Quite an accomplishment

Just a quick question here - why are No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama playing Florida International and Chattanooga respectively at this point in the season? They won by a combined score of 107-3, what's the point?

It's one thing to play some cupcake warm-up games early in the year, but this was the 11th game of the season for both teams. Why not just take the week off? Do they get any satisfaction from drubbing these teams?

Maybe next year Florida can schedule a game with Gainesville High School.

Developing those youngsters

The Knicks didn't sign Allen Iverson because they didn't want him taking minutes away from young players. So explain today's box score.

New York beat the Nets 98-91 this afternoon, but the way Mike D'Antoni is dividing up playing time is odd. Jordan Hill, the eighth pick in this year's draft, didn't set foot on the floor. Toney Douglas, the rookie who's shown good promise this year, saw nine minutes of action.

Meanwhile, youngster Larry Hughes played 35 minutes and baby-faced Al Harrington played 32. Good thing they didn't get Iver-lost, or Douglas and Hill might actually be playing negative minutes.

Be consistent. If the Knicks say they want young players to get experience (which they should) then play them and let the record be damned. Who cares if they win 29 games instead of 32? The important thing is that they have some competent players to team with whatever free agent(s) they sign after the season.

How is it possible that a lottery pick like Hill isn't good enough to play ONE MINUTE for an awful team? Either the Knicks made a horrible pick or they're being idiots by having this guy watch games instead of play in them.

Read his lips and worry

Sometimes you see something really small that leads you to a much bigger conclusion.

It happened with me today watching Rich Rodriguez on the sideline during the Michigan-Ohio State game.

Rodriguez might prove to be a great recruiter and his style of offense may be well-conceived once he gets the right talent. I'm not passing judgment on those aspects. To get a fair assessment of whether he can be a winning coach at Michigan will take more than two years.

But he will never, I repeat never, be a smart sideline coach. And if he ever does get Michigan back into the national picture, he's going to make a huge blunder. I say that confidently based on one thing he did in today's game. It was that telling.

Rodriguez said something on the sideline that shows such an unbelievable lack of comprehension of football that he's too far lost to ever be saved. It's not possible. I mean that wholeheartedly.

Michigan trailed 21-10 with 10:17 left in the game. Ohio State had the ball fourth-and-1 on its own 15-yard line.

The camera panned to Roridguez. Anyone could clearly read his lips. "WATCH THE FAKE!" The camera panned away. And then it went back on Rodriguez. And he yelled it again. "WATCH THE FAKE!"

The possibility of Ohio State faking a punt in that situation was about as great as Sarah Palin becoming a spokeswoman for the Green Party.

Instead of yelling "watch the fake" Rodriguez should have been reminding his players of the exact opposite. Something like, "Don't worry about a fake. Whatever you do, don't jump offside."

I'm not getting on a coach here for failing to do something somewhat sophisticated. It was more than that. It showed an absolutely alarming lack of understanding of something really simple.

Fish out of water

It seems the Marlins won't be able to sign rising star Josh Johnson to a contract extension because they won't offer him more than a three-year deal. Hell, why would you want to lock up a 25-year-old stud who struck out 191 in 206 innings, had a 1.16 WHIP and a 3.23 ERA last year?

As much as I love baseball, this is the problem that keeps gnawing at me. If the Marlins can't (or won't) sign a guy like this long-term, what's the point of rooting for them? Way too many teams have this same problem, and it really takes away from the sport.

What's the solution? I don't know. A number of things would help (equal revenue sharing, salary cap, contraction) but none of these seem feasible because all of these options are unacceptable to either the owners, the players or MLB itself.

I will say this - eventually something is going to have to change. I don't know when or how drastically, but at some point fans of these small market teams are going to get really sick of being out of contention on May 15.


Notre Dame football: A story of rampant delusion

A schedule as average as a No. 4 starter's stuff.

A recruiting class ranked among the top 15 for the fourth straight year. 

Yes, once again, Notre Dame still finds itself out of BCS contention at 6-4 and staring at the prospect of a .500 season. Boo hoo.

Not surprisingly, the school and the clueless fans who still root for this team nationwide appear set on a new football coach. Yes, another one. Charlie Weis simply hasn't cut it, just as Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham failed to channel God's intentions and win for his favorite football team before him. Supposedly, winning is still the Notre Dame way. I guess someone forgot to tell Mr. Record Book, post-1994.

Here's the problem: The faithful in South Bend made a wrong turn somewhere in the early 90s, back when Tony Rice and Rocket Ismail were relevant football players. So please, I beg you: If you see anyone who looks boring, and appears to be dressed in stuffy 17-year-old clothes that may or may not have shamrocks on them, direct them to the nearest police officer or a gas station. They need directions. Fast.

