Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Joe Posnanski Wants to Trade His Hometown Team to the NL for the Pirates

I'm a huge fan of Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski. He's a great writer, insightful and thoughtful and always up for debate. He's a SABR fan but appreciates intangibles. Plus, he's a KC Royals fan, so I've always felt we had a kinship in our love of formerly-great-now-crappy franchises.

So I was a little surprised when, in his latest blog post, I saw the line: "The Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals should trade leagues."

His argument is: KC would get a St. Louis rivalry and a shot in the arm. Pittsburgh would never finish sixth again, get a rivalry with Cleveland and maybe Detroit, and a shot in the arm.

He does acknowledge, rather mildly, that the Pirates have about 120 years of history in the NL, and that "I don’t know if Pittsburgh fans would revolt against the idea of moving leagues after all these years."


Well I'm not sure if JoePos is just looking for something to offer in exchange for his Royals, or what, but I don't really see how a baseball fan can treat a team's roots into the 1880s as a tangential concern.

Don't get me wrong; I would love to have an Indians rivalry, and I think my hatred of the Red Wings has enough juice to overflow into a Tigers rivalry (though my love for Leyland would get tricky). Those things would be nice, and if the Pirates are ever good again, I expect interleague play could even fuel such a thing.

And I would love change. Boy, would I love change. Every Pirates fan would. When the Brewers are outscoring your team by factors of 20, you'd be crazy not to. A buddy of mine commented that he thinks Neal Huntington should have those scores and dates tattooed on his arm the way John Fetterman does with every murder in Braddock. I'm all for it. I want this team to win more than I want lots and lots of far more utilitarian things.

But it is frankly a little insulting to think that, just because the Pirates are terrible and we like rivalries, we Pirates fans are lining up to do anything  we can for a change. Why not change the team colors, move the team to Cranberry, and call them the "Stealers" because hey, Pirates steal shit from boats? I mean, it would energize the team!

Yes, the Pirates are bad. We've had bad ownership, bad management, and bad players for a long time now. It feels like crap as a fan. But we also have history, and tradition, and memories - good and bad - that we can take some pride in, either as former glory (Clemente) or as war wounds (Sid Bream). We're not the Miami Heat, whose first two retired numbers were those of Dan Marino and Michael Jordan (they've since added the worthy Alonzo Mourning, but wouldn't that have been better had he been the actual first?).

We're bad, but we know we're bad because we were once good, and we have hope because we can remember what it felt like to be good. In Pittsburgh (physically or emotionally), things move slowly. We're surrounded by our history. We take pride in the time it took us to build things, even when we're frustrated by the status quo. There are times when we're desperate for change, but we're never in desperation.

So sorry, Joe. Keep your American League Central, your Designated Hitter, and your Royals. Or offer the trade to the Reds. We're fine right here, thanks.

Monday, April 26, 2010

On NFL Draft Grades

If it's true there are lies, damn lies, and statistics... it is equally true there is shit, horseshit, and draft grades.

This time of year you'll see draft grades everywhere football is discussed. They usually have several things in common:

1) Literal grades, as in "B+" or "C-". How comforting it is to know the grader is so confident in his (and yes, I say his, because no woman in her right mind grades a draft) assessment that he feels the need differentiate within each letter grade. "Ya know, I was going to give you a "B", but when you took Mike Kafka, well, I thought you deserved a little more. "B+".

2) A winners and losers section. And these sections are truly necessary, as football has no others means of determining "winners" and "losers", outside of the 254 regular season games, and 11 playoff games. With the number of times I have seen the Seahawks listed as "winners" in this year's draft, I can only assume they are officially 1-0 in the 2010 season.

3) Numerous quotations from general managers, coaches, and front office types about how pleased they are with the their own work.

4) Liberal use of the word "value".

How does a lucky NFL team earn a passing grade, or even better, an honor-roll potential "A"? The very best way is to have a top-5 pick. Drafting a Bradford, Suh, or McCoy is a pretty good start on the path to a high grade. Of course, you only get a top-5 pick if you were either awful last year, or if you managed to acquire said 1st rounder from the Raiders or Browns for a nice assortment of beads, trinkets, and magic beans. In either case, whoever you select at this point in the draft is going to haul in a signing bonus equal to, or greater than, an established, top-notch, possibly Pro Bowler at his position. But, why worry about that on draft day? You have just made the sound decision to pay an untested, gimpy shouldered, 22-year old quarterback a $40 million signing bonus. Congratulations.

But, what if you don't have a top-5 pick? Can you still get a good grade? Yes!!! All you need to do is draft a player(s) who had a high "value" (I'll get back to that word) assigned to him by Mel Kiper/Todd McShay/Mike Mayock, who also went to a recognizable school, and slides to you later in the draft than the originally assigned grade suggested he would. Pull this off a couple times you will surely take home a good overall grade.

If the player doesn't fit your system, or if the combined scouting departements of 32 NFL teams determined he wasn't worth taking until, well, when he was actually taken... these are worries for another day. You have just acquired a great value.

It should be noted, value is derived through a simple formula: Accuratly rate every draft eligible player in all relevant criteria (Speed, size, strength, skill, condition, toughness, intelligence, etc.), adjust for level of competition, then simply cross-reference that rating with every other rating of all draft-eligible players, complete a basic historical analysis of NFL player development (position-by-position), and finally slide each rated player into a 32X7 grid. Just like that, you have tamed the subjective idea of player value.

Of course, all grades can't be "A's" and "B's". The best way to get a bad grade (though, usually not anything worse than a "C", unless you are the Raiders) is to ignore value. Do you like a player in the middle of the 1st round with a late-1st round value? Well, you better think twice about picking him (if you want at least a "B"!). Of course, you could argue that only one other team needs to fall in love with the player for you to lose him... no, it's probably best to trade down, get a 3rd round pick, and pray to the approriate diety of your choice that the player you fell in love with over a dozen hours of workouts and interviews just falls into you hands. Surely you are the only team to discover how special he is. You know what they say... if you love a player, let him go. If he doesn't slide 15 spots back into your hands, it wasn't meant to be. (how could Jacksonville forget this!?!)

If you really want to face the wrath of the NFL version of Dean Wormer's double- secret-draft-grade-probation, go ahead and load up on interior linemen, small school players, late draft picks who might actually contribute to your team on special teams (instead of using those picks under-talented, big-named, college divas), or trade any of your picks for one of those so-called "veterans", who are similar to draft prospects, except that they have actually accomplished something.

Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through the NFL draft, GM Blutarsky.

Friday, April 23, 2010

How much does a system affect a center?

By now we've all heard more than we ever wanted to hear about Timothy Richard Tebow being a product of a college system who'll never make it in the pros. While I am entirely opposed to weighing in on the subject, so as to not join the ranks of boneheads who couldn't possibly know the future which they claim to be prognosticating with such certainty, I will say this: I'm surprised more hullabaloo hasn't been made of Maurkice Pouncey playing center in the same Florida system.

The knock (one of them, at least) against Tebow is that he thrived in a spread-option offense, one which isn't run in the NFL. Basically what this means is that in college he was ALWAYS in the shotgun, ALWAYS had the option to run the ball himself, ALWAYS had the option to flip the ball off to a running back, and ALWAYS had a hot route receiver crossing through his line of sight. Pouncey was his center, and drew rave reviews for keeping the pocket clean and Tebow on his feet. But that's where I begin to wonder: how true was Pouncey's success and how much was it an illusion of the system?

Perhaps we're looking at the opposite situation with Pouncey as we are with Tebow, in that all the shotgun snaps and pull blocking actually prepared the center for the NFL far better than a "pro style" offense would have. It's generally accepted that offensive linemen have an easier time run blocking than dropping into pass protection. Perhaps the Steelers new center has an edge, then.

Or, perhaps we're in for a sticky period of adjustment, as spread-option blocking isn't a pure pass or run technique. Perhaps, because the offense transforms itself mid-play based on what the defense allows, the blockers had an added advantage of deception, and thus didn't have to win their battles at the line the conventional way. We hear a lot about Pouncey's ability to call blocking assignments for his unit at the line: how much of what he did in college in this regard is relevant to the pros? Also: we hear a lot about a shotgun QB having trouble adjusting his timing and footwork when asked to play under center; does that same adjustment period apply to shotgun centers?

I don't know the answers, I'm merely pointing out that these questions have been conspicuously not asked by the draftniks. My own opinion is that Maurkice Pouncey looks like the realest deal since Faneca, and that it'll do him good to play some guard in his first year with us. That should bridge much of the gap between the college and pro systems.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Brennan's Bold Prediction

Brennan's having some trouble logging in at work, so he's asked me to post his bold prediction for him. Brennan, you may notarize this with your electronic signature in the comments section.

Ben Roethlisberger will not be traded. Not only that, the Steelers won’t even draft a QB prospect or a “camp arm”, and will go to Latrobe with the current foursome.

Byron Leftwich will start, and will generally remind everyone why Tampa Bay both acquired him and subsequently gave him away… he is nice guy, a competent QB, and absolutely not a game changer. You get by with Leftwich for a month, you don’t win the Super Bowl.

