I hope everybody out there had a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah. Let’s start The Weekend Wrap with some NFL Week 17 Nuggets..
Dolphins Flying High: The turnaround is complete. Miami goes into the Meadowlands and beats the Jets, winning the AFC East. Last year a team coached by Ravens Offensive Co-ordinator Cam Cameron went 1-15. This year, with Tony Sparanoat the helm, they go 11-5 and make the playoffs. Give credit to Sparano. Give credit to Chad Pennington, who might havehad the best season of his career. But give the most amount of credit to Bill Parcells, who has turned around yet another franchise. He did it with the Giants. He did it in New England. He did it with the Jets. He made the Cowboys respectable again. And now he’s done it in Miami.
Eagles Soaring: That wasn’t just a beating that the Eagles put on the Dallas Coboys. That was a thorough ass kicking. The Eagles started that game knowing whoever won would go to the playoffs. Donovan McNabb and Company came up big, as they’ve done ever since the week before Thanksgiving.
Dallas Drowning: The Cowboys had everything to play for yesterday afternoon, and blew it. Once again, Tony Romo comes up small in a big spot. The ramifications of this loss may be bigger than we can all imagine right now. Would it shock you if Jerry Jones went out and fired both Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett? Would it shock you if he pursued the likes of Bill Cowher and Mike Holmgren? It wouldn’t shock me. And it shouldn’t shock you if (when) it does happen.
The Hot Seat: Not only could we see a move made in Dallas this week, but it looks like there will be openings in Cleveland, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Oakland, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Detroit. There also could be vacancies in San Diego (it is Norv Turner) and Washington (no one knows what Daniel Snyder will do). That means there could be as many as ten coaching jobs up for grabs. Not all of the firings will take place today, but the bet here is that at least three coaches get axed before the end of the business day.
The Bowl Season: There have been some exciting bowl games so far this holiday season (the West Virginia win over North Carolina comes to mind, as does the TCU-Boise State game). But those have been the exceptions rather than the rule.
The norm has been one of two things. Either a blowout, as we saw with Florida State blasting Wisconsin Saturday afternoon, or games that no one could possibly care about, like the New Mexico, Eagle Bank, Emerald, Motor City, and R & L Carriers Bowl.
If you add up all the bowl games, you come up with 68 spots that need to be filled. It’s fairy simple. There aren’t 68 teams deserving of a bowl berth. As a result, teams that don’t deserve a spot are getting in, and more often than not they are showing exactly why they didn’t deserve the berth to begin with.
The standard to become bowl eligible are simply too easy to attain. All you need is six wins and you’re in. Most Division I-A programs are halfway home before the conference season begins. And if you have enough weak teams on your conference schedule, you’re home free.
The standards should be raised, we all know that. But, as long as we havethirty-four bowl games requiring 68 teams, it’s just not going to happen. With that many spots available, more than a few dog teams are going to get a payday they simply do not deserve.
But there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Most of us have already felt the pinch of the economy. Not only are we cutting back in our personal lives, but big corporations are doing the same thing. For instance, Federal Express is not doing a Super Bowl Ad this year.
The guess here is that some of the corporations who are underwriting the lower tier bowls will wind up pulling out. It is, after all, a losing proposition. Commit a large amount of money to finance the bowl, and then watch two teams that may not deserve it get it. Pile on dwindling attendance numbers, and you have the perfect reason for a company to decide they cannot afford to back these bowl games anymore.
The hope would then be that these lower tier bowls just go away, never to be heard from again. At least that’s the hope of the millions of college football fans that would like to see a playoff system crown the National Champion as opposed to the BCS.
That’s the hope. Here’s reality. For every company that decides to back out (and there will be companies that do), there will be four or five others ready to step in.
Bowls have gone away before. Does anyone remember the Aloha Bowl? It went away a few years back. But, the Hawaii Bowl has pretty much taken its place. One bowl went away because it has no corporate money behind it, but was quickly replaced when another company stepped in and paid up.
It always seems to work out that way, doesn’t it?
After Christmas Bargins: The big names might be off the market in Major League Baseball, but there are still some productive players to be had. They might not command the $180M Mark Teixeira got, or the $161M CC Sabathia got, but they will be no less helpful to their new teams. Here’s a look at my top five remaining free agents.
1. Manny Ramirez. Anyone who watched Man Ram since he came to the Dodgers last season knows he has a lot left. A motivated Ramirez will be a productive Ramirez. He hasn’t gotten the deal he wanted from the Dodgers. He’s not going to get the money that Teixeira got. But someone will sign him sooner rather than later, and they’ll be happy they did. Most people still think the Dodgers will wind up re-signing Manny, but I wouldn’t rule the Angels out, despite what they’ve stated publicly. They need to do something to off-set some of their offseason losses.
2. Derek Lowe. His stuff doesn’t make you go ‘OOOH’ the way Sabathia’s can. But Lowe brings consistency to the table. More consistency than most. He also is a proven innings eater. He has pitched at least 180 innings for the last seven years. In a day and age where Gil Meche and Jeff Suppan are paid more than $10M per season, Lowe will find someone that will pay handomely for someone who does what he does. It looks like Lowe will either be headed to the Mets or Red Sox.
3. Bobby Abreu. The former Yankee doesn’t hit for thirty homers every year. but he is a consistent hitter who drives in runs. If you value run production, and don’t feel like paying for a hit and miss sort of player (Adam Dunn), then Abreu is your guy. Don’t be stunned if Abreu goes to Oakland and puts up some nice numbers.
4. Brian Fuentes. the Rockies weren’t all that good last year, yet Fuentes, who started the season as a set up guy, still had over 30 saves. He’s not as spectacular as K-Rod is, but we all know how important a solid closer is. You just can’t win without one. The Cardinals saw that first hand. Don’t be surprised if Fuentes winds up there. The Brewers could get in as well, following Salomon Torres’ retirement.
5. Orlando Hudson. There’s a belief in baseball that the stronger you are up the middle, the better team you have. Orlando Hudson of the Diamondbacks is a solid defensive player, and no slouch at the plate either. The question with him is whether or not he can stay healthy. The bet here is that he can, and that the White Sox will wind up signing him and thanking their lucky stars they did.
You might wonder why Ben Sheets, Pat Burrell, and Adam Dunn were left off this list. Well, Dunn has power but strikes out way too much (have you ever heard of Rob Deer or Dave Kingman?). Burrell can be very good, but he also can be very bad. And Sheets just can’t stay healthy. He doesn’t take care of himself enough, and has missed a chunk of time in each of the last four seasons. Buyer beware on all three.