People Are Crazy

The world is coming to an end in 2012. The Mayans were right and I have the evidence to prove it.

Matt Barkley has chosen to return to USC to play quarterback for one more season. He has decided that the NFL and the millions of dollars that go along with it can wait. This is the 3rd year in a row that a top quarterback prospect has put the NFL on hold for the opportunity to immortalize themselves in their respective school’s history. First it was Jake Locker and then it was can’t miss prospect Andrew Luck. Oh, and how can we forget about Matt Leinart all the way back in 2004.

This year’s April fool happens to be Matt Barkley.

What is this world coming to? Where’s the greed? Actually, never mind that, where’s the common sense? The end of the world must be upon us. There is no other way to explain the topsy-turvy nature of these potentially life-altering choices. Men in their early 20’s are willingly turning down the chance to join the exclusive 1%. Delayed gratification at its finest. Matt Barkley’s family may be closer to the 1% than most of us but the point is still valid.

In all seriousness though, I feel sorry for these guys. The people they are surrounded by must be feeding them some grade A bologna.

The coaches who tell them it is in their best interests to get another year’s experience under their belt only have their own selfish interests in mind. The family members and friends who tell them that going back for a national championship to, in Barkley’s own words, “finish what [they] started, don’t understand the possible implications that returning for another year of school could have. The people who tell them to look into their hearts to find the answer don’t realize the follies that accompany decisions made emotionally.

Matt Barkley thinks he has unfinished business at USC. He doesn’t want to leave his national championship calibre team hanging out to dry. It’s good that Matt Barkley experienced those feelings because that’s what a leader is supposed to feel. Those are the qualities that bode well for his NFL career.

Of course, every sentence containing Matt Barkley and the NFL will, once again, be preceded by the word ‘if.’ By choosing to go back to USC there is no guarantee that he will even become an NFL quarterback. I already went through all the ‘if’s’ for Andrew Luck in early January prior to his similarly foolish decision to postpone his NFL career: The risk of a career-ending injury, losing lifetime financial security, exposing previously undiscovered flaws and, most importantly, being unable to fulfill the childhood dream of playing quarterback in the NFL.

The chances of any of those things happening are indeed quite low but the risk is still there. It hurts me to see young men time after time follow in the footsteps of their peers’ illogical decisions. It will hurt Matt Barkley a whole lot more if something tragic should happen to him in the next year.

Heck, after the Indianapolis Colts’ dramatic victory last night against the Texans, it is possible that Andrew Luck could end up falling from his seemingly locked up first overall slot in the 2012 draft. The Rams and Vikings are stuck at 2 wins but both teams believe they have their franchise quarterback already on their roster. It is unlikely that either would take Luck. The dream of being a 1st overall pick, which no doubt played a part in Barkley’s decision, could stay a dream for Andrew Luck.

The chances of a 0-13 team winning their final 3 games to finish out the season can’t be very high but it is becoming all too real for Andrew Luck who appeared destined for Indianapolis less than 2 weeks ago. If a 0-13 team can win 3 consecutive games, there’s no reason that something just as improbable could happen in the next calendar year that negatively affects Barkley’s NFL career.

Now, Matt Barkley’s puzzling choice may not signal the end of the world but it’s very possible that the only thing to stop these quarterbacks from continually choosing to play an unnecessary season of College football is an apocalypse.

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Beginning of the End

It pains me to write what I am about to write. I wish I didn’t believe it but, right now, it’s hard to think any differently. All the signs, signals, indicators, compass’ and whatever other device you have are leading me in this direction. I have tried to convince myself this can’t be true but what else am I to believe?

Sidney Crosby is finished.

Extreme words, I know. However, Sidney Crosby is out again after what, at the most, can be classified as a soft elbow to the head from David Krejci. Watch for yourself here (skip to 1:11 for slow motion). It’s possible the first time watch the video you won’t even notice the hit. The hit occurs a few seconds into the video but it is rather inconspicuous.

Once again, Sid the Kid is day-to-day with his concussion-like symptoms but not the day-to-day that we normally associate with injuries. His status as day-to-day refers to the media’s coverage of his status, wondering when Crosby will be back on the ice. Sadly, Sidney Crosby is out indefinitely and, although he insists that he is not back at square one, you have to wonder if this last hit has put him on the Eric Lindros road of perpetual concussions.