Charlie Batch will reprise his role as a great guy to have around, a decent QB who you can absolutely count on to give you at least three or four good snaps before he is injured, and as a prime developer and ambassador of the my beloved Homestead.

Finally, Dennis Dixon will publically proclaim he is happy with his role as a developing QB, while on the inside he will feel he was ready for the chance to become Big Den for a month, while FURTHER on the inside he will know he isn’t ready, and will be double-secret thankful he doesn’t actually need to start Week 1.

As to why the Steelers won’t trade Roethlisberger, well, this leads to a whole separate post I probably have in me, but in the meantime here is the gist of the idea…. it would be a bad business move. Sorry Steelers fans, but the Rooneys are pretty ordinary amongst N.F.L. owners in that they are, in order:

1) Businessmen

2) Moralists

I can make this case in more detail later, but basically there it is. The Rooneys are businessmen first, moralists second. Trading Roethlisberger for anything less than a Herschel Walker-type bounty would be bad business on the field, and yes, even off it. So, it won’t happen.

FTC Mock Draft, Special Edition

The editors at FTC have mentioned our feelings on draft previews and mock drafts. Our undying respect for Mel Kiper Jr. notwithstanding, they're basically nuts. But they are fun, especially if there's a specific angle, like Matt's work on the Steelers. Or if there's a story on a specific player, for example, that really hasn't been covered by the media.

This year, there is such an unheralded player, a young man who has just escaped the attention of that evil liberal mainstream right wing media. I think we all know who that is. So without further ado, the special edition of the FTC 2010 mock draft

  1. St. Louis Rams - Tim Tebow, Florida, QB - In a surprise move, the Rams take a little-known QB sleeper out of the SEC, saying his intangibles will help change the culture of losing and teach the team how to win.
  2. Detroit Lions - Tim Tebow, Florida, OL - Trying to bolster support and protect new franchise QB Matt Stafford, the Lions take Tebow, saying his heart will not only protect Stafford's blind side but rebuild Michigan's economy.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Tim Tebow, Florida, DT - Taking a (fairly) local boy, the Bucs finally get their replacement for Warren Sapp, and hopefully an end to the strip club culture of Tampa.
  4. Washington Redskins - Tim Tebow, Florida, WR - The Redskins do what the Eagles never could by giving McNabb a bona fide deep threat, slot receiver and life coach, all with one pick.
  5. Kansas City Chiefs - Tim Tebow, Florida, TE/OLB - Former Patriots GM Scott Pioli loves big, physical, versatile players, and KC hasn't been the same since Tony Gonzalez left.
  6. Seattle Seahawks - Tim Tebow, Florida, FS - It's a bit of a reach, but Seattle wasn't smug enough as a city, and Tebow is the man to help.
  7. Cleveland Browns - Tim Tebow, Florida, Mayor - Using an obscure bit of parliamentary procedure, the Browns draft Tebow with the 7th pick and put him in charge of the city. LeBron stays.
  8. Oakland Raiders - Tim Tebow, Florida, WR/CB - He's just so fast!
  9. Buffalo Bills - Tim Tebow, Florida, QB - This team has a lot of needs, but Jim Kelly told them to take Tebow as a quarterback in the first round, and given Kelly's long history of success in front office management, Buddy Nix defers.
  10. Jacksonville Jaguars - Tim Tebow, Florida, SS - Local boy makes good, sells tickets, returns team to Wild Card contention.
  11. Denver Broncos (from Chicago) - Tim Tebow, Florida, FB - Giving up Payton Hills for Brady Quinn really hurt the Broncos. This can make it right.
  12. Miami Dolphins - Tim Tebow, Florida, VP of Football Operations - Screw you, Parcells. Miami has in near Key West, which has lots of liberals and gay people. Tebow will show them all the way to the Lord. Plus, he did missionary work in Puerto Rico, so he's heard Spanish before.
  13. San Francisco 49ers - Tim Tebow, Florida, P - Yes, Andy Lee is a pro-bowler, and the pride of Pitt's special teams unit of the past decade. But the San Francisco area is a major donor base for Planned Parenthood.
  14. Seattle Seahawks - Tim Tebow, Florida, Barista - Doubling down on intangibles, it turns out that the Seahawks need someone to get Matt Hasselbeck coffee.
  15. NY Giants - Tim Tebow, Florida, QB - Is your seat getting warm yet, Eli?
  16. Tennessee Titans - Tim Tebow, Florida, OLB - He'll charge through all those holes Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth used to create.
  17. San Francisco 49ers - Tim Tebow, Florida, ILB - Mike Singletary sees himself in the young man from Florida, down to the penchant for removing his pants at halftime.
  18. Pittsburgh Steelers - Tim Tebow, Florida, OG - The Steelers finally draft an interior lineman with a brain! KYF5K rejoices.
  19. Atlanta Falcons - Tim Tebow, Florida, QB - By moving Matt Ryan to H-back, the Falcons make room for Tebow, who promises to resurrect all the dogs Michael Vick killed.
  20. Houston Texans - Tim Tebow, Florida, OT - They've felt burned ever since their first ever pick in the expansion draft, Tony Boselli got injured and retired without ever playing a down.
  21. Cincinnati Bengals - Tim Tebow, Florida, Warden - They can do this one of two ways; Tebow can be a real nice guy, or he can be a real mean son of a bitch.
  22. New England Patriots - Tim Tebow, Florida, Sweatshirt technician - Belichick finally found someone whose upstanding character is worthy of washing the source of his evil power.
  23. Green Bay Packers - Tim Tebow, Florida, QB - Yes, he gets the number 4.
  24. Philadelphia Eagles - Tim Tebow, Florida, OT - A year late, the Eagles finally get someone to protect Donovan McNabb and seal the edge for Shady McCoy. Philly fans immediately demand that Andy Reid be fired and replaced by Tebow.
  25. Baltimore Ravens - Tim Tebow, Esq., Florida, ILB - Ray Lewis needs a successor, as an on-the-field star, a locker room leader, and a criminal mastermind. Tebow's arrival in Baltimore brings back "The Wire," this time as a delightfully heartwarming inspirational romantic comedy show about the arts-based revitalization of West Baltimore.
  26. Arizona Cardinals - Tim Tebow, Florida, WR - The nation's best receiving corps gets even deeper.
  27. Dallas Cowboys - Tim Tebow, Florida, FB - The 'boys finally gets a fitting successor to Moose Johnston. Tebow's arrival broadens the franchise appeal, which now becomes "North and South America's Team"
  28. San Diego Chargers - Tim Tebow, Florida, KR/PR - With Sproles taking over full-time running back duties, there's a huge hole in the return game.
  29. NY Jets - Tim Tebow, Florida, Reindeer - Rex Ryan finally gets a beast of wintry burden who's almost as bad-ass and hungry as he is.
  30. Minnesota Vikings - Tim Tebow, Florida, CB - This time, when Brett Favre throws a pick-six to end the season, the DB who catches it will also be a Viking. Yes, he can play for both teams at the same time. Why? Because he's TIM EFFING TEBOW.
  31. Indianapolis Colts - Tim Tebow, Florida, Owner - The simple act of placing Tebow in charge of the franchise rights decades of wrongs instantly. The Colts move back to Baltimore. The Ravens move to Portland (both Maine and Oregon, causing major travel issues and division realignment). The Wire (pick 25) remains on network TV.
  32. New Orleans Saints - Tim Tebow, Florida, General Counsel - Citing a precipitous rise in Mardi Gras-related legal costs, the Saints bring on Tebow to get the department in line and keep the players on the field and the fans in the seats. Drew Brees agrees to give up any current and future sacrilegious nicknames.

FTC NFL Draft Preview, Part II

When I was a sports writer for my college paper, and even in the few years after school I spent doing occasional freelance work, there was always this one writer -- I won't identify him other than to say he looked like the aborted spawn of Ben Stiller and a chimpanzee -- who used to ask terribly boring and vague questions and nothing else. Regardless of the scene, the goings-on, pre-game, post-game, pre-season, regular season, post-season, a blowout or a nail-biter, there was...this guy with his go-to gem, "Coach, could you talk about the defense?"

And with that, we give you the FTC NFL Draft Preview, Part II

DL: For all of the talk last year about how the Steelers' front three were aging, the drafting of Ziggy Hood -- who looked pretty darn good when he got on the field last year -- and the team's inexplicable ability to both lose and re-acquire Sonny Harris bode well for the line. Casey Hampton, who a lot of us here at FTC had written off as being way over the hill, actually had himself a very productive season in 2009. With Aaron Smith coming back at full strength and the return of the surprisingly capable Nick Eason, if the Steelers don't look to draft a defensive lineman higher than the fourth or fifth round, it won't be a catastrophe. They're probably not going to find another late-round gem like Smith, but there's no immediate cause for alarm here. The defensive coaches in this organization seem to have knacks making productive players out of undervalued ones.
Prediction: Despite no immediate need, the Steelers burn their 2nd round pick on a defensive end, and pick up a tackle on the third day of the draft.

