Thyrl’s Nightcap

October 25, 2007 | Thyrl Nelson

My mind is all over the place this evening, so I’ll just start writing and see where this one goes.
 
Regarding Kevin Millar’s Red Sox cheerleading escapade:
It’s nice to see at least one Oriole in the post season. Actually it’s embarrassing, but at this point par for the course. I am not going to get too worked up over the O’s. Everyone else has been doing that forever and it hasn’t amounted to any change.
 
Regarding pass plays on 2nd & 1, 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1:
I don’t exactly disagree with calling passes in any or even all of these situations. I will say however, that even though my knowledge of the game is far inferior to anyone who had a hand in calling those plays, I know that 2nd & 1 is the best down in football for an offense. The reason is because any play is a viable option in a short distance situation. Passing the ball there can be a good idea, but lining up in the shotgun takes all of the mystery out of the play calling. Throw the ball if you want, but at least make the defense aware that there is at least a chance you’ll run it. That keeps them honest and makes your chances at passing much better.
 
Regarding Ray Lewis’ rant:
Love Billick or hate him, he has been loyal to Ray and every other guy in that locker room to a fault. Part of being on a team is keeping team business in house. It’s kind of funny that Lewis would call Adalius Thomas a coward for making statements about him in the media in one breath, and then rake his coach over the coals through the media in his next. This is to say nothing of Billick’s sitting behind him in Atlanta through the summer of 2000, or deflecting as much negative attention as possible onto himself during the Super Bowl week that same year, or when Billick nearly lost all of his credibility with the team, media and fans while shielding Ray’s absence in 2005. It’s good to see that Ray appreciates loyalty.
 
Regarding the Ravens’ offense:
Jon Ogden didn’t do the team any favors by trying to come back this year. In hindsight it would have been much better to prepare for life without him instead of having the situation that we do on the offensive line.
At this point in the season the Ravens offense has had to rely on rookies Marshall Yanda, Ben Grubbs and Jared Gaither on the O-line, and Le’Ron McClain at fullback. The other 2/3 of the O- line has been second year Chris Chester and third year Jason Brown. Quinn Sypneiwski and Demetrius Williams are both second year players and Mark Clayton is in his third season. Even the veterans on this offense are Willis McGahee (1st year with the team), Steve McNair (2nd year) and Derrick Mason in his third year with the team. The Ravens are lucky to have won the games that they have. Has anyone seen what injuries to the offensive line have done to the Rams high-powered offense?
 
Regarding the Ravens’ defense:
Others may get most of the hype but Chris McAllister is the lynchpin of this defense. The defense was terrible before he came here, and has been awful when he isn’t playing. Let’s hope he is ready to play again soon.
 
Regarding the Patriots:
Contrary to popular opinion I don’t think that the Patriots are the best team in football, and I think they’ll be in for a big disappointment if they don’t get better at running the football. Teams that can’t run the ball well enough to kill the clock lose close games. The Pats haven’t had to play a close one yet, but haven’t played a good team aside from the Cowboys yet either.
As much as it pains me to say it, the Redskins have the best secondary in the NFL, if they can get 22 points this week, they’ll beat the Pats. The Colts will beat them for sure the following week. I know what you are thinking, but you’ll see.
 
Regarding the World Series:
Here’s hoping that 8 days off didn’t kill the roll that the Rockies were on, it sure looked like it tonight. Last time around the Red Sox run was kind of fun to watch. Maybe that was just because they were beating the Yankees in historical fashion. This time around I can barely stomach watching except for the chance that I’ll see them get beaten. Hopefully the Rockies will get it back together in game 2, they’re starting to look like the 1991 Lakers who swept into the finals and were swept right out.
 
That’s all I’ve got for tonight.
 
Peace,
T
(thyrl@wnst.net)

