Monday

1-11-10: Notes

Hello again everybody...

I hope you all had a restful and fulfilling weekend. I certainly have no complaints about mine.

I got to see “Sherlock Holmes” this weekend. It takes a bit to get used to the accents, but once you can figure out what everyone is saying, it's a solid movie. Downey is brilliant. Jude Law is pretty good. I wasn't thrilled with Rachel McAdams, but nothing's perfect. If you thought you'd like the movie, you probably will. Enjoy.

As for sports? Umm, yeah, there were more than a few things to comment on. And believe it or not, much of came under the heading of a sport I don't comment a ton on around here.

Should make for an interesting column, should it not?

Off we go!

”The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”
- Nikola Tesla (1857 - 1943), inventor and mechanical and electrical engineer


So do I think clearly, or deeply? You decide...

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As we get to some...

Monday Notes...

Bert Blyleven comes up five freaking votes short...

… the fourth-closest-to-election result in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That basically means that next year, he'll get in. Don't ask my why the vagaries of the election process work the way they do. I'm not sure I understand it better than anyone else.

What I know is that when a former player's voting percentage goes up for 4 consecutive years, and in that fourth year he falls short by .8%, he gets in the next year.

But is he *really* a Hall of Famer? If it takes 14 ballots to get in, what does that say?

In baseball, the bottom line is statistics. And when I look for statistics I turn to BaseballReference.com. At that website, they have a neat feature called Similarity Scores. It's a formula developed by baseball guru Bill James. They comb through statistics and come up with the 10 players most-similar to the player you're researching.

For Blyleven, those players turn out to be: Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Tommy John, Robin Roberts, Tom Seaver, Jim Kaat, Early Wynn, Phil Niekro and Steve Carlton.

What do nine of those ten players have in common? They're already in the Hall of Fame (Kaat is the lone non-member).

That's as much evidence as I need. If your numbers compare closest to nine Hall of Famers, you deserve to get in. Even if it takes 14 years.


Pete Carroll appears to be the new head coach of the Seattle Seahawks...

… and I don't see this ending well.

First of all, the timing is suspicious. The USC basketball program just administered a host of self-punishments in the hope of avoiding worse from the NCAA. It turns out that there was money paid to star-recruit (and current Memphis Grizzly) O.J. Mayo. It also appears that such rule-violating payments may have occurred in other USC athletic programs. If that's the case, the football program has to be Suspect A. And that would, of course, put Carroll in a tight spot.

Instead, he resigns his position at USC to take another run at the NFL. An attempt that didn't go so well the last time he tried it with the Jets.

So what do we make of this?

On the one hand, Carroll was publicly critical of QB Mark Sanchez after Sanchez declared for the NFL Draft last year. Admittedly, the timing of Sanchez's announcement wasn't beneficial to the USC program. It was sufficiently late enough to inhibit the preparation of a new quarterback. Hence the rushing of Freshman Matt Barkley to the starting role, and hence the struggles of the program in 2009.

Now Carroll is leaving kids whom he asked to join him at USC to the care of a new coach which he'll have no hand in choosing. And due to NCAA rules, those kids can't transfer to another Division I program without sitting out a season. Hardly seems fair.

But can we really be critical of Carroll for this?

There's never going to be a “good time” to leave a college as a head coach. Each year there's a new crop of kids coming in who are going to get left in the lurch if the coach leaves. And can we really blame Pete for taking a job that's going to be a significant salary increase, not to mention a new challenge?

Let's face it, Carroll has nothing left to prove at the college level, and clearly he has unfinished business in the pros. So why not take the shot?

On the other hand, why do college coaches insist on trying to make the transition to the NFL when history shows it usually doesn't work?

Why leave a spot where you can essentially name your price? USC has as many rich boosters as any other school. In fact, they have more than most. Money wasn't ever going to be a problem for Carroll.

As for the “challenge” of the NFL, I can see the lure of it. And on certain levels, football is football. But the interactions between coaches and players are completely different at the college and pro level. At the college level, coaches are gods. They can do nearly anything (short of locking a kid in an equipment shed - copyright Mike Leach) and the players have to go along. At the pro level, that doesn't fly. In the NFL, players make as much, if not more than most coaches. So if they don't like what a coach is trying to sell, they quit on him, and let management fire him and find a new coach. Very few college coaches are equipped to deal with that difference.

In the last 20 years, the only guy I know of who made the transition successfully is Jimmy Johnson going from the University of Miami to the Dallas Cowboys. And in that case, the relationship between coach and owner didn't exactly work out. I suppose you could argue that Barry Switzer made the transition successfully, but was it really his success, or was he riding the coat-tails of Johnson? I think you could argue the latter.

Meanwhile, the list of coaches who haven't pulled the transition off is extensive. Steve Spurrier, Butch Davis, Bobby Petrino, Nick Saban, Dennis Erickson, Rich Brooks, and Mike Riley just to name a few. And not only have those guys failed, but they've gone right back to college and found success again. Clearly their mojo works at one level and not the other.