OLB: If the Steelers draft anyone who James Harrison perceives as having a chance to eventually take his job, Harrison will kill and eat that player. The Steelers know this. They will not draft any outside linebackers.
Prediction: The Steelers draft no outside linebackers, but sign two as un-drafted free agents to come to training camp. Upon seeing them, James Harrison pounces on one of them and begins gnawing at his flesh like a starving lion. When LaMarr Woodley eases in to try to share the prey, Harrison growls and shows his teeth. Woodley backs away slowly.

ILB: As much as it pains me to think it, James Farrior can not play forever. Additionally, it does not appear as though Lawrence Timmons has the chops to hold down his position full time. Larry Foote and Keyaron Fox will both get playing time this year if they're both on the team, and that's fine, but there are no long-term solutions here.
Prediction: The Steelers will sign an inside linebacker after the draft who will blossom into the second coming of Larry Foote. Or they won't. Kind of a crapshoot here, honestly.

CB: William Gay can not get it done. He might, if the stars align, one day be capable of taking over for Deshea Townsend. Ike Taylor is streaky as hell, but he has the ability. Nobody is really sure yet about Keenan Lewis or Joe Burnett. Translation: the Steelers need a cornerback.
Prediction: The Steelers trade Ben Roethlisberger to the Oakland Raiders for, among other things, the 8th overall pick in the draft. With that pick, the Steelers draft Florida cornerback Joe Haden...OR...The Roethlisberger trade also nets the Steelers CB Nnamdi Asomugha, whom the Raiders tried to include in a deal for Donovan F. McNabb. The Steelers would then use the 8th overall pick to take an offensive lineman or ILB Rolando McClain. If Tennessee safety Eric Berry is still on the board, though, he's the easy choice.

SS: Troy Polamalu is so good. And you can't really game plan around the idea that he's just never going to play a full season, but really, we all know that he's probably not going to play a full season. Still, he's just so, so good.
Prediction: Troy Polamalu plays ten games this year, Tyrone Carter somehow remains more employable than anyone with a PhD in a field encompassed by "the humanities." Ryan Mundy continues to underwhelm.

Ryan Clark is back, but probably just for a year, two at the absolute max. He was awful last year, and the Steelers really need to find a free safety who can 1) tackle, and 2) always, always, always be in position. You know, for that 50% of the time when Troy launches himself at a ball carrier and misses with grit and gusto.
Prediction: The Steelers use their 4th round pick on Myron Rolle, FS, Oxford. Rolle, who we're told is a quick study, spends approximately four hours learning Dick LeBeau's encrypted defense and supplants Ryan Clark as the starter in week seven, when Clark develops yet another rare blood disorder. Clark misses the remainder of the season recovering from surgery to replace all of his internal organs with small hydraulic machines. Rolle becomes a passable NFL safety who quotes Keats when staring down receivers after de-cleating them, then makes post-game donations to the United Way in the names of each of the players he tackles.

OMG bold predictions weren't supposed to be binding!!

I just read another fucking Yahoo! sports article about the Steelers trying to trade Ben to the Rams for Bradford. Fuck that sandwich. If the Steel brass called up St. Louis, it was to ask for the first pick of the 2nd round and other things. They basically said "go ahead and draft Suh or McCoy, take Ben... we'll come away with four Evgeni Malkins who just need a year of lockout hockey to mature into murder-on-skates." They said that verbatim to the Rams. Believe me. They are a cryptic ownership that sometimes speaks in weird hockey terms when referring to football.

Bold Prediction, III

Okay, since we're doing this...

Ed Bouchette said the Rooneys are just trying to scare Ben, and that they're entertaining offers more than shopping. So we're really asking what the odds are that Oakland or Seattle or someone knocks the Steelers back with an offer they can't refuse. So we're really asking how much you trust Al Davis to do something weird.

Put in those terms, there is no way to look at this other than as a situation where no one has any idea what is going to happen. Al Davis could easily offer 17 first-round picks in last year's draft, Zach Miller, and a horse for Rapelisberger. Or he could offer his entire team except for Darius Heyward-Bey and JaMarcus Russell for the privilege of never having to talk to Ben. Who knows?

Bold Prediction: Roethlisberger to the Rams for Bradford, straight up.

I mean, Franco's right; could really anything surprise from here on out? And the Steelers are said to be super high on Bradford.


Okay, I have been encouraged by Matt to actually post what I think will happen, and not just pick something that hasn't been claimed already.

I think the plurality of liklihood (say, 30%) is still that nothing happens, but I also think the Steelers brass are smart enough to know there's a possibility of a lockout, and to know that the rebuilding might be a smart idea anyway. They are said to consider Bradford a "sure thing," so I think it's very, very possible that he gets deal in some complex deal for Bradford (10%), some juiced up deal to Cleveland (10%), some darkhorse nut franchise like JAX or OAK (25%), or some straighforward move to an out-of-division team (25%).

Again, like Franco said, who knows?

More bold predictions

The ESPN report on the Steelers shopping Ben is mostly smoke. The truth of the matter is that the Rooney's asking price is extremely particular, and if it's not met, it's not met. This isn't like the Santonio situation where they'd take any deal that was offered. This is one where they'll require a high asking price. Really, nothing less than one of the following combinations:
-top 12 pick and something else
-high 2nd, 4th, and two more future picks
-the science necessary to make Slash violently good
I'm not saying I don't want to see Pig Ben shipped out in shackles to the cruel master that is Al Davis. Are you kiddin'?-- I'd love it! But the Commissioner's memorandum was written in rehabilitative language, with the intent that any franchise -- even one as pious as the Rooney's -- could allow a player to redeem himself. With that in mind, I say reality keeps Ben in the 'burgh. I understand that reality hasn't been on our side these last few weeks, but I'm still betting on it in the long haul.

I say he stays. Lefty gets injured and cut. Dixon gets cut but not injured by Kordell Stewart in a dimly lit parking lot. And Charlie Batch brings a lot of Homestead Urban Achievers closer to achieving their dreams. Hello, 2009 redux; goodbye, potential change.


p.s. not that I'm hedging my bets or anything, but I will say this: nothing surprises me from here on out. A couple of boneheads have completely shaken my faith in the easy-to-predict future, and thus my veracity is at the mercy of who-the-fuck-knows. DON'T BLAME ME IF MATT IS RIGHT.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's bold prediction time!

I'm going to call it right now: the Steelers will trade Ben Roethlisberger on or before tomorrow's draft. Roethlisberger will be sent to the Oakland Raiders for a package that includes the eighth overall pick in the draft. The Steelers will use a third-round pick to draft Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike.

Conditions of Ben Roethlisberger's Suspension

Ben Roethlisberger has been suspended for violating the N.F.L. personal conduct policy. The suspension will range from a minimum of four games to a maximum of six games.

The length of the suspension will be subject to Roethlisberger displaying "good behavior" and strictly adhering to the following conditions:

1) Under no circumstances should Roethlisberger take part in any of the following activities: wet t-shirt contest judging, Miss (anything) pageants, Mrs. (anything) pageants, debutant balls, any Hawaiian Tropics event, any type of pong, bottle-spinning, or "seven minutes in heaven".

2) Roethlisberger is strictly prohibited from entering any bar or club with any of the following phrases or words in their name: "Banana", "The Crazy ---", "Shooters", "Goofballz", "The --- Pit", "Wacky", "Whackos", "The --- Zoo", "Stinky's", "Zinger's", "Funky", "Monkey", "Rump", or any variation of the above.

3) Roethlisberger must enter only gender appropriate bathrooms.

4) All dancing must be done with hands on shoulders, arms fully extended.

Cincinnati's favorite son

In my google searching for a good Joe Morgan / Dusty Baker story, I came across an all-time great FJM, which I highly recommend. It's a response to an article by a guy named Paul Daugherty who writes for the very esteemed Cincinnati Enquirer.

Here's the thing about Paul D: he hates sabermetrics and often calls out Bill James in his column; he loves Dusty Baker; he writes very poorly; he's from Cincinnati. What more need I say? Let's welcome him to the mix as a new FTC whipping boy.

Here's a thing about Aaron Harang.

Loss by loss, Harang's deal becomes an albatross

That's the title. I'm going to point out that three words in it end with "-oss," and that henceforth, you are to take a drink each time that happens.

In 2006 and 2007, when Aaron Harang won 32 games and averaged close to seven innings a start, I gave him the nickname Hoss.

1) Drink
2) Who just up and nicknames a guy "Hoss"?
3) From here on, I'm going to assume the nickname never caught on, and that Paul Daugherty is the only one who calls him this.

Hoss was the largest and gentlest of the Cartwright sons on the old TV western, Bonanza.


It fit Harang, who is large (6-foot-7, 260 pounds), modest and gives back generously to the community: A $55,000 donation in 2007, to build a ballfield for kids with disabilities, and Aaron's Aces, his continuing program of buying tickets for military families.

Wow. This is what we in the business call: a terrible fucking nickname. The only way this improves my life, is that I now understand why Pauly Shore called that guy whom he paid to hit him, "Hoss." Clever.

How good was Hoss Harang in '06 and '07?

Pretty good. Drink!

His ERA (3.75) was kind of jacked up for a guy with peripherals as good as his, but that's what comes from playing in Cincinnati, where HRs happen.

