Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

Welcome to the new, hopefully, weekly segment on Painting the Black. It is my goal to start your work week off right with random thoughts, ideas, rants and ramblings from the week that was in the world of sports. Exclusive to Painting the Black, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations…

April is Undoubtedly the Best Sports Month

I used to believe that April and October were essentially equal in the best sports month department. I have now officially changed my mind. There is simply no comparison to the month of April. While October features playoff baseball and the new beginnings of the NBA and NHL seasons, the month of April contains all those things flipped around, but so much more. The Masters start the real golf season off right as we saw one of the most exciting Master’s of all time with big Bubba gettin ‘er done. But on top of that, everyone’s favourite bullshit season, the NFL draft is arguably the best football day of the year.

Yeah, April trumps the competition.

Liberal Strike Zones

I’ll never understand why so many umpires choose to give such liberal strike zones. The plate is there for a reason yet umpires are always giving 2 or 3 inches off the edges. This isn’t anything new to baseball but it is something that should change. The MLB is having enough problems with teams inability to score runs and it doesn’t help that umpires continually call strikes that hitters simply can’t reach in this steroid-less, nasty off-speed, hard throwing age of baseball.

It always rubbed me the wrong way that star players in any sport get the benefit of the calls. They are already the best and do not deserve an even bigger advantage. Greg Maddux is the pitcher that immediately comes to mind whenever I see star pitchers get the benefit of the doubt on calls outside the zone. Expanding the strike zone beyond its predisposed limits makes great pitchers like Maddux virtually unhittable. All this ‘they have earned it’ stuff is really just a bunch of garbage

Why the MLB puts up with this is beyond me. Like the NHL, they are losing ground on the NFL and NBA and a simple fix for more runs would be to tell umpires to call strikes within the strike zone. Who is running this league? Gary Bettman?

I don’t get it.

Pujols Struggling

The choice to sign a player on the wrong side of 30 to a double-digit year contract doesn’t really ever strike me as the brightest idea.
Now, of course it would be moronic to deem Albert Pujols’ 10 year contract a failure after 21 homerless games but the decision making behind the signing was questionable prior to the signing. The fact that his age is still an unknown and that he already was on the decline last season, despite his great second half, were not good indicators for his success over the next decade.

Missing Colour in the NHL

The amount of high quality colour commentators in the world of professional sports is few and far between but each sport seems to have at least 1 or 2 guys that qualify as elite. Except for hockey that is. Watching the NHL playoffs this year has brought this to my attention again.

CBC’s lead guy, Craig Simpson, suffers from a severe case of lack of insightful analysis and appears to be ignorantly blissful to all the head shots, hooking, holding and other problems that are hurting the game of hockey. Although Pierre McGuire knows his stuff well for the most part, there is a sense of arrogance to his general lack of likeability from NBC’s new top colour man.

It’s frustrating that, out of all the former players and front office men, they can’t find one guy to be the voice of authority for the NHL. The game experience really becomes a lot less enjoyable without that dynamic tandem up in the booth.

Steve Nash to Miami?

I keep hearing about Steve Nash to Miami and how this is the ideal destination for the 2-time NBA Most Valuable Player to win a championship. Sure, Miami would give Nash arguably the best opportunity to finally get that elusive ring but that’s about all it will do for him. The ring isn’t everything for Steve Nash. There’s a reason why he hasn’t demanded a trade out of Phoenix. He likes it there. He likes playing in a system that he is comfortable with and, more importantly, where he is the focal point.

Nash dominates the ball but that wouldn’t be the case with Dwayne Wade and Lebron James. I can guarantee you that Steve Nash doesn’t want that. Miami and Steve Nash makes about as much sense as cheeseburgers on a pizza. What, Pizza Hut did that?

Welp, anything is possible I guess.

Classy Bruins Fans. Very Classy.

Not that you probably need it but here’s another reason to hate Boston sports fans and it’s not a good one. Following Washington Capitals African-Canadian forward Joel Ward’s game 7 overtime game winning goal, a barrage of racially filled hate flooded the twitterverse directed at Ward by the defeated Bruins fans. It’s a classless display. I realize that it is only a small portion of the Bruins fans and by no means represents their entire fan base, but the fact that there were enough people to use the dreaded N-word in this defamatory manner to make a story out of it is pathetic.

