Commentary

Stats Don't Lie

Rob "Stats" Guerrera brings his trademark negativity from Mike & Mike in the Morning.

Updated: April 26, 2010, 9:17 PM ET
By Rob "Stats" Guerrera | ESPNRadio.com

Monday, April 26

NFL draft tips - No matter what time you listened to the show on Thursday, Friday or Monday I guarantee you heard analysis of the NFL draft. (Todd McShay provided some of the best on Monday ) Who did well, who dropped the ball, yada yada yada. I understand that people want to know what to think of their team's picks, but in the interest of general sanity, I'm going to offer up some tips for evaluating the draft.

NFL Draft
Howard Smith/US PresswireStats has some tips for followers of the NFL draft.

Tip No. 1: It's impossible to know right now whether a pick was good or bad. In fact, it's not even possible to know a year from now or two years from now. You've got to wait at least five years before you can evaluate what your team did this year and nothing can change that. Patience, young Skywalker.

Tip No. 2: There is no such thing as taking someone too soon. If the guy your team drafts turns out to be a Hall of Famer, who cares where you drafted him? When people talk about players like Dan Marino or Ray Lewis, they never follow their praise with, "yeah but the team could have gotten him 2 spots later." If you think a guy is going to be great, draft him. Ready, fire, aim -- that's what I always say.

Tip No. 3: Jim Mora was right, "You think you know, but you don't know and you never will." Last time I checked, none of us are in an NFL draft room. You don't have any idea if some player was going to be on the board three spots later. NFL teams know more than you do. If they made the trade, they probably had a good reason.

Tip No. 4: Coaches, coordinators and ownership matter. If you think Peyton Manning would still be Peyton Manning without being in the same offensive system for his entire career, you just don't get it. In five years, the best players from this draft will be the guys that had the most stable teams. It's not a coincidence that Jay Cutler had his best year in his final year in Mike Shanahan's system. How'd Cutler do last year again? Oh yeah, he led the league in picks.

Also, here's another tip for watching all sporting events in general: get on Twitter. It's fantastic. Don't listen to all those haters. The only people that rip Twitter are the people that have never tried it. Remember all those crazy things you yell at your TV during games? Now people will actually respond to them! Follow Mike & Mike on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 20

The future of Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh - To quote Will Ferrell in Zoolander, "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!" I don't know what happened but I went away on vacation for a week and now everyone has lost their mind about this Ben Roethlisberger situation.

Roger Goodell told Mike & Mike on Tuesday that he's still reviewing all the facts of the case and hasn't made a decision on Big Ben's punishment yet. He also said he'd announce his decision as soon as possible, even if that was during the draft.

Ben Roethlisberger and Roger Goodell
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesHow long should Ben Roethlisberger's suspension be?

Let me just say right now that nobody is buying that one, Roger. As if the commissioner would interrupt one of his league's biggest events to announce the suspension of one of its biggest stars ... but I digress.

People are suggesting suspensions of anywhere from 2 games to a year for Roethlisberger. Greeny said that he thinks two games will be seen as too light by most fans. How could that possibly be too light?

Despite the fact that the district attorney didn't paint a rosy picture of what he thought happened during his press conference, the NFL has no choice but to deal in facts. The facts of the matter are that Ben Roethlisberger has never been arrested or charged with any crime. Legally speaking, Ben Roethlisberger has done nothing wrong.

Stuff all the, "yeah buts" and "come ons" in the garbage. The truth is that we weren't there, and the only people that know for sure what really went on were in that bathroom. Just because people are mad because they think another athlete used his money and status to escape the law doesn't mean Roger Goodell can treat him like a criminal. Stop trying to punish him simply because you think the courts failed to do so.

I do agree, however, that some punishment is warranted. Even if no crimes were committed, the off-field incidents have hurt the image of the NFL, so Roger Goodell is completely within his rights to suspend the Steelers' quarterback. But the idea that Ben should get anything more than 2-3 games is ridiculous. You can't punish Roethlisberger as much as people like Pac Man Jones when Ben has a clean criminal record.

If you do, the precedent you're setting could eventually lead to huge suspensions for infractions that aren't nearly as bad as anything Roethlisberger was accused of doing. Does anyone want to see their star player lose half a season because he was speeding? I'm not saying that is what's going to happen, but why even open that door if you're the NFL?

Can I just point out, by the way, that only in the NFL can a team go from winning their sixth Lombardi Trophy on a last second touchdown pass to possibly losing both halves of that connection in little over a year? Super Bowl XLIII was in February of 2009, and now Santonio Holmes has been traded to the Jets and some people are talking about doing the same with a 28-year-old, two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. In the NFL, you just never know.

Wednesday, March 31

Do the Eagles owe Donovan McNabb for all his years of service? - With all the recent trade rumors swirling around Donovan McNabb, one of the ideas brought up was whether the Eagles "owed" McNabb anything for bringing the team so much success during his time there. Greeny and Golic debated the topic on Tuesday and the Big Guy nailed it.

The only thing the Eagles owe Donovan McNabb is the $11.2 million left on his contract.

Donovan McNabb
Eric Hartline/US PresswireStats says the Eagles don't owe McNabb anything other than the money left on his contract.

I know that I've gone on and on about how great I think McNabb is and about how the Eagles would be crazy for getting rid of him. I still feel that way. But if the Eagles are dumb enough to try to move him, they have the right to ship him anywhere they want to -- even if Oakland is the NFL's Antarctica.

Did McNabb turn the Eagles around? Absolutely. But guess what: That's why he was drafted. The Eagles didn't take him second overall just so he could waltz into the facility and collect his checks. Would it be nice if they considered what was best for him? Yes, but it's not required. It's like buying a friend a beer when he gives you a ticket to a ball game. Besides, most of the contending teams could be someone that the Eagles have to face at a crucial time next year. Why would they want to risk getting beat by the very player they gave away?

It's not like this whole thing caught McNabb by surprise, anyway. Trades weren't suddenly created after he signed his contract. We've seen teams be just as "heartless" (as some have called it) when it comes to cutting old or injured players. The team has to do what's best for the long-term health of the organization. Players don't say, "Well, this team took a chance and drafted me so I owe it to them to take a less than market value contract," and we don't expect them to. Don't hold the teams to a different standard.

The whole idea of owing something to players comes from fans' constant need for sports to be more like the games they used to play when they were younger and less like the businesses they actually are. Sorry, folks, that's not the way it works. It can't be. The pressure on teams to win (and win now) is enormous. The second a team starts to stink, the all-important casual fan jumps off the bandwagon faster than Golic eats a donut. When teams lose fans, they lose money and that only leads to less wins and less fan support. It's a vicious cycle.

If he does end up going to the Raiders, I fear the worst for Donovan McNabb. From Randy Moss to Charles Woodson, every player that has left Oakland has been better for it. If McNabb thought James Thrash was bad, wait until he sees Darius Heyward-Bay. I wonder if there are nights when McNabb just lies in bed thinking about how his career has gone. If he had gone to just about any other team in any other city he'd be adored as one of the team's all-time great players. Instead his every move is criticized and he's being forced out of town by a fan base with no perspective and a front office with no backbone. His only consolation is the fact that the Eagles will go 5-11 without him. Of course they'll still pick after the Raiders, so how much consolation is that after all?

Wednesday, March 24

The NFL changes their overtime rules - Okay, time to go a little behind the curtain here. Liam is off on a beach somewhere working on his tan so I'm producing the show this week. When Erik Kuselias hosts, we usually talk the night before the show to go over our topics for the next day. EK calls me today and somehow starts talking about those strawberry shortcake ice creams on a stick. I tell him I've never had one before, he rips me (of course) and then asks me to try one. Let me say this out loud:

Trying things is overrated. Trying them in sports, doubly so.

Remember the new NBA ball? That lasted all of 10 seconds. How about the glowing hockey puck on TV, that was a real winner, huh? Don't forget about the shorts that the White Sox used to wear in '76 (people have been trying to do that for years!). And now we have the new NFL overtime rules. If you don't know what they are, allow me to summarize: The NFL took the most exciting overtime in sports and turned it into a watered-down version of football that you'd play with a 5-year-old child in the backyard. We've gone from sudden death to slow death.

All we've heard from anyone supporting this rule is whining about how teams that won the coin toss have won the game with increasing frequency. I'd shed a tear for them, but the NFL did this to itself! Just about every rule change the league has made in the past decade has helped the offense and now you're changing the rules because it's too easy to kick a field goal? Last time I checked, special teams are a part of the game. All of sudden field goals shouldn't count because they're not satisfying enough for people?

It's like that friend in your group that says, "Let's try that Ethiopian place, that's good." You know what else is good, man? Pizza. My wife loves to turn off the GPS when we're going somewhere new and take, "the shortcut." I've got news for you, honey. If it was really shorter, you know what it would be called? The way.

The Beatles had it right. Let it be.

Thursday, March 18

Tiger Woods announces his return - Golf's greatest asset is back and I think Greeny and Gottlieb had the only real opinion you could have on the subject and then I read this email from a listener, Len:

I guess I will be the only guy in America that won't be watching Tiger Woods. Enough is enough. I am so sick and tired hearing about Tiger Woods. I don't care what happens to the classless bum.

Here's the thing: If you dislike Tiger that strongly, you're going to watch! The people that truly won't watch Tiger aren't passionate enough to write an e-mail to a radio show about him. The only thing that attracts people more than fame is infamy, which is exactly what Tiger has now.

Woods
Taku Miyamoto/Getty ImagesStats will be watching when Tiger Woods returns.

Here's what's really going to happen: People are still going to watch Tiger Woods. In fact, more people might even tune in to watch him because they want to see him fail. People need someone they feel passionate about in order to be interested. It's why the World Series with the Yankees always get better ratings than those without. Yes, there are a lot of Yankees fans, but there are a lot more Yankees haters. I know that during the World Series in 2001, I was the biggest Diamondbacks fan on the planet. Would I have watch the World Series if the Yankees weren't in it? Sure. But I wouldn't have watched every game and I wouldn't have stayed up until midnight for all of them, either. That's what passion does to you.