Crosby took 11 months off. Like a Dad crossing the street with his 3-year-old child, he decided to play it really safe instead of being really sorry. I repeat, he played it really safe. Unlike the first hit from Dave Steckel that should have put him out, Crosby didn’t want to play with fire this time. In the end though, it only took a minor hit from David Krejci to put him on the shelf. This wasn’t your Scott Stevens on Eric Lindros garbage. This was peewee minor hockey stuff.

This isn’t a movie either. What doesn’t kill Sidney Crosby isn’t going to make him stronger. Each subsequent concussion makes Crosby more fragile than the Dallas Cowboys in the 4th quarter. By now it’s common knowledge to sports fans that if you’ve had one concussion, you are much more likely to have another. At the same time, it’s supposed to take more than what Krejci did to Crosby. Sid is only 24 and is already having to deal with more serious concussion issues.

Related: NHL Needs Sid the Kid

Is Crosby more prone to concussions than others? Is Crosby simply the recipient of some old fashioned bad luck?

Apparently, I’m not a doctor, as one individual was kind enough point out to me in e-mail form following one of my post’s inquiries into the nature of Ryan Kesler’s injury prior to last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. Nevertheless, common sense can tell you a lot of what you need to know sometimes. My common sense this year is telling me that Sidney Crosby is never going to be the same.

This is one of the few instances where I hope I’m not right.

I have no idea what Sidney Crosby’s doctors are telling him but the fact that he is back up in the press box watching games and sitting out of practice is as bad a sign as it gets. What’s even worse is that we are hearing the same thing coming out of Crosby’s and head coach Dan Bylsma’s mouth. According to Sid, “there is no timetable” for his return. According to Bylsma, “Sid knows his body better than anybody else” and “He’ll return to practice and playing when he is feeling 100 percent.”

100 percent took 11 months last time around.

This time around, before you can say post-concussion symptoms, the best thing that has happened to hockey since Mario Lemieux could be out of the game altogether . Unfortunately, this might be the beginning of the end for Sidney Crosby.

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Braun Over Brain’s — MVP?

I’m going to jump to conclusions. I don’t need to wait for all the evidence to come out. Ryan Braun used performance enhancing drugs. Guilty until proven truly guilty. Right?

If it is indeed the case that Ryan Braun will be suspended 50 games for steroid use, a little black rain cloud is once again hovering over Major League Baseball. They will have big decision to make. Should Ryan Braun retain his MVP trophy? To strip or not to strip? That is the million dollar question.

The thing is, this million dollar question isn’t very difficult. It shouldn’t be a question. Ryan Braun’s MVP trophy must be taken away and given to its rightful owner – Matt Kemp.

No, Ryan Braun probably is not the only star player in the MLB currently using performance enhancers. At this point in time, with any brains and proper means to do so, the system can be cheated despite the much stricter system that has been implemented. However, Ryan Braun has been caught and having been caught so shortly after his stellar season raises a few red flags to say the least.

The effect of PED’s is no doubt different from individual to individual. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that the potential effects that PED’s can have can be enormously beneficial for a player. Steroids may not hit the ball for the player or increase hand-eye coordination and athleticism, but to dismiss the effects of performance enhancers because of the unquantifiable nature of the issue is crazy.

Steroids help.

If proven guilty, I’m not sure how you can argue that steroids could not have played a role in inflating Ryan Braun’s numbers for 2011. He won the MVP race by a fairly small margin of 56 points. His .332 average, .397 on base, .994 OPS and 111 RBI’s are all skewed. By how much those numbers are inflated can never be determined but the grey area surrounding the figures is enough in itself to discredit Ryan Braun’s season.

For all we know, Matt Kemp is on the juice. The bottom line though is that he has not been caught. He is the deserving MVP because, for all we know, he has done it au naturel.

In an era supposedly free of performance enhancers, Ryan Braun gave himself a leg up on the rest of the competition. More like a giant Sasquatch leg but you get the idea.