Allow me...

The Notre Dame program as they once knew it is finished. Gone. Kaput. Not only is Knute Rockne not walking through the tunnel, neither is Lou Holtz. And if you've seen Lou bumbling on TV this fall, you understand how pathetic that commentary sounds. But the problem runs deep.

The idea Notre Dame remains an elite program and an elite job for coaches is outdated at best, foolhearty at worst. Even people who seem to understand how far the Irish has fallen don't quite grasp the enormity of the freefall, nor the reasons for it. They claim the university's high academic standards ruin the program's ability to recruit with the Floridas and USCs of the college football world. So how has Stanford, a far superior school, rebuilt under Jim Harbaugh?Golden Domers can catch the reborn Cardinal in two weeks, when Stanford wipes the floor with them.

The truth is simpler than poor coaches and the wrong players. First, athletes want to compete in a major conference, not against Navy, Purdue and UConn in meaningless non-league games. Second, most have no recollection that Notre Dame once rocked the NCAA. None. This is such a huge factor that few ever discuss.

Players today are far too young. The 2010 commits, for example, were born in 1992. And remember: This is a team that has one win (last year's Hawaii Bowl) in its last 10 bowl games. One! The Irish lost those nine games by a total of 159 points, or more than 17 a game. So not only is Notre Dame unable to win bowl games, it is almost always non-competitive. Mediocre football is all 18-year-olds associate the Irish with.

Rumor has it Weis' job may interest Urban Meyer, a man as shrewd as the Irish faithful are delusional. Chances are the two-time national champ will simply pump Florida for whatever money it has left in the budget — your typical merciless shakeout. Honestly, I can't blame him.

Secretly, I hope Meyer will use his love for ballyhooed love for South Bend as leverage. That's about the only area  Notre Dame football can be competent in these days.

In fact, don't real Top-25 programs like USC, Michigan and Boston College use the Irish every year? For wins, of course.

Take it easy, Bill

I just finished reading Bill Simmons' latest column, in which he discusses Bill Belichick's decision to go on fourth-and-two last Sunday night.

The column was going great, Simmons using his everyman wit to entertain. Then he got a little crazy.

While comparing his trying to get from Seattle to Beaverton, Ore., in two hours to Belichick's decision (already on thin ice), Simmons mentioned he was optimistic about the trip in part because he stood up for Sonics fans when Clay Bennett moved the team. Therefore, Simmons felt he had a pretty good shot at getting out of a speeding ticket in the Seattle area.

Seriously dude?

Listen, I respect Simmons. He's an excellent writer, he churns out content at a meaty pace and usually gives sports junkies a fresh perspective. But he's gotten a bit big for his britches.

Now this guy breaks the speed limit with the idea that he's such a big celebrity that a cop will let him go? Relax buddy. No one's confusing you for Tom Brady just yet.

Simmons' charm has always been that he's just like you and me, just a regular Joe Fan saying what we'd all like to say about the sports issue of the day. That's pretty much over now. Simmons does a lot of name-dropping, and apparently he doesn't view himself as Joe Fan anymore.

This doesn't mean Simmons doesn't write a good column anymore, because he does. He continues to provide good content, and his fan base continues to grow.

So does his ego.

A Few Good Men

So you want to win another National Championship, Kentucky? I don't blame you.

What do you do? Hire the sleaziest coach you can't get your hands on. Check.

Have said new coach, John Calipari, do his usual loading up on prized recruits by doing whatever shady means necessary. Check. (Side note: That blog is called "The Dagger"? Legendary.)

Complement those guys with some good solid role players or what is also known as having some semblance of a decent bench. Well, it seems the Wildcats missed the boat on that one.

I was looking over the stats of last night's win over Sam Houston State (They have a team?) and one number kept jumping out at me: zero. As in the zero points scored by the entire Kentucky bench.

And no, this wasn't some sort of grind-it-out, turn-back-the-shot-clock type of game. It was actually a shootout as the Wildcats put up 102 points while nearly allowing triple digits as well to the Bearkats (No, that's not a misprint and yes, apparently, they still can't spell in Texas).

Taking a deeper look into this bizarre box score revealed that the four UK bench players were in the game for a total of 35 minutes or the equivalent of one starter. And in all that time they combined to take three shots. Talk about the anti-A.I.

Add it all up and the fifth-ranked Wildcats earned their third unimpressive win of the early season. Three days earlier, freshman phenom and probably No. 1 pick in next year's NBA Draft, John Wall, had to hit a buzzer-beater to deliver a victory over Miami of Ohio.

Will this young team get better? I'm sure it will. Will the bench? Maybe if Calipari lets them participate a little bit and his starters strop treating the other players like a bunch of guys that were picked last in gym class.