Don't believe me? Remember what happened when Favre played the Packers for the first time? 21.8 million people tuned in, that's what. It was the most-watched show in the history of cable television! After all the whining and crying about being sick of Brett Favre, more people watched him than anything else in the history of cable, ever. The same thing will happen here. I bet the rating for the first day will be bigger than the entire tournament would have been if Tiger wasn't in it.

Personally, I can't wait to see him again. Like I've said before, I root for greatness. I think a lot of people agree with me, too. They like seeing someone do something on a level that other people can only dream about. It's why every once in a while we play video games on "easy" mode. That's what it's like when Tiger is on the golf course. Nothing that happens off the links can change that. And spare me with the whole "ESPN bias" jibber-jabber. My wanting to see Tiger Woods has nothing to do with where I work. It has to do the fact that I love golf, I play golf and it's cool to see someone dominate the game the way it usually dominates me. Simple as that.

Quick Thoughts:

1) How in the world did Jake Delhomme get 3.25 million guaranteed dollars? Did the Cardinals even watch the games? Matt Leinart can't be that bad, can he?

2) As a Mariners fan, when do I start worrying about Chone Figgins' .063 batting average?

3) I know I'm late to the party but I just saw "Up in the Air." Glad I didn't rush.

4) Most important, how do I convince my wife to come with me to see "Hot Tub Time Machine?" Yeah it'll be dumb, but you'll still love it. Hey, it's worked for our show, right?

Thursday, March 11

Slow down on Stephen Strasburg - In case you haven't heard, Stephen Strasburg made his spring training debut on Tuesday. He gave up two hits in two innings with a strikeout.

Apparently his Hall of Fame induction is scheduled for next week. At least, if you believe what we're hearing.

I think everybody needs to take a step back and remember one teensy, weensy little thing: It's only March!

The amount of hype for this guy is unbelievable! Wow, he struck out Miguel Cabrera? Most guys haven't faced live pitching in five months and we're falling all over ourselves because one of them struck out in spring training? To quote Bob Uecker from the movie Major League, "I think I'll wet my pants."

Stephen Strasburg
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireStats thinks we need to take a wait and see approach with young phenom Stephen Strasburg.

People are losing their minds because the kid threw some fastballs in the high 90s and had a great curveball. Translation: He has great stuff. Wow. Here's a list of some other pitchers with great stuff: Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Mark Wohlers. How'd their careers turn out? Wood is now a closer and Prior hasn't sniffed the major leagues in years. Don't get me started on Wohlers, either.

People are even talking about how Strasburg kept his composure during the game. Kept his composure? It was spring training. What does he possibly have to be flustered about? Were the Nationals going to cut him if he gave up a run?

And I know it sounds like I'm ripping Strasburg and I don't mean to. From all accounts, he seems like a guy with a good head on his shoulders. I'm ripping everyone else for treating him like he's ready for Cooperstown already. People just completely ignore reality in order to pump up the expectations on someone.

What about the two hits Strasburg gave up? Why isn't anyone talking about how he gave up back-to-back singles to guys that won't be playing baseball without an Xbox controller next month?

Why hasn't anyone said, "Strasburg fell behind some hitters but showed some great stuff?" Instead we hear, "He's amazing! Believe the hype! He dominated Miguel Cabrera!" Give me a break. I can't wait until he gives up some runs this year and we get the "What's wrong with Stephen Strasburg?" segment on Baseball Tonight.

How many times have we seen the expectations on young players be inflated to unreachable heights? How many people have actually lived up to that hype? Two? LeBron James and Tiger Woods are the only athletes that haven't disappointed us. We just don't remember all the others because they flame out and we move on to the next big thing.

Oh, by the way, Detroit's Rick Porcello also started the game on Tuesday. He threw an extra scoreless inning and won 14 meaningful games in the major leagues last year at age 20 and he's four months younger than Strasburg.

But I guess that doesn't mean anything. After all, it's only spring training, right?

Friday, March 5

The NCAA tournament should not be expanded - Even though it's been happening far too frequently for my linking, I agreed with Greeny on Wednesday. The people who want to expand the NCAA tournament are probably the same ones that drive around with "parent of an honor student" bumper stickers. It's time to face up to a hard fact of life: Not everyone is a winner and you shouldn't be rewarded simply because you tried really hard.

UConn-ND
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesStats says the ND-UConn game Wednesday wouldn't have been as exciting if the NCAA tournament was expanded.

Sorry, Sorta Good University, welcome to the NIT. Try not being the 66th best team in the country next year. We won't miss you and the tournament is better off without you. And before you start preaching about how great all the upsets are, stuff a sock in your mouth. Here's the truth: People only want to see upsets in the first week of the tournament. After that, they want to see the small schools get obliterated by the higher seeds for the sake of the office pool. And by the way, if we're expecting upsets every year, they're not really upsets, are they?

The thing that I can't wrap my head around is that there are virtually no benefits to including more teams, yet the idea is still being considered. The regular season is already irrelevant with a 65 team tournament, so increasing the number of playoff teams does nothing except increase the chances people won't watch. The reason to tune in to UConn-Notre Dame on Wednesday night was the drama that came from knowing that the winner was likely in and the loser was likely out. If more teams are in the tournament, who cares if Notre Dame beats Connecticut?

Personally, I don't think March Madness is all that exciting anyway. The tournament is so big that some of the best teams don't play each other because they've been knocked off by a directional university that happened to shoot 60% from the field one day. But that's not the point. The point is that most people do like the tournament and it's in danger of being destroyed because of some namby-pamby meatball crying that his mediocre team didn't get a chance to play with the big boys. Too bad. In sports, you always lose when you let a vocal minority of people make the rules. Nobody e-mails a radio show to say that everything is okay. The key is to consider what's best for your sport and not be pushed around by people pursuing their own interests.

Thursday, February 25

Tim Tebow's mechanics - I don't want to rip on the guys too much because they celebrated their 10th anniversary on Wednesday, but I'll do it anyway. Just when I thought Golic was coming around to my way of thinking, he derails like a runaway freight train. Where did people come up with the idea that Florida owed it to Tim Tebow to turn him into a solid NFL quarterback? Nobody complained that Hawaii had a responsibility to turn Timmy Chang or Colt Brennan into a Hall of Famer, so why all this uproar about Tebow?

Tim Tebow
Cliff Welch/Icon SMI Tim Tebow, throwing a pass in Senior Bowl practice last month, hopes to improve his draft stock with a new approach that includes drop-back passing.

Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators have one responsibility: win football games. That's it. The idea that they should jeopardize their success by re-teaching Tim Tebow how to throw the ball is ludicrous. We're talking about a team that is expected to lose a maximum of one game each season. Imagine if the Gators lost two games because Tim Tebow's wounded duck wobblers are getting intercepted left and right. What's Urban Meyer supposed to say at the postgame press conferences, "It's okay because Tim will be a better NFL quarterback after he's done playing for us?"

And even if Golic was right and the team would benefit if they worked on Tim's throwing motion, what's the point? So Florida wins by 40 instead of 35? And let's stop acting like the school did Tebow a disservice - he was the greatest college football player in a generation and maybe ever. I think the school did all right by him.

This is what happens when we like someone, we start coming up with excuses for their shortcomings. Tebow doesn't throw like an NFL quarterback because he never needed to. That isn't anybody's fault and it's not a Greek tragedy if he goes to the NFL and flops. Personally I'm very interested in seeing what happens. I've always thought intangibles were way overblown and Tebow will be the ultimate test in that regard. Let's see if "being a winner" and "leadership" can trump a long release and questionable accuracy. Magic eight ball says "no" on that one.

Random mundane detail that ticked me off this week: The actual text of a sign in my apartment complex reads, "Warning: Icy conditions exist. Please use caution." First of all, the fact that water can freeze and turn into ice is not breaking news. Second of all, where are these icy conditions? Norway? Vancouver? (Well, maybe not Vancouver ... ) Instead of wasting minutes of your life putting up that sign, how about throwing down some sand so we're not all sliding around the parking lot like we're in the Ice Capades!?

Thursday, February 18

Tiger Woods upcoming apology - It looks like I'm finally starting to rub off on the guys! Greeny and Golic took the words right out of my mouth on Thursday when talking about Tiger's upcoming statement. Now allow me to take it one step further.

Those that call or e-mail a radio show and try to blame the media for "propping up" Tiger Woods are the same people who love to rip the media for spending too much time on the negative and "never talking about the good stories in sports." Tiger Woods was the most spectacular player in the history of his sport - what was the media supposed to say about him? Should we have said, "Tiger is the greatest golfer ever, but don't like him too much because he might be hiding something we have no evidence to support whatsoever?"

Greeny had it completely right: Tiger Woods hasn't wronged his fans. The only people he's wronged are his family and friends. If you feel betrayed because you saw him on TV all the time and you rooted for him, that's your problem. I don't remember seeing a Buick commercial where Tiger said, "Hi, I'm Tiger Woods. Buy a Buick because I don't cheat on my wife!" And by the way, if you bought a single product simply because Tiger Woods (or any celebrity) endorsed it, you may need to rethink things.

People need to get off their high horses and stuff all their righteous indignation in a sack. The same people that are demanding a Tiger apology could be fudging the numbers on their taxes and stealing cable. I understand that getting ESPN for free and being unfaithful to your spouse isn't the same thing, but the point is that we all need to stop pretending like we're perfect and Tiger Woods is a train wreck.

Why do so many fans keep demanding an apology from any athlete that does anything wrong? Do we really think they're sorry for what they've done? And who cares if they are? How does it impact our lives in any way whatsoever? Am I suddenly going to be able to afford my rent if Tiger says he's sorry for his transgressions? Is your car payment cheaper if Mark McGwire regrets taking steroids? Some people are way too wrapped up in athletes' lives. I don't know about you, but all Tiger Woods is for me is something to do on Sunday afternoons when I'm not visiting friends or out and about with my wife. That's all.

Wednesday, February 17

Would you rather have an Olympic gold medal or Super Bowl ring? - We got into this debate on Tuesday's show, but I don't think there's much to think about. I'll take the ring before the medal any day of the week. People who would take the medal gave two justifications, both of which hold up as well as the snow at this year's Olympics. The two biggest reasons people gave for taking the medal were 1) the Olympics are only held once every four years and 2) when you win a medal you are the best in the world at what you do.

