Naughty or Nice?

Santonio Holmes is now doing his big game thing as a New York Jet



By: Chris Ross

In the past few years the NFL has seen its fair share of athletes who probably haven’t behaved well enough to get on Santa’s nice list. However, when it comes to NFL front offices, it’s not only Santa who isn’t rewarding the naughty.

Professional athletes with troubled pasts often gain a reputation that they are unable to shake, which causes the majority of teams to shy away from them. The media too often brands players of this nature as “cancers in the locker room”, guys who “destroy team chemistry”, or “distractions.” Whether it be diva wide-receivers or quarterbacks in trouble with the law, many GM’s fail to exercise the simple cost-benefit principle when deciding to forgo the signing or drafting of these ultra talented, difficulty prone, (super)stars.

We are now only 11 weeks into the NFL season and we can already see a number of these” character issue” players causing no more of a problem than a person J-walking.

This issue is not a matter of taking on a great risk and all these NFL front office’s just need to find a bit of their inner Evel Knievel.

The new Mr. Big Game in New York is the man who is best known for catching the game winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mr. Santonio Holmes was sent to the New York Jets in exchange for a fifth round pick, that’s right folks a fifth rounder. He was subsequently hit with a 4 game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy within 24 hours of learning he had been traded to New York. Not only that, but Holmes has also had his fair share of brushes with the law throughout his life times throughout his life.

Despite all of that, Rex Ryan was willing to take a chance on a guy who had the ability to become the #1 option in his offence and all it cost him was a fifth round pick. Holmes is 26 years old and could very likely become the most important long-term piece of this Jets offence aside from the “Sanchize” of course.
Reward: In only 6 games Holmes already has 447 yards receiving, to go along with two game winning touchdown catches.
Risk: Fifth Round Pick

Jerry Jones said that after picking Dez Bryant he was not going to make the same mistake that he did with Randy Moss in 1998 and Jerry “GM” Jones finally made a decision that benefitted his team. Dez Bryant was one of these “character issue” guys that teams ostracize as if they’re carrying bubonic plague. Apparently, Bryant was constantly late to team activities in college and his mother was a prostitute or something. Okay, I’m not sure that the second one holds much water but you get the point right?

Dez Bryant is one of the best emerging young stars in the NFL

Dez Bryant’s draft stock dropped dramatically as the draft drew closer and closer. The Denver Broncos could have even taken him with the 22nd overall pick but they went the safe route, choosing Demaryius Thomas, who has compiled a total of 283 receiving yards this season. Dez Bryant, on the other hand, is flourishing on a Dallas Cowboys team that has gone through more drama than an episode of Days of our Lives. Bryant has amassed 547 yards in the air in addition to his 2 special team touchdowns and has received endless praise from respected analysts such as former Super Bowl winning coach Jon Gruden.
Reward: Superstar (diva?) Wide-Receiver?
Risk: 24th overall pick

Don’t think that I forgot to mention the top dog of them all. Michael Vick’s story is one that I don’t feel needs to be told because frankly I’m tired of hearing it. Vick has now turned his career around. He is no longer your half-ass it, get by on my talent quarterback as he is now working on his game more along the lines of your Tom Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s. Vick is getting MVP consideration around the league and has the potential to lead his Eagles to a Super Bowl.

Following his release from prison, amidst all the criticism, 31 other teams weren’t even willing to give this “underdog” a sniff at playing in the NFL again (last dog pun I swear). Controversially though, one team and one man gave him an opportunity and Andy Reid must be feeling like a kid in a candy shop these days, or a security guard in Dunkin Donuts, whatever works for you.
Reward: Michael Vick Reborn
Risk: Media distraction and $1.6 million of unguaranteed money.

I realize that there are other guys that don’t fit into this group, but that is just an inevitability when you gamble on troubled players. The real big baby of pro sports, Vince Young, looks to be done as a Titan, but no matter what happens Young will always be one of those risk-reward guys that had a real shot to become something special. This is an instance where it didn’t work out and the Titans organization needs to swallow its pride and move on. Here’s looking at you Bud Adams.

Randy Moss and Brett Favre get partial credit because they have also been on the other end of the spectrum in this regard.

Terrell Owens also deserves an honourable mention. Owens is a prime example of a player throughout his career who has been one of those reward is greater than the risk type guys. He almost didn’t get a chance to play this year because it looked like the risk was finally becoming greater than the reward. However, the Bengals gave him a chance and he has rewarded them with 897 freaking receiving yards through 10 games and the risk, well the risk is always T.O. Additionally, Pacman Jones who wasn’t able to get his stuff together in Tennessee or Dallas got, I believe, his 8 zillionth chance to play and became a staple in the much maligned Cincinnati defence before injuring his neck on October 26th putting him out for the season.

Are General Managers going to start changing their ways? Are they are seriously going to continue to consult their nice list to find average Joe millionaire or do they dare take a look at the naughty and find their future hall of famer ?

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Greg Oden Was the Right Pick

Despite not playing in a game this season Greg Oden has been ruled out for another NBA season

The Greg Oden bust songs have come out full force and this time there might be no turning back. In the past couple of days there has been much discussion regarding the news that Greg Oden will once again be out for another season because of injury. This is the third time that Oden has suffered a season-ending knee injury and with the Blazers in dire need of his services it is a major question of whether or not we will see him in a Blazers uniform ever again.

With fellow 2007 draftee and reigning 2009-10 NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant flourishing in Oklahoma City it would seem that, through the benefit of hindsight, we can easily state that the drafting of Greg Oden by Portland was the wrong choice. However, if you take a closer look into the understanding behind the Greg Oden choice there is no doubt in my mind that it was the right one.