What's sad is that with the NCAA's rules (Not the ones Calipari gets around like the pesky one that even blue-chip prospects like Derrick Rose actually have to take the pesky SAT to be eligible) you can almost get away with having a lack of depth. Each team gets four 30-second and one 60-second timeout on top of the so-called "TV timeouts" that kick in with the first stoppage of play after every four minutes of game time -- even if the game isn't being televised. Heck, an out-of-shape Jerome James, a.k.a. "Big Snacks," could probably give you close to a full first half if he had that much rest.

There's no debating Kentucky's talent in the starting lineup. To win it all, though, the Wildcats are going to need a little more than a doughnut in the scoring column.

Coach Calipay has been accused of using money to attract players
in the past so it isn't crazy to think that some shenanigans were afoot in luring Wall and company first to Memphis and then to the Bluegrass state. If so, then perhaps he should spread out his payroll a little more evenly next time.

Cablevision: Redefining Incompetence

Every Thursday night I'm reminded how absolutely pathetic Cablevision is.

A normally slow night in sports is helped tremendously by the NFL's decision to air a Thursday night game. Of course, only to those who get the NFL Network. No Dolphins-Panthers for the fans who have this garbage cable provider.

This is now going on six years that Cablevision and the network have been embroiled in a dispute. You'd think this was like trying to find some accord in the Middle East.

DIRECTV offers the NFL Network. So does Comcast. And Dish Network. And Verizon FiOS.

Somehow all these other companies can find an accord with the NFL. Not Cablevision.

And Cablevision doesn't exactly get the benefit of the doubt. It's run by bumbling fool, James Dolan.

It's a company that employed Isiah Thomas for six years, and had to pay Anucha Browne Sanders 11.6 million when a jury ruled he sexually harassed her. (Thomas wasn't even fired after that verdict.)

There are so many terrible decisions that it would take a 75,000-word post to get them all.

The company is a total disaster.

Brett v. Sphincter: Sphincter wins

I once met George Brett in Cooperstown. Yes, scotch, spittle and more than one swear word were involved.

Suffice it to say, it would not shock me if that night was one of the "twice a year" he discusses in the following video. Want to know what I'm talking about? Watch it. Trust me. Three minutes and two seconds of Brett redefining what it means to be uncouth.

A nod to Sports Rippers favorite, jeffpearlman.com, where I first watched the vid.


What's done is done

As Mr. Buckner previously pointed out, the French national soccer team was the beneficiary of an unbelievable screw-up by a referee in a World Cup qualifier France and Ireland tied 1-1 yesterday.

Thierry Henry committed a blatant double hand-ball to keep the ball from going out of bounds, then centered a pass to William Gallas, who knocked in the game-tying goal.

Ireland got robbed, screwed and daggered. But now some Irish players and officials are calling for the match to be replayed, and that cannot happen.

If we replayed every game drastically affected by a bad call, it would take 10 years to crown champions in every sport. They didn't replay the 'Jeffrey Maier' game in the 1996 ALCS, not the Maradona 'Hand of God' game, the 1972 gold medal basketball game in Munich - none of it.

Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni had the right idea, expressing his frustration and urging FIFA to use instant replay in the future, but also acknowledging that playing the game again is impossible.

Some Irish players, their government and soccer association feel differently. They've appealed to FIFA for the game to be replayed, going so far as to put the onus on the French to push for a replay. Here's a quote from Ireland's assistant manager, Liam Brady.

"If the game's going to survive, it's got to be an equal playing field. If we're going to have integrity and dignity in the world game, the game should be replayed. And we'll go to Paris to play it."

It's amazing he could fit so many ridiculous points into such a short statement. First of all, the integrity he's talking about, is that the same integrity that drives players to fake injuries and roll around on the ground during injury time to run out the clock? Or the dignity that causes them to flop any time they're in the penalty box and someone breathes on them?

Second, I don't think Mr. Brady needs to concern himself too much with the survival of international soccer. Last I checked, some countries take it so seriously that players have been killed after mistakes in big games. Killed.

Look, I understand these guys must be crushed. Playing in the World Cup is the pinnacle of soccer, maybe the pinnacle of all sports. But this isn't third grade, and you can't yell "D.O." when you get a bad break.

Whether the Irish like this or not (clearly they don't), these kinds of moments are part of what make sports great. Games decided by these kinds of blunders are often some of the most memorable, and while I wouldn't want the majority of games decided this way, sometimes it makes for incredible drama.