In the end, I guess it's a no-lose for Carroll. If it works out in Seattle, he becomes one of the few college coaches to pull off the trick. If not, he gets fired, collects the rest of the mega-contract he's signing, does a couple of years of television analyst work, and then returns to college coaching if he so chooses.

And for those reasons, I can't blame him. Even if it's not the choice I think I'd make were I in his shoes.


What exactly makes a game an instant classic...

… I mean did you see that Arizona/Green Bay game?

And yet there was a debate amongst sports fans afterward if that was an “instant classic” or just an “exciting finish”.

Clearly when 96 points are scored in a game, it's not exactly a defensive masterpiece. And as much credit as we ought to give to the Packer and Cardinal offenses, anybody who watched the game could tell, both defenses basically sucked.

Green Bay barely found a way to stop Arizona. The Cardinals punted exactly once the entire game. Then again, were it not for turn-overs, the the Cardinals didn't stop the Packers at all. Green Bay punter Jeremy Kapinos only took the field to hold on Mason Crosby's kick attempts.

And yet, the game was ultimately decided on a defensive play. Arizona's forced fumble in overtime turned into the game-winning touchdown.

It's that exact juxtaposition that makes the game a “classic” in my mind. Sure the defenses were awful, but watching those offenses marching up and down the field was a lot of fun. And then to have the game decided by a defense finally stepping up and making a play? That's damned entertaining if you ask me.

There are many ways to define what makes a “classic” game. For me? Having an offensively-dominated game decided by a defensive play is definitely on the list.

And finally...

Did you see the Wild game Saturday night?!

Or read about it? Or see people's comments on Twitter? Something? Anything?!

If not, you missed out.

The Wild found themselves in a 5-1 hole against the Blackhawks when the third period began on Saturday night.

But oh my what a third it was.

Six minutes in, the comeback began as Kim Johnsson scored on a nifty pass from Andrew Ebbett. Though perhaps the best part of that goal was Derek Boogaard actually getting an assist. Sure, it didn't break his goal-scoring drought, but still, it's a point! That made it 5-2 Chicago.

But the Wild didn't stop there. Less than a minute later, Mikko Koivu found the back of the net off of a Greg Zanon rebound. Suddenly it was 5-3 Chicago with 12-and-a-half minutes remaining in the hockey game.

They couldn't really pull this off, could they?!

One minute and twenty seconds later, it seemed a helluva lot more likely as Marek Zidlicky made up for an earlier gaffe on Chicago's fifth goal, by scoring one himself on the power play. Now it was 5-4 Chicago and there were still over 11 minutes left in the game.

At that point, however, Chicago seemed to shake off it's malaise and started taking it to the Wild again. This time, they were thwarted by Josh Harding who'd taken over for Niklas Backstrom in net after the second. Not that the Hawks' five were exactly Backs' fault. But still, Harding stood up to Chicago's onslaught and kept them off the scoreboard down the stretch.

Time started to become a factor. The momentum the Wild had built up seemed to be ebbing. Then, as is so often the case, the most crucial goal came on something of a flukey play.

The Wild had finally gained the Chicago zone - something that they'd had trouble doing for the last five or six minutes. Eric Belanger had worked it into the corner and was scrapping for the puck when it popped out to the low slot, in perfect position for Guillaume Latendresse - who seemed to pop out of nowhere. Latendresse fired a quick shot which beat the Blackhawk net-minder via the five-hole. And with one minute and 33 seconds remaining, the Wild had come back from a four-goal deficit to tie the game.

Of course, NHL games don't end in ties any more, so there's more to the story.

After a scoreless overtime, the two clubs went to a shoot-out. Mikko Koivu opened the scoring on the Wild's first attempt. Chicago responded on their second attempt. The teams then traded 5 misses/saves until we reached the 8th round (shoot-outs are scheduled for three) and the cagey veteran Owen Nolan lit the lamp to put the Wild ahead. That was followed by Josh Harding making his 7th save of the shoot-out to secure the win, 6-5 Minnesota.

I'm still shaking my head as I write this column. Minnesota was dead and buried after two periods. Chicago is the best team in the Western Conference so far this season, and had easily handled the Wild just last week.

But somehow, some way, the Wild found something. They didn't quit and showed a tremendous amount of guts and heart as they fought back to eventually win the game.

Maybe this translates into a winning streak. Maybe it took so much out of them, they'll come out flat tonight against the Penguins.

Whatever happens, it was an amazing game to watch. Speaking of “instant classics”? This was one for Wild fans, no doubt.

(All apologies to Mr. David Anton, my favorite Blackhawks fan... but I still hate your team!)


That's going to wrap things up for today. I'll be back on Wednesday with more... right after I catch my breath from this weekend!

Until then, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Holy moly! Nice writing - I almsost had to look a couple words up! haha

    You should be writing for SI or the Strib - not producing a radio show!

    RR

    ReplyDelete