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Thyrl’s Nightcap

October 10, 2007 | Thyrl Nelson

I guess I am not as disappointed with the Ravens performance on Sunday as most seem to be. Actually, quite the contrary, I am very excited about this team, and although they don’t look like the team that most had expected up to this point, there is plenty to be encouraged with.
First, consider that for the first time in the history of the club, we have a solid foundation on the offensive line, a solid young foundation. If you look at teams like the Colts and Patriots, everything starts with line play. A good quarterback with time to relax in the pocket is very dangerous.
If you look at NFL stats from the previous few seasons, you’ll notice that lots of teams are able to pile up sacks in the first half of the season, but sacks typically become harder to come by as the season progresses. This is presumably because offensive lines take time to gel as a unit, chemistry is built as the season or seasons progress, and offensive line play improves.
Now consider that the Ravens envisioned a much different offensive line at the start of this season than they were left with on Sunday. JO, Adam Terry and Mike Flynn were expected to anchor this line, and none were obviously available for most of Sunday’s game.
The job that the three rookies, Grubbs, Yanda & Gaither did, along with second year player Chris Chester and third year player Jason Brown, should not be overlooked. The Ravens faced a pretty good defense, and their longest road trip of the season on Sunday with that offensive line. But wait, there’s more. Look at the rest of the offense that the Ravens fielded on Sunday. There’s rookie fullback LeRon McClain, Quinn Sypniewski at tight end is in his second year, Demetrius Williams is also a second year player, and Mark Clayton is in his third season. Even the veterans on this club are relatively new to Baltimore, it was McGahee’s 5th game with the club, McNair in his second season has played about a season’s worth of games here, and Mason the rock of this offense is in his third season in Baltimore. This is not to mention the injuries that the wide receivers have been battling all year.
If you take a look around the league, the team that most resembles the Ravens in terms of injuries on the offensive line is the Rams. The same Rams who are a disappointing 0-5 and have gotten both Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger injured behind a make shift line.
Suddenly, from my perspective at least, the Ravens at 3-2 don’t look so bad. The line has been better than we could have expected and should continue to get better throughout the season.
I am not comparing this team to the Superbowl champs of 2000, but that 2000 team was much more frustrating to watch on offense than today’s version, and they began a 5 game TD drought in Week 5 that year. I doubt these guys will be held out of the end zone for the next 4 games. It’s a good thing too, because it doesn’t look like the defense will be pitching many shutouts this year.
The Ravens season will be determined in the 6 game stretch beginning after their bye in week 8. Starting in week 9, they’ll go once through the division, and then San Diego, Indianapolis, and New England in consecutive weeks. We’ll know where we are after that.
Whether they are able to realize success this season or not, the Ravens appear to have a young offensive line that could grow together into a dominant unit. And that’s what dynasties are made of.
 
Peace,
T
(thyrl@wnst.net)

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Thyrl’s Nightcap

October 04, 2007 | Thyrl Nelson

There seems to be a great deal of debate going on as which is better, mixed martial arts or boxing. I am not here to present an opinion, as I’d be hard pressed to choose. Just as I’d be hard pressed to choose between football and baseball or beef and chicken. Can’t we all just get along, isn’t there enough room in my life for all of the above?
I was interested in the UFC back in the very beginning, when it was more like a carnival show than a sport, back when Royce Gracie used to fight giants and rip their arms out of their sockets. After the UFC came under fire from US gaming commissions, it went away and was largely forgotten about. The UFC is back now and is winning back old fans and picking up new ones in droves too. Meanwhile, boxing is the same old seedy game that it’s always been, with an alphabet soup of commissions and promoters who leave the best fights on the table for years.
As I said I am not here to debate, which is better, but the UFC has obvious advantages over boxing in its current state. The first such advantage is that the UFC is the lone dominant MMA federation in the United States and that they just purchased their biggest competitors, the PRIDE MMA federation in Japan. Therefore the UFC matchmakers are in a position to mandate that the best fights happen when they should, and they do not have to deal with promoters who make outrageous demands or who fighters who simply duck other fighters. Secondly, the UFC’s reality show, “The Ultimate Fighter” is just a far better all around production than “The Contender” boxing reality show and is therefore winning many more fans like my wife, who is actually a pretty big fan of both now.