The Reds were a combined 20 games under .500 in those two seasons. In games Harang started, they were 19 over .500. By himself, Harang made the Reds a very good team.

That's an awesome conclusion. Now dig mine:

The Reds went 80-82 and 72-90 in those years. Harang went 32-17 with a 3.75 ERA. Bronson Arroyo went 23-26 with a 3.73 ERA in that same time. The offense happened to score more for Harang than Arroyo, thus two above average starters did about the same amount to make their team a "very good" (?) one. Only Harang got credit for it.

In 2008 and 2009, as his fortunes slipped dramatically, Harang kept it professional, rarely expressing frustration at his lack of run support (just over three runs per nine innings)

Oh man, isn't it sometimes a bitch when your W-L record really isn't something you control?

and taking the ball whenever asked. Media and fans have wondered if Harang's troubles began May 25, 2008, when he threw 68 pitches and four innings of scoreless relief, three days after he'd started and thrown 103 pitches. Harang has never said a word.

Go here. Look at the GSc column. It stands for Game Score, and it's our Quaint Quack Stat of the Day. Real quickly, Bill James put together a scoring system for starting pitchers, which starts at 50 abstract points and adds or subtracts points based on good or bad things the guy does throughout the game. So basically a GSc below 50 means the starter didn't do his job, and one in the 60s or 70s is pretty good. As you can see, Harang had a lot of shitty starts in 2008, but also a couple very good ones sprinkled in.

It's entirely possible the guy blew out his arm on May 25, 2008, but it's also possible that he was just having a crappy year where his age caught up with him. I mean, if you objectively look at the data, you see that Aaron Harang never hits a point of no return or one of irreparable damage; he bounces back quite a bit, he just falls back to pieces.

Actually, Harang pitched three times in seven days during that stretch. Four days after the relief appearance, he made his regular start and was ineffective. Harang threw a total of 239 pitches that week.

Huh, okay. Put that on the table, why don't you, Paul Daugherty. Let's see then... so he blows his arm out in the week from May 22-29. Then he stinks it up on June 3 and 8th. Yeah, you're onto something, PD. Dude was overworked and that's why he wasn't able to regain his... oh wait. He pitched like a frickin' ace on June 13th. Huh. So it's almost like, Aaron Harang could be a good pitcher again if his manager pitched him on regular rest.

The knee-jerk is to blame those seven days for the last two-plus years.

Oh no, that's not at all what I meant to imply when I suggested that Dusty strains his pitchers past a reasonable point. No, the conclusion to draw from all this is just that Aaron Harang is aging out of his prime, and his previous trouble with the HR will be exacerbated by a slowing fastball.

That might have explained the rest of 2008.

I mean, maybe it could have. But really it's just that he turned 30 and pitched in your bullshit stadium.

It doesn't account for 2009, or the beginning of this season.

Oh shit, you know what does? The fact that he was 31 and 32 years old. That has a lot to do with explaining it.

If Harang had hurt his arm, it would have been diagnosed and fixed.

True. So maybe he's just old?

We don't know what's ailing Aaron Harang.

Aging fly ball pitcher who tosses half his games in a zero gravity stadium.

Fuck you, you aren't listening.

In spring training, new pitching coach Bryan Price worked on Harang's motion.

Okay, that's cool. I'm serious. Not being snarky here. I am legitimately fine with Paul Daugherty reporting that the pitching coach worked with one of his players on pitching related things.


Ready to get snarky?

Dusty Baker worked on his mojo, naming Harang the Opening Day starter. Harang has kept it positive, dwelling on how he has thrown, rather than on the results.

When the Hague prosecutes Dusty Baker for war crimes against young, talented pitchers, Paul Daugherty is also going to hang for whatever charges the allies stuck to Joe Goebbels. Seriously... MOJO? Austin Powers 2: The Spy That Shagged Me is alive and well on Paulie D's netflix queue, folks.

And while we're on the subject of critiquing some douchebag from Cincinnati, check out how he uses the word "dwell." In the place of a neutral infinitive like "thinking" or "reflecting," he chooses one of the heaviest, most negative verbs he can. Why not just say "Harang has kept it positive, flagellating himself over how he's thrown, not how hard the opposition has hit him."?

Nothing's working. Hoss seems lost, and the numbers are gruesome:

1) Drink.
2) Numbers?

He's 12-33 since 2007.

Oh cool, those numbers. You know, height in feet, followed by inches.
(Tall man.)

He's 1-12 in his last 20 starts. The Reds are 7-13 in those games. And yet those statistics are the Mona Lisa, compared to these:

1.6 HR/9
1.398 WHIP
.322 BAbip
-10.2 Pitching runs
-0.8 WPA

The Reds paid Harang $11 million last year, nearly $2 million a win. They owe him $12.5 million this year. On a team with a $76 million payroll, Harang's share is 16 percent. Next year, Harang is scheduled to make $12.75 million, if the Reds pick up his option. If they don't, they still owe him a $2 million buyout.

You sound like a Redskins fan.

To be fair, Cincinnati's erstwhile ace was a bargain when he was Hoss, earning just under $8 million total in '06 and '07.


I have lived in four major cities in my life: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, DC, and New York. In New York the papers are terrible and that's what you come to expect; DC doesn't give a shit about baseball; Pittsburgh has Dejan Kovacevic; Cleveland has Terry Pluto. These latter two gentleman are excellent sports writers who think in, like, multi-year terms. So when Bullshit Magee has an escalating salary in his contract, these guys will usually point this out to the fans and say "Enjoy the first few years, because the value isn't what it seems to be." They say this, they really do. Not: "This deal sure is brilliant (circa first year or two of a deal), TRADE VOTTO AND BAILEY FOR JOE FUCKING BLANTON!!!1 "

What it all means, in the screwed-up world of Major League economics, is this: If Harang doesn't find the Hoss suit soon, and wear it once every five days, the Reds are in a very bad way.


Hoss "suit" is something from Silence of the Lambs, right?

It's one thing for the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies to make a $12 million mistake. It's something far, far different for the Reds to do it.

I would sympathize with your plight, if my payroll wasn't half the size of yours.

Small-money teams have to avoid bad contracts. The optimum is to fill the roster with young and talented players whose salaries the team can control for the first six years of their major league careers. Lately, the Reds have had some hits (Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, perhaps Jay Bruce) and some misses (Francisco Cordero, Scott Rolen).

The Reds have been good at developing their own.

The Reds have been shitty at acquiring veterans.

Paul Daughtery was seriously behind the idea of trading Votto and Bailey for this guy.

Harang's current four-year deal was heavily back-loaded and smart, early on. Now, it's a disaster. His salary makes him virtually untradeable. It also makes it a certainty Harang will get a very long crack at becoming Hoss again, even if it dims Cincinnati's hopes on the field.

"Smart, early on" and "fucking terrible in all" are apparently not mutually exclusive.

Also: DRINK.

Harang's strength was his ability to throw a pitch right where he wanted it. He kept the ball down in the strike zone; his fastball generally was between 92 and 94 mph. Now, he's lost that pinpoint control and the velocity of his fastball comes and goes.

He's 31. Then he'll be 32. This is something you should have noticed as the beat writer when covering this contract 5 years ago.

To avoid a 10th consecutive losing season, the Reds need Hoss to be Hoss.

Drink + Drink.

Also: remember when Harang was good for two years and the Reds were below .500 both times? For Cincinnati to avoid a losing season they need Hoss to be Denny fucking McLain.

To climb from the muck of mediocrity, they have to be smarter with their cash. Aaron Harang is a solid pro, one of the guys you root for. He is also an anchor around ownership's neck. Let's hope nobody drowns.

Aaron Harang is that guy everyone loves, but he's absolutely murdering the franchise. Let's hope he can stop.

Anyway, in conclusion... there isn't enough of a FUCK CINCINNATI vibe during the summer. From here on out, if you present me with a ticket stub to a Reds@Pirates game, I will personally refund you $1 as part of the 2010 FTC FUCK CINCINNATI super savers ticket plan. And if you can photoshop yourself into a picture of Hines Ward at a Pirates game, I will refund your ticket at full face-value.

Feel good about this, Pirates fans

The AP is reporting that Hall of Famer, Joe Morgan will be hired by the Cincinnati Reds as a consultant.

Sure, we have a -29 run differential after 13 games, but at least we don't have Joe + Dusty. Be glad for the little things.

FTC NFL Draft Preview

There are a few ways to preview the NFL Draft, almost all of them pointless and stupid. Over the next 26 hours, we here at FTC are going to continue to explore as many of them as possible. With that in mind, we give you the official FTC Steelers draft preview. Seeing as how the Steelers have glaring needs at virtually every position, we're going to break it down that way.