Vonn
Jerry Lai/US PresswireWould you rather win gold like Lindsey Vonn or win a Super Bowl?

The first reason makes no sense to me. Why does it matter how often the competition is held? Nobody parades around for four years calling himself "the defending downhill champion" or anything like that, so what's the difference? If we only had one Super Bowl every four years would people be choosing that? All the schedule really means is that your performance gets remembered once every four years instead of every single year.

Second of all, spare me with all this "best in the world" stuff. Last I checked, there aren't many other countries playing American football. I'm pretty sure we'd mop the floor with any other country that tried to take us on. Therefore, if you win a Super Bowl, you're the best team in the world. I'm not even convinced that the best athletes are even playing Olympic sports, anyway. Most elite athletes aren't training in the skeleton; they're on a basketball court or a football field working their way towards a fat contract. Also, we've seen athletes turn down chances to play in the Olympics before. Go to any player in the NFL and ask him if he'd like the chance to play in the Super Bowl - do you think he's saying no?

And by the way, who even remembers which athletes win gold medals once the games are over? No one reading this right now can name the last Nordic combined gold medal winner, but I bet you know who won last year's Super Bowl, don't you? The only way you get remembered if you're an Olympian is to win more gold medals than anyone ever like Michael Phelps, or stick a perfect landing on one foot like Kerri Strug. Other than that, you're in and out of the public eye faster than Lane Kiffin at Tennessee.

Friday, February 12

The future of Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia - We played a piece of John Clayton forecasting the fate of Donovan McNabb on Friday and it didn't sound good for No. 5 staying in Philly next year. I'll tell you the same thing I told Erik Kuselias in Friday's pre-show meeting: If the people of Philadelphia think they're better off without Donovan McNabb, they're out of their cheese steak-eating minds. What did the Eagles ever win before Donovan McNabb showed up? Erik's reply in the pre-show meeting? "What did they win with him?"

It's that kind of smug attitude that makes me want to take a "stupid" stamp right to the forehead of every moronic Eagles fan. When did it become so trendy to completely devalue regular season wins in sports? Newsflash, meatheads: you can't get to the playoffs if you don't win regular season games. Therefore, they're important, too!

Donovan McNabb
Bob Donnan/US PresswireStats says Donovan McNabb has been a great QB for the Eagles.

The only reason Philly fans have this arrogant attitude in the first place is because Donovan McNabb has gotten them so used to winning! In the seven years McNabb has started at least 10 games, his record is 82-36-1, which is a .689 winning percentage. In the seven years before McNabb became the starter, the Eagles went 49-61, which is a .445 winning percentage. Now I know the shirtless guy sitting in the upper deck in December might not be the brightest bulb in the bunch, so take my word for it: winning 69% of the time is a lot better than winning 45% of the time. And for everyone who wants to rip him for losing in the NFC Championship games - calm down. He's 9-6 in the playoffs for his career.

I'll say it so Donovan McNabb won't have to - good riddance. He's been underappreciated by the fans since the boos on draft day in 1999. Before he came to town the Eagles stunk and all he's done is go to the playoffs in 8 of his 10 years as the full-time starter. What makes you think Kevin Kolb is going to do any better? He's only played in 10 flipping games!

I can't believe NFL teams don't get it. Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports. There are only a handful of good ones in the entire world and if you're lucky enough to get one, you don't trade him away when he's 34 years old. Want to know what happens when you don't have a franchise quarterback? Here's what happens: Bubby Brister, Randall Cunningham, Rodney Pete, Ty Detmer, Bobby Hoying, Koy Detmer and Doug Pederson. Those are the QBs in those seven years before McNabb that I mentioned earlier - do you really want to go back to that?

When the Phillies won the World Series, everyone talked about how great it was for the city of Philadelphia to finally have a championship. Spare me. You don't deserve a championship if you're running one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL out of town for Kevin Kolb. Check in with me 3 years from now when the team is getting pounded every game and you've got a top five draft pick every year. I bet you won't be complaining about those NFC Championship game losses then.

Wednesday, February 10

The "one-and-done" rule - For my money, there's no better interview than NBA commissioner David Stern , who was on the show on Tuesday. Few people in sports are as powerful as Stern is and almost no one is as honest with his answers.

For instance, when confronted with a passionate plea from ESPN's Dick Vitale about the "one-and-done" rule on Tuesday, you could tell how ticked off Stern was by hearing the same criticism over and over again. He said, "The idea that the NBA gets blamed for the fact that a school and a coach have a player that doesn't go to classes in his second semester is not the NBA's fault," and he's exactly right. It's not David Stern's job to try to preserve the sanctity of the student-athlete. In fact, the NCAA hasn't needed any help destroying that idea all by itself. As the commissioner of the NBA, David Stern's job is to ensure that the product he sells is of the highest quality possible. You don't do that by letting an 18-year-old kid make a fool of himself every night just because he ran circles against some directional high schools.

David Stern
AP Photo/Bill KostrounStats enjoys listening when NBA commissioner David Stern comes on.

The "one-and-done" rule isn't any different than a company requiring someone to have at least a year of experience at a certain job before hiring them. Any job you apply for requires you to prove that you're capable of doing the job at the level an employer expects. Why should the NBA be any different? Don't forget that the rule doesn't mandate players go to college, it simply says they cannot jump right from high school to the NBA. Also, let me say that I don't have any problems with the kids not going to classes in their second semester. I'd be doing exactly the same thing. Why would you go to class? If you knew you weren't going to try to earn your degree and you knew by the time any consequences caught up with you that you'd be a millionaire in the NBA, where is the motivation to head to that 8 a.m. philosophy class?

I did take issue with David Stern saying he doesn't think the ratings would change much if the dunk contest featured guys like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Come on, Mr. Stern. The only people excited to see Shannon Brown in the dunk contest are the Brown family - and even that might be iffy. Just admit that you would like bigger names in the contest, but you can't force superstars to participate. We get it.

Oh, one last thing. I saw that the NBA changed the name of the three-point shootout to the three-point contest. Yeah, because that was the problem. I'm sure if the NFL changed the name of concussions to "ouchies" that would take care of that issue, too.

Friday, January 29

Tim Tebow's NFL future - Todd McShay sure didn't paint a rosy picture for Tebow on Thursday's show, which seems to be the general consensus about the former Florida quarterback. To me, there's only two ways it can go. The first is that everyone is right and Tim will join Jason White, Danny Wuerffel and Eric Crouch as Heisman trophy winning quarterbacks that were irrelevant in the NFL. The second option, however, is much more interesting. It is possible that we're all morons and Tebow could join Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Kurt Warner as some of the biggest surprises of all time. I just don't see Tebow as a middle of the road NFL player.

Tim Tebow
Paul Abell/US PresswireHow will Tim Tebow's NFL career turn out?

If I had to choose one, I think Tebow should keep Urban Meyer's number on his speed dial for when that job opens up. The NFL seems to project college quarterbacks as well as Golic fits in a Speedo, but fear not - I have a simple quarterback philosophy that never fails: Take the guy that has to change the fewest parts his game. It's hard enough to play quarterback in the NFL - especially for a rookie. You've got a whole new playbook to learn, high expectations, all new teammates, and oh by the way, in terms of opponents' athletic ability, more freaks than a Star Trek convention.

How are you going to be able to do all of that if you have to concentrate on taking the snap from center properly, keeping your footwork as you fade back and reading the defense downfield? It's almost impossible. Think about it: when was that last time you were watching a great quarterback and heard the announcer say, "...he's really come a long way since they overhauled his mechanics and footwork three years ago." Instead, most of the time guys are getting praised for the very same parts of their game they got ripped for as rookies. We hear "...he doesn't have the typical throwing motion but he finds a way to get the job done," which is usually followed up with the always useless, "he's just a winner."

The smart thing to do would be to only change the things Tebow will need to do to function as a starter (his footwork). The team would be much better served letting him throw naturally to see if it will work during an actual game. If he is one of those guys that "just gets it done," you save yourself a lot of time, energy, and likely, football games.

Wednesday, January 27

Peyton Manning is No. 1 - The guys brought up the idea that Peyton Manning could be the best quarterback ever on Tuesday's show and all I can say is it's about time. First, let's just look at what happened in the championship game.

The Jets come out of the blocks like a house of fire. They sack Manning more in two possessions than he had been hit in entire weeks leading up to the game. The Jets are throwing bombs down the field, Brad Smith is completing passes and the game looks like it's slipping away from the Colts.

Peyton Manning
AP Photo/AJ Mast Stats likes to cheer for greatness.

Then, just before halftime, Peyton Manning leads an 80-yard touchdown drive and destroys the confidence that Rex Ryan and the Jets spent weeks building - in just four plays. From that point on, the game was over. Peyton could not be stopped and the Jets knew it. The entire Jets coaching staff, including one of the brightest defensive minds in the league, spent a week creating a game plan specifically designed to confuse and disrupt Peyton Manning. He figured it out in two possessions.

He probably won't end up with as many rings as Montana or Bradshaw, but if he beats the Saints in the Super Bowl, he'll have at least 2 rings and at least 4 MVPs. Not to mention the fact that in a league where passing numbers are blowing up every year, he'll own every major statistical passing record in the books. Argument over.

I'll tell you one thing: I'm definitely rooting for the Colts over the Saints. I never bought into the idea that a Super Bowl will magically make everything okay in the city of New Orleans. That place was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. A 22-inch silver trophy isn't going to do anything to solve the real problems there. Will fans be happy? Probably, but I'm pretty sure that's about as far as it goes. I love sports as much as anyone, but they're just sports. Nobody said we should all root for the Lions this year and the recession brought Detroit to a standstill. Now all of a sudden anyone not marching with the Saints is some sort of cold-hearted curmudgeon? If that's the case, sign me up, because I'll be pulling for Peyton and company all the way.

When my team is out of it (which happens often), I root for greatness. Once the M's missed the playoffs, I was rooting for the Phillies to go back-to-back. Once the Thunder missed the playoffs, I was rooting for Kobe to win a ring without Shaq. Since the 49ers didn't make the playoffs, I've been rooting for the Peyton Manning to get his second ring. Man ... I really need to get some better teams, don't I?