That brings me to my last point, which is how they stack up when competing for my pay per view money. And let’s face it, that’s what they all probably care the most about. Well, when it comes to my pay per view money, UFC wins hands down. Here’s why: UFC is $40 boxing is $50. The UFC is going to give me 6-8 fights and at least 5 of them should be great matches, boxing is giving me 2 or 3 fights and there’s a good chance one will be a clunker. And although the UFC shows lots of free replays of fights on cable every week, there is no real rhyme or reason to when I’ll get to see a fight if I don’t buy it. With boxing if I don’t buy it, it will be on HBO or Showtime the following week; furthermore I’d be hard pressed to justify the cost of either of those channels if I were spending $50 per month on a boxing pay per view. And although my wife loves to watch the fights, she isn’t a big enough sports fan to know who won when we are watching the replay a week later, to her it’s just like a live fight.
Having said all of that, there are still a great deal more boxing purists out there, then there are MMA purists. Boxing is the sweet science, while MMA is still evolving and finding itself. If you are one of those who simply love boxing and don’t get much into MMA, here’s at least one reason to be thankful. The UFC has put the pressure on boxing, and those involved with boxing are clearly feeling that pressure. It was evident when Floyd Mayweather Jr. “called out” Chuck Liddell, and maybe that is what started this whole debate in the first place, but it’s even more evident when you look at the fights that boxing promoters have been putting together recently. 2007 has been a great year for boxing, and things look to continue in that direction. I’m guessing the rise in popularity of the UFC has at least something to do with that.
In the heavyweight division, Sam Peter ushered in the new year with a 12 round decision over James “Lights Out” Toney in January, in February Tommy “The Duke” Morrison was somehow cured of his HIV and scored a second round KO of John Castle, and 2 giants squared off when Ruslan Chagaev beat Nicolay Valuev in 12 rounds in April. Evander Holyfield has scored a couple of wins this years including a 10 round decision over Lou Savarese in June, and Holyfield will fight Sultan Ibragimov later this month for the WBO title that Ibragimov won from Shannon Briggs in June. And Wladimir Klitchko continued his rise back to prominence with a 6th round KO of Leman Brewster in July.
Elsewhere, Ricky Hatton has been keeping busy scoring a 12 round decision over Juan Urango in January, and absolutely destroying Jose Luis Castillo in June. Hatton took some heat before the Castillo fight because he had seemingly changed up the exciting style that he’d used to beat Kostya Tszyu in 2005 and went to the clinch a lot more. In beating Castillo Hatton demonstrated an ability to lean on his opponent and wear him down much like a heavyweight would. If Hatton is able to do that to Floyd Mayweather when they fight in December, he could give Floyd a lot more than he bargained for. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mayweather / De La Hoya as one of the gems of this great boxing year too.
Miguel Cotto had a TKO of Oktay Urkal in March, then knocked out Zab Judah in June and was set to give Antonio Margarito the first big money fight of his career this fall, a payday that was long overdue for Margarito, Paul Williams changed that by taking a 12 round decision from him on July 14th. Cotto will instead fight “Sugar” Shane Moseley in November.
Speaking of July 14th, not only did Paul Williams derail Margarito’s big payday on that night, but on the same broadcast we were also treated to Kermit Cintron knocking out Walter Matthysse in the second round of a fight that could have happened in an elevator, Cintron a former wrestler also stated a desire that night to fight the UFC’s Shawn Sherk in an MMA match. Sherk within weeks of that statement went out and absolutely dominated well known grappler Hermes Franca in a match in which both fighters were found to be using performance enhancing drugs. And we also saw former “Contender” star Alfonso Gomez TKO Arturo Gatti and seemingly end Gatti’s great career on that same July 14th broadcast, which wasn’t a pay per view event either. I’m guessing that for some reason a few people also did buy the pay per view broadcast of Roy Jones scoring a 12 round decision over Anthony Hanshaw that same night.
Corey Spinks beat Rodney Jones in February, and then lost to Jermain Taylor in May. On that night, the crowd seemed to turn on Jermain after seeing the excitement of the Edison Miranda / Kelly Pavlik slugfest on the under card. Pavlik the winner that night, would upstage Taylor again getting up off of the canvas on Saturday night to KO Taylor in the 7th round, in a fight that will surely have a rematch.
Speaking of great rematches, Rafael Marquez knocked out Israel Vazquez for the super bantamweight title in the 7th round of their March fight, and Vazquez returned the favor on August 4th, stopping Marquez in the 6th.
We were also treated to “Sugar” Shane Moseley’s 12 round decision over Luis Collazo in February, Juan Manuel Marquez beat Antonio Barrera in March, Barrera will try to get things going against Manny Pacquiao this weekend. Joe Calzaghe took easy care of “Contender” star Peter Manfredo Jr. in March, Bernard Hopkins beat Winky Wright in July and Vernon Forrest took a 12 round decision over Carlos Baldomir a week later.
2007 also saw an inauspicious end to the life and career of Diego “Chico” Corrales whose first battle with Jose Luis Castillo will long be remembered as one of the greatest fights of all time.
In addition to Mayweather vs. Hatton in December once Floyd is finished “Dancing With The Stars”, we also have Vargas vs. Mayorga and Jones Jr. vs. Trinadad before the year is over. 2007 could easily go down as one of the greatest years in the history of boxing, I am hard pressed to think of a better one. I think the pressure and competition being supplied by the UFC will ultimately be good for the “sweet science”, I think we are off to a pretty good start.
 
