Kosmo’s Sports Wrap

February 2, 2010

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With Johnny Goodman still on leave for medical reasons, Kosmo is jumping in with another sports column.  We miss your articles, Johnny – get well sooon.

A Strong Brees

We’re on the cusp of another Super Bowl.  On one side of the field, we’ll have the Indianapolis Colts, led by Peyton Manning.  Manning is the son of Pro Bowl quarterback, the brother of another Pro Bowl quarterback, and he himself is a Pro Bowl quarterback, Super Bowl Champion, NFL MVP, and #1 overall pick in the NFL draft.  From day one, he has been the unquestioned leader of the Colts.

On the other hand, we have Drew Brees of the Saints.  The Saints themselves are a feel-good story – some good fortune for a city that was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005.  When Brees was drafted, the San Diego Chargers actually had the #1 pick that would have allowed them to pick up Michael Vick.  They traded that pick to Atlanta for the #5 overall pick (which they used to draft LaDainian Tomlinson) and a third round pick.  Having not gotten Vick at #1, they nabbed Brees in the second round.

Unlike Manning, Brees wasn’t given the keys to the kingdom.  His first few years in the league were up and down (eh, OK, so mostly he sucked), and the Chargers felt the need to draft his replacement in 2004.  They wanted Eli Manning, but he didn’t want to sign with them.  So they drafted Manning and traded him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers (who had been picked #4 overall) on draft day.  Rivers would have been been giving a strong chance to unsteat Brees for the starter’s job – except that he held out nearly all of training camp.

Brees promptly turned his career around and had his finest season in 2004, throwing 27 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions.  After going to the Saints as a free agent after the 2005 season, Brees had TD totals of 26, 28, 34, and 34.  He has topped 4300 yards all four seasons and cracked the 5000 barrier in 2008.

For his career, Brees now has 202 TDs against 110 interceptions, 30000 career passing yards, and a QB rating of 91.9.  Yes, the QB who was nearly thrown to the curb by the Chargers is now on pace for the Hall of Fame.

No League for Old Men

In a move that wasn’t particularly surprising Cardinals QB Kurt Warner announced his retirement.  Ther ultimate feel good story, Warner arose (like a Phoenix) many times during his career.  First, he clawed his way up from stocking shelves at a Hy Vee grocery store (@ $5.50 per hour) to an NFL job.  Then, after injuries caused him to lose his starting job, he regained a starting job with the Cardinals and led the formerly hapless franchise to its first Super Bowl – and nearly won it. 

All told, Warner went to three Super Bowls – winning one and narrowly losing the other two.  He has the record for most career passing yards Super Bowls (1156) due to the fact that he has the highest, second highest, and third highest passing totals in Super Bowl history.  Consider for a moment how statistically unlikely that is to occur …

Off the field, Warner does everything the right way – from the big things like adopting his children to smaller things like picking up the check for random people every time his family goes out to eat.  You’ll be missed, K-Dub (unless you pull a Favre).  (Read my recent article about Kurt Warner, “High Flying Cardinals”)

When my Minnesota Vikings played Brett Favre’s bizarre waiting game last summer and signed him to be their quarterback, I was fed up.  Not only have I never been a fan of Favre’s, but it seemed to me that Favre delayed his decision simply to avoid summer camp.  There’s a four letter word for that – L-A-Z-Y.

I made the somewhat irrational decision to boycott the Vikings until Favre was n longer with the team.  Lots of people questioned this, especially when the Vikings were perched on the brink of the Super Bowl.  I felt validated when Favre threw away another Super Bowl opportunity with yet another poor decision (flashback to the 2008 NFC Championship game, Brett?).  Hopefully Favre will retire again and stay retired.

Double Standard

Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman recently signed a contract with the Cincinnati Reds (is anyone else struck by the irony of a player fleeing a communist nation and signing with the REDS?  No?  Just me?  OK, thought I’d ask).  The pitcher’s deal will pay him $30.25 million over 6 years.  Although those in the baseball fandom were very much aware of the deal, it didn’t seem to raise the ire of fans like Stephen Strasburg’s 4 year, $15.5 million deal (see articles “Defense of Scott Boras” and “The Righty and the Lefty”).  (Yes, in theory, Strasburg could earn more money over the six year span if he performs well and gets decent arbitration awards for years 5 and 6 – but if they both flop, Chapman could come out $15 million ahead).

Let’s compare the two players.  Strasburg is five months younger than Chapman.  Strasburg is also the more highly ranked prospect.  So, why, then, is it a sign of the apocolyse for him to get $15.5 million while Chapman’s contract didn’t stir such strong emotions.

Chapman wasn’t subject to the draft, and thus had complete control over his future – unlike players in the US and Canada, who are only allowed to negotiate with the team that drafted them.  My good friend Fulton Christoper opined that this is a good reason to implement a worldwide draft.