Quick Thoughts:

1) Pretty soon Matt Cassel is going to be in the Pro Bowl for the AFC. How many games did Vince Young even play in this year, ten?

2) Stop complaining about the NFL overtime rule. The reason Brett Favre didn't get the ball in overtime was because he blew his team's shot to win in regulation. Tell me why he deserves another chance.

3) Who cares who Archie Manning is rooting for in the Super Bowl?

4) The Who performing at halftime of the Super Bowl guarantees that will be the perfect time to refill the buffalo chicken dip.

Wednesday, January 20

Greeny gives Brett Favre credit for no apparent reason - In case you were hit in the head recently and forgot about my white-hot hatred of Brett Favre, Greeny gave you a perfect illustration of why I do on Wednesday's show. For reasons known only to him, Greeny came up with the brilliant idea that Brett Favre deserves some credit for the Jets' success this season. According to the Green Man, Favre gave the team "a taste of winning" that they hadn't had before. I guess they didn't pick up on how to win games when they went 10-6 in 2006.

Brett Favre
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesDid Brett Favre show the Jets how to win before he left?

As Greeny so eloquently put it, "No one will ever say it ..." Well of course no one will say it - because it's dumb! This is why so many people can't stand Brett Favre - he constantly gets credit for completely nonsensical things. What about the end of the year when Favre lost four out of the last five games to teams with a combined record of 21-34? What were the Jets tasting then? How did Favre's 2 TDs and 11 picks in that stretch taste? The only thing Favre gave the Jets was another taste of disappointment, which is what that fan base has been swallowing since Super Bowl III.

Ray Allen unhappy with the fans choices for the NBA All Star Game - Preach on, Jesus Shuttlesworth, preach on! The former UConn standout didn't like that Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson were among the top vote-getters for the NBA All-Star Game and he couldn't be more correct. Tracy McGrady isn't even playing right now and Allen Iverson has all the skills of a boiled potato. I've said it a million times: if we're too stupid to get the voting right, we don't deserve the chance to vote at all.

Michael Jordan
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesIf Michael Jordan were on the 2010 NBA All-Star ballot, he'd be voted in by the fans.

On Tuesday's show, Greeny said that the fans should vote for the people that they most want to see, which I will debunk right now. If you asked fans who they most wanted to see play in the game and you put Michael Jordan's name on the ballot, I guarantee that MJ would be lacing them up on All-Star Weekend. Does that mean he deserves to be an All-Star? The game is supposed to be about rewarding the players that have had the best first half of the season. Sorry, Steve in South Dakota, people could not care less about who you're interested in watching.

That said, I'm not just going to complain without offering a better solution. What the NBA should do is have players and coaches pick the rosters themselves. Then, once the rosters are chosen, you can have the fans vote on who should start the game. You can sub players in and out of the game whenever you want, so who starts is meaningless. That's about the only thing I think we could handle right now. There's a reason the Founding Fathers chose not to let the public elect the president. It's like what Tommy Lee Jones said in the movie Men in Black, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

Friday, January 15

Lane Kiffin leaves Tennessee to coach USC - If there was ever any doubt that my stance about college athletics was right on the money, I think it's just about gone after Lane Kiffin's jump to USC. Mike & Mike outlined all of the dirty details on Thursday, and they felt pretty much the same way as I did. This whole thing stinks.

Situations like this are exactly why I laugh in the face of anyone who gushes about how great and "pure" college sports are. The apologists love to shout about the Cameron Crazies and the players' love of the game, but they clam up as soon as you mention things like negative recruiting and coaches leaving before bowl games.

Lane Kiffin
Harry How/Getty ImagesStats doesn't like Lane Kiffin or college sports.

Think of what we've seen just recently from college sports. We've had one coach verbally assaulting players at Kansas, another coach putting an injured player in a shed and still one more coach accused of grabbing a "student athlete" by the throat and slapping him in the face during halftime of a game. Not to mention Lane Kiffin's assistant Ed Orgeron calling players committed to Tennessee to convince them to go to USC while Kiffin is saying the complete opposite of that at his first press conference. This is my "pure" alternative to professional sports?

What's worse is that Kiffin and company aren't going above and beyond the standard of sketchiness set by most other coaches in college sports. These programs generate millions of dollars every year. Are we supposed to believe that all that money changes hands without a wink and a smile? That coaches who earn millions of their own don't bend and break the rules to keep cashing the checks? That players who earn nothing aren't going to accept money and gifts from the throngs of people shoving them in their face 24/7? Believe me, I've talked to former blue chip prospects - kids are getting a lot more than their per diem.

You'll have to forgive me if I'm not chomping at the bit to follow that cesspool of human deception. I'd rather follow professional sports, where all the warts are right out on display for the world to see. Brad Childress picking Brett Favre up from the airport in an Escalade? No problem! Let's see how that would go over in college sports. If a kid even watches a music video with an Escalade in it he's under investigation. I'll take holdouts, SpyGate and trade demands any day over grown men lying to a bunch of kids in a living room somewhere. It's not that I think one sin is worse than another. It's the fact that fans of college sports talk about them as if they have no sins. If you were at a restaurant and there was a hair in your soup, pro sports would apologize and bring you another bowl. College sports would tell you that the hair adds flavor and that you should be grateful to eat anything that falls off their head.

Professional athletes are the cream of the crop. The top one percent of the entire population. If I've got to choose between watching that top one percent of humans on Earth or any other group of people do the same activity, I'm choosing the one percent. If you had to go see Spamalot, are you going to see it performed on Broadway or by Miss Bliss' sixth grade class? (Although I do admit, that Miss Bliss is a crafty one ...)

Quick playoff predictions: Cardinals, Colts, Cowboys and Chargers (told you they were quick!).

Wednesday, January 13

Mark McGwire admits to using steroids and HGH during his career - To quote a friend, "In other news, cheeseburgers have cheese." My issue isn't with Mark McGwire's PED use. I get why he took steroids. He wanted to get healthy, he felt pressure to live up to amazing expectations (both from the public and the team itself), and hey, if he happened to swat a few hundred more homers along the way, that was cool, too. I don't condone it, but his reasoning makes sense to me.

Mark McGwire
John G. Mabanglo/AFP/Getty ImagesStats isn't sure Mark McGwire is telling the full truth.

My issue is with the "confession" interview he did on Monday, and people's reaction to it. What I want to know is, why are people accepting what he says? Apparently all it takes is a teary-eyed "confession" and all is forgiven. Heck, you don't even have to say what you're confessing to and all the sheep still give you a free pass. Several times throughout the sit down with Bob Costas, my BS meter went to red alert. Were you even listening? First, McGwire said that he didn't believe that steroids and HGH helped him hit home runs. Instead, he argued, God-given hand-eye coordination helped him ascend to No. 8 on the all-time home run list. Let's just throw this out there right now. If McGwire didn't use steroids and just depended on his hand-eye coordination, he'd be No. 8 on the all-time list of foul tips. I don't care how many home runs he hit his rookie year. And by the way, nobody thinks PEDs can turn some schmo off the street into Barry Bonds, but they can take warning track outs and turn them into home runs.

But for a second, let's assume that McGwire really does believe that using steroids didn't help him hit home runs. Why would he feel the need to call the Maris family and apologize? What did he do wrong? How did that conversation go?

"Mrs. Maris? Mark McGwire here. I'm sorry that I used a substance that in no way contributed to me breaking your husband's record."

Stop with the tears, because there's no need for them if he believes what he's saying. Since he was blubbering like a five-year-old with a skinned knee, however, I'm going to bet that even Mac himself wasn't buying this flummery (yeah, I went "flummery" on you).

McGwire also supposedly forgot what drugs he was taking all those years, and never talked about PEDs with any other teammate (including steroid kingpin Jose Canseco). Because that makes sense. About as much sense as Tony La Russa saying he had no idea about Big Mac's use of steroids, despite being his manager for basically the guy's entire career. Or about as much sense as fans claiming that nothing McGwire did on the field was "real." Grow up, people. McGwire hit a real ball, with a real bat, over a real wall that was 400 real feet away. Not to mention that fact that many of those dingers probably came off of a pitcher that was doing steroids himself.

Now McGwire will go about his rigorous hitting coach duties ("uh, swing harder Albert") and he can hide behind the "I already talked about this" defense. The worst part is that anyone who tries to call McGwire on his fabrication will be accused of being on a steroid witch-hunt instead of being praised for what they're really looking for: the truth. Imagine that.

Friday, January 8

Baseball Hall of Fame voting - On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers' Association of America, in all their wisdom, chose to elect Andre Dawson to the Hall of Fame. Edgar Martinez, the guy they named the DH award after, only got about 36% of the vote. I know that most of you are going to scream from the rooftops about how biased I am because I'm a Mariners fan, but here's the thing: I'm not going to argue about Edgar's numbers. Jayson Stark did that in his column way better than I ever could, and I didn't really think Martinez would get in on the first ballot anyway. There are two arguments, however, that I'm going to rip to shreds. One is from Greeny on Thursday's show, and the other is this gem from Steve in Kansas:

A player who is a full time DH (Edgar) should NEVER EVER be considered for the HOF. Part of the job of a baseball player is to play defense, to be able to throw, to run the bases (ok a DH has to run....some). But DHs should never have been allowed. Thank you, Mr. Commissioner. No DH should ever appear on the ballot. Make pitchers hit, and make players play defense.

Edgar Martinez
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaStats would like to see DH Edgar Martinez inducted into the Hall of Fame.

OK, Steve. Here we go. If we're going to go by your logic, a baseball player needs to contribute in every phase of the game in order to earn eligibility into the Hall. So say goodbye to every single American League pitcher after 1973, because they never hit. Sorry, Nolan Ryan and Dennis Eckersley, I know you pitched a combined 8,671 innings, but Steve says you aren't a real baseball player. That argument is like asking a chef to plant, grow and harvest lettuce just because he wants to make a salad. Also, last time I checked, a DH has to run the bases just as much as any other player on the field. Sadly, Greeny's argument wasn't much better.