Rest in Peace “Chico” Corrales.
 
Peace,
T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

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Thyrl’s Nightcap

October 03, 2007 | Thyrl Nelson

Monday was a great night for sports. I barely got to see any of the Pats vs. the Bengals because of a nail biting baseball game, for a trip to the playoffs, between two teams that I’d be hard pressed to care less about. And Tuesday quickly brought about a reminder that baseball season is over, with no games of any sort to speak of on TV.
Don’t get me wrong; I love football as much as anyone. But I will not be among the majority of the country, watching the 4-0 Cowboys at the 1-3 Bills if there is a game 5 going on in one of the baseball Divisional Series. Nor will I be paying very much attention to the Giants and Falcons the following week, or even Colts and Jags the week after if there are baseball games being played at the same time.
My love for the game of baseball is a complicated matter to say the least. In fact it’s safe to say that I hate baseball as much as I love it, and have spent the better part of the past 10 years trying to swear off baseball altogether. The players and owners have absolutely no regard for the fans, which is probably true in all major sports, but nowhere else does it seem so blatant as it does in MLB.
You might think that I am just another frustrated Orioles fan, sickened by a decade long losing streak, and you might be right, but not entirely right. Although I’d love to see my beloved O’s be competitive at least occasionally, I’d like to see everyone in baseball have a chance to be competitive, and that unfortunately can never happen under the current system. I am sick of watching greedy owners and greedy players fight over pieces of a pie that is far too big for any of them to eat anyway. And for that reason, I have done everything in my power to fight the urge and keep from getting caught up in the excitement of each passing season. And I have failed miserably.
No matter how frustrated I seem to get with the current system, no matter how badly that system inhibits my team’s ability to ever compete (even if they were doing things right). No matter how many strikes, lockouts, umpire strikes, betting scandals, steroid probes they threw at me, I couldn’t stop watching and caring.
If baseball is going to survive outside of gigantic media markets, it will eventually have to change. The NFL did, and in doing so they have insured that cities like Denver and Green Bay and Indianapolis can have a chance to compete.
In baseball, a myth still seems to exist that small market teams can be competitive, and in some cases they have. But look at the Twins and A’s of the recent past, who did everything the “right way”, by evaluating talent shrewdly and developing their own young players. Then realize that Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Giambi & Tejada, all left the A’s before winning anything of importance, all seemingly on top of their games. Realize that the Twins have let go of Jacques Jones and will likely see Hunter, Santana, Morneau, and Mauer all leave before they have an opportunity to win a title. Then look at this year’s Indians who have some of the best bargains in the league in Grady Sizemore ($916k), Travis Hafner ($4.05m), Victor Martinez ($3.2m), Jhonny Peralta ($1m), Fausto Carmona ($387k), & C.C. Sabathia ($8.1m), and ask yourself what happens to this team in 2-3 years. And of course my favorite team this year, the Milwaukee Brewers, who have developed 90% of their roster through their own system, and were narrowly edged out by the big market Cubs. The Cubs added a ton of payroll this off-season and tried to add more during the season but were squashed because of the pending sale, and are now talking about possibly adding A-Rod this off-season. Do the Brewers and Indians look like that young core of Yankees that came up together over a decade ago and are in large part still together? Or do they look more like the A’s of nearly the same era, who are now scattered all over the league?
The question is: how do you fix it? Do you make it more like the NFL? If you really take a look at things, the difference between MLB and the NFL is the same as the difference between communism and capitalism. In football most of the money is put into a general pool and divided evenly, whereas in baseball teams are free to negotiate their own deals, keep nearly all of their own revenue, and use that revenue to bury their competition. In this case, it seems, communism wins.
I actually have two very different plans to attempt to fix the economic structure of MLB, one is simple and the other not so simple, we’ll start with the not so simple one, which models the communist, I mean NFL model.
First I’d start by trying to take the local TV revenue away from individual clubs and put TV negotiations into league hands. In this day and age, MLB could market their own product on their own networks and allow viewers to see games in any market. Doing so would put the revenue disparity nearly to bed allowing all teams to share equally in the profits because all games could be available in all markets. Therefore the biggest way to earn additional revenue is through local radio and ticket and merchandise sales.
Now doing this would obviously increase the value of a lot of franchises and decrease the value of a lot of others. So in the spirit of free market capitalism, you give each team a 5-year window during which to operate under the current system and do what they can to bolster the value of their teams. After the 5 years are up, independent auditors will determine the value of each individual franchise under current standards and establish a median franchise value. Those below the median will be forced to ante up and account for the difference, those above the median would be paid out the difference and all teams could move forward from there.
The simple solution is to set a date each year, let’s say January 15th. On January 15th every team in MLB submits their payroll to the MLB offices, the top 5 payrolls in each league will be in the “First Division”, the bottom 5 payrolls in each league will be the “Third Division” and the remaining teams in each league would be the “Second Division”. That would really put a wrinkle into things.
Or baseball could do what they have been doing, which is: to continue to shoot themselves in the foot time and time again. To continue to be the economic and public relations nightmare that it currently is and hope that for some god forsaken reason, idiot fans like myself will continue to support them in droves for no good reason. That strategy seems to be the one that is working so far, and baseball is apparently thriving. So what do I know?
Enjoy the playoffs, I’ll be watching, whether I like it or not.
Peace,
T
Do you have an idea on how to fix MLB? Or do you think it should be left as is?
Let me Know

(thyrl@wnst.net)

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Thyrl’s Nightcap

September 19, 2007 | Thyrl Nelson

2007 like 9 years before,
The theme is decidedly tragic.
Gone are the days of the Oriole Way,
Forgotten is Oriole Magic.
 
It seems with this team, there’s a singular theme,
But this owner’s not solely to blame.
This fire’s been burning for 20 plus years,
And now he’s the one fanning the flames.
 
Not here to defend what I can’t comprehend,
But I’ll stop short of calling him devil.
But I will say surely, he’s run the team poorly,
And taken losing to another whole level.
 
He sure had me snowed when he first bought the O’s,
And finally brought players to town.
He wasn’t a bad man, he spent like a madman,
For Alomar, Raffy and Brown.
 
In Gillick he got a pro to call shots,
Or at least that’s the way that it seemed.
But with Gillick in place and the O’s in the race,
Pete decided that he’d run the team.
 
The day it began is when Pete took a stand,
And squashed the trade of Bobby Bo.
When it didn’t go down the birdss turned it around,
And Pete figured he could the O’s.
 
It seems since that day Pete has been in the way,
And preventing this team from success.
GMs and agents on numerous occasions,
Won’t take our calls due to this mess.
 
It seems that this slide also coincides,
When the Ravens showed up on the spot.
The good deal he had was suddenly bad,
Compared to what Art Modell got.
 
A team in DC, brought on more, ”Woe is me”,
And it seems he’s conceded defeat.
And I just can’t explain my unshakeable pain,
I’m afraid we may never compete.
 
It seems baseball’s rules have been written by fools,
The system’s so bad it’s not funny.
Most would benefit from a revenue split,
But these rich guys just can’t manage money.
 