QB: The general consensus amongst the authors of this blog is that we'd like to see Ben Roethlisberger traded, last week if possible. That the Steelers acquired Byron Leftwich yesterday for a 7th-round draft pick likely says that they're not confident they can make a go of it through Ben's suspension with the Dennis Dixon (henceforth known as "Intellectual D")/Chaz Batch combo. Leftwich was very comfortable and very effective in his year with the Steelers, and the Steelers, it seems, were so eager to get him back that as soon as they did, they extended his contract. That could mean that the team is just covering its bases for the duration of Ben's six-game suspension, or that they're going to unload him for draft picks and start the season with Leftwich at the helm. Of the teams currently not committed to a starting quarterback, the only ones who might look to bid on Roethlisberger in the next 24 or so hours are San Fransisco and Oakland, with the Raiders the most likely option according to the NFL Network's Jason LaConfora. With the Rams sold on Sam Bradford, it doesn't appear as though the Steelers would be able to pick up a long-term solution at quarterback in this draft, were they to deal Roethlisberger.
Prediction: The Steelers will not burn a pick on a quarterback in this draft. Byron Leftwich will start the season as the starting quarterback, backed up by Dennis Dixon/Charlie Batch. If Ben is dealt, the Steelers will take a quarterback in the fifth or sixth round, have Dixon backup Leftwich, and cut Charlie Batch, who can't seem to go from the sideline to the huddle without breaking his wrist.

RB: With the unceremonious exit of Willie Parker, the Steelers are going to need to try to find a running back who can spell Rashard Mendenhall. We don't necessarily know how capable Mewelde Moore is of handling seven to ten carries a game, and while Mendenhall showed last year that he can handle a decent workload, the running game still lacks a viable speed back. It's unreasonable to think the Steelers are going to go after C.J. Spiller or Jahvid Best, which would require a high-to-mid second-round pick, but if USC's Joe McKnight is still around in the third, he would be worth a serious look. He's just a hair under six feet, 200 pounds, and ran a respectable 4.47 at the combine.
Prediction: The Steelers will wait until the fifth round and take Oregon assault monster LeGarrette Blount, then sign three running backs as un-drafted free agents, the fastest of whom will make the team.

FB: I thought we'd just given up on this position entirely, but TE/FB hybrids David Johnson and Sean McHugh are still on the roster, and C/G Doug Legursky moonlighted as the fullback in goal line situations last year. They also still have Tank Summers, whose blocking needs major work. Summers does excel, however, at falling down and hurting himself.
Prediction: The Steelers will not draft a fullback, nor will they use one during 96% of their offensive snaps during the 2010 season. This will not stop them from carrying a minimum of two potential fullbacks on the roster. And if someone gets hurt, get ready for Cary Davis because what we all need is another reason to hate sports.

TE: We're not even going to address this, as it would just be a colossal waste of everyone's time.

WR: This wouldn't have been an issue had the Steelers decided to keep Santonio Holmes, but it appears now that they were intent on releasing him if they hadn't been able to trade him. They probably won't look for receivers in the early rounds of the draft, as there's usually great value to be had there later on. Notre Dame's Golden Tate has expressed a desire to play in Pittsburgh, and I'd be happy with the Steelers were they to indulge that desire in the second round. That said, I don't think he lasts, and I'm not sure he's worth trading up to get, unless they're very impressed with him.
Prediction: The Steelers will burn a mid-to-late round pick on a receiver nobody has ever heard of. By the end of the year, he will have usurped Antwaan Randle El as the No. 3 man on the depth chart, behind Hines Ward and Mike Wallace.

OT: There are a few pretty solid tackle prospects in the draft, but the Steelers will not draft any of them because they are committed to Max Starks and Willie Colon, and do not want to give up on long-time prospect/prog-rock experiment known as the Tony Hills Project.
Prediction: The Steelers will draft LSU's Ciron Black in the fourth round. Black will compete with and eventually beat out Tony Hills in training camp for the role of "long-term tackle project who will never, ever pan out."

OG/C: Apart from the quarterback situation, the interior line is the biggest conundrum the Steelers have to address on offense in this draft. Nobody knows the interior line better than FTC Blogger Emeritus KillYourFace5000, so I'm going to yield to his analysis for this one, and he'll break it down by position.

LG: Chris Kemoeatu is currently playing an entire 60-minute game of NFL football by himself right now at Invesco Field because nobody told him the season was over and that it's time to go home.

C: I will now create what will henceforth be known as Planar Hartwig Theorem. It states that every four minutes, Justin Hartwig is successfully bull rushed in real life by women, children and the elderly. Somewhere in the world, Justin Hartwig just fell down, at the bus stop, grasping the shirt collar of a middle-aged mother of four in a desperate attempt to take her to the ground before she can reach the quarterback.

RG: Trai Essex was our third option at that position behind an un-drafted transgendered woman who plays another position, and a guy whose blood my or may not be capable of running to his brain at any given time.

You extend Willie Colon because he blocks aircraft and military personnel carriers and even Haloti Ngata. Second, you fucking ship Justin Hartwig off to a lovely exurb in a suburban boomtown in the south. Then you have him killed. Third, you move Chris Kemoeatu to right guard. Fucking fourth, you draft a center in the first or second round (FTC likes Maurkice Pouncey), then you draft a fucking guard in the first, second or third round. You let Trai Essex's contract fucking expire. BLAM. IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT YOU CANNOT DO THIS WITHOUT DRAFTING FUCKING OFFENSIVE LINEMEN ON THE FIRST DAY. YOU CAN NOT KEEP DOING THIS I CAN NOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH.

KYF5K's Prediction:
They will draft Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Iupati or Kyle Wilson, and unless it's Kyle Wilson, play that person at right guard for the next year while they teach Kraig Urbik the footwork necessary to operate the stationary bike.

Thanks KYF! Coming up later tonight, the defense!

On the Mayor of Canada

Lost in the hype surrounding Rotund Benjamin, his general rapeyness, his impending suspension for his general rapeyness, the speculation that the Steelers might trade Ben due to his rapey tendencies and the team's recent acquisition of Byron Leftwich, is the fact that there's been some pretty darn good playoff hockey and April baseball (the best baseball, except for all of the other baseball that comes after it) going on.

So with the aim of getting back to actually liking sports, we here at FTC are proud to announce the arrival of our newest contributor, Matt Brennan. Until we get all of his contract details squared away and assign him a nom de plume, he's authorized me to post his latest essay here in advance. And a timely essay it is.

With the Pens now up three games to one on the annually underachieving Ottawa Senators, Brennan comes to us today with an important primer on Canadian Civics.

Canadian Civics: Part One: Political System
I was recently disturbed, and disgusted, to learn that my friends have a shocking ignorance of Canadian politics and culture. What follows is a very basic primer of the Canadian political system, and a short outline of Canadian culture and history. Please take time to visit your local library (or a distant library, if you have the resources to do so) to learn more on your own. I do not expect to impart the nuances of this wonderful and mysterious country. I only hope to spark interest which leads to further research on the part of the reader.

The Canadian Political System
The Canadian national government has three branches, not unlike our own. The three branches consist of The Mayor of Canada, The Head Constable, and The City Planner. Each branch plays an important role, though it should be made clear this is not a traditional "checks-and-balances" system, but instead a collaberative "help-and-support" system. The three branch each have their own set of responsibilities, histories, and traditions.

I. The Mayor of Canada
The Mayor of Canada (MoC) is the head executive of the Canadian government. The position is not elected in the traditional sense, but instead is chosen by national consensus in a Canadian Mayoral Convention. All Canadians convene at the Toronto Skydome every third Septober 32nd (metric calander), with each neighborhood presenting their own candidate for consideration. Once one candidate is determined to be a sufficiently good guy, consensus is reached, and the band Rush performs the ceremonial "ascension song", Tom Sawyer. The Mayor is then presented the Key to Canada and the Lady Byng Trophy, completing the ceremony (NOTE: Traditionally, the MoC has sometimes lead the NHL in goals-against average, but this is NOT a prerequisite to the position).

The primary role of the MoC is to make "decrees", which can be roughly translated to Americans as "bills" or "laws". Important decrees may include, but are hardly limited to: which hockey players should be "booed", alcohol content levels in beer (see: The Molson XXX Decrees), Ann Murray holidays, permissable Canadian websites (FUN FACT: these can be spotted by the ".ca" at the end!), and which novelty items are to be brought to the hockey rink.

The MoC also serves an important ceremonial role, visiting each of the nine Canadian neighborhoods (Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnepeg, Toronto, France-land, Hamilton, and Calgary), making decrees, settling tribal quarrels with his whistle-stick (described later), and cutting ribbons to start rodeos. The MoC is also considered an infallible judge of Canadian Mythology and Legend (described later) and has the sole authority to canonize Canadians.

Finally, the MoC is the main booker and manager for Rush, organizing and planning all secret Canadian tours.

II. Head Constable
The Head Constable (HC) is the top law enforcement and military officer in Canada. He is responsible for the security of all nine Canadian neighborhoods. He is chosen by the MoC, serving at his will, and is generally an up-standing citizen with a strong aversion towards "Naughty Monkee-shines, nonsense, and general mis-Behaviour" (see: Canadian Constitution).The HC keeps a list of all Canadians, and their "going-ons". He is authorized to subject misbehaving Canadian citizens to admonitions, stern lectures, or even temporary detentions, with the citizen not receiving a release until either a sincere apology is delivered, or they are pardoned by the MoC (see: Canadian Criminal Code; also NOTE: Canadians are protected against repeated, excess, cruel, and unusual admonitions and lectures. Detentions are limited to no longer than 15 minutes, except in cases of capital naughty-ness).

