Friday, August 14, 2009

"The Eagle Has Landed"

After months of speculation and seemingly 24 hour coverage on ESPN the wait is over, Michael Vick is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles were a surprise team, but made the move after their backup quarterback, Kevin Kolb, injured his knee on Monday. Kolb should be back to game form in a week or two, but his injury might have shown a lack of depth at the QB spot in Philly. Now the question is, When will Vick be in game form (not to mention his first game)? Vick has a conditional reinstatement from the league, meaning he can work out with the team and even play in the preseason. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said that he will fully reinstate Vick by Oct. 18th-19th, which means Vick could miss the first 6 weeks of the season. If Commissioner Goodell does keep him suspended for the first 6 games, then Vick will make his NFL return on Monday Night Football, Oct. 26th at the Washington Redskins. Until he steps on the field the questions will continue to swirl about why the Eagles signed Vick and what he can bring to Philadelphia.

In many ways Vick does make a lot of sense for the Eagles, and they make sense for him as well. Vick needed to go to a team with a established leader and quarterback. By all accounts McNabb is in his corner, which should help give him credibility in the locker room. Vick also needed to go to a team that was a contender and a well run franchise. Vick makes sense for the Eagles, because of his previous experience with the West Coast offense (though he wasn't exactly Joe Montana in Atlanta), and his raw athletic ability. Philly puts a premium on speed and agility among its skilled players. The idea of putting Vick in the same backfield with either Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy was too attractive to pass up. Vick should allow Eagles to run their own version of the "Wildcat" offense, and provide headaches for defensive coordinators around the league.

So on paper Vick and the Eagles look like the perfect fit for each other, but what happens on the field could be another story entirely. Vick hasn't played since Week 17 of the 2006 season. So there could be a considerable amount of rust on his arm (not to mention his legs). Also, Vick's production never matched the hype and talent surrounding him. His career QB rating is 75.7 (McNabb's by comparison is 85.9), and he's never thrown for more than 3,000 yards or 20 TD's. The other big issue for Vick and the Eagles is the fan response to him. Initially, the Eagles could lose some fan support with his signing, and down the road Vick's presence could open Pandora's box in Philly.

It will create a negative buzz (and press) that will follow this team around for the entire season. Animal Rights groups will unite against the Eagles, creating additional complications. Also, the Eagles gave Vick a 2-year deal (2nd year is optional) for nearly $10 million with incentives ($6.8 without). That is quite a bit of money to pay for a back-up quarterback who might play 10 plays a game. Finally, if McNabb struggles to start the season and Vick has some success in his specialty role, it could create a quarterback controversy when there shouldn't be one. Remember this is the same fan base that has pretty much wanted to replace McNabb from day one. Given that precedence, I think there is a chance that this could end up dividing the Eagles' locker room. While there is a chance the Eagles could catch lightning in a bottle with this signing, there is a much greater chance they just end up getting burned.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yanks make the right move with Joba

The New York Yankees made a smart and bold decision with their stud young pitcher, Joba Chamberlain, when they announced that they were going to limit his innings. The Yankees are making the right call in ensuring that their star won't be overworked and healthy in the future. The Yankees will start Joba on 7 days rest to help limit his work load. More teams should take notice of this strategy, as plenty of young pitchers have been over used and then sent to Dr. James Andrews for some various arm surgery. Right now Chamberlain is at 121 innings, after pitching 124 last season. Traditionally adding any more than 30-40 innings could have serious long term implications for a young pitcher. Given that the Yankees could be playing deep into October, resting Chamberlain now not only saves him for this postseason, but for future ones as well. The Yankees should look to limit Joba to no more than 5 starts for the rest of the regular season, at around 6 innings per start. This would allow Chamberlain to still make a significant contribution in the postseason, without putting him at further risk.

My only issue with the Yankees' strategy here is that they don't have a great option to take the mound in the games Joba is skipped. That's 4-6 starts that will go to the likes of Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin. Not exactly the guys you want on the hill as you try to clinch the division and home field advantage. The Yankees should look to add a better starting option off the waiver wire. Regardless, New York is making the right decision here even if it means not putting there best player on the mound every 5 days.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Red Sox-Tigers Brawl (Game) results in Ejections and possible Suspensions

In the two games since being swept by the Yankees over the weekend the Boston Red Sox have not only shown more offense (13 runs in two games, compared to 8 during the sweep), but also a little fire and life. Now that fiery attitude may cost them one of their star players for a few games. 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis charged the mound after being hit in the back by a Rick Porcello pitch in the 2nd inning. Both he and Porcello were ejected following the "brawl" in which no other real punches were thrown.

