand at 4-2 in this still fairly early yet angstful NFL season, thank you, knee-jerks, tied with Minnesota atop the NFC North. The 2-time MVP Rodgers sustained a 2nd collarbone break in 3+ seasons (13) early in last week’s road contest versus the Vikings who currently hold the tie-breaker.

But this time the injury is a bit more troubling for Rodgers.

The Chico, California born and Cal-Berkely educated Rodgers is 3-years older than when he had the last CB-fracture, expecting then the heal process to be slightly slower and maybe less certain. The body ages, skin gets thinner and bones more brittle. We can slow the process, but it still ages. Worse is that the injury this time fissures on his better half, his right, throwing side.

The surgery is complete and it’s postulated the 2010 Super Bowl winner and Kaepernick fan will miss the rest of the 2017 season. But don’t be surprised if he makes a return before the regular slate finishes. That would be fine timing for GB because his Packers team will no doubt still be in the thick of it, having only to compete in the typically sad-sack North Division (1960s). That is, if his backup in 2d-year man out of UCLA (5R-2015), Brett Hundley (2g / 56C% / 1t-3i), can muster enough offense to help his team take 3-4 victories and make Rodgers’ task (making the post-season) that less daunting.

In 2013, Rodgers went down in W9 (v CHI). Under Matt Flynn the Packers played to 2-5-1. Upon Aaron’s return W17 versus those Bears, GB won the game to make the playoffs at 8-7-1 where they lost a nail-bitter at home to none other than the Harbaugh 49ers (20-23) and Kaepernick who, as he always did to GB in the post-season, passed poor (16-30) but ran wild (98y) to victory.

Any new signal-caller, especially in Green Bay where expectations run higher than the cholesteral count of a tailgating, beer-guzzling, cheese-inhaling, bratwurst hound on game-day, can use some serious help from his backfield. Maybe ‘use’ isn’t the right word: desperately needs the help of his backfield mates. Brett might have that in Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones.

Montgomery looked somewhat promising last season: On 77 attempts he scored 3 TDs with a spiffy 5.9 YPC. That average has come down in 2017 (3.2) but the Stanford man has only carried the pigskin around 10 times per contest. Some guys need regualr action to get it rolling and Ty may be one of those guys.

Rookie Jones (2017 – 5R – TX-EP) had a great game in Dallas where he gained 125 (6.8) and scored a touchdown (45-215y / 4.8 / 2t). But of couse, Aaron’s largely an unknown at this point in time. And promising is promising.

— — —

Since the early 1990s, the Green Bay Packers roadway to the championship has been one paved mostly with easy victories, MVP awards, a plethora of All-Pro selections, more Super Bowl trips than most NFL clubs (3) and lots o’ lots o’ friendly national press coverage for the green & yellow gang.

It began in 1991 with the arrival of one crafty General Manager in Ron Wolf (HOF15), he of the Oakland Raiders chamipionship ways. Wolf would secure the key components to Green Bay’s long-awaited post-Lombardi revival.

In 1992 Wolf persuaded 49ers assistant Mike Holmgren to take up residence in a place that’d become a graveyard for coaches ever since the Great One’s departure following the Pack’s victory over AFL Raiders in SB2 (68).

Then he pulled off the master-stroke, the deal that proved linchpin to the whole Green Bay renaissance and his eventual election to Canton when he snatched a rookie bench-warmer quarterback / party-animal with a rocket arm named Brett “Mississippi” Favre from Atlanta’s roster for one 1st-round draft pick.

In 1993, shoring up the Packers’ defense became Wolf’s focus as he enticed Philadelphia Eagles free-agent sack-master Reggie White to “boldly go where (fewer of his black race had been going) before,” Green Bay, Wisconsin.

After that group had won two NFC titles, Wolf retired and the torch was passed to Ted Thompson (2005) who “boldly (went) where no man had gone before” in drafting a 1R QB (Rodgers) to replace a still vibrant, iron-willed, Wisconsin demi-god in Favre, and show the future Hall-of-Famer the proverbial door.

— — —

In this run of success, Green Bay has returned to the Super Bowl three times, won an arm-load of NFC North trophies and muscled their way into becoming a Thanksgiving regular along with traditionals Detroit & Dallas. And while it’s fallen short of the Walsh – Seifert string and Cowboys title tally of the 90s, you wouldn’t know it by the cock-sure confidence most ‘Backers exude from every pore, every minute, everyday since the rebirth began.

But “the times they are a-changin.’”

The first collarbone crack heard ‘round Wisconsin in 2013 sidelined the master matriculator in W9 and the Packers nose-dove (0-3-1). Expect something similar this time around. It’s just a taste of something they haven’t had to stomach since the days of Lindy Infante‘s final campaign: mediocrity.

In fact, there’s a whole generation of Packerland folk who’ve never know the despair most the rest of NFL fandom experience with a certain regularity, who’ve never had their faith tested, week in, week out, year after year.

A great QB is a god-send. His ability to read D (fluid intellect), implement a plan, take hits in the pocket while possessing an innate ability to move the ball, all add up to wins and may mask what is otherwise an uninspired team.