But back to these O’s and our friend Angelos,
My frustration is off of the meter.
The lesson my friend again and again,
Is quite simply “Don’t be a Peter”.
 
It means know your role and don’t be an A-hole,
Be good at whatever you do.
But when faced with a task that’s beyond your grasp,
Hire someone who’s smarter than you.
 
I’m all Petered out so that’s it for this blog,
But Peter your policies test us.
Why not let your front office guys do their jobs?
Do you take their advice on asbestos?

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Thyrl’s Nightcap

September 13, 2007 | Thyrl Nelson

Quarterback
 
Steve McNair was absolutely awful on Monday. In hindsight we can see that a mediocre performance from McNair would have been enough to win. With that said, I may be the only guy in town who feels comfortable if Kyle Boller has to play for extended periods of time this season. I have been saying since the acquisition of McNair, that Boller’s most important games as a Raven have yet to be played.
 
Kyle is a tough kid who has taken a lot of heat, some of it due, a lot of it not. He has been a stand up guy in difficult circumstances. He was thrown into the fire much too quickly, and under mediocre supervision (Cavanaugh & Fassel), and he stumbled and bumbled a good team into mediocrity. Reputations are tough to shake, so Kyle will have a difficult time shaking that label no matter what he does, but he can do it.
 
I am not saying that he’s a better option than McNair by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe that he is worlds ahead of Troy Smith or Byron Leftwich, and I am anxious to see if he has grown under Billick and McNair. Let’s face it, we all saw McNair get tripped up by Mike Flynn a few times last year. Boller has surely given anyone looking for a reason to criticize plenty of fodder, but this is a much better offense than he ever had to work with as a starter. Also, Boller’s physical gifts are still superior to most NFL QB’s; he just hasn’t put it all together yet.
 
Lastly, considering the last three games of 2005, plus the 2 games in which he saw significant minutes last year, Boller has been lights out in 4 of those 5 games, and Jamal Lewis two highest yards per carry games last year were the games that Boller was the QB. Say what you want about the deflections in the Panthers game, but they had as much to do with our receivers as Boller. And Boller threw the game-tying touchdown twice on Monday. He looked pretty bad on a couple of touch passes, but threw a nice ball to Mason in the flat and two "shoulda been" TDs to Heap.
 
The one thing that I hope McNair has helped Boller to learn, is how to hang onto the ball until the last possible second, McNair seems to be a master at that. You can’t teach luck, but Kyle could use a bunch of that too, it seems that his biggest mistakes have come at the most crucial times. It seems his brutal luck continues as his first big chance this year came on a short field, clearly not playing to his strengths.
 
Offensive Line
 
I am confident that the combination of Marshall Yanda and Adam Terry will hold their own this season, but I am disappointed in the Ravens’ approach regarding Jon Ogden. You’d have to believe at this point Ogden will miss a significant portion of the season if not all of it. Knowing that this was a possibility, it certainly would have been prudent to get Adam Terry ready at left tackle instead of switching him to the right side. Especially since it seemed eminent that Terry would be returning to the left side once Ogden retired, and that Yanda would be the right tackle of the future.
 
Running Back
 
McGahee didn’t look quite like the renewed spirit that we were promised this off-season, especially in the first quarter. In fact he looked like a guy struggling to learn the playbook. We all remember Jason Brookens. McGahee cost the Ravens an early timeout by lining up in the wrong spot on a play in the first series, and I can’t really say how much he was to blame for the fumbled exchange from McNair on the sweep. Perhaps McGahee’s early miscues contributed to Billick’s unusual play selection on the goal line in the fourth quarter.
 
Actually I think that if Billick didn’t have confidence in McGahee in the clutch, he should have taken advantage of a healthy Musa Smith while he has one. Musa looked solid running the ball, and in fact it was his downhill running that seemed to wake McGahee up.
 
Defense
 
Same old same old. The defense seems to be in mid season form already. Jarrett Johnson looked like we hoped he would, getting 4 tackles and a sack. Bart Scott got out and roughed up Chad Johnson, and although neither is A.D., the defense looks fine in the post A.D. era. Keeping us in the game, given the turnover situation, in a hostile road environment, against that offense, in primetime is certainly a great start for the defense. And Rudi Johnson was held to 2.8 yards per carry, and really only had one significant run. Although I’m sure they’d have rather given up a few more yards or points and gotten the win.
 
Play calling
 
I am a big Billick supporter, probably to a fault. But I have to say that I don’t have a problem with the play calling, most of the passes that were called were thrown to open receivers. The Ravens had the Bengals’ defense on their heels and they just couldn’t connect. That’s not play calling, that’s execution.
 
Kick Returns
 
Was I the only one cussing when Ed Reed dropped back to field the punt? With all of the injuries up to that point, I didn’t see the point in putting such a valuable part of our defense in that position. Sixty-three yards later I was cheering and my wife was laughing, good thing nobody touched him.
 
In addition to the Reed TD, BJ Sams was doing big things in the return game and had a lot to do with the score being as close as it was. Yamon Figurs, Cory Ross or whoever will have big shoes to fill back there, hopefully they will be up to the challenge.
 