Hamlin Heating Up the Ice

US luger Erin Hamlin (@ErinHamlin on Twitter), Kosmo’s favorite winter Olympian, racked up the following finishes in the World Cup season (singles events)

  • November 20/21 – Calgary, Canada – 7th
  • November 28/29 – Innsbruck, Austria – 9th
  • December 5/6 – Altenberg, Germany – 5th
  • December 12/13 – Lillehammer, Norway – 3rd
  •  January 2/3 – Königssee, Germany – 5th
  • January 9/10 – Winterberg, Germany – 3rd
  • January 16/17- Oberhof, Germany – 8th
  • January 30/31 – Cesana, Italy – 3rd

That’s good for an overall finish of 4th place in the standings, and Hamlin finished very strong, with  three podium (top 3) finishes in the last 5 events.  You heard it here first – Hamlin is picking up steam and is going to nab the luge gold in Vancouver.  Watch your rear view mirror, Tatjana.

And in an administrative note, we have a new link partner – Aibal.com.  Aibal is another non-niche blog.  Drop by and visit.

Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre

November 3, 2009

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Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre.

His name seems to be the only topic of conversation in the NFL lately.

Did the Packers end up better off, or the Vikings. The pundits will argue both teams have made off with just what they wanted. The Packers had been grooming young Aaron Rodgers to take over the QB role. He was ready. Favre was getting older and was in a continual bout of wavering about retirement. After all, Rodgers does have one of the highest passer ratings in the league in his first two years as a starter.

The Vikings had assembled a much better defense. Installing key parts such as Jared Allen. They have arguably the best running back in the league and a very good offensive line. Their receivers were nothing to write home about and the quarterback play had been marginal at best.

Enter Brett Favre.

The Vikings are 7-1 this year with their only loss coming against a tough Steelers team at their house. They have shown the ability to play great defense, and move the ball both in the air and on the ground. They are arguably the top team in the entire NFC.

The Packers? They have struggled a lot due mainly to injuries at running back, and at the offensive line. They are still trying to find continuity on offense and defensively they have been good but not great.

Lost in all of this is the Vikings really wanted the Packers all along, and the Vikings were likely prepared to give up quite a bit for him . If the Packers would have pursued a trade with the Vikings at the time, I am sure they would have been able to reap the benefits that could have brought them some additional young drafted talent, an area which in comparison to the Vikings right now, they just are flat lacking … talent overall talent.

But the Green and Gold could never trade their beloved quarterback to the hated division rival. The fans would not stand for it. The uproar would be unimaginable. Brett Favre playing for the Minnesota Vikings?

Guess it is working out pretty well for the Favre guy. The Vikings in the end have gotten what they wanted all along, and the Packer fans are still pissed off that Favre is wearing a Purple #4 now. But that is where he is, and likely where he will be for at least another year.

And in the meantime, the Viking fans love their teams chances to reach a Super Bowl.

September Callups

September 1, 2009

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With Johnny Goodman out on assignment, I’m jumping in to bounce around the world of sports.

September Callup Time

Today marks the day when Major League Baseball teams can expand their rosters from 25 players to 40. Not all teams will call up an extra 15 players, though. Calling a player up to the major league starts his service time “clock”, which affects when they will become a free agent. Thus, the short term benefit of having the players in the major leagues for one month can be outweighed by the long term financial benefit of keeping him away from free agency for a full extra year.

However, September typically features the debut of a lot of players who are expected to contribute the following year. The teams get to see how the players adjust to playing major league competition, and the players get to play though a bit of the rookie “yips” in games that often don’t count for a whole lot.

For teams that are in playoff contention, the situation is much different. The expansion of rosters allows teams to add extra hitters to their bench and extra arms to the bullpen – making it possible for the bullpen to pitch more innings than normal in the throes of a pennant race.

On a related note, players acquired before midnight last night are eligible for postseason rosters.  (Confused about the fact that the trade deadline was a month ago?  Players acquired after July 31 must clear waivers first; players acquired earlier do not need to clear waivers.)  The NL West leading Dodgers acquired slugger Jim Thome from the White Sox and starting pitcher John Garland from the Snakes.  The Rockies countered by picking up pitcher Jose Contreras from the White Sox in exchange for prospect Brandon Hynick (a casual Facebook friend of mine).  Advantage to the Dodgers.

Rockies Update

My beloved Rockies just finished what I considered to be a critically important stretch that included seven games against the Giants and three against the division leading Giants. After taking three of four against the Giants, the Rockies took the first game from the Dodgers – pulling to within two games of the division lead in the process. Unfortunately, they lost the final two games of that series before being swept against the Giants in a series in the bay. The Rockies have fallen into a wild card tie with the Giants, setting up the potential for a great September race.

As for my favorite player, Troy Tulowitzki pushed his OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) over 1.000 for August on the strength of a homer and double in his August finale. After a dreadful start to the year, Tulo has record three straight months with a 1.000+ OPS.

Former Rockie Matt Holliday (now with the Cardinals) finished August with “only” a .963 OPS for the month, on the heels of a 1.150 OPS in July. Hidden by the arbitrary nature of the months of the calendar is a 24 game stretch beginning July 20 and ending August 15 in which Holliday posted a 1.355 OPS. While Holliday did manage to hit 7 homers during that stretch, it was the .474 batting average that was a major factor. The tricky thing for the Cardinals is whether or not they will be able to hammer out a new deal with Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras – or whether Holliday will test the free agent waters with a strong non-Coors season under his belt.