In Ryan Braun’s case, we have no pre-steroid numbers to refer to when putting his 2011 numbers in context because, for all we know, Ryan Braun has been using steroids since he entered the league in 2007. As alluded to earlier, 2007 was the year after the MLB finally implemented a severe penalty for positive drug testing. He has put up similar power numbers in all of his 5 seasons in the bigs. Unlike Barry Bonds, Braun’s 2011 season stats do not feature a suspiciously colossal increase.

Even so, Ryan Braun cheated. He may have been voted the most valuable player in the league but he was assisted. Whether the assistance was more similar to that of a clumsy intern or a trusted employee shouldn’t matter.

Marion Jones forfeited every one of her medals earned after September of 2000. Ben Johnson was forced to give back his gold medal that he “earned” at the 1988 Summer Olympics.

Ryan ought to return his MVP award as well.

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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.

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Super Teams are Super Bad for NBA

Competitive balance. That might be a phrase NBA fans will want to keep in mind for the future.

The media, fans and probably even David Stern love the idea of more super teams. Big players in big markets on big teams means big ratings, right? I mean, how crazy would a Heat-Laker final be with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard playing for LA?

Miami, Boston, New York, Los Angeles. The latest, most likely false, rumours speculate a move of disgruntled stars Chris Paul and Dwight Howard suiting up alongside Kobe Bryant in the purple and gold. A dream team of the best center, best point guard and best(?) shooting guard in the league is more than a little intriguing for even the most casual of NBA fans.

The idea of another “dream” team is no doubt intriguing but it is quite possibly the worst thing that could happen for the NBA.

It’s one of those slippery slope situations. Boston started it all with their OG big 3 followed by LBJ’s chosen destination and New York’s almost predictable failure in their attempt to create a super team dynasty.

The problem is, where’s the talent for the rest of the league?

Top tier talent comes at a premium but when that talent is concentrated in a few very select cities the premium becomes the non-existent. There won’t be any players left for the 25 or 26 other teams if this kind of ridiculousness persists.

It may be as much fun for you to keep up with super teams as it is for your girlfriend to keep up with the Kardashians but the obvious reality of the matter is that there is no NBA without the smaller market franchises. Competitive balance is already an issue in the NBA, especially in the Eastern Conference where a below .500 record can earn teams a lot more than a participant ribbon. Imagine what it would be like with a few more celebrity filled teams.

Amidst all the excitement, no one seems to be worrying about how the possibility of more super teams could severely affect the majority of NBA franchises. The league can’t work with 5, 6 or 7 teams carrying 3 or, dare I say, 4 superstars. The NBA is moving towards a league where glory driven superstars’ only hope of competing will be to put their egos aside and form a star-studded force of their own. It will become a classic case of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’

Oh yeah, the NBA will also feature 24 teams playing 82 meaningless games. 80% of fan bases won’t have anything more to cheer for than ‘fast to last!’ Sure, you can have your odd struggling franchises here and there, but a league full of them isn’t going to fly.

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard probably won’t end up in LA when it is all said and done but you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be offering their services to a contending team with other stars. Creating a legacy of your own is quickly becoming as popular as pogs have been in the last decade.

Too many fan bases without a star player to root for is a scary thought. The draft won’t be enough to compensate 20 plus teams’ inability to contend for a title. Hope is the one consolation for struggling teams but if the NBA continues to steer in this direction there won’t be enough hope to go around.

The occupy protestors should get where I’m coming from. The NBA will be the professional sports’ model of class stratification. Those franchises left out of the NBA’s super team exclusive country club won’t know what hit them. Soon enough they will be sleeping in tents outside David Stern’s office protesting the NBA’s 1% elite.

The NFL thrives on competitive balance and a constant influx of new playoff teams from year-to-year. Granted, football is much a much more team oriented sport than basketball and if you don’t believe me then you might want to look at the Philadelphia Eagles. Nevertheless, competitive balance, more than anything, ensures unwavering interest from fan bases from teams 1 to 30. Competitive balance is a big part of what increases the NFL’s already massive pool of money seasons after season.

NBA fans should stop supporting the prospect of more star-studded teams because in the long run it might just be the thing that kills the sport. A league of super team normality won’t spark the same interest that the Miami Heat have and still are generating. Individually the smaller market teams don’t mean much to the league but as a collective unit they are everything.

Competitive balance?

I wouldn’t mind a little more of that in the coming years.

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 Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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