Referees
 
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the refs and the gigantic call that they blew in the back of the end zone. In the end, teams have to execute their game plans and insure that the refs aren’t in a position to decide the outcome, and the Ravens could have done that by taking care of the football. But the refs were bad all night, it seemed that Demetrius Williams was getting mugged every time the camera showed him. Having said all of that, the Bengals lost a couple of memorable games last season by questionable calls late in the game. I wouldn’t expect any sympathy from them, as they may have been a playoff team if those had gone the other way. Furthermore, as much as I believe that the Ravens usually seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to referees’ calls, even the conspiracy theorist in me can’t fathom an agenda that has the NFL doing anything to bring glory or attention to the Bengals, who are a giant thorn in the commissioner’s side.
 
I am going to watch the game on DVR either today or tomorrow, so I may have a totally different outlook on this by tomorrow night. If I do, you’ll hear about it.
 
Peace,
T

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Thyrl’s Nightcap

July 23, 2007 | Thyrl Nelson

WNST is very excited to be getting into the fantasy football business this season, and I am excited about hosting the all new Fantasy Football Forum on Saturdays at 4 o’clock. In the weeks leading up to the season, I will be posting all of my thoughts and resources to help get you prepared for your fantasy football draft and for WNST’s Fantasy Football League as well. Additionally I am hoping to join as many of your Fantasy football Leagues as possible, please send your invites to thyrl@wnst.net.
 
Before we get into breaking down the players by position, I think it’s important to go over a little bit of pre draft strategy. Without further adieu:
 
Thyrl’s Ten Fantasy Football Commandments:
 
  1. Know your league and its scoring system.
Fantasy Football has exploded in the past decade or so, and with it lots of experts and resources have cropped up too. While weighing advice from lots of sources is great, it’s important to remember how your leagues scoring system works, and translate those projections to your league. This will set you apart from the guys who are all drafting from the same magazine or web site.
 
  1. Be an active manager.
Most leagues aren’t won on draft day, foundations are built, but more often than not fortune favors the owner who continues to do his homework after the draft. Difference makers emerge every year, and picking up a Marques Colston or a Mike Furrey mid season could be the move that puts you over the top.
 
  1. Scout the owners in your league.
In addition to doing your homework on player evaluations, be aware of the other owners in your league and their tendencies. Every league has that guy who loads up on players from his favorite team, or the one who shows up in the brand new authentic jersey of his favorite player who just switched teams. Understand that these guys are likely to spend earlier than they should to get their favorites, and cross those guys off your list early. Also figure that grabbing the third or fourth receiver from that guy’s team, when he has to consciously go after some different players could lead to trade bait down the line.
 
  1. Avoid rookies and first year number ones.
With few exceptions, rookies are rarely all that they’re cracked up to be and are typically drafted too early. There may be some value at running back late from the rookie pool, but avoid all rookie wide receivers and any rookie who hasn’t signed his contract before your draft. First year number one wide receivers are even more dangerous. We call this Alvin Harper syndrome, or Peerless Price for those younger players. Kevin Curtis comes immediately to mind as I write this, but stay tuned for the detailed wide receiver rankings.
 
  1. Chart the draft.
I will try to put some resources on the web site to help with this too. Most drafts go up and down, if you are on one side or the other, at least be aware of the teams drafting on the short side of you. This way when trying to decide between players at two different positions you’ll be able to look down and see if one is likely to get back to you based on what the others have drafted already.
 
  1. Manage your byes.
You can’t let bye weeks determine early round picks, but once a couple of rounds are in the books, take note of how your byes are lining up. It’d be ideal to not have too many players out on any single week. However, if you find that suddenly you have lots of players with the same bye, it’s not a bad idea to take all of your medicine at one time and be near full strength for all but one week. Also be sure that you draft your backups with different byes than your starters.
 
  1. Quarterback science.
This goes back to knowing your league and it’s scoring system. Some leagues favor running backs, some favor quarterbacks, and some are balanced. Running backs tend to go early in the draft, so it’s not always a bad idea to grab a quarterback with a high upside early instead of a second or third tier rusher. This is also helped by the fact that running backs tend to get beat up and switched out more, so grabbing serviceable runners through free agency is always an option. As a side note, in Team QB leagues it makes sense at a certain point to wait until the last pick for your QB. If you are in an 18-team league and find 16 QBs drafted before you take yours, you might as well wait until the end to take one. They’ll still be 15 to choose from when you do pick, and you may be able to pair him up with your second or third wide receiver. There will always be a top 5 pick among this group.
 
  1. Don’t be afraid to draft a third running back before you have all of your starters.
Again, in some cases it makes sense to draft your QB last, also figure that sleeper wide receivers are easier to come by late in the draft. Having three starters at running back is never a bad thing. It will help get you through your bye weeks if they are all different, and will provide injury insurance or trade bait later on. Picking your star running back’s backup is never a bad idea either, but scavengers will try to spend early on the prime time backups like Michael Turner and Maurice Morris.
 