To be fair, it was really John Kruk's argument, but Greeny is trying to change my name to "Revis" so I couldn't care less about being fair to him. He tried to say that Andre Dawson could have put up better numbers if he could have been a DH later in his career because it would have saved his knees. If only Dawson had done that ... oh, wait! Eureka! Turns out he was a DH in Boston for two years at age 38 and 39. Despite the magical healing properties of not playing the field, however, he hit worse than he did with the Cubs the year before. Whoops. Attention all you "traditional" baseball people: stop trying to penalize designated hitters because Andre Dawson had bad knees.

One quick thought:

Check out the show, "The Big Bang Theory." Genius, literally.

Wednesday, January 6

The NFL considers incentives for teams to play their starters - I know it's been a while since my last update. With Liam out on medical leave I've been producing the show, which pretty much sucks up every last hope you have of a social life (or sleep). That said, let's get to it.

We've asked everyone from Mike Ditka to Brian Billick about whether the Colts (and other teams) made the right choice by resting their starters down the stretch of the NFL regular season. Allow me to settle the dispute: YES! And not just because Wes Welker got hurt, either.

All the outrage about this decision makes me sick. All of the sudden, all the casual football fans that don't know a play action from a play pen throw in their two cents about "the integrity of the game." One problem. Playing the second string guys has no impact the integrity of the game. As long as the second-stringers are playing as hard as they can, the fans have no right to complain because the integrity is in place.

Peyton Manning
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireStats has no problem with Peyton Manning standing on the sidelines late in the regular season.

And before you throw the "fans pay good money for a ticket" argument at me, at least let me jam a pencil into my ears. This just in: that ticket you pay so much for? Try reading it some time. The ticket says "team x" vs. "team y" - not Peyton Manning vs. Mark Sanchez. If you don't like it, try getting a seat at a game earlier in the season. The Colts have won at least 12 games a year for the past 7 years. You didn't see this coming?

People are just mad because they wanted to see a team go for an undefeated season and now they can't. It's kind of like a baby who got a piece of candy pulled out of his hands. Grow up, gang. Just because you don't like the fact that the Colts don't care about an undefeated season doesn't mean NFL teams have to risk their players' health. Would people have reacted this way if Cal Ripken had taken himself out of the starting lineup before he broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played record? What if Mark McGwire had rested before he hit home run No. 62 in 1998? Would they have done the game such a disservice?

Look at it from the Colts' perspective. The NFL is a win-now league and people are hired and fired based on wins and losses. Cam Cameron got canned after his first season and there were whispers about Raheem Morris being fired after just one year. For perennial winners like the Colts, you're judged on how well you do in the playoffs. Jim Caldwell and company are doing what they think is necessary to try to win a Super Bowl. How can you fault them for that? Isn't that what your head coach is supposed to do?

Then Chris Mortensen breaks the story that commissioner Roger Goodell is considering awarding extra draft picks to teams that start their stars? How does that make any sense? Let me get this straight: There are teams that are so good they clinch playoff spots weeks before the end of the regular season. And the plan is to give these teams extra draft picks because they don't rest their most talented players? Who came up with that plan, Bud Selig? The draft is supposed to be about the bad teams getting the best college talent, not about making sure fantasy owners can start Peyton Manning in their Week 17 Super Bowl.

The NFL is great because the competition committee is constantly evaluating the rules and taking fan reaction into consideration. This is one time, however, that they need to take a page out of baseball's book (wow, I can't believe I just wrote that). Stick your head in the sand and wait for all of this jibber-jabber about starters to die down. In two weeks, no one will even remember who played in Week 17.

One last thing: Wes Welker's injury is not that big of a deal. I guarantee that Julian Edelman has at least 6 or 7 catches against the Ravens and everyone will say how great he is. When you're small, fast, and run drag routes 90% of the time, you're going to get open, Welker or otherwise.

Thursday, December 17

Bud Selig is forming a group to discuss changes to baseball - When it comes to baseball, once again the so-called purists continue to try to ruin the game. When Bud Selig announced he was forming a fourteen person panel to discuss on-field issues, Greeny and Golic both said they wanted a single, uniform designated hitter rule. I ask you: why? What's so bad about the designated hitter?

The idea that managing in the American League is easier with a DH is pure fiction. What's the most controversial managerial decision you can even remember? How about Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez and manager Grady Little in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS? Or Joe Girardi going with a three-man rotation in this year's World Series? What do they have in common? They're all in the American League, and oh yeah, they all have nothing to do with the DH. People don't even realize that AL managers don't even have to use the DH if they don't want to. Want to know why they do? Because it's better baseball!

[+] EnlargeBud Selig
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallMLB commissioner Bud Selig is forming a new committee.

Kirk Herbstreit made the argument on Wednesday that many purists throw out from their high horses. They say small ball is the way baseball is supposed to be played. What a crock. The reason that teams used to play small ball back in the day is because they could barely hit the ball out of the infield! A year before Babe Ruth's 54 homers in 1920, Gavvy Cravath led the NL in homers with twelve. Twelve! When Ruth started destroying baseballs that decade, do you think people were complaining that he should bunt more? After the strike in 1994, did fans flock to the stadiums to see Craig Counsel pull a ball to the right side to get the runner over? I don't think so. Fans want to see offense, not some pitcher who hasn't picked up a bat since before puberty.

Finally, we get to the worst of all offenders: the "they need to have the same rule in both leagues" people. These are the fans that don't care what baseball does as long as the rules are the same. Newsflash people - nothing about baseball is the same! The center field wall in Coors Field in Colorado is 415 feet from home plate. At Comerica Park in Detroit, that same wall is 420 feet from home plate. Where is the outrage? Where are the cries for change? The A's play in the Oakland Coliseum, which is so big you could harvest wheat in foul ground and no one would even notice. At Fenway Park in Boston, that same ball is 20 rows deep into the stands. Anyone ever complain about that? By the way, it's not just the stadiums. The strike zones in the two leagues are vastly different! A pitcher can throw a called strike at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and have the same pitch called a ball at Citi Field in Queens. No one seems to care about uniformity there, do they?

Stop all this foolishness, people. It's like we always used to say about Mike & Mike: what makes them different makes them great. What's wrong with giving people a choice? If you like watching pitchers flail at balls like a blind man trying to find an invisible keyhole, watch an NL team. If you like excitement and entertainment, watch an AL team. If you just want the leagues to be symmetrical, go watch "Monk."

Quick Thoughts:

SportsCenter aired the first seven picks of Todd McShay's 2010 mock draft on Wednesday, a full three months before the deadline for player to declare and a full four months before the actual draft itself.

I loved every second of it.

Wednesday, December 9

Editor's note: You can now listen to Stats Don't Lie as well as read it. Click the play arrow in the box below to listen.

Tim Donaghy claims NBA games are "entertainment" and not athletic competition - Despite all my bitterness, I had to stand up and applaud on Tuesday. Golic absolutely nailed it. If you missed it, an e-mailer named "Nick" called us all morons because we didn't believe that officials fixed games. More proof that we need to start weeding certain people out of the gene pool.

If you think the NBA, NFL or MLB are fixing their games, signal yes by closing your head in a car door. I can't believe I even have to write this but here goes.

[+] EnlargeTim Donaghy
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesTim Donaghy has a word with Kobe Bryant during the 2006 playoffs.

Sports leagues are billion dollar businesses. Billion. Dollar. Businesses. Do we really think that commissioners would put that much money, not to mention their own freedom, at risk just to make sure the Lakers make the playoffs? Do you think billionaire owners would invest all that money into those teams if the whole league could just go up in smoke one day? And don't fool yourself; if the news ever got out that the games weren't on the up-and-up, the leagues would collapse faster than the Dallas Cowboys in December.

And that's the other thing. There are almost 5,000 games in a baseball season, over 500 games in an NFL season and about 2,500 games in an NBA season. Every sporting event anywhere in the world is recorded on tape somewhere. We've got 12 different angles of Bill Belichick's postgame handshake and cocktail waitresses are getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for voicemails. If Tiger Woods broke wind in church right now we'd know about it. How then, pray tell, are you going to fix roughly 8,000 games per year, not including the playoffs, without a single word of it getting out to anyone? Ever. For decades.

And don't think I forgot about you, "the stars get all the calls" guy. You know this guy - he's the lone Sacramento Kings fan still complaining about a playoff series against the Lakers that happened seven years ago. Do stars get the calls? Yes. But it's not because the official thinks, "Oh, it's Kobe. I'm just going to let him do whatever he wants." It's because the speed of professional sports games is surpassed only by how fast we expect the calls on those games to be made. Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez throws a 97 mph fastball that moves four inches on its way to the outside corner. Immediately after the ball hits the glove, we want the umpire to either ring the guy up or let him walk to first. Well, what if he isn't sure? What if he blinked? That ump has to instantly decide if the ball moved four inches and got the corner or if it moved five inches and was off the plate. And you're upset that Felix is getting the benefit of the doubt? That's your conspiracy?

It would help if all you conspiracy buffs weren't fans of teams that just happened to be on the wrong end of all those fixed games. Do me a favor: if you're going to shout from the rooftops about conspiracies, go back to looking for Elvis and Bigfoot. Sports have enough problems. Stop wasting everyone's time.

Friday, December 4

Jets coach Rex Ryan criticizes QB Mark Sanchez for diving for a first down - Put this topic on the list of things I never thought I'd have to write about. As soon as I finished typing that title, I had to laugh out loud. There aren't many times where I'm in complete agreement with Mike & Mike , but apparently the stars have aligned. (Maybe the world really is ending in 2012 ...)

After the game, Jets coach Rex Ryan said, "If he would have slid, we wouldn't have got the first down, but we might not have a quarterback get hurt either. It's in the organization's best interest to slide. I love the kid but he's got to grow up." Earlier this week I questioned the intelligence of some NFL players, but now they're completely off the hook. I'm not sure if I've ever heard anything dumber in nearly a quarter of a century on this planet. Let's boil this down to the lowest common dominator so we know what we're talking about here.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
AP Photo/David DupreyStats says this was a good play by Jets QB Mark Sanchez, despite the injury.

Rex Ryan is angry that his quarterback put forth his maximum effort to pick up a first down and help his team win a game to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Instead, he would prefer if the leader of his offense gave up on the play and slid feet first. Just the message we need to send to today's professional athletes: try less. And by the way, it's not in the organization's best interest to keep Mark Sanchez healthy, it's in the organization's best interest to win games - regardless of who is at quarterback. I understand that Ryan was talking about the long-term future of the team, but he had multiple opportunities to be more specific and he never took them, so he's fair game.