As I said it is easy to say that the Greg Oden pick was a bad one, but if you think back to 2007 you would remember that the Blazers front office as well as fans and analysts alike spent the summer trying to figure out which player would be the better selection. The #1 choice that year was a virtual coin toss between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. The situation was essentially the same as the Peyton Manning, Ryan Leaf debate except for one key ingredient to the equation. With the crucial aspect being that Oden and Durant do not play the same position unlike Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.

When drafting players there is always that fine line of drafting for talent or for need. Eve though this was not even a situation that was necessarily talent over need, the need of the Blazers was not for another primary ball handler and scorer.

With the Blazers currently sitting at 8-5 in the tough Western Conference, and their franchise player Brandon Roy currently out with a nagging injury to his knees I guess they could use a legit star. However, back in 2007, Brandon Roy was a healthy, emerging star in the NBA. His silky-smooth play combined with leadership and poise made him a player that any team would love to have as the focus of their franchise.

Why would the 2007 Portland Trail Blazers mess with the center-piece of their franchise by adding another ball-dominating, scoring wing player?

Having two ball-dominant guards in the NBA is something that is not looked upon as the formula for a championship winning team. Year after year we see that the winning teams combine a star wing player with a or multiple quality big men, which was something the Blazers were still looking for back when they chose to draft Oden in 2007. In fact, the Blazers still could use that elusive big man in their line-up as Lamarcus Aldridge is not the interior presence that team’s fear on defence, nor is he enough of a pure scoring force to make up for that lack of defensive prowess. Moreover, the Blazers are employing past his prime, 36-year-old Marcus Camby as their starting center who would serve much better at this point in his career in a backup role.

The Allen Iverson-Carmelo Anthony experiment failed in Denver

The Los Angeles Lakers combined Kobe with Shaq and then Pau Gasol, the Spurs have Parker/Ginobli with Tim Duncan, and the Heat had Wade with Shaq just to give a few examples of championship winning combinations. Contrast that to a Nugget unification of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony or the potential bust of the current Miami Heat team with Lebron James and Dwayne Wade

If Greg Oden was healthy and able to fulfill the vast potential that everyone see’s in him there is no doubt that he would be a perfect fit in the Blazer line-up. His scoring touch isn’t as polished as it needs to be, but when you have Roy and Aldridge as your two primary scorers there is no pressure on him to put up 15-20 points on a nightly basis.

Obviously though this is not the case. Greg Oden is not healthy and he is not realizing his vast potential. Nonetheless I still feel that the most important aspect of this debate is that Kevin Durant wasn’t, is not, and never will be the right piece of the puzzle for the Portland Trail Blazers as long as Brandon Roy is in town.

It is sad to see that Greg Oden will most likely end up being a bust rather than a star, but Blazer fans and Oden critics need to understand the process instead of just pointing to the results.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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To Sign or Not To Sign?

Is Albert Pujols worth $30 million?

It is no surprise that going into a contract year St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is looking to cash in after another season of remarkable consistency. It was reported by Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman earlier today that Pujols is seeking Alex Rodriguez type money to become baseball’s first real 30 million dollar man. A-Rod signed his massive 10 year $275 million contract in 2007 at the age of 32, while Pujols will be 31 when his contract runs out next season. Pujols’ extraordinary ability to perform at such a consistent level on a year-to-year basis mean it is inevitable that he gets a contract in the A-Rod range, but the team that signs him may be regretting the decision in the years to come.

In his 10 year career, Albert Pujols has never had a season in which he has hit below .300 or had fewer than 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s. You can draw parallels to Ichiro Suzuki’s consistency, who just had his 10th straight 200 hit season, except on a much more power oriented scale. The problem that the Cardinals face is that they are being forced into paying best player in baseball money for a player who most likely will not continue his reliable consistency in his late 30’s and early 40’s.

Going into the 4th year of his 10 year deal, the Yankees are already seeing the drawbacks on this type of risky deal for Alex Rodriguez. In comparison to A-Rod’s prime years, there has been a significant drop off in the power numbers. He has gone from 40 and 50 plus homers to 35, 30 and 30 home runs respectively in each of his past 3 seasons. The more alarming stat though is that in the last 3 years Rodriguez’s average has dropped from .302 to .286 and finally a very mediocre .270 in 2010.

If you don’t buy all the crap coming out of A-Rod’s mouth then these numbers could partly be attributed to his lack of those naughty performance enhancers. With that being said though, we can see that Pujols should not have to undergo this type of drop off in his numbers at least due to non-natural causes, as he has never been and I hope never will be linked to steroids.

However, if what I have just said has absolutely nothing or only partly to do with Alex Rodriguez’s recent statistics then we can most likely attribute it to age. Well, isn’t that what we always do when we see a decline in an “older” player’s numbers?

Even though it is incredibly cliché to attribute the plunge of an “older” player’s game to age, it is no doubt a very logical reason. Albert Pujols most likely won’t be seeing a drop off in his statistics anytime soon but when he starts hitting his mid 30’s there is a good chance that he won’t be worth the $30 million or whatever he ends up signing for.

The thing is, if you have a team that doesn’t mind paying the luxury tax, dishing out extra cash for undeserving players, or just flat out being cash strapped then I don’t see this as a problem. However, if your team is not the New York Yankees then the signing of someone of Pujols’ stature should strike you as a major issue.

What happens when you have a $30 million franchise player who suddenly isn’t producing the way you would hope?

This isn’t going to be a short-term problem for the team that signs Pujols, but make no mistake, this is going to be a long-term issue and the St. Louis Cardinals front office better take a long hard look in the mirror before deciding to take on Pujols for possibly 10 more years.

Do St. Louis Cardinal fans want 38-year-old Manny Ramirez production for $30 million a year?

I didn’t think so.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

Also check out howiGit’s blog.

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