As the head of the Canadian Homeland Security Agency, the HC is primarily employed in preventing Alanis Morrisette from re-entering the country. The HC also directs the Canadian Secret Service, protecting the MoC from assassination.

Every Decembuary 43rd, the HC serves as Canadian Father Christmas, consulting his "going-ons" list, and "delivering toys and candies for (good) boys and girls, and admonitions and stern lectures for those partaking in Naughty Monkee-shines, nonsense, and general mis-Behaviour." (see: Canadian Constitution)

Finally, the HC coordinates security for Rush during all secret Canadian tours.

III. The City Planner
The City Planner (CP) is the highest ranking Canadian civil official. He plans Canada and is charged with maintaining each of its nine neighborhoods (though France-land neighborhood retains some autonomy in its city planning, producing novelty French street signs and a series of winter mime festivals).

Primary duties of the CP include (but are not limited to): designing hockey rinks, building ice roads, maintaining ice conditions, NHL scheduling, rodeo repair, and Commissioner of the Canadian Football League (CFL) (NOTE: the honor of announcing the first pick of the CFL draft is retained by the MoC).

The CP is also responsible for maintaining and repairing the attractions of each Canadian neighborhood, including most notably: Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame, Calgary's Rodeoland and Waterslide Park, Winnepeg's Jet and Blue Bomber Aviation Center, Vancouver's Whacky-Sled Chute and Kid's Whacky-Sled Chute, France-land's Ice Cirque, Hamilton's Haunted Hayride (ask about our "Canadian Father Christmas Rides With Reindeer", every Decembuary!), Ottawa's Mayoral Estates and Ice Gardens, Edmonton's Grand Ole Canadian Opery, and Montreal's Hard Rock Cafe.

Finally, the CP coordinates and plans stage productions for Rush during all secret Canadian tours.

While this is only an outline of the venerable Canadian system, it should serve as an adequate guide to further knowledge. Get out there and learn more about the Canadian political system!

How I was Mel Kiper Jr.ed into submission

As FTC is your alternative sports media, we thought it would be great to offer you an alternative to all the the bullshit mock drafts that are out there.

In our forecast, the only thing that matters is whether a team won't pick a certain guy. Here, let's look into the future...

1. St. Louis Rams -- OLB Jerry Hughes; I know very little about this guy, except that he's a pass rusher, and that that's not going #1 overall.

2. Detroit Lions -- OT Charles Brown; An excellent player, but probably the 6th or 7th best lineman on the board. No way do they reach that low.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- S Taylor Mays; The Buccaneers need help everywhere on defense, and the secondary would be a great place to start. However, there are at least two better safeties on the board, and several corners as well. Mays could be a surprise jump up the board, but not this high.

4. Washington Redskins -- WR Dez Bryant; I'm hoping I'm wrong about this one, as Bryant could provide the perfect flop for the mighty Redskins.

5. Kansas City Chiefs -- CB Kareem Jackson; KC needs a hell of a lot. Jackson fits in nicely here because he's a reach, not because the Chiefs couldn't ultimately use his services.

6. Seattle Seahawks -- OLB Sean Weatherspoon; same as Jackson above.

7. Cleveland Browns -- C Maurkice Pouncey; The Browns have quite a few "need" positions. Offensive line isn't really one of them, and if there's a weakness to be found in that unit, it's not at center, but RT.

8. Oakland Raiders -- NT Terrance Cody; this is a dicey prediction, as Al Davis may in fact be so overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Alabama Nose Guard that he reaches about 20 picks to get him. However, the most important thing to consider is how damn slow Mount Cody is, and how that just doesn't fit into Oakland's system of sprinters.

9. Buffalo Bills -- DE Jason Pierre-Paul; Buffalo is switching the 3-4 or some shit? They don't know what the butt they're doing. Pierre-Paul is good, but would be a huge reach.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars -- DT Ndamukong Suh; won't be here for the Jags, though it'd be nice for them if he was.

11. Denver Broncos (from Chicago) -- DT Gerald McCoy; like Suh, would be great if he was here, but he won't be.

12. Miami Dolphins -- OT Trent Williams; The Dolphins don't get this guy, and aren't going OT anyway.

13. San Francisco 49ers -- OT Russell Okung; another excellent lineman who won't fall to a team that could use him.

14. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) -- OT Anthony Davis; I'm just guessing at this point.

15. New York Giants -- QB Tim Tebow; I'd love to see Tom Coughlin's look of displeasure when Tebow breaks his collar bone, trying to tackle the linebacker who picks him in game one of the preseason.

16. Tennessee Titans -- RB C.J. Spiller; the offensive backfield isn't a need.

17. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina) -- OLB, Sergio Kindle; really, just pulling a name out of the hat. San Francisco could take anyone.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers -- TE Jermaine Gresham; the Pittsburgh Steelers enter draft night with more question marks than in previous years. The tight end position is not one of them.

19. Atlanta Falcons -- DT Dan Williams; guessing.

20. Houston Texans -- QB Jimmy Clausen; Matt Schaub led the league in total yardage last year. Getting a Charlie Weis trainwreck is not a "need" for the Texans.

21. Cincinnati Bengals -- CB Kyle Wilson; this is a tough one, as Kyle Wilson could fall and would be a great pickup. I'm going with the Bungles because they already have a pretty good tandem at the corners, and would be interested in improving other areas.

22. New England Patriots -- DE Derrick Morgan; the Pats want a passrusher, and this guy is a runstopper.

23. Green Bay Packers -- DE Brandon Graham; a 4-3 DE who won't get asked to play 3-4 by the Packers.

24. Philadelphia Eagles -- OT Bryan Bulaga; FUCK PHILADELPHIA.

25. Baltimore Ravens -- S Eric Berry; Considered by many to be a true prodigy at the position, Berry would team up with Reed to be an unholy downfield combination. Good thing he'll be long gone before Baltimore is on the clock.

26. Arizona Cardinals -- ILB Rolando McClain; won't be there.

27. Dallas Cowboys -- S Earl Thomas; everything would be right with the world (in Texas) if the Cowboys could pull this off. Too bad he'll be off the board.

28. San Diego Chargers -- CB Kyle Wilson; won't fall.

29. New York Jets -- CB Joe Haden; won't fall.

30. Minnesota Vikings -- OT Bruce Campbell; won't fall.

31. Indianapolis Colts -- QB Sam Bradford; The Colts already have a backup QB. His name is Peyton Manning's Left Arm.

32. New Orleans Saints -- G Mike Iupati; it would be somewhat of an upset if this guy fell that low.

Great. Now I'm excited to compare this to the thing that actually happens. I also look forward to speaking in loud, strident tones when something I said doesn't come to pass. Who's with me?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Personal v. Professional

We here at FTC are men and women of the people. When you talk, we listen.

And some of you, via comments or other means, have suggested that we have no business caring about Ben Rapelisberger's off-the-field behavior. Since he's a professional football player, the idea goes, we should only care about his football playing.

Many people have made this point. Separate the art from the artist. Who cares if T.S. Eliot was a bigot, or if Tiger Woods is a manwhore, or if Roethlisberger is a tool? We are supposed to evaluate people by their work, not their character. It's an old argument, and in many ways a logically valid one.

Here's why it's wrong:

First, let's dispense with the idea that celebrities have some right to keep their personal lives private.If you want to be a private person, that's great. So do I. But it also means that you have to give up certain life paths, like politics or celebrity. No one made Tiger Woods be a golfer; he went to Stanford, he seems like a bright guy, he could have been, say, an engineer. Not a bad life, and no one would have noticed or cared if he screwed 100 women a week. He also would not have made $1 billion and been very famous. I don't blame him, mind you; if I could get hundreds of millions and be famous playing golf, I'd do it, too. But when you put your name to products and make your identity a selling point, you lose the right to bitch when people realize you've sold them a false bill of goods. Ben, Tiger, whoever... they chose their lives. If you're a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you can't complain about scrutiny and long hours; you knew the game when you applied for a high-paying gig. Same with athletes. They're freakishly talented at putting a ball wherever their chosen game's rules dictate, and that lets them get famous and obscenely wealthy by telling other people what sports drinks, shoes and beef jerky to buy. Not a bad life, necessarily, but not without its drawbacks, and one of those is privacy.

Second, as Matt eloquently pointed out, there is a connection between Ben's behavior and his professional life. This isn't the first time this has happened to Ben, and he didn't see fit to change anything about his behavior. He will now likely be suspended, and any football player on the bench is not helping the team win. There are serious questions, from a football standpoint, about his ability to think about the team first and his penis (or motorcycle organ) second. He looks obviously out of shape, and one has to wonder if that's because he's spent more energy exposing himself to chicks in bars than running wind sprints. To put it another way: I had a conversation with a friend about James Harrison, who did something pretty despicable himself, and earned nothing more than a snarky chide from this blog. The thing is, Harrison lives a private life with few endorsements and plays a violent position extremely violently. He makes no claim to being a role model. And, when he wound up in the papers, he learned his lesson of how to stay under the radar and keep his nose clean. It doesn't mean he's a great guy, but it means he understands the personal obligations of his professional life. So let's also scrap this idea that there's no relationship at all between being a professional and acting like a professional.