Don't Mess With The Hoodie

Another voice has been heard from on Fourth-And-Go-Gate. Here's new contributor Meaty Johnson ripping those who have been blasting Bill Belichick for his decision not to punt Sunday night:

I like the call by Belichick. If for no other reason than he showed some balls. But there are plenty of other reasons: (1) Peyton Manning is OK at football; (2) Defense is gassed; (3) with the game on the line you might want to put the ball in the hands of your best player and let him try to win it, sounds logical; but what if he's a 2-time Super Bowl MVP, in that case no, then you have to punt. Why, because on 4th down you punt, F that. Didn't Woody Hayes die? Seriously though, The 50's were awesome. I freaking hate my hi def LCD TV, with all those black guys on it making incredible plays. I'd much rather listen to mostly white guys run the football on the radio. At least they know to punt on 4th down. And they all have great motors.

Peter King might think he knows himself some football, but he undid a lot of goodwill with me with his MMQB column. A mosquito that Belichick swatted after it bit him on the ass knows more about football than Peter King, or any other columnist. Where, might I ask, are your FIVE super bowl rings Mr. King? You're just another jerk about to get run over by a train called progress you fat reactionary slob.

Belichick is the only coach in the NFL right now who could do that. Dungy could have, but he wouldn't have; Cowher? Same as Dungy. Parcells might have done it and gotten away with it. And people are going to criticize Belichick?! Tom Cable would've punted. Dick Jauron would've punted.

If you want to criticize Belichick, criticize him for what he screwed up. He wasted a timeout off the kickoff in a Herm The Clock-esque maneuver. In an ideal world, he knows that he's going to go for it on fourth and 2, so he prepares for that possibility after 2nd down. I don't think he did that. But don't get your cheap shots in by criticizing the single best football coach in the world right now. Because no, whoever you are, you don't know more than he does.

One quick note on my bias, I could probably watch Belichick pour a bottle of jack down Brady's throat with one hand, hold the lighter for Randy Moss' Bong with the other hand while he kicks Kevin Faulk in the sack before a crucial 4th quarter drive and I'd say "well he usually knows what he's doing, so I'll trust him."

But he's earned that. And with that call he earned a little more, at least from me.


Mind boggling

I really don't have much to say. Just watch the clip.

I mean, that's a DOUBLE hand ball. Is that even a term? Two absolutely blatant violations by Henry. Not called.

At least this legend only touched it once.

Who knew Phil Cuzzi was reffing World Cup qualifiers?

The Cavs stink

After they dominated the first quarter, I've had to endure the Cavs being run off the floor for the rest of the game by the Wizards. Yes, the 2-7 Wizards. The Cavs are now down 17 with under four minutes to play.

This loss will drop Cleveland to 8-4 on the year, which on the surface isn't bad, but the Cavs really haven't played well all year and are way behind the pace of last year's 66 wins.

Could my rage about this situation have anything to do with my taking Cleveland over 61 wins in a pool? Anything's possible, but the fact remains Lebron and the Jamesettes don't look good.

Well, Lebron looks fine. As for the rest of you, I expect you to cover the $50 I'm going to owe for this over/under pool. Cash or check.

And the dinosaur of the year award goes to...

Congratulations, Mike Scioscia and Jim Tracy. You guys just won the most overrated award in sports.

Scioscia and Tracy were named the top managers in baseball today by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Now I'm not trying to belittle their achievement, but... but... okay, that's exactly what I'm trying to do.

I'm sure both men are very bright and great guys. Actually, I'm not sure of either of those two things, but regardless, I'm not taking a shot at them personally. Just professionally. As in their profession stinks.

Let's start with Scioscia, who I don't think is a particularly bad manager, he's just not a particularly good one (Lifting ace John Lackey in the seventh inning of game 5 of the ALCS this year against the Yankees is one of the all-time blunders), if there even is such a thing. I'm also sick of him getting so much credit for doing well with a stacked team.

I know he had to deal with injuries to his team and even the tragic death of young pitcher Nick Adenhart, who died in a car accident in April. But it's not like he was working with the Bad News Bears here. He's got plenty of talent with a payroll of almost $119 million (sixth-highest in baseball) and the Angels win their pitiful division every year even when he hits his worst hitter third in the lineup (See Maicer Izturis in 2008) and people praise him for going with his (big) gut. So what's the big deal?

Oh, and enough with the so-called "experts" talking about how the Angels are always putting pressure on their opponents by being agressive on the basepaths. Only the Yankees, who basically have an All-Star at every position, scored more runs in all of baseball. You can't be that productive simply by running as proved by the fact that Scioscia's supposed team of scrappers posted the game's fifth-highest slugging percentage.

Then there's Tracy. He was promoted to manager from bench coach (talk about your all-time joke of a job) in May after Clint Hurdle was fired. Yeah, that same Clint Hurdle who took the baseball world by storm when he got this same team to rip off an incredible 21 wins in 22 games down the stretch before losing to the Red Sox in the World Series. Like all dinosaurs, he eventually hit a cold streak (let's just call it the Ice Age) and was exposed for the fraud he really is.