  1. Get a hook up for your QB.
If you get a top-notch quarterback, it’s tough to get his #1 guy. Even if that pairing does come back to you in the second round it’s tough to get through two rounds and not invest in a running back. If you can’t get his #1 target, get one of his complimentary receivers, or if you don’t pick a QB with a top-flight tight end, tight end hook ups are usually easy to get too.
 
  1. Have Fun.
Talk trash, side bet, do whatever you have to do to keep it interesting. Fantasy football will change the way that you watch the game, but should only enhance your enjoyment. If fantasy football is stressing you out, you are doing it wrong. When your team is out of contention, play with integrity. You owe it to those who are doing well, and hopefully will have a league where players will want to continue to come back year after year.
 
That’s the beginning; they’ll be lots more to come in the weeks leading up to your draft, and throughout the football season. Stay posted for QB rankings coming soon, and email your thoughts or league invites to thyrl@wnst.net.
 
Peace,
 

T

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Thyrl’s Nightcap

July 12, 2007 | Thyrl Nelson

Meaningless All-Star Game
 
Recent attempts to make the All-Star game meaningful have failed; evidenced by the fact that Tony LaRussa left Albert Pujols on the bench for the two most meaningful at bats of the game. Take nothing away from Aaron Rowand or Orlando Hudson, but each had already had one plate appearance. And LaRussa’s argument that he was saving Pujols for extra innings sounds bogus. After stating that Pujols was capable of playing just about any position, juggling the lineup would have been easy. It’s not like we’re proposing he hit for the catcher.
 
I am more apt to believe that LaRussa’s decision had more to do with Pujols’ recent hitting slump coupled with his participation in the Home Run Derby the previous night. Throw in the fact that LaRussa’s Cardinals are 5 games below .500 and in third place in the N.L. Central, and LaRussa had little reason to be concerned with home field advantage in the World Series.
 
The All Star Game is still fun for me, but let’s face it it’s a meaningless exhibition. And at the end of the day I could easily do without it, given that the 2 days without baseball that surround it are nearly unbearable for a sports junkie like me.
 
When you think about it, because of the way that the playoffs are set up, the end of a season is a gradual weaning off. The playoffs start with lots games at first and they are gradually tapered off as teams are eliminated. This mid-season cold turkey is tough to take.
 
Bud Selig
 
Speaking of tough to take, is anyone else sick with the thought of Bud Selig trying to be the morality police all of a sudden? First of all, if he had simply agreed to be present when Bonds breaks the homerun record, this wouldn’t even be a story. By continuing to leave it up to speculation he continues to perpetuate the black cloud that hangs over baseball, in reference to steroids.
 
I am not here to defend Bonds, although he has taken the high ground at every opportunity this season. It is also worth mentioning that Bonds at least seems to be trying to soften his image this season. I have seen him give a number of interviews this season, and remain composed even when the questions have gotten tough. Furthermore I have seen Bonds laughing with members of the media more this year than I can ever remember, in fact I can’t really ever remember Bonds being so jovial.
 
No matter how you feel about Bonds, Selig is in no position to pass judgment on anyone. And, since Selig has seemingly been on hand for every predictable milestone to be reached during his tenure, he easily gets more face time on camera than any commissioner in the history of sports; therefore he has to be present when the biggest record in baseball, perhaps the biggest in all of sports is broken this summer.
 
Let’s not forget that the collusion fiasco of the late 80’s is widely thought to be the brainchild of Selig and fellow owner Jerry Reinsdorf. And that Selig led the ouster of Commissioner Fay Vincent in the wake of the collusion scandal, and championed expansion efforts in order to raise the money needed to cover the settlement. Selig then of course suggested contracting teams in 2001. Selig also turned a blind eye to the problems, as evidence of steroid abuse in baseball mounted, and basked in the glory of Sosa and McGwire chasing Roger Maris’ single season homerun record.
Given the rash of problems that baseball has had in the Selig era, you might start to believe that having this known as the steroid era is much better in the commissioner’s mind than having it known as the Bud Selig era, as Selig’s oversights go far beyond steroids. As long as it’s known as the steroid era, someone other than Selig will be the poster child for baseballs problems, and as Selig plans his ride off into the sunset, it seems he is doing all he can to insure that Barry Bonds is remembered as the face of the steroid era.
Thyrl@wnst.net
 

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Thyrl’s Nightcap

July 09, 2007 | Thyrl Nelson

The All-Star break is here, the 2007 season is a little more than halfway in the books, and once again controversy surrounds Barry Bonds. This time around it’s regarding his decision to skip the Home Run Derby at this year’s All Star-Game in San Francisco.
 
Before I go any further, let me say that I love baseball’s All-Star Game. The All-Star game in baseball is much more like the actual game than it is in other sports. And I love the Home Run Derby too, but maybe it’s time to reconsider making this a part of the All-Star festivities.
 
Do you remember when the Slam Dunk Competition was a star-studded event? And how disappointed you were when Michael Jordan bowed out for the first time stating that it wore him out too much for the second half of the season? Then Jordan started producing championships, and not only did we all forgive him, but other stars took notice too. For the most part, the dunk contest is now a collection of very athletic dunkers, who aren’t stars in the league.
 