Lastly, the legal system recognizes a difference between accusation and conviction, and, as I wrote in my last post, I think that difference is a fundamental cornerstone of a pretty great nation. But, for the best of reasons, that system has strict standards, and as people with brains we're allowed to think in non-legalistic terms. We are also capable of understanding the difference between ethics and laws. Lots of things have been - and are - legal, while still being unethical. It's legal to be racist; it's not ethical, and we don't generally tolerate it in our public figures. So we're allowed, by use of logic and reason and sensory input, to draw our own conclusions about Ben's behavior, and whether it was criminal, shameful, or both, even while we simultaneously acknowledge that the authorities lacked the necessary evidence to prosecute and convict him of any crime. Similarly, we are all allowed to look at a player like Barry Bonds and think that he used steroids, even if he has never failed a test and has never been convicted of a crime. It's called having a mind. People are free to disagree, and to cite evidence to the contrary, and we can engage in debate. But to simply say that a legal system acquitted Ben, and that he therefore did nothing wrong, is simplistic to the point of willful stupidity.

We've all got minds, and it's great that we can use them to get to different conclusions. As bloggers, we at FTC are totally in favor of spirited debate and even controversy. So please, give us reasons why you disagree. Tell us what we're missing. Tell us why you're okay with sports figures acting like children. But if all you've got to say is that it makes you feel better to not think about your franchise quarterback's behavior, and it would be easier for you if we didn't think about it, either, then we're going to tell you, respectfully, to start thinking and stop acting like a god damn idiot.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Send your #7 jerseys back to the Rooneys

As no charges are being filed against Ben Roethlisberger, the documents from the investigation have become public. A cursory read of The Smoking Gun's summary can really only lead to one conclusion -- Ben bought off this girl's family. He must have.

  • Emily Best, a dear friend of FTC, has started a movement to get Steelers fans who disapprove of Ben's actions and continued presence on the team to send their #7 jerseys back to the Rooney family. The FTC Editorial Board enthusiastically encourages any and all readers who own Roethlisberger jerseys to sign up and take part.
  • The police officer who took the initial report from the accuser has resigned.
  • The NFL Network's Jason LaConfora, who's very good at his job, reported yesterday that the Steelers have internally discussed trading Roethlisberger, and notes that "teams that aren't committed long-term to a starting quarterback include the Rams, Bills, Browns, Raiders, 49ers, Broncos, Panthers, Seahawks and Cardinals. Denver, having just traded for Brady Quinn, is probably not a great possibility, and LaConfora later reported that the Rams are just plain uninterested. Crossing St. Louis off the list probably eliminates any chance the Steelers would have to wind up with the top pick in next week's draft, meaning that they likely won't get a shot at Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford. The Steelers are said to consider Bradford "a sure thing." You can probably also eliminate the Browns from the list, as there's no way the Steelers would deal Ben within the division.
  • The best fit for a trade would probably be Oakland. The Raiders have the No. 8 pick in the draft. It's also rumored that they offered cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the league's two best, to Philadelphia in a deal for Donovan McNabb before McNabb was shipped to the Redskins. A trade to Oakland, one of the league's more rapey teams, would almost certainly lead to Ben spiraling out of control. When you join Al Davis, you join the Dark Side.
  • By the same token, the Redskins have a quarterback to trade in Jason Campbell. If the Steelers were to acquire first- and second-round picks for Roethlisberger, they could use one or more of their extra picks to pry Cambell away from the Redskins, who clearly want nothing to do with him. That's unfortunate for them, as the guy really does have the makings of a serviceable, top-12 quarterback.
  • The Steelers could be facing a six-figure team fine for overall player conduct.
  • Finally, PFT's Mike Florio reports that the Steelers could very well deal Roethlisberger before the draft.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Worse Side of Sports

It used to be a dream of mine to marry a professional athlete. Who am I kidding? I just had this dream last night. So this is a recurring dream. It is a life goal. It is a career objective. Judge me if you want to, but we all need dreams.

So you could imagine my initial excitement about VH1's "Basketball Wives." I thought that finally, I could turn away from the soon-to-be train wreck that is the Housewives of New York City and get a glimpse of the life that I had always thought should really be mine. Keep your Upper East Side condo and your VIP seating at New York Fashion Week. I'll take a house in Miami and court side seats, thank you very much!

However, I quickly found fault with the show and got confused about what Shaunie O'Neal and VH1 are trying to show the viewing public about sports, marriage and the intersection of the two. These things are things I take very seriously. Just take a look at how the show disappoints...

First of all, there are at least 6 women featured on the show. 1 is married. 1 is engaged. 1 has an ex-fiance. 2 are divorced. 1 may or may not currently be an NBA dancer who seems to show no interest in being married to a basketball player or otherwise. That does not a show about "wives" make! The show is more about the failure of marriage in the League than it is about the lives of these women.

Secondly, and this is a consequence of my first issue, there is hardly any basketball. It's really a shame. Not that I am particularly excited to see any of the men affiliated with this show playing. I lost interest in Shaq years ago, and Matt Barnes reminds me of the guys I can see playing at The Rucker every summer. But I wouldn't mind some footage of games, practice, dealing with injuries, watching fathers interact with their families. Without that element, this show could be about any wives. It could be about army wives. It could be about wives of politicians. It could be about wives of media moguls and oil kings. What it actually does become is a show about women with too much time and money on their hands in Miami. Who cares?

Lastly (as I've put a cap on my negativity and criticism in 2010 in an effort to usher more positivity into my life), clearly VH1 is not the place to see love happen. I don't think VH1 execs are fooling themselves into believing that Ray J Norwood is really going to settle down with anyone of the women he's met on the 2 seasons he's been looking for a steady piece of career backside! This is the same network that brought us 3 seasons of Flava of Love and the ridiculously unnecessary I Love New York. Then, in case you didn't know, there were 2 spin offs of that - one featured a guy who lives in his parents' basement looking for a girlfriend and the other featured 2 brothers who were looking for women. Brett Michaels gave love a shot on VH1 with 2 seasons of Rock of Love. There's Tool Academy, Tough Love... VH1 used to be in love with music. Does anyone remember that? It is a joke now to believe 90% of what VH1 calls "reality" programming is anywhere near real. How dare they make the jump from creating C-list celebrities who may or may not have been involved with or interested in musical careers to letting Shaunie O'Neal expose what has got to be the most ridiculous part of the NBA - the residual effects of a lack of common sense in an alternate universe of professional sports. If there needs to be a show about how relationships fall apart, it didn't have to include sports. Seriously.

Even though I would like to be the wife of a professional athlete someday, I have to agree with blogger, Mason Jamal:
... as a man, I can't imagine a more entertaining way to spend my twenties and early 30s than to play basketball, get paid millions of dollars to do so, invest wisely, stay single, protect myself and chase women up and down the rainbow. Star NBA players in their prime, as within any professional sport, are way too fortunate and far too fertile to take chances, let alone get married at such a young age. They're different. They live in an alternate universe of long money, short skirts and even shorter attention spans. Getting drawn into a one vagina vortex of matrimony, for most of them, should not be part of the pre-retirement plan. It's like taking sand to the beach.

So, since I will no longer be watching "Basketball Wives," I do not think the concept is all bad. It had potential, and it gives Shaunie, Royce, Evalyn, Gloria, Jennifer and all their little friends in South Beach something to do with their time. It gives them a chance to be in the spotlight rather than in the shadows of their husbands, boyfriends, ex-fiances, etc. We could only hope that once all the eyes are on them, they do something worthwhile and commendable like fight hunger, raise awareness and money about disease, leverage their affiliation with their significant others to launch their own businesses, demonstrate true partnership with their spouses/significant others, raise children well, be charitable. Bottom line: They've got options!

And just in case someone out there, like me, is obsessed with the family lives of professional athletes - for whatever reason - I recommend watching Kendra on E! The former Playboy bunny presents a much more honest look at being a young wife and mom, married to a professional athlete - NFL's Hank Baskett (Indiana Colts) God, I hope they make it!

That is all. I'm still here utilizing the privilege extended to contribute to this blog. Good day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Roethlisberger, III

This is rough for me.

I'm a big fan of our justice system. I see all the flaws that it's got, but with all of the various crap we've done in the last ten years, I've never, ever been more sure that due process and presumption of innocence are a big part of what keep us (relatively) safe and free. So when that DA basically said "Ben is guilty, but we can't charge him," I thought that was dishonorable and aggravating. In our country, if you think someone is guilty, you charge him or you shut the hell up. You don't get to just fling around slander (an overused word that I actually mean in this case) because you don't have evidence you wish you did. Especially in this case, implying or stating that someone famous is guilty of a crime when he was not even charged is legally just a cheap shot.

But Ben Roethlisberger is a meathead. A moron. A d-bag. And many, many other things, none of which are good. And I totally agree with Matt and Franco that I want the asshole out.