Unlike Scioscia, Tracy doesn't have as much money or talent at his fingertips, so he'll go the way of the Hurdle-saurus within the next few years (He already failed with the Dodgers and the Pirates). But for now, he's on the top of the heap and getting paid big bucks to do a job that could be done by a below-average trained chimp. Must be nice.


Another GPS needed

ESPN just keeps churning out garbage.

During halftime of Monday night's joke of a game (by the way, I hope you remembered it was me who predicted the Browns to embarrass themselves most last weekend), Tom Jackson criticized Maurice Jones Drew for going down at the one-yard line on the final drive in the Jaguars-Jets game.

Wrong again.

Tom's explanation was something on the order of "when you have a chance to score, you have to score." Another statement that belongs in a museum.

Let's examine this carefully. If Jones Drew goes into the end zone, the Jets get the ball back with about 1:40 left after the ensuing kickoff. The Jets' offense won't remind anyone of the 'Greatest Show on Turf' Rams, but going 75 yards for a touchdown with almost two minutes remaining and then converting a two-point conversion is certainly not completely out of the question.

On the flip side, when Jones Drew goes down, he enables his team to run the clock down to the point where the field goal - which is essentially an extra point - is the last play of the game. Twenty-two teams have made every extra point they've attempted this season. Jacksonville missed one but made every one last season, making the odds of missing a 21-yard field goal for the win infinitesimal.

It was a smart play by Jones Drew, and it's really not that hard to figure out why. Then again, ESPN has a knack for being wrong.

Another wrong answer

So apparently the president of basketball operations for the Knicks — the man who looks like, and will forever be known as, Donnie Walsh's corpse — is deeply involved in some 48-hour fact-finding mission about whether or not Allen Iver-lost can help his team. If you thought the Knicks couldn't sink any lower, they have. Iver-lost has become a viable option.

Let's put this into perspective. Imagine you had the opportunity to execute a business deal that would make the company a few bucks (think: ticket sales), but you also had overwhelming evidence to suggest the deal would: A) completely monopolize the company (no more cultivating young players); B) show short-lived improvements, followed by a pants-stripping downturn (the inevitable embarrassment of his departure); and C) be detrimental to your employees in both the short and long-term (impact on teammates). Would you need to think twice?

But thinking is reportedly what Walsh's corpse is up to. Only here's the problem with that: What facts aren't already front and center? Has Iver-lost been dealt to three teams since his days with the Sixers and systematically destroyed or tried to destroy them? Yes. Have his stats dipped lower than a Kardashian neck line? Yes. Has he essentially quit on two straight teams (Pistons, Grizz)? Umm, yes.

Some will argue AI is worthy of a starting spot on the Knicks, maybe even worthy of the tag as their top scorer. Fine. No argument from me, considering the team can't score or defend right now and is off to the worst 10-game start in franchise history.

But there simply comes a point when talent at a price is no longer worth it. No team in basketball should realize this like the Knicks, who've endured enough Vinnie Bakers, Steph Marburys and Stevie Franchises to torture a generation of fans twice over. So why Iver-lost? Why now? Why tarnish the franchise's reputation further, and do it only a few months before the chase begins for LeBron?

People will argue the commitment won't hurt the Knicks because it will end before LeBron, Dwayne Wade and co. spend the Summer of 2010 searching for the greenest pastures. That's absurd. The Knicks ruined their reputation already, but a union with perhaps the league's most unrealistic player could actually destroy it further. I mean, isn't this the same man who quit on the Grizzlies after three games? In what bizarro world should he play over Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley on a team desperate to rebuild? The Answer: None.

Of one thing I am absolutely certain: Walsh's corpse looks like the wrong man at what is hyped to be a crucial moment in Knick history. He drafted a stiff over Brandon Jennings. He built a team without a young point guard in spite of a 2009 draft littered with them. He has helped bury Eddy Curry a year after early reliance on Zach Randolph allowed the club to rid itself of his contract. And now Iver-lost?

Sorry to say it, Knick fans. Walsh may be the wrong answer, too.

LeBron James is a Liar

Another rip from guest correspondent, the great Dickie Stabone, who listened to LeBron's explanations and found they simply didn't jive:

In news that certainly made NBA jersey makers see dollar signs in their sleep, LeBron James announced this is the final year he will be honoring Michael Jordan by wearing the number 23. Starting next season, he will honor Mike by NOT wearing the number.