In case you thought it couldn't get any dumber, it did. Ryan also said that he never wants to see Sanchez dive forward again. Guess that means you can scratch the QB sneak out of the Jets' playbook then, right? I hope Sanchez never scrambles on fourth down, or by the goal line or in the playoffs.

I'm officially declaring a moratorium on all of the "Rex Ryan is a crazy, super-aggressive renegade" talk. Instead, let's say Rex Ryan is just plain crazy. How many times have we heard former players talk about rookies having to earn respect in the league? How quarterbacks especially have to command the huddle and be a leader at all times. There's no way Sanchez can do that if he's going to get publically ripped by his coach just because he makes contact with something else on the football field. Troy Aikman once got hurt fading back to pass. Dan Marino tore his ACL despite being completely untouched. Injuries happen. It's called football.

The elite players make the plays that need to be made when they need to make them. We saw it with John Elway's famous helicopter play in the Super Bowl and we saw it with Steve Young's touchdown run against the Cowboys in the 1994 NFC Championship game. If Ryan ever wants his quarterback to truly be as valuable as he thinks Sanchez is, he'd better start loosening the leash. Otherwise the next time an opportunity like that comes up in a game, Sanchez might hesitate for just a split second and in the NFL, that split second makes all the difference.

Tuesday, December 1

Editor's note: You can now listen to Stats Don't Lie as well as read it. Click the play arrow in the box below to listen.

Editor's note: You can now listen to Stats Don't Lie as well as read it. Listen

Bobby Bowden's career ends at Florida State - There are certain phrases that get thrown around in sports that can ruin my day the second they leave somebody's mouth. On Tuesday, Dick Vitale said the magic words when talking about the end of Bobby Bowden's reign at Florida State.

Bowden
Douglas Jones/US PresswireStats says coaches don't get tenure in college football.

The phrase "earned the right" should be drawn, quartered and thrown into the sun along with "learn to win" and anything containing the words "new" and "moon." First of all, rights aren't earned. You either have a right or you don't, just like you can't be a little pregnant. Everything else is a privilege.

Second of all, last time I checked, coaches don't have tenure. Bobby Bowden's massive paychecks are signed by Florida State University. If they want, they can fire him just like any other employee.

Why should the fact that he was great in 2000 mean anything now? The truth is that Bowden has been underachieving for practically this entire decade. Since the start of the aughts (or whatever we're calling this decade), the Seminoles have only won double-digit games once and they've had at least five losses five different times. Including this year, Bowden is 29-22 since 2006 - I don't think FSU is playing him all that cash to go seven games above .500 in that time.

College coaches drop teams as soon as they sniff interest from another job. Some schools even have to give huge extensions to coaches just because another school might be interested! So why should they pay all this reverence to them now? I don't care if Bobby Bowden built the program with some twigs and a couple of gluesticks - that's what he got paid to do.

Now, if you want to say that Florida State didn't handle his exit properly, I can't disagree with you. Nobody should be made to look like they're begging for their job. The team's record on the field says everything it needs to and Bowden's spoke volumes.

Hines Ward questions Ben Roethlisberger's toughness - Apparently Hines Ward questioned Ben Roethlisberger's toughness when he heard that Big Ben wasn't going to be able to play last because of a concussion.

Players can't be that dumb, can they?

We're not talking about an arm or a leg here, we're talking about the brain. Ronnie Lott cut off a finger in order to play the game - I'd still do that before I took one step on the field after a concussion. Yes, they are that serious.

Ward
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesHines Ward questioned his quarterback's tougness for sitting out with a concussion.

In 1986, Bills QB Jim Kelly got hit so hard that he called the same running play four straight times - because he couldn't remember any of the passing plays.

ESPN's Merrill Hodge was once concussed so badly that he couldn't remember how to read.

And you're questioning Ben's toughness? I'm all for playing hurt, but I think you can cut the guy some slack for not wanting to spend the second half of his life as a vegetable. Not to mention the fact that he's has probably taken more hits than anybody else on the entire Steelers roster. Oh, and by the way, he won two Super Bowls!

Once again the NFL's meathead mentality rears its ugly head. Kurt Warner's vision was blurry before the Cardinals' game against Tennessee and he actually admitted that he debated not telling the trainers about it so he could play in the game. What?! I start work at 4:30 AM every day, so there are plenty of days when I don't feel great when that alarm goes off at 3:00 AM. But I've got to tell you: If I ever wake up with blurry vision, I ain't coming into work that day! Sorry, Gnome, but you better start calling in the replacement!

The same superhero mindset that makes watching the NFL so great is the mindset that ends up ruining players' lives. Don't outthink the room. Ask youself: Do I need my brain for anything? If the answer is "yes" then sit one out. Then again, Jay Cutler plays without one so who knows.

Tuesday, November 24

Editor's note: You can now listen to Stats Don't Lie as well as read it. Listen

The new statistics in baseball - Greeny and Golic were talking about the way new statistics are becoming more popular in baseball - and you expect me not to talk about it?!

Plus five respect points to the guys for appreciating the value of things like VORP (value over replacement player) and WAR (wins above replacement). Usually they're about as open to new things as Golic is to a diet. Too bad I can't say the same for some of the e-mailers.

Albert Pujols
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireNL MVP Albert Pujols may hit a lot of home runs, but he is also off the charts in terms of VORP.
So glad you took the time to send the "I've been watching baseball for 53 years and we never had ..." save it. Fifty-three years ago we didn't have the internet, instant replay or high-definition televisions. Should we not use those, too?

People always make a face when they read about statistics like UZR (ultimate zone rating) and VORP as if they sound so much crazier than WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) or OPS (on-base plus slugging). The truth is that if we learned about these stats when we were first learning about baseball they wouldn't be weird at all. And stop with the "those are just made up stats" argument. This just in: homers and RBIs weren't brought down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets. Statistics are just a record of what takes place on the field! Someone gets a hit so you put a one under the "H" column in the box score.

The reason that we use all these new stats is because the big market teams were signing all of the slam dunk free agents and small market teams were crippling themselves with bad contracts to questionable players. In order to avoid contracts like the $35 million Bobby Higginson got, teams needed to change the way they evaluated players. Sometimes batting average and slugging percentage don't tell the whole story. You wouldn't go on a blind date knowing just the person's height and weight, would you?

For a sport that usually moves at glacial speed, it's nice to see so many teams around the league embracing something new for a change. If you're a fan of a team that doesn't spend a truckload of money every year, you should want your team to use everything they can to make the best decisions possible. Recycle the newspaper, throw out the rotary phone and get with the program. I've said it once and I'll say it again: Stats Don't Lie.

Before I go:

I'm sorry, I just don't get all this Twilight, New Moon stuff. Vampire story? Leslie Nielsen did one of those. No, thanks. Wake me up when Iron Man 2 comes out.

Thursday, November 19

Editor's note: You can now listen to Stats Don't Lie as well as read it. Listen

The life of an NFL head coach - Jon Gruden and Adam Schefter mentioned the life of an NFL head coach briefly on Thursday and I think it needs to be brought up again here considering all the NFL coaching rumors swirling right now. Apparently, the Bills are targeting Mike Shanahan and Bill Cowher for their coaching vacancy. Whoopee.

Mike Shanahan
Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMIStats doesn't think it's likely Mike Shanahan will end up coaching Buffalo.

If you think there's any way that Mike Shanahan or Bill Cowher are going to coach the Buffalo Bills next year, you're a few wings short of a dozen. Being an NFL head coach is hard. To quote Jerry Maguire, "It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about." Even though he was talkking about the life of an agent, the same holds true for coaches. There's film review, meetings with other coaches, meetings with players, press conferences, practices and, oh yeah, coaching the games! And you've got six days to do it. Unless you play on Monday. Or Thursday. Or Saturday.

So when you see Patriots coach Bill Belichick go for it on fourth and two on his own 28-yard line, don't tell me he got caught up in the emotion of the game or that his ego got the best of him. The guy has spent hours in a dark room somewhere contemplating his every move in the game that week. He knew what he was doing.

That's why it's laughable when we hear the rumors about the Bills targeting Mike Shanahan and Bill Cowher to be their next head coach. Do you think that after living the life of luxury for at least a year that they're going to go through all of that in Buffalo? Millionaire coaches and millionaire players don't want to live in Buffalo. So go ahead, call them up and interview them. It won't matter. Here's how that call is going to go:

Bills: Coach, we'd like you to take over our football team next year.

Shanahan: That's nice. What's your offer?

Bills: Three million dollars.

Shanahan: ... and?

Bills: Umm, wings?

Shanahan: Right. Well, "30 Rock" is on, so I think I'm going to go.

Nobody wants to say it, so I'll say it: The only people that care about the Buffalo Bills are the Buffalo Bills. To everyone else, they are the team people forget plays in New York. I do feel sorry for Perry Fewell, though. The only position in sports less powerful than the interim head coach is the one I have. Good luck with that.

One last thing:

If you play any holiday music within earshot of me, you will be getting pummeled. It's November. It's not even Thanksgiving. Who decided it was okay to just ignore a major holiday and jump right to Christmas, Chanukah and all of the other December celebrations? We wouldn't celebrate Valentine's Day in January or Independence Day in June, so let's just stop the madness.

Monday, November 16

Editor's note: You can now listen to Stats Don't Lie as well as read it. Listen

LeBron James wants to change his number - After his game on Thursday night, LeBron said he wants to change his jersey number and that the NBA should retire the number 23 to honor Michael Jordan. Okay, that's it. I've officially had enough of all of the "LeBron wants to" or "LeBron is going to do something" stories. At this point we're reporting when the guy picks his nose. Enough! Nobody really needs to know what LeBron James thinks about every single subject. And retire Jordan's number? Give me a break. That reeks of so much bull I can smell it all the way in Bristol.

LeBron James
Bob Donnan/US PresswireIs it about winning or is it about the money for LeBron James?