The double-edged sword nature of twitter rears its ugly head again as its lack of any sort of filter allows emotionally charged individuals to vent their frustrations before they have any chance to properly collect their thoughts. Twitter is fascinating in that regard because it shows people in their most uninhibited state, without the masks that they put on for society each and every day. It’s almost like alcohol in that your true persona and feelings come out whether you like it or not. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe this could not have happened to another city’s fan base but, at the same time, it is by no means a shocker that the city of Boston is the culprit.

Good on Joel Ward for playing the story down though and not making this out to be something more than it has to be.

Jose Bautista, ah, Struggling

Like Pujols, Bautista is mired in a prolonged slump, which seems to concern me a lot more than the rest of Blue Jays nation. Sure, Jose Bautista has hit the most home runs in the Majors in the past 2 seasons, had a slash line of .302/.447/.608 in 2011 and WAR’d an outstanding 8.5 last season. However, those inflated numbers were due in large part to his torrid April and May. Yeah, I know his OPS was still .896 after the all-star break last year but he hasn’t ever looked like the same player since last May. A lot of his walks were because of his inability to put the ball in play even as pitchers shied away from him less and less with the realization that he wasn’t Barry Bonds anymore.

Enter 2012, where Bautista is slashing a terrible .187/.337/.333. While it would be absurd to say that Jose Bautista cannot become close to a shadow of his former self, I think it’s starting to become evident that his post all-star break numbers are a better indication of what we’re going to see from him in the future. As a Blue Jays fan, I want to be wrong (kind of). I was wrong in the summer of 2010 when I told the Blue Jays not to re-sign Bautista. Being wrong doesn’t hurt nearly as much as seeing Bautista pop out or foul back good pitch after good pitch.

It doesn’t look as though it is merely a matter of finding his timing anymore. He still has the power but something is seriously wrong. Maybe this is a case of coming to a conclusion a little bit too quickly but this feeling has been churning in my stomach since last June and, as of right now, it isn’t going anywhere.

Don’t Turn Off the Game, Ever

I think I turned the Clippers-Grizzlies game when Memphis was up by 21 points with about a minute left in the 3rd quarter. Bad idea.

By now you probably know how the story turns out. Fairy tale for the Clippers, horror story for the Grizzlies and yada, yada, yada. Nevermind the awesomeness of the comeback in itself. This is just another one of those “if you put it in a movie you wouldn’t believe it” moments that play such a big part in making sports so fascinating to society. I realize I didn’t actually watch this comeback but these are the times when I feel sorry for people who don’t watch sports. Those guys are missing out.

Bonus (Shameless?) Contemplation!

I was thinking that you might want to check me out on twitter and then give me a follow @paintstheblack if you like what you’re seeing. Maybe before you do that, don’t leave the website and subscribe to the blog either through the email subscription in the right hand corner or with the RSS feed so you can have immediate access to the latest articles on Painting the Black. Sweet, I know.

Thank You Albert Pujols

Ironically enough, it would seem as though the St. Louis Cardinals have a guardian angel watching over them.

In a coup that would have made William of Orange proud, the Los Angeles Angels residing in Anaheim snatched Albert Pujols for a cool $254 million. The 31-year-old spurned not only his hometown Cardinals but also the Miami Marlins who had reportedly offered him a tax-free $275 million (although the Marlins have denied this figure). The coup was a shock to the baseball world and most importantly the Cardinal fan base that have had the pleasure of watching one of the most consistent players in MLB history for the past decade. At this point, it would make sense for Cardinal fans to feel dejected or betrayed.

They shouldn’t. Instead, they should be thanking Albert Pujols.

Albert Pujols has done more than his fair share for the St. Louis franchise and with his departure to the Angels in this Christmas season, he is just the gift that keeps on giving for the Cardinals.

It isn’t news to anyone that Albert Pujols is already on the decline. He is coming off the worst season of his MLB career, posting a line of .299/.366/.906 to go along with a 5.4 bWAR, also the worst of his career. The last two seasons have seen his numbers drop significantly across the board. Hardly a good sign for a power hitter on the wrong side of 30.