Yes. You read that correctly. He is going to honor him by honoring him in the exact opposite way of how he’s been honoring him for his entire career. He claims it’s a matter of respect. Jordan was the greatest and, if he can't be on the NBA logo, his number should be retired. It's a nice line if you believe it.

I don’t.

Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing: this has nothing to do with Jordan. It’s all about one person —LeBron.

Sure, James didn’t go to college, but he’s smart. He knows that No. 23 will always be equated with Mike. No matter what James accomplishes in his career, his name won’t be top of mind when someone says, “That 23. He sure was something else.”

But the number he's switching to — No. 6? Come on, will it really be that hard to push Andrew Bogut to the back of the conversation? Don't think so.

His reasoning behind the switch is a little confusing to me. He starts it off on a logical note: It's the number he wore in the Olympics. Fair enough. But then his second reason is a head scratcher: He wants to honor Dr. J.

But if he hasn't been wearing No. 6 the whole time, hasn't he been honoring the Doc in the same way he's about to honor Mike? And by wearing No. 6, won't he be disrespecting Doc in the same way he'd be disrespecting Mike by keeping 23?

So maybe he's not so smart after all.


Chalk up another one
for the baseball writers

The postseason baseball awards are beginning to trickle out and there's already been an egregious error. Not only did the baseball writers get it wrong for the National League Rookie of the Year, they weren't even close.

Let me throw some stats at you. How does an 11-4 record with a 2.89 ERA and 116 strikeouts and just 46 walks in 127.2 innings pitched sound?

Pretty good right? Maybe even good enough to be in the Cy Young mix? Well, apparently, it wasn't even good enough to be in the ROY mix, as Braves phenom Tommy Hanson found out.

Hanson finished a distant third behind winner Chris Coghlan of the Florida Marlins and the Phillies' J.A. Happ. I'm not saying those players didn't have good seasons, just that neither performed at Hanson's level.

So why then did Hanson receive 37 total votes to Coghlan's 105 and Happ's 94? Because baseball writers are a bunch of prehistoric creatures roaming the earth and looking for anyway to show that they are still relevant.

For the record, Coghlan, who's 17 first-place votes were four more than all other NL rookies combined received, had a very good on base of .390, a more than respectable OPS of .850, but an un-meaty total of nine home runs in 504 at bats.

But ding, ding, ding! He posted a .321 batting average! And there's the answer. Nevermind that he had a .365 average on balls in play, fifth-highest in the NL or that despite his Jacoby Ellsbury-esque pop, he possesses Jose Molina-like speed with eight steals. And as a converted second baseman playing outfield for the first time this year, he's not exactly the second coming of Willie Mays when it comes to roaming Land Shark Stadium.

Happ on the other hand, wasn't as impressive as Hanson, but had similar stats with his 12-4 record and 2.93 ERA. He also pitched for a contender, something that the writers usually eat up, but even that wasn't enough to prevent the third-best candidate from winning this award. It wasn't enough to offset a bunch of bloop singles.


According to reports all over the internet, Larry Johnson will soon be a member of the Bengals.

Marvin Lewis has stated that Johnson will be a fourth running back and possibly play on special teams initially. I don't get it.

I will admit straight away that I personally don't like LJ. But that's not why I hate this move. The Bengals are coming off a great win, are in control of their division and finally starting to change their image as an incompetent franchise with a team full of felons.

Why bring Johnson - who was cut by the Chiefs for using gay slurs and criticizing Kansas City coach Todd Haley on Twitter - into such a good situation?

If the Bengals were a 7-2 team with one obvious weakness like a vulnerable cornerback, I could see taking this kind of risk on a player. But bring in a controversial player, past his prime, who you admittedly expect to be nothing more than insurance? Makes no sense.

The Bengals have played great football this year, and if not for the Denver miracle in Week 1 would be 8-1. Even with that loss, I think this team, surprisingly, is a legitimate contender for the AFC title.

If it ain't broke, don't sign a bigot.

Numbers never lie, only sometimes

The web has been abuzz with intelligent discussion about Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 with 2:06 left. The Pats missed it and lost to the Colts, 35-34. In a word, they were daggered.

Many people far better with numbers than us have concluded Belichick gave himself a better chance to win going for it than he would have punting. Here's one of the best arguments.

It has definitely forced Mr. Buckner and I to reconsider. However, I tend to side with Buckner for the following reasons, some of which he has already stated:

The numbers factored in consider these were both typical offensive series (Pats and Colts). These WOULD NOT have been typical series. The Pats have a great offense. Also, with it being their last chance, the Colts would have four downs to gain 10 yards, not three, thus increasing their probability to advance the ball downfield. Typical probabilities of them gaining 70 yards vs. them gaining 29 must be adjusted accordingly.
Momentum is not a word statisticians love. It's similar to the idea of being clutch, which many of us agree is a fool's crutch. However, in this case momentum cannot be denied. The Colts had it by tearing down the field on the previous possession. It only increases once they receive the boost gained by working with a short field.
For an adequate answer to this questions, probabilities must somehow factor in several intricacies. Did the Pats have the option to run on fourth down? (Not really.) Why? Well, were they missing their top short-yardage back (Sammy Morris)? Yes. Was their defense gassed? Probably. Etc., etc.