NFL

Fantasy Draft season is in full swing. This is a good sign that the NFL season in just around the corner.

On the positive side, we face a year without the “insight” of John Madden.

On the down side, my Minnesota Vikings gave $25 million to sign Brett Favre for two years. I’ve never been a fan of Favre, and his recent off-field antics have served to sour me on him even more. My plan is simply to ignore the NFL until it has been purged of Favre. I have really been focusing on baseball 365 days a year in recently years, anyway, so this should not be a major sacrifice.

College Football

College football also kicks off this weekend, highlighted by Iowa State’s Thursday night game against North Dakota State. I’m hopefully that Thursday’s game will be but the first step in a season that will end with a BCS Championship for my Cyclones.

Or maybe just a bowl.

The University of Michigan is making news for possible NCAA violations. Anonymous current and former players allege that the amount of time Wolverine players spent on football activities exceeded the limits set down by the NCAA. Michigan suffered their first losing season in more than 40 years in 2008, and this news can only be a distraction as they get ready to face Western Michigan in their maiden 2009 contest.

Sports Medley

August 25, 2009

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An exciting week in sports this week. I am still resting up from my trip to the Solheim Cup, and I am sure you are all ready to read something other than another golf article, so I will just touch on some golf briefly and move on.

Golf

A real win for the LPGA this week with a win for the United States Team in the Solheim Cup. It might have well spelled a coming out party for Michelle Wie, who along with Paula Creamer were clearly the stars of the US team. Wie went an impressive 3-0-1 in her four matches played. It is too easy to forget she is still very young has it seems like she has already been playing forever.

Sergio Garcia sees another opportunity slip by as he extinguishes a late lead on Sunday in yet another tournament. And what is up with the rugged bearded look Sergio? Go back to the clean shaven Michelob Poster Boy look, it is much better for you and I am sure your many sponsors would agree with that assessment.

Baseball

C.C. Sabathia became the majors first 15 game winner of 2009 as the Yankees continued to dominate over the Boston Red Sox. No love in Beantown right now as the Yanks have built an impressive lead and seem to be firing on all cylinders. The Yankees now have a huge 7 ½ game in the division … just a few months ago it seemed like this was totally out of the question for this year.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Pete Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball. What I have always found fascinating about the Rose lifetime ban is that very few people are on the fence with an opinion. You either think Pete Rose should or should not be in the Hall of Fame. Even current Hall members are on different sides of the issue. There is no disputing however that the all time hit leader has some statistical support in many categories that warrant a spot in Cooperstown, only time will tell if the decision of Bart Giamatti is ever overturned.

Football

Brett Favre is back …. again …. I think I would un-retire for a cool twenty five million dollars over two years. The Vikings have the running game, they have the defense, I am not sure they have the receivers. All the Vikings really need to do is to manage the game offensively. This could be a huge year for Adrian Peterson if he stays healthy.

Latest line from Vegas….over/under for number of times the new “JerryTron” 60 yard long High Definition Jumbo screen gets hit by punts at the new Dallas Cowboy stadium this year….14 ½.

And finally …

The crazy comment of the week:

Lou Holtz makes a bold post season prediction for the BCS Title game. “ I personally believe, if you ask me, ‘Who’s going to play in the national championship game?’ I’d say it’s going to be Florida and the University of Notre Dame. They return 11 starters on offense. They return all three running backs, the two best wide receivers, they have a great defense coming back.”

And to think …. ESPN pays this guy …. wow.

Until next week … Good Luck with your last minute Fantasy Football drafts!

Manny and Brett

May 7, 2009

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It was a great sports day for me. Two of my least favorite sports figures made the news.

The twice retired quarterback Brett Favre told my Minnesota Vikings that he does intend to stay retired this time. I truly hope that this is his final answer. I have a great deal of dislike for Brett from his days playing for the Packers, and I would be unable to cheer for my Vikings if he was the starting quarterback. Most likely, I would have to take a short sabbatical until Favre hung up his cleats for the third time. Luckily, it appears that I will not need to go down this route.

Overshadowing Favre’s decision was the news that LA Dodgers superstar Manny Ramirez was being suspended 50 games (and losing more than $7 million in salary as a result) after testing positive for HCG, a female fertility drug. This drug is often used by steroid users to bring their testosterone level back to a normal level after steroid use had dropped it to a very low level.

Manny claims that he was given a prescription by a doctor who was not aware that the drug was on baseball’s banned substances list. I’m not buying that excuse, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s not the doctor’s responsibility to verify that a drug is OK to take, it is Manny’s responsibility. Check with the team’s medical staff and your union rep if you’re not sure. Second, Manny has decided not to appeal the suspension. If he was telling the truth, why not fight the allegation? Millions of dollars and the Hall of Fame may be at stake.

The Dodgers were already pulling away in the NL West and might have already printed playoff tickets. It will be interesting to see what they can do without Manny. They do have a decent player to plug into the spot in Juan Pierre, but Pierre’s bat does not even begin to compare to Manny’s.