If the dunk contest were held in the off-season, you’d probably see more marquee names participating. The same trend seems to be happening with the Home Run Derby. MLB should come up with an off season homerun competition for charity, and make it like the old Home Run Derby show that I grew up watching replays of on ESPN. And maybe they could make a homerun distance competition for the All-Star Break, that could feature those guys who can hit it a ton, but aren’t the backbone of their teams hopes for the rest of the season. 
 
Sooner or later, more and more Major League stars are going to realize that participating in the Home Run Derby could not only wear you out for the second half of the season; but winning it might curse you. Consider the following:
 
2006 Winner – Ryan Howard
This may be the weakest argument in the bunch, mostly because Howard’s 2006 MVP numbers got stronger after the break last season, but also because ’06 was his first full season in the big leagues. Howard’s .256 batting average this season is far below his career average, and .057 points worse than last season. Howard’s slugging percentage is down also (.659 in ’06, .560 in ’07) and his on base percentage (.425 in ’06, .380 in ’07). Add in the fact that Howard had just 3 at bats between May 7th & May 25th, and he is at least worth mentioning in this conversation.
 
2005 Winner – Bobby Abreau
Abreau put on a power display in the 2005 Derby belting 41 homeruns on his way to the title. Abreau went into the All-Star game with 18 homeruns that season, he hit just 6 the rest of the way. Follow that up with 15 homers between the Yankees and Phillies last season and 5 this year and Abreau has just 26 dingers since winning the competition in ’05. This is from a guy who hit 20 or more homeruns every year between ’99 & ’05. Abreau is currently having the worst season of his career in nearly every statistical category since becoming an everyday player in 1998.
 
2004 Winner – Miguel Tejada
Tejada’s 2004 season was arguably the best offensive season ever for an Oriole, and he was considered at that time one of the elite hitters in all of baseball. Since winning the Derby in ’04 Tejada has put up respectable homerun numbers, 26 in ’05 & 24 in ’06 after averaging 31.2 per season between 2000-2004 mostly in a pitcher’s park, but his slugging and OPS have been declining steadily. He has just 7 homers this season and his current .426 SLG% is his lowest since 1998.
 
2003 Winner – Garret Anderson
Garret Anderson played in at least 155 games and had over 600 at bats in every season between 1998 and 2003 when he claimed the Derby crown. In 2000 Anderson hit .286 with 35 HR and 117 RBI, in 2001 .289/28/123, in 2002 .306/29/123, and in 2003 .315/29/116. He followed up his derby win in ’04 by playing just 112 games, and has played just over 140 each in ’05 & ’06. Anderson has just 51 homeruns in the 3 ½ seasons since winning the derby and has failed to drive in more than 96 RBI in any year since. Once a career .300+ hitter, Anderson has failed to break .285 in any of the last 3 seasons, even with the added protection of Vlad Guerrero in the lineup.
 
2002 Winner – Jason Giambi
Giambi did follow up his derby win in 2002 with 41 homers and 107 RBI in 2003, but after hitting .314, .342, .333, & .315 in the four years previous, Giambi’s average plummeted to .250 in 2003. Giambi’s struggles since than have been well documented, and while his homerun and RBI numbers have rebounded to respectability, he is no more than a .270 hitter these days with declining on base, slugging and OPS numbers.
 
2001 Winner – Luis Gonzalez
Gonzalez’ 2001 numbers left him little opportunity to do anything but decline, his .325 avg., 57 HR, 142 RBI campaign that year would be triple crown numbers in a lot of seasons. Gonzalez followed up his derby title by never posting better than 28 homers or 104 RBI or a .305 avg. again and has usually been far below that.
 
Coincidentally these were Griffey’s last two seasons in Seattle. Junior did put together a respectable first season with the Reds in 2000 also, with 40 homers and 118 RBI, but he only got 520 at bats that season and missed 17 games, after collecting 600+ at bats in each of the previous three seasons and missing only 8 games in that 3 year stretch. Griffey’s troubles have been well documented too, and the kid who once seemed destined to break every major offensive record in baseball is now the poster child for lost potential. Although 600 homeruns is nothing to cough at, after hitting 209 homers between ’96 & ’99, Griffey has just 188 dingers in the 7 ½ seasons since including the 40 homeruns he hit in 2000.
 
It’s worth mentioning that Sammy Sosa had several great seasons after winning the title in 2000, but his fall from grace was worse than most, only delayed. Bonds too may be suffering from the curse, after winning in 1996, Bonds career has had it’s share of pitfalls both on and off the field, although he certainly hasn’t suffered the drop in production that others have. And Cal Ripken would certainly never again come close to duplicating his MVP numbers of 1991, the year that he won the Home Run Derby. Juan Gonzalez, Ryne Sandberg and Eric Davis are all guys who come to mind as well when you think about past winners whose careers took dramatic downward turns after winning it.
 
Perhaps it’s more a coincidence than a curse, but it’s a trend at the very least. With several of this years contestants on my fantasy league teams, I will certainly be watching with curiosity and hoping they get eliminated early before they have a chance to put in 3 rounds worth of swings. And I will surely be avoiding this year’s winner in next year’s draft.

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