So, yes, while many smart people have continued the debate today, I'm not sure simple numbers answer whether Belichick made the correct decision or not. It's much like baseball. Numbers can tell us the correct decision to make over the course of a long season or a long series. In baseball, with so many games, so many at-bats, so many pitches, those decisions should be uniform. But in football, with so few games, so few plays and so few decisions like these, more must be taken into account.

The situation has a much greater impact in football than it does in baseball. Is Brett Favre better than he was 10 years ago? No. But in this situation, is he having a better season? Absolutely. But don't Adrian Peterson, an enormous line and a stout defense help swing the numbers his way?

The Belichick calculator

A group of much smarter guys than us over at Football Outsiders have posted a probability calculator. You can enter your own probabilities and it will determine whether your estimates favor Belichick going for the fourth-and-2 or the other option: punting and gaining 40 yards of field position.

Even though I still find his arrogance astounding, it's closer than you think.

A culture of lost

The fourth-and-2 forever burned into our football brains wasn't called Sunday night in Indianapolis with Bill Belichick's team up six and just over two minutes left. Nor did it date  to Sept. 9, 2007 — opening day vs. the Jets — when the Patriot machine started going for fourth downs because it could and never really stopped.

No, Belichick's unexplainable call was born years ago, born at every step along the way where, bit by bit, he spent collateral earned during three Super Bowl wins and bucked convention. Ya know, because he could.

Consider: His aggression in benching Drew Bledsoe, then running the QB out of town. His resourcefulness that led Troy Brown from catching passes to defending them. And his icy decision-making that shipped Tom Brady's best friend Lawyer Molloy to the unemployment line just before the season opener. And they are but a few.

All those things worked, the effect of another Lombardi trophy outweighing the cause in the end, and oodles more followed in their wake. The results only added to the Belichick mystique, only colored this Hall-of-Fame coach in shades of gray. He knew what came next. The rest of us were just guessing.

In recent years, we've learned more and more that Belichick's culture of arrogance has also emboldened this absolute boor of a man. His team couldn't survive without actual NFL receivers. It couldn't withstand the Peyton Manning and the Colts with an All-AARP defense. And even after a perfect season, it couldn't send five guys deep against Justin Tuck and the boys, not every darn play.

Finally, Belichick's arrogance cost him dearly and served some justice to someone in need of more than his share. The Pats fell 35-34 on Sunday Night Football at the hands of the unbeaten Colts, who outscored their rival 21-10 in the fourth quarter and now sit somewhere between Reggie Bush (this) and Derek Jeter (this, this, this...and more) on the luck-meter.

Considering the outcome and the heightened attention thrown at Manning v. Brady CLXXXIV, or whatever it was, Belichick's heinous call may rank among the worst regular-season decisions in NFL history. It directly cost his team the game — I take no arguments — but I'll leave the specifics to colleague Norwood Buckner. What I cannot wrap my mind around is the utter unchecked arrogance that led Bill Beli-lost to believe going for it was his best option. The Colts still had the two-minute warning and a timeout. The Pats needed TWO first downs there, not one.

Maybe people will finally start to realize no one rules the sports world, particularly not a football coach who may or may not have Asperger's. For every success, failure hides around the corner, waiting to take a figurative dump on your hardware. (Belichick's hardware stinks like yesterday's lunch, by the way.)

For years, Belichick escaped the furor directed at his colleagues and earned credit for "trusting his offense," and "being one step ahead." Has anyone ever stopped to consider the Patriots are/were pretty darn good?

Had one of the Jims — Zorn, Fassel, Mora, Mora Jr., take your pick — pulled this, he'd be crucified, daggered to a slow death in some radio booth or on some glass-housed pregame show set. Of course, Belichick will survive it. He already dismissed any notion the God of Foxboro hath erred. Maybe the next act will be to cut Kevin Faulk for not gaining the extra half-yard.

Wouldn't surprise me. Not from this guy/clown.

Genius tag removed

Johnny K. Woo texted me seconds before it actually happened.

"Dumbest decision in the history of football...or at least up there."

I instantly texted back as the playclock was going down.


Frankly, I didn't believe it was happening. The Patriots were just trying to draw the Colts to jump offside right? They couldn't seriously be going for it leading 34-28 on 4th-and-2 with 2:08 left. Hold on...