Someday the Packers will be slumming, blue bloods without a great signal-caller, without even be a ‘can’t miss’ college draftee in their sights (See; 1970s-80s). But in the not-to-distant future, Mr. Rodgers will return and will win many more games. So if you’re a Packer-backer, just “relax.” Know that both of those futures will come to fruition and that a little humility goes a long way in preparation.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 7

Ravens @ Vikes: 10.22 CBS 1:00: Baltimore
Saints @ Green Bay: Fox 1:00: New Orleans
New York Jets @ Miami: Fox 1:00: Dolphins
Panthers @ Chicago: CBS 1:00: Bears
Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams: Fox 1:00: AZ
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Colts
Dallas @ San Francisco: Fox 4:05: Cowboys
Bengals @ Pittsburgh: CBS 4:25: Cincinnati
Seahawks @ New York Giants: CBS 4:25: Seattle
Falcons @ New England: NBC 8:30: Atlanta
Redskins @ Eagles: 10.23 Disney 8:30: DC

Record: 22 – 15

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; A.Rodgers, 12.30.12, Minneapolis, wc.cca, JoeBielawa, E.Griffen; Rodgers, M.Morbeck, wc,12.27.09, LambeauField; B.Favre, Dugan, wc,11.15.09, MN-NationalGuard; cherries, Hispalois, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain, wc; Jim-Otto, 1970, TCG
Posted: 10.20.17 @ 10:47pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W6: Skin CAN Be Topical, When Thickness Is the Theme

12 Oct

We’re 1/3rd the way through NFL 2017 and only the Kansas City Chiefs’ mark remains, like that rare high school mug, unblemished (5-0), having avoided the deflating though brief malaise that will accompany that first loss of the season to keep the hopeful if naïve notion alive that ANYTHING is possible (16-0).

Five games in is when you’ve had enough ball under the belt to get a good idea of what’s working and what’s not, but not so late you can’t right the ship after a couple losses have begun to blow the vessel off course.

Since the 1960s, only the Dolphins (72) and Patriots (07) have managed to make it through the entire regular season Clearasil® clean (no losses), New England finally breaking-out (succumbing to the Giants in SB42) while Miami bested the Redskins in SB7 to stay Stridex® sound (undefeated). So in all likelihood, every team will post a pimple (loss) at some point early in the season. Eek.

It’s how a team HANDLES losing that’ll prove the biggest test.

Here’s what some famous people have had to say about winning, losing and how lemons can get turned into lemonade:

I believe the greatest failing of all is to be frightened: New Zealand (London) writer, Katherine Mansfield (Kathleen Mansfield Murry, 1888-1923)*

You can learn little from winning, you can learn everything from losing: New York Giants baseball great & WWI veteran, Christy Mathewson*

What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate: Donald Trump*

It is not enough to conquer, one must learn the art of seduction: Voltaire*

Okay, so that last one’s a bit bawdy for football but you get the idea, i.e., there’s more to it than winning. Holding onto power can be tougher than taking it.

But to handle a loss, even one that embarrasses badly, a good team with a champion’s constitution must have thick skin, thick enough to withstand the burning remarks of critics. And then, after the pain subsides, a mind-set for learning from the miscues that led to the collapse in confidence and play.

Who needs thick skin at this juncture? Prit near everyone, but those with a contender capability might be having their’s tested the hardest.

Arizona Cardinals (2-3)

Pre-season hopefuls, the Desert dwellers have had their skin tested in the next best (worst) manner, serious injury to a key cog, that being MVP-caliber running-back David Johnson who went out in W2 with a dislocated wrist.

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

The Pack are always contenders for the Halas trophy (George must crack a smile up there every time someone ties his name to the Green & Yellow) with the likes of Rodgers under center, but giving ’em 20 points in the 4Q, at home in a game you had in control from the get-go has to burn the Boys skin bad.

As to some folk’s notion that last Sunday’s tussle (GB 35-31) constitutes NFL17’s game of the year, I say ‘Oh brother.’ Besides being premature (W5), any game where 30 points are allowed in the closing quarter can’t rank too high. Defense still has to count for something in the game of football.

Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

Looked to be the surprise contender of 2017 and might still fill-the-bill. With Russ Wilson, Wagner, Kam, Thomas, Wright and Coach Carroll, the Hawks, like GB, are an NFL Elite who own their Division, now that AZ has degressed. As such, there’s no shame in losing a close one to Seattle, even in LA. And when was the last time a Rams v Jaguars game seemed worth a look-see, eh?

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)

Ben Ben’s talk of his demise is disheartening. Ever since Tomlin did his $100K (fined) turkey-trot on T-Day (13), I’ve hoped for better leadership to utilize best the final years of Pittsburgh’s future HOF quarterback. No such luck. But here’s more advice from the sage Giants moundsman: You must have an alibi to show why you lost. If you haven’t one you must fake one. Your self-confidence must be maintained. But keep it (alibi) to yourself, where it belongs.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 6

Eagles @ Carolina: 10.12 CBS 8:25: Cats
Packers @ Vikes: 10.15 Fox 1:00 GTW: GB
Detroit @ New Orleans: Fox 1:00: Lions
Patriots @ New York Jets: CBS 1:00: Patriots
Buccaneers @ Arizona: Fox 4:05: Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams @ Jaguars: Fox 4:05: Rams
Chargers @ Raiders: CBS 4:25: Los Angeles
Pittsburgh @ KansasCity: CBS 4:25: Steelers
New York Giants @ Denver: NBC 8:30: NYG
Indianapolis @ TN: 10.16 Disney 8:30: Colts

Record: 16 – 11

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Katherine-Mansfield, Archives-New-Zealand, wc, “thick-skinned-toady,” T.S.Eliot-critique, 1915 (+/-); Rhinoceros, India, wc.cca, Brehms-Life-Of-Animals, 1895;
Posted: 10.12.17 @ 4:55pE; Copyright © 2017
References (*): Mathewson: 1001 Fascinating Baseball Facts, Nemec & Palmer, 1994; Pres. Donald Trump, Google; Mansfield, Wikipedia; Voltaire, Wikipedia.