Speaking of 30, the Angels should have considered talking to Donald Trump before they went ahead and signed Pujols. No one definitively knows Fat Albert’s age and even though his official birth date, January 16, 1980, tells us that he is 31 years of age, there is much speculation that Albert could be at least a couple of years older. As we know of course, those Dominican’s can be about as honest with their ages as Lindsay Lohan in a jewellery store.

Pujols’ undetermined age and declining numbers don’t necessarily mean that he will steadily decline year after year. However, I bet the guys in Vegas aren’t giving him the best odds to stay consistent into his mid 30’s. Assuming that he will be less than spectacular for the majority of his future time in an Angel’s uniform is a pretty easy thing to do given the evidence.

Related: To Sign or Not To Sign?

$254 million is a lot of money over 10 years. $25.4 million a year in fact. $25.4 million doesn’t seem like too much when your guy is mashing. $25.4 million seems like a lot more when the only mashing your superstar is doing is with the Idaho potatoes in his kitchen.

$100 million contracts rarely work out. The Angels have possibly the worst contract in baseball on their roster. They are still paying Vernon Wells for 3 more years at over $20 million per season (minus the $5 million eaten up by the Blue Jays). Now they have added almost another $20 million with the acquisition of C.J. Wilson.

And here I was thinking the Miami Marlins were the next franchise in line to fill the shoes of the New York Mets.

The only precedent the Angels, Cardinals and Marlins were able to look back and gather information upon is Alex Rodriguez’s most recent 10 year $275 million soon-to-be debacle of a contract. A-Rod is on the serious decline but, not surprisingly, that didn’t deter any of Pujols’ potential suitors. Rodriguez’s 3.6, 3.2 and especially ugly 2.7 bWAR in his last 3 respective seasons are a clear indication of age and injuries getting the best of him. That, and steroids.

Superstars are mortals. Albert Pujols will inevitably decline. It may not be this season, or next season, or the next but it will happen. It will happen soon enough to overshadow virtually any beneficial production that Pujols would have provided the Cardinals with. Unless a World Series is in the not too distant future for Pujols and the Angles, this contract will be a disaster.

The Cardinals got lucky.

They are fortunate to have avoided a contract that would no doubt have had their hands tied in a nice sheepshank for what would have felt like an eternity. The split wasn’t mutual but the St. Louis Cardinals now have a fresh start on the heels of losing their Hall of Fame manager and star first baseman.

Sometimes a fresh start is exactly what a franchise needs.

Cardinal’s GM John Mozeliak better make sure he has Albert Pujol’s new address. He ought to send him a Christmas card with a big thank you and maybe a few x’s and o’s.

While he’s at it, he might as well put one in the mail for Jerri Dipoto too.

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

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A Dying Breed

Jim Thome is, as of right now, the last great of a dying breed.

If you’re sitting in front of your computer guessing, it isn’t the exclusive 600 home run club that Albert Pujols will be a part of in no time.

Thome is the last great of a breed that used to be restricted to a special few until science got involved. Thome was blessed with this God-given gift until science got involved.

Jim Thome is the last great of the true home run hitters breed. He is the last great of a group who hit the ball that the chicks dig. When you think of the Jim Thome’s of the world there is no initial thought that crosses your mind other than ‘home run.’

Albert Pujols hits home runs but he is Mr. Consistency. The man without a hole in his swing. A player who hovers around the 200 hit plateau each and every season. When you think Albert Pujols, you might think greatest player in baseball.

Adam Dunn is the birth defect version of Jim Thome. The big lug who swings for the stars and hits bombs as high as the stars. The strikeouts are forgotten when these big men connect because they are what make baseball so special.

As the steroid era dies so does this extraordinary breed of home run hitters. Jim Thome would have been more appreciated if not for the massive influx of hitters who could hit the ball into McCovey Cove. To the best of our knowledge, Jim Thome was all-natural in his home run hitting.

If you take a look at the home run leaders for the 2011 season you won’t find anyone as great as Jim Thome in terms of his breed.

Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard. When all is said and done, these guys won’t measure up to what Jim Thome has done in his career. Prince Fielder won’t hit 25 home runs in limited at bats at the age of 39. Ryan Howard is going to be 32 years old in November and hasn’t even reached 300 home runs. They were bred like Jim Thome but will never duplicate what he has done.

Jim Thome’s don’t come along every decade. Major League Baseball only has 5 true players who have hit over 600 home runs in over 130 years of baseball.

Jim Thome’s consistent and realistic decline as a player is the indisputable sign of a pure bred home run hitter. In a 12 year span from 1996-2008 Jim Thome only reached 50 home runs in a season once but he was never below the 30 big fly mark.

In the coming years we will come to appreciate Jim Thome for the player he was. The rarer the flower the sweeter it is will be a phrase that will go hand in hand with his legacy.

The home run hitter’s breed will never die but there is no doubt that it has once again become endangered.

Major League Baseball won’t go without another great home run hitter in the future but with steroid’s being a thing of the past the odds are that it might be a little while before we see another as good as Jim Thome.

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

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Who is Peyton Manning?

Showing us exactly what he is made of has always been a problem for Peyton Manning. He has danced around the thin line between choker and winner throughout his career. Unlike Joe Namath, John Elway and Joe Montana, we haven’t figured out what type of man Peyton Manning is.

Maybe this time, he can help us out a little.

In the coming days, the man who some have already dubbed the greatest quarterback of all-time could be made the highest paid quarterback of all-time. Only one problem, the salary cap. To take a contract upwards of $25 million would no doubt be a hindrance to his team. He would be a dictator squandering unnecessary money all while the masses suffer.

Without a great leader a country nor a team cannot become great. Without a sufficient group of followers a country nor a team cannot become great.

If Peyton Manning decides to become the highest paid player in the National Football League he will do so out of needless selfishness. Under the new $120 million cap, a team can’t allocate 1/6th of their budget to a single player and still expect to win.

Football is a team game and without adequate depth it won’t matter who you have under center.

Right now, Peyton Manning has the opportunity to be the embodiment of a team player. He can take a bullet to the leg. Really, it’s just a slap in the face.

Owner Jim Irsay probably regrets saying that he would make Peyton Manning the highest paid player in the NFL during the uncapped year of 2010. To his credit, he hasn’t backed off. Irsay stated “He is going to be the highest paid player and he is going to make more than Brady.”

Nevertheless, Peyton Manning doesn’t have to give into the sweet sirens song. The glory of being the highest paid player shouldn’t be more important than the glory of being a Super Bowl champion again.

$5 million to guys like Peyton Manning is chump change. It goes without saying that he doesn’t need the money but I’ll say it anyways. Combining endorsements and salary, Manning made a total $38,700,000 million last year alone making him the fourth highest earning American athlete of 2011.

Jim Irsay has also said recently that “To me, this isn’t about how much money I have to spend, because the money is going to be spent.”

To me, this money doesn’t have to be spent. Peyton Manning can put a stop to it. Receiving a bigger signing bonus will give more cap room for the Colts to work but imagine the flexibility a smaller contract would allow.

Telling management that he is willing to sign a contract more in line with Brady’s 4 year $72 million extension would be virtually a no-lose situation for Peyton. His reputation as a person would sky-rocket, his team would be better off and it would put himself in a better position to cement his legacy as one of the true greats.

It’s times like these where we see who a person is deep down. Albert Pujols has portrayed himself in the media as the perfect athlete who does more than his part for not only his team but his community as well. I find that hard to believe when $250 million isn’t quite good enough.

A great leader is supposed to put his people in front of himself. However, here we are discussing the heroics of slashing a few million bucks a year off of what could potentially be a contract worth $100 million. Hardly a sacrifice if you ask me.

Peyton Manning doesn’t even have to be thinking about the others. His motivations could be completely selfish and he can still come out smelling like roses. Selfishly, he could choose to put legacy over money. Selfishly, he can decide if he wants to be considered one of the best or THE best.

What kind of selfish does Peyton want to be?

This time around, it isn’t what Peyton Manning is doing on the field that will determine how the world sees him. This could be a career defining moment for him. One decision will show us what we need to know.

What kind of man is Peyton Manning?

Money lasts a lifetime. A legacy is forever.

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

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