The sports world will be buzzing about Belichick's decision for two main reasons. The first reason is obvious...the decision was ridiculous. The second reason is because the unthinkable decision was made by Bill Belichick. Bill Freaking Belichick. The genius. We're all a bit hesitant to question him. He's earned carte blanche in the minds of most fans and media members to do whatever he wants.

But let's not forget a couple of past decisions Belichick has made. In Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots led 7-3 midway through the third quarter facing a 4th-and-13 on the Giants' 31-yard line. Easy decision. Kick the field goal. Belichick decided to go for it, and Tom Brady's pass was incomplete. Final score: Giants 17, Patriots 14...think the Pats could have potentially used those three points? It has always amazed me how that decision wasn't discussed in greater detail.

In Week 3 this season against Atlanta, the Patriots were leading 13-10. Belichick decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 from his own 24 midway through the third quarter. The gamble worked, but the decision was still foolish.

Unlike those last two decisions, which didn't get a ton of attention, tonight's will be discussed ad nauseam. You can make a legitimate case that Belichick's decision cost his team the game.

We knew we wouldn't get much of an explanation from Belichick's presser. Predictably, the phrase he repeated over and over again was some form of "We thought we could win the game on that play. We thought it was a yard we would get."

First, not to be overly picky...but it was not ONE yard. It was a full two. And because of that, a running play wasn't even an option. The distance did come into play, considering the Patriots completed a pass SHORT of the marker.

Second, he didn't address the consequence of NOT making the first down. If they didn't get two yards, they would be giving up the ball on their own 28. The risk was enormous.

I wish the assembled media would have pressed Belichick a bit more on what he thought of his defense. Rather than simply asking that question once and listening to a non-responsive "We thought we could pick up a yard" and then moving on, the assembled reporters needed to follow up with the gruff coach. As uncomfortable as that would be.

That was the crux of this decision. As much confidence as Belichick has in the Pats' offense -- and rightly so -- the bigger issue at play here was that he displayed a truly alarming lack of support for his defense.

Belichick's reputation suffered a hit in this game. Such criticisms in the past have been of possible cheating, his personality and his wardrobe. For the first time since he was the head coach in Cleveland, he now will be under more scrutiny regarding true football decisions.


Rips from around the league

As the Colts-Pats game gets underway, here are some thoughts from today's games:

Tennessee 41, Buffalo 17: Terrell Owens promised Chris Johnson his jersey if Tennessee beat Buffalo. That jersey isn't worth nearly what it used to be.

New Orleans 28, St. Louis 23: St. Louis almost didn't stink for one day. Almost.

Miami 25, Tampa Bay 23: After breaking a long losing streak last week the Bucs got started on a new one today.

Minnesota 27, Detroit 10: What's the point of ripping the Lions anymore?

Jacksonville 24, New York 22: Jacksonville cut right through the Jets' defense to kick a game-winning field goal. Maybe Bart Scott will finally shut up, although I doubt it.

Cincinnati 18, Pittsburgh 12: I have to rip myself here for picking Green Bay over Cincinnati Week 2 in my suicide pool. Daggerous.

Washington 27, Denver 17: Washington scored on a fake punt that Denver knew was coming. Doesn't get worse than that.

Carolina 28, Atlanta 19: Three games in a row without a pick for Jake Delhomme. Who knows, maybe avoiding turnovers is a formula for winning.

Kansas City 16, Oakland 10: I won't waste your time or mine.

Green Bay 17, Dallas 7: Oh, what a glorious result. Hey Tony, don't worry, everyone knows you're money in the second half of the season.

Arizona 31, Seattle 20: Seattle is sneaky bad. Their lack of talent flies under the radar.

San Diego 31, Philadelphia 23: Hey, any time the Eagles and Cowboys lose on the same day, it's a damn good day.

Not looking good

Brandon Jennings tallied the fifth highest point total for a rookie in NBA history last night, notching a tidy 55 against Golden State. Jennings' double nickel ranks behind only scrubs like Wilt Chamberlain (58 twice), Rick Barry and Earl Monroe.

Jennings' career is just seven games old, so obviously it's too early to induct him into the HOF. But those seven games have made the Knicks' selection of Jordan Hill ahead of Jennings look mighty suspect. The Knicks limped to a 1-9 start with Hill rarely finding his way onto the court, and Jennings is the talk of the league.

Knicks fans are looking to the '10 free agent class for hope, but even if the Knicks lure Lebron or Wade to the Big Apple, fans will inevitably start to wonder how good the Knicks could have been with one of those big free agents and Jennings.

As many daggers as Knicks fans have endured in recent years, this has a chance to be the biggest one yet.