Youkilis should have never charged the mound over what occured last night. In the first place, the pitch looked to just tail inside, and didn't seem to 'target' the batter. Secondly, the pitch hit him in the back, which is the best place on the body to get hit (though not sure if there is any place that is okay for a 90 MPH fastball to hit). If Porcello had wanted to 'hurt' Youkilis or send a message a pitch at his head or knees would have been more likely. Now I can understand why Youkilis thought the pitch was intentional. Detroit's Miguel Cabrera was hit in the hand in the top of the first inning. And tempers were still high from Monday night when a combined three batters were hit (including Youkilis). That doesn't excuse Youkilis for charging the mound and throwing his helmet, especially considering that since it was the 2nd inning it probably wasn't 'retaliation'. Even if it was a message in response to Cabrera getting hit, Youkilis needs to realize that of the three batters hit Monday night, he was the only Red Sox player. Three Detroit players had been hit and only one Boston player, if Youkilis wants to be mad at someone he should get angry at his own pitching staff for exposing him like that.

Now due to his temper I'd expect Youkilis to be suspended for 3-5 games. Which is bad news for the Red Sox, since they have two more games against the Tigers then a 3 game set at the Rangers. If Youkilis is smart he won't appeal the decision, because delaying it for a couple of days could mean the suspension would be in effect, for the next Yankees series the following weekend. Hopefully, MLB doesn't crack the whip too much and try to suspend Porcello as well. He didn't really deserve to be ejected in the first place, since the benches weren't warned (though he did throw inside earlier to Victor Martinez), and he was only defending himself in the brawl. Any further suspension would be unfair punishment for a Tiger team trying to stay ahead of the White Sox and Twins. While its nice to see some fire out of Beantown after their embarrassment in the Bronx, losing one of your best players for multiple games in the middle of a pennant race is just plain stupid (next time Youk, let Nick Green charge the mound, Boston needs you on the field).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Citizen (Criminal) Kane"

This has to be one of the most ridiculous stories to come out of the sports world in quite awhile. The budding young star forward of the Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Kane is charged with felony robbery, theft of services and criminal mischief. These charges are stemming from an incident this weekend in which Kane and his cousin allegedly beat up their cabbie and stole the $15 fare they gave him after he didn't have their 20 cents in change. Now its been reported that even the cab driver (through his attorney) is saying the charges have been overblown, and that they should be able to come to an agreement. Legally the cabbie might be right, a felony robbery charge on $15 dollars does seem a bit excessive. Especially since the 'felony' aspect would appear to be the assault against the cab driver that is not even charged (I'm guessing that's the 'criminal mischief' charge, but that makes it sound like Kane was tp'ing someone's house or knocking over mailboxes, not hitting some guy in the face). Even so, the reality is the cabbie is probably trying to walk back the charges because he sees his 'retirement check' coming with Patrick Kane's name on it.

Whatever ends up happening here; out of court settlement, plea bargain, or being exonerated, Patrick Kane will have lost this case. He can't win in the court of public opinion on this one. He attacked a cabbie over 20 cents, are you kidding me?? It is absurd for any person to beat up a cabbie over 20 cents, and it is completely unbelievable for a highly paid (and highly recognizable) sports star to do it. What was he thinking, I don't care if the cab driver was trying to steal $20 or even $200 from him, Kane needed to walk away. He makes six figures and is one of the most marketable players in the NHL, I don't think those two dimes are going to make a big difference to him in the long run (and they definitely won't cover his legal fees, or the check he's about to write). Now we will have to wait and see how many minutes (and how much money) in the penalty box this fight will cost him.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yankees Sweep the Red Sox

When Boston's 4 game series with the New York Yankees started, the Red Sox were 2.5 games out of first place in the A.L. East and had a 3 game lead in the Wild Card standings. Now four days (and four embarrassing losses) later Boston is now 6.5 games back in the East, and tied for Wild Card with the Texas Rangers. In the 4 game series the Red Sox were out scored 25-8, which included being shutout both Friday and Saturday night.

The Red Sox came in to this series as a team that was on the rise. They have won two of the last five World Series, and were one game away from returning last season. They were a team that had a balanced offense, a solid defense, and the deepest pitching staff in baseball. And they had just added two more bats at the trade deadline, in 1B Casey Kotchman and All-star C/1B Victor Martinez. They left New York with an inept offense and a pitching staff that couldn't shut down the Yankees bats. The Red Sox's pitching performances were so bad, that Boston was forced to cut ties with future Hall of Famer John Smoltz. Now they are on a 6 game losing streak and are in danger of missing the playoffs completely.

Boston shouldn't be counted out of the playoff hunt yet, but they do have their work cut out for them. They begin a 7 game stretch against the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers. And have only 13 more games against teams with a below .500 record (not counting the Blue Jays who are a playoff caliber team stuck in the best division in baseball). Boston will need to make some roster changes down the stretch if they want to return to the postseason. They may be able to bring up a couple guys from their system, but don't be surprised to see the Red Sox make a couple waiver wire deals to add major league talent. The Red Sox will have 6 more games this season to redeem themselves against the Yankees. But the roster and attitude in Beantown will need to change to take down the surging Bronx Bombers.