First of all, let's get one thing straight. Michael Jordan isn't Jackie Robinson - not even close. Jackie Robinson's jersey is retired throughout baseball because he transcended the game and became a significant symbol for civil rights and Michael Jordan starred in "Space Jam." Yeah, those are the same. Did Jordan's accomplishments just suddenly dawn on LeBron? Jordan retired after the 2002 season. If LeBron wanted to honor Jordan, he could have done that before he ever came into the league.

If you think LeBron wanting to change his jersey number is about honoring anyone other than himself, go stick a fork in the nearest light socket. This is a guy who openly admitted he wants to be the first billionaire athlete. When everyone thought he said winning was more important than a max contract, he quickly made sure to correct that by telling the AP on Monday, "Let's get this clear: I said the max contract doesn't mean more than winning. I didn't say, 'I don't need a max contract' or 'I'm not going to get a max contract.' All I'm saying is that winning is more important to me than money at the end of the day." If that's true, why did you feel the need to "be clear?" What a joke. LeBron wants to change his number so he can sell more jerseys - anything about Jordan is pure fiction. Stop giving us young people a bad name. Ever hear of a couple guys called Larry and Magic? Dr. J? Wilt? Pistol Pete? The NBA existed before Michael Jordan ever laced up a pair of sneakers.

Let's look back. First, LeBron talks about his impending free agency. Then, he plays in Madison Square Garden. After that, he says he's not talking about free agency anymore and the next day he announces plans to change his number. Wall, meet writing. New York, meet the King, and Cleveland, meet your lottery pick for the next three years.

Wednesday, November 11

Editor's note: You can now listen to Stats Don't Lie as well as read it. Listen

Andre Agassi bears his soul in his book - Andre Agassi recently admitted that he used crystal meth and intentionally lost matches during his career. Mike & Mike were confused as to why Agassi would reveal something that damaging to the world now. Lucky for you, I'm here to bail them out.

Andre Agassi
Allsport UK Stats thinks the Agassi book is all about the money.

Why would Andre Agassi write an autobiography with some juicy nuggets about his career that no one has ever heard before? Here's a hint: it's green and there's a lot of old, dead white guys on it. Of course the answer is money. It's always money! It's like Gordon Gekko said in the movie "Wall Street," "What's worth doing is worth doing for money."

The guys kept saying that Agassi doesn't have to worry about money, but the truth is that everyone worries about money. Have we learned nothing from the cautionary tale that is MC Hammer? What about Antoine Walker? He squandered $110 million dollars! Sports is full of people who wasted their fortunes. Of course Andre Agassi could need money. Besides, even if he doesn't need it, have you ever heard anyone say, "No thanks, I have all the money I need already?"

And don't try and feed me this bogus idea that Agassi needs to cleanse his conscience. You want to talk to somebody, you get a dog. You don't put your entire career on paper, submit it to a publisher and distribute it to the public.

The only thing crazier than questioning why he wrote the book is the criticism coming from the tennis community. Some people even want Agassi to forfeit all of his accomplishments, which is also bogus. Last time I checked, recreational drugs don't let you run faster, jump higher or hit harder. If anything, they make it more difficult for you to do those things. People are so worried about drugs in sports right now they have a panic attack if an athlete takes a Flintstones vitamin.

I'm not saying I'm giving Agassi a free pass for anything he's done. If he has lost a ton of money and he really did struggle with guilt for all these years, I won't shed a tear. I just don't expect athletes to be great human beings. I expect them to be great athletes and Agassi was just that. Even if he did mail it in a few times. People need to get over that, too. Here's a hard truth: Anyone that says they've never had to go to work a day in their life is lying to you. At some point, everything becomes a job. Think about it. Haven't you had days when that alarm goes off and the last thing you want to do is get out of bed to go to work? There's always going to be days when you get to work, go through the motions, and go home whether you're an athlete or an actuary.

This isn't any different than any other tell-all book. If Khloe Kardashian wrote a book, people would be calling her just another greedy celebrity. Andre Agassi writes a book and no one knows what to make of it. Don't outthink the room. He's rich and famous and he'd like to stay rich and famous. Done and done.

Thursday, November 5

The Yankees didn't buy a championship - I'm usually first in line when it comes to hating the New York Yankees, but after Thursday's show, even I'm coming to their defense. I can't take all of the snide comments from whiny fans who say the Yankees bought a World Series title. Stop it. Spending money doesn't equal wins. Trust me, I know. Last year my Mariners spent $117 million dollars and lost 101 games. The Astros $102 million payroll got them 88 losses this year and the Indians paid $81 million to lose 97 games. How is this possible if spending money guarantees success? Nobody complained when the Yankees were blowing all their money on Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown.

Big money doesn't guarantee wins; it allows you to make mistakes. For example: $40 million for nine Carl Pavano wins in New York. If a small-market team makes that deal, it sets them back for years. The Yankees can recover in less than half a year.

Yankees celebrate
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireStats says the Yankees won this championship; they didn't buy it.

Enough of these woe-is-me owners. If they spend half as much time researching players as they do crying poverty, they'd be in the playoffs every year, too. Yes, the big-market money makes it harder to sign the best players. Too bad. Be better. The Yankees don't sign everyone.

Russell Branyan cost the Mariners a whopping $1.4 million this year. He was 11th in the AL with 31 homers in just 116 games.

Bobby Abreu didn't sign with the Angels until February. That means every single team in baseball had a chance to get his 15 homers and 103 RBI. Did the Royals, Padres or Pirates pony up the 5 million? No, but somehow Kansas City found $36 million to flush down the toilet on Jose Guillen (.242, 9 HR and 40 RBI).

Every single person on this planet operates on a budget. Rich people's budgets are higher, but they still exist. Do those of us who can't afford a personal jet throw up our hands and resign ourselves to a mediocre life? No, we stop sucking down Starbucks every morning and figure out ways to stretch the money. Why should we expect less from baseball owners?

And by the way, it's not like the Yankees are stealing all their money. They make money the same way everyone else does: merchandise, ticket sales and television deals. Sure, the YES Network helps a lot, but that's one of the perks of being in the Big Apple. Without it, all those other owners wouldn't be able to cash that big, fat revenue sharing check every year.

The Yankees have been spending money my entire 24-year life. Do the other owners change their ways and sign undervalued players? No, they just sit on their butts and cry like Greeny after a bad mani/pedi. Until they change their ways, all those other teams deserve everything they get ... or don't get.

Wednesday, November 4

The Phillies' Game 7 dilemma - With the possibility of a Game 7 of the World Series looming large, everyone is wondering who the Phillies should start if they make it. The answer is simple: Not Cole Hamels.

I said this in the pre-show meeting on Tuesday and Golic poo-pooed me. Then we heard former Phillies closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams say the same thing on the show, and suddenly the Big Guy is seeing the light. As Tim Hardaway might say, "it's not rocket scientry."

Cole Hamels
H. Rumph, Jr/AP PhotoStats says the Phillies should not let this man anywhere near the mound if there is a Game 7.

This shouldn't even be a debate. Cole Hamels stunk this season. Look at his numbers: 10-11, 4.32 ERA and a .273 batting average against. Stink, stank, stunk. His playoff numbers? Even worse: four starts, 1-2, 7.58 ERA and a .316 batting average against. Oh yeah, that's just who I want pitching the biggest game of the season.

And yet, when we asked Buster Olney who he thought Charlie Manuel would give the ball to, Buster said the skipper would look into Cole's eyes and make a decision. What's to decide? He stinks this year! Apparently, Charlie is struggling with the decision so much because Hamels is the reason they won the World Series last year. Big deal! Let me know when it's 2008 again. When it is, I'll give the ball to Cole Hamels. Who cares what he did last year?! If the previous year was so important, why didn't Manuel go to Brad Lidge at the end of Game 5? Lidge was perfect last year, so he should be all set this year, right? Oh, wait ...

Hamels himself said he wanted no part of this season, wishing it would be over. Golic harped on the fact that he also said he wanted the ball for Game 7 in the same interview, but I'm calling shenanigans on that one. When you say, "I can't wait for it to end" and "It's been mentally draining," you really don't want to pitch again. Everything else is just window dressing. Ask yourself this: when there's two on and no out in the 4th inning, do you want the mentally drained guy who is thinking "here we go again" on the mound or do you want someone who is going to buckle down and get the job done?

I'm so done with all of this "look into his eyes, heart of a champion" talk. You know what you see when you look into someone's eyes? Their eyes! And possibly a little tiny image of yourself - that's it! People need to stop thinking with their hearts and start thinking with their heads. If a guy gets ripped all season, gets ripped in the postseason and gets ripped in his first start in the World Series, he's going to get ripped again and that's all there is to it. Sometimes guys just have years when things are different. Two years ago, you could have thrown A-Rod a beach ball in the playoffs and he wouldn't have hit it out of the infield. Now, he's so hot he's practically hitting home runs from the on-deck circle.

Don't overthink it, Charlie. Otherwise Cole will get his wish and your season will be over (and yes, I know that it'll be over anyway after Game 7, but come on, work with me here, people).

Tuesday, October 27

Eating on the sidelines - It doesn't matter how far removed from his playing days Golic gets, he'll still always think like a defensive tackle. On Tuesday's show, Golic said Mark Sanchez was in the wrong for eating a hot dog on the sidelines during the Week 7 game against Oakland. Many other people, including Sanchez's coach, Rex Ryan, said he should have eaten a PowerBar instead. Seriously?!

Jeff Skopin/1050 ESPNStats says Mark Sanchez can have all the hot dogs he wants.

Why is it okay to choke down a PowerBar but blasphemy to chow down on a hot dog? I've only heard two arguments against Sanchez, the first being Golic's, "It just doesn't look right." If that's the best you've got, pipe down. "It just doesn't look right" is yet another example of Mr. Back-In-My-Day getting his hosiery in a twist because the game has passed him by. And no, I'm not implying that the game has passed Rex Ryan by. He had to say what he said in order to save face with all the crazies out there. Ryan let his team talk trash before playing the Patriots. Do we really think he cares about this? Besides, has anyone ever tasted one of those energy bar things? No one looks right trying to eat one because they taste like the bottom of your shoe. If you had a choice between an energy bar and a hot dog, which one would you take?