I don't know that I agree with Franco that Ben got off because of his legal team; it certainly helped, but DAs have had a lot of trouble prosecuting he-said, she-said cases in the past, and I don't know that, given the fact chain, that this case was ever winnable as long as it's two people in a room and everyone's drinking. On a broader level, I don't even know that I have a solution as to how a justice system is supposed to handle those situations in a way that resembles fair, so I guess I can't even say I'm disappointed in the justice system in this case.

I do completely agree with Franco that an NFL suspension doesn't seem to do much here. If the accuser were my friend, or sister, or daughter, I can't imagine knowing that Ben would miss a few games would make my pain any easier. And - though this is less important - if Ben were my friend, I can't imagine finding it fair that someone who has never been charged with anything, let alone proved of any wrongdoing, would be suspended under the same policy that suspended guys who brought guns into clubs. Again, we have a system, we have to stick to it even when we're not sure it got the right answer.

And Ben's a tool. I think we can all agree that him doing anything that could ever be described as "honorable" is pretty much out the door.

So the only entity left that can take any action is the Steelers.

I don't know how you ask an NFL team to ship its multiple-championship quarterback out of town, especially in a circumstance where they can almost certainly not get value for him. And yet, if a Rooney were here, that's precisely what I'd ask of them. Get him out because he's an entitled punk. Get him out because he clearly can't put a team first and act like a professional. Get him out because he's slowing down and doesn't seem to want to work. Get him out for all the reasons Matt and Franco said. Get him out because he's an embarrassment.

Of course, I don't think that will happen.

I think the Steelers will let some time go by, announce that they're sitting him for a few games, give him a stern talking to, and hope that he realizes he should start acting like an adult. I suppose it is even possible Ben will learn from this enough to keep his head down, run some sprints, and start thinking about how he'll be a decent quarterback when, as Matt eloquently stated, he's lost a couple steps on rush ends. He'll maybe even do some community work. People will forget.

I always said that I'd rather lose with character guys than win with thugs, and deep down I always wondered if I was just full of it. With regard to Ben, I absolutely would rather take a few losing seasons than continue on with him. But I also know that that's not a popular viewpoint with fans of every stripe. In Pittsburgh, we get spoiled. We have come to believe we are different, that we can win with character guys all the time. It's why we think of ourselves as the class of the NFL. But any time your franchise quarterback thinks he can go into a bathroom and grope someone because he's a star, you aren't the class of anything.

Happy 200th post, FTC

I do advocacy work for the homeless, that's my job. It puts me in contact with several dozen sex offenders every day, because, due to restrictive housing and employment laws, sex offenders often end up homeless upon release from prison. These are men with zero rights because of what they did and what they've been branded. Whether that's right, whether that's the best way for our justice system to handle this issue-- very debatable. What ISN'T debatable is that Ben Roethlisberger has a track record of perpetrating sexual offenses. What keeps him from being another homeless guy who has to report to a PO every month, is exactly what makes him even more despicable than the average rapist or pedophile: his high priced defense team. The violation isn't simply physical in these cases, but it continues on in the suppression and intimidation of his victims. When his lawyer talks about him being "exonerated" or Ben shows anything less than humility and remorse, it's as much further injury to the victim as it is insult to all of us.

I've heard the idea floated around that the Steelers or league should suspend him for 2 games, or 4 games, or 8 games. I don't like it. It feels too much like the Donte Stallworth thing where a human life was measured out to equal 16 hours of football lost. I'd rather see action far more relevant to Ben's situation. Right now his team of lawyers is playing the "out of sight, out of mind" game with the Lake Tahoe case, stalling and appealing and dragging things out. I'd like to see the league tell Ben that he needs to take care of all pending legal matters before he can step on a football field again. If there's a settlement involved, the terms should be disclosed to the league when reviewing Ben's reinstatement. And if future cases crop up, Ben needs to be in court for those as well, before he can touch a football. Then when all that's settled, and the truth comes to light about what a shitty dude he is, THEN the NFL should decide on a punishment, because this suspension wasn't the punishment: it was just a nice legal sabbatical.

The way the NBA handled Kobe Bryant's case was interesting. Kobe had sex with a woman who wasn't his wife and happened to be crazy. At the time he didn't know she was crazy. He soon learned, and got very accused of rape. Sometimes that happens when you have sex with people you don't know. The NBA let him keep playing during the trial, and when it was over, when Kobe's dream-team lawyers got him off, he groveled and admitted what a mistake it was. After that he's laid real low, and he's enjoyed a resurgence in league and fan support.

For a while, I thought Ben's Lake Tahoe case was going to be similar to Kobe's. But with the Georgia case and now a possible second Nevada case, it's become clear that there's a pattern. Do I know for sure that Ben is a rapist? No, absolutely not. But the Georgia DA summed up the facts in pretty damning fashion, enough so that we're made to think Ben took advantage of at least one young, drunk girl. Whether there's a pattern of crimes: I don't know. But there's smoke. There's a lot of smoke. And I say the league better make him clear it before he's allowed to move on.

Everything Matt wrote is correct. I don't want him taking the field as a Steeler. I don't know if he needs counseling or compassion in all this (probably; he's still a human being), but I know he doesn't need adoration. He doesn't deserve to be rooted for, and if he's under center this fall, I'm going to tune out.

Why I'm done with Ben Roethlisberger

I'm a Pittsburgher. I was born here, I've lived most of my life here, and barring disaster, I'll one day die here. I love this town. I consider it an integral part of my identity and ingrained in the very fiber of my being.

When friends come in from out of town or I meet someone new to the area, I love nothing more than showing them around, highlighting the distinctly different neighborhoods, diverse architecture, expansive green space, and local culture. But occasionally, I like to leave Pittsburgh. I like to see other places. And in the dozen or so other countries I've visited, the first thing anyone mentions upon learning I'm from Pittsburgh is the Steelers (except in Canada, where the conversation invariably turns into a Sidney Crosby lovefest).

Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Munich has Oktoberfest. Amsterdam has legal drugs. Egypt has the Great Pyramids. Philadelphia has the Liberty Bell. And no matter where in the world you go, when you say Pittsburgh, they say Steelers.

I don't have a problem with this. I'm someone who can wax poetic for hours about my hometown, extolling its virtues and laughing with a sense of self-deprecation at its shortcomings, but the instant association between Pittsburgh and the Steelers doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother me, even though I know that there are more important things in life than football, and that Pittsburgh has way more going for it than just the Steelers.

I know that the NFL is full of miserable human beings, and really, I have no problem with that either. It's the reality of modern professional sports that some of these guys are just jerks, that we as fans are forced to make decisions about what we value about sports, and to what degree we're willing to tolerate or overlook their asinine behavior.

I don't care if Jerome Bettis ever traded signed footballs for blowjobs. I don't care if Hines Ward has an apartment where he takes women he picks up in bars. While those kinds of things might be scandalous or objectionable, at least they're consensual.

What I do have a problem with is having your buddy escort the completely lit 20-year-old girl down the hall and into the bathroom, then following her in and trying -- successfully or not -- to take advantage of her while your buddy watches the door.

I have a problem with it because it's the worst kind of scumbaggery. I have a problem with it because it's criminally sleazy. I have a problem with it because this is one of those very rare scenarios you're able to look at and say with great certainty that it's both morally and ethically reprehensible. And I have a problem with it because the Steelers are the face of Pittsburgh, and Ben Roethlisberger is the face of the Steelers.

Like it or not, Ben Roethlisberger represents Pittsburgh. And through the troubling pattern of behavior we've seen from him the last few years, he's done more to embarrass it than he has to make it proud. It's for this reason that I don't want him representing me or the city I love.

We here at Free Tank Carter love sports. We love them on a disturbingly technical level. When Franco gets drunk, he does things like try to build small scale replicas of PNC Park out of french fries and Yuengling empties. I'm not even kidding. But there's more to sports than just winning.

There's been a lot of chatter lately on this issue, and it seems as many people are simply confused by it as the rest are divided. That said, to those who whose only concern is how the team performs, I offer the following:

Ben has no work ethic. He doesn't take care of or condition himself. He's a drama queen of the highest order, making up insignificant injuries so he can tell reporters he played through them after the fact. He doesn't study or prepare for games. Go back and watch any game from the past two seasons, then try to tell me with a straight face that you think Ben knew his hot routes, or gave any indication whatsoever that he'd studied an opponent's defense. Ben's 2008 campaign was nothing short of abysmal. He phoned it in every week of the regular season. It was only when the playoffs rolled around that he saw it necessary to put forth a modicum of effort.

He is coasting on his natural ability right now. Very few professional athletes can afford to do that. But how long do you think that's going to last? He just turned 28 -- there was a party, you may have heard about it -- and he's as out of shape as ever. The pass rush doesn't age; it's continuously replenished with new players -- guys who are younger, stronger and faster. The guys out there trying to clobber the quarterback have to keep themselves in shape or they're out of jobs. Do you honestly see Ben Roethlisberger being effective at age 30 or 31 if he can't even make the most of what he has at age 28? This is a guy who is setting himself up to fail. At this rate, he's going to hit a wall, and he's going to hit it soon.

The Steelers need to get rid of Ben while the gettin's still good.