The other argument I've heard is that Sanchez "disrespected the game." Throw that right next to "he's a winner" and "aura and mystique" as the dumbest sports clichés of all-time. As soon as I get an angry letter from, "the game," I'll start worrying about whether I'm respecting it. Mark "Stink" Schlereth played offensive line for the Redskins and Broncos for 12 years, won three Super Bowls and played the game about as hard as anyone ever has. On our show, Mark has admitted that he routinely urinated on himself on the field during games. Everyone we've ever asked about Stink has had nothing but great things to say about him, including Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. I wonder where "the game" comes down on that one?

We shouldn't care if our quarterback is doing Pilates on the sidelines. If he wins games, he's fine. The only thing that surprised me about the Sanchez hot dog was the fact that the NFL didn't fine him for not eating an officially licensed and league sanctioned meat product.

Jay Cutler's body language - Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka came on the show on Monday and said he didn't like Bears QB Jay Cutler's body language during the Bengals 45-10 beatdown of the Bears. Neither did Greeny or Golic. Apparently, the entire team is going to take their cue from the quarterback, so he needs to hold himself higher. Body language was also mentioned after Mark Sanchez looked a bit down during his five interception game against the Bills in Week 6. Too bad it was just as much of a crock then as it is now.

Jay Cutler
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanJay Cutler's body language has nothing to do with the Bears' performance on the field.

Body language doesn't mean anything. After the Jets lost to Buffalo all everyone wanted to talk about was how Mark Sanchez was going to struggle forever because he was so pouty and upset on the sidelines. What happened next? Oh yeah, that's right, Oakland. Sanchez threw for 145 yards, a TD and no picks and the Jets hammered the Raiders 38-0.

Now we're doing the same thing with Jay Cutler? Why? Newsflash: Quarterbacks are human. When things go bad, they get sad. If a team is down by 28 points, do you really think players are going to be all rainbows and puppy dogs on the sideline just because their quarterback isn't pouting?

We've got to stop overthinking everything, otherwise we end up with analysis of things like this. When a team loses, people love to pile on, especially the fans. They live and die with their team, so losses really hurt. Usually, they look for someone or something to change so they won't have to feel that bad again. Hence, discussions like the one on Tuesday. If you're that concerned with body language go get Rosetta Stone. In the meantime, look at what takes place on the field, not on the sidelines.

Monday, October 26

Expanding instant replay in baseball - Tim Kurkjian's comments on instant replay on Thursday practically made me pop a blood vessel. I don't have anything against Kurkjian, I just think what he said is representative of what all those opposed to replay say and it just doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Whether you ask Tim Kurkjian, Bud Selig, or anyone else about replay in baseball, you always get a laundry list of supposed obstacles standing in the way. Personally, they all sound like what I tell my wife when she asks me to do something off the "honey-do" list. "Take out the garbage? It takes too long to get to the dumpster, I like the rotting food element of the garbage and, besides, the Romans never had to take out the trash." That's when I get a look that could melt my face. Allow me to dismantle the anti-replay arguments (apart from the human element, which I already wrote about here, scroll down to July 21):

Melky Cabrera & Phil Cuzzi
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesCould instant replay have saved this disastrous call in the playoffs?

The disrupting the flow of the game argument - Seriously?! We're talking about baseball here! The only "flow" at a baseball game is the woman sitting in the outfield bleachers (Technically her name is "Flo"). How could there possibly be any flow in a game where batters can stop the action to adjust their batting gloves, re-strap their body armor, clean their cleats and grab themselves between every pitch? Where is the flow when pitchers can check the runner, step off the rubber, shake off the signs and throw to first as many times as they want? Worrying about the length of a game that doesn't use a clock makes less sense than "The Chevy Chase Show." We're not splitting the atom here, people. Fifty thousand people in Anaheim took about two seconds to see Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada get tagged out before touching third base in Game 4 of the ALCS. Are you telling me a Major League Baseball umpire couldn't do the same thing?

The slippery slope argument - Where does it end? Outfield catches? Balls and strikes? This is the classic exaggeration-to-prove-a-bogus-point strategy. No one (including Kurkjian) has advocated using instant replay for balls and strikes, because no one is that crazy. Let's try that argument in another scenario, shall we? I requested certain holidays off at the end of the year. Did ESPN panic and say, "Where does it end? What's next, Flag Day? Arbor Day? Earth Day?" No. They created a system of earning time off and moved on with their lives. Somehow the NFL managed to pull it off, too. Try it, baseball.

The "Who would be in charge of challenges?" argument - Managers? Umpires? Is this really the big hangup? Get a guy in a room with a television and you're done! Cocoa the Space Monkey could do that job! All he has to do is stare at the screen during the replay of any reviewable play. If there's a blatant mistake, he buzzes the home plate umpire and the call gets overturned. Don't tell me there's not enough time, either. The television broadcasts shows three angles of any play between pitches. By the way, any umpire that doesn't like it can cram it. If they spent as much time paying attention to the calls as they do watching each other's back we wouldn't have this problem in the first place! When is the last time someone criticized an NFL referee because he had too many calls overturned? We don't need the umpires' permission to change the game. Did anybody ask librarians how they felt about the internet? Baseball could also put the umpires with the least amount of overturned calls on the field for the biggest games, which reduces the likelihood of using replay anyway.

Wednesday, October 21

On the hot seat: Jeff Fisher or Norv Turner? - Six weeks into the NFL season and some coaches are already feeling the heat for their teams' terrible starts. Everyone (except Golic) wants to point to Jeff Fisher's 0-6 Titans, but I'm looking further west to Norv Turner's San Diego Chargers.

Before we send the torch and pitchfork mob after Jeff Fisher, let's take a look at his tenure with the Titans. In 14 complete seasons, he's 127-97. That's 30 games over .500. Only four active coaches are more games over .500 than Jeff Fisher. Over his career, he's averaged about 9 wins a year with 4 division titles and one AFC Championship. If you want to say that the team just needs a new voice, I won't put up a huge fight, but let's not pretend like all of a sudden Jeff Fisher forgot how to coach.

Norv Turner
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesStats would like to see more heat on Norv Turner in San Diego ...

If the angry mob is going anywhere, it's going to sunny San Diego, where the Chargers have gone from super to sorry during Norv Turner's tenure. The team has gotten worse every year since they fired Marty Schottenheimer and hired Norv Turner. Marty was 47-33 in five years with the Bolts, had just one losing season and even went 14-2 the year he was fired. If it wasn't for Antonio Cromartie fumbling away a Tom Brady playoff interception in 2006, he might even have a Super Bowl ring. Since then, however, the team has regressed, especially the defense. In Norv's first year, the defense was No. 7 in the NFL in points allowed. The next year they fell to No. 15 and this year they're No. 28 in the league. All this with supposedly the most talented team in the NFL.

The Chargers barely beat the Raiders in Week 1, lost to the Ravens, lost to the Steelers, and lost to the Broncos on Monday Night Football. The only other team they've beaten is the Miami Dolphins, who are in year two of a massive rebuilding project. Unlike Jeff Fisher, however, Turner doesn't have the impressive head coaching resume to warrant such patience. He was 10 games under .500 in Washington, 14 games under .500 in two years in Oakland and just 5 games over .500 in two plus years in San Diego. Hardly inspiring. Even their own general manager, A.J. Smith, says the team plays softer than Golic's midsection.

Jeff Fisher
Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire... and less heat on Jeff Fisher in Tennessee.

Under Jeff Fisher the Titans have been a physical, hard-nosed team that competes every year. Under Norv Turner, the Chargers have been an underachieving tease that sinks lower by the game. Don't be fooled by the next couple of weeks, either. After essentially two bye weeks at Kansas City and Oakland, the Chargers play the Giants, Eagles and Broncos in consecutive weeks. What reason do we have to believe that they'll be anything better than 4-6?

Personally, I can't wait until Week 16 on Christmas Day, when the Chargers and the Titans play each other. By then, the Chargers will likely be about .500, while the Titans will have long since been eliminated. I'd bet my rent money that the Chargers come out flat and get pounded by Tennessee. That's the difference between a Fisher team and a Turner team. The Titans will come to play, while the Chargers will have one foot on the bus by the second quarter. It's time for a little more heat in San Diego, and a little less heat in the Music City.

Thursday, October 15

John Wooden turns 99 years old - I know I'm the guy that likes to rip on everyone, but after looking at all of John Wooden's accomplishments and hearing Bill Walton talk about him on the show Wednesday , I don't think it's possible for anyone not to respect the former UCLA coach.

Imagine a coach that stayed in one spot for 13 years, winning five titles and three Coach of the Year awards. That guy would be making millions of dollars and sought after by every school in the country. He'd also be exactly half as good as John Wooden was. Jim Calhoun isn't better than that. Calhoun has two titles and a .702 winning percentage in 22 years. Coach K isn't better than that, either. He has three titles and .753 winning percentage in 28 years. Not even Bob Knight can match that with three titles in 29 years at Indiana and a .708 winning percentage.

John Wooden
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesStats just has to respect legendary coach John Wooden.

Wooden won 10 championships in a 12 year period at UCLA, six Coach of the Year awards and had an .804 winning percentage in 27 years. In other words, John Wooden is the greatest coach. In anything. Ever. The only person who even has an argument is Vince Lombardi. Lombardi won five titles in seven years (three NFL championships and two Super Bowls) and had a .738 career winning percentage. I'm still giving the edge to Wooden because he coached more games, had a higher winning percentage and had four undefeated seasons (including two in a row). And even though Pat Summitt has eight titles and an .834 winning percentage, I'm putting her behind Wooden based on the fact that the only team she has to worry about every year is Connecticut. The women's basketball landscape isn't as balanced as what Wooden faced. Edging out one good team every year doesn't cut it.

More than all of the accolades, however, is the way people talk about him. Bill Walton sings his praises on our show. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tweets about how great he is. How did a tiny little 56 year-old man relate to a 7'2" 19 year-old Jabbar (at the time known as Lew Alcindor) who had talent shooting out his eyeballs? Yet Wooden made it work. I've never heard or seen anything negative about him anywhere. Who else can say that? Google "John Wooden quotes" and see what pops up. "Be quick but don't hurry" is one. Another is "Never mistake activity for achievement." And another is "The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team." The guy is like a human fortune cookie. All that success and not a single chair-throw, crazy press conference or back room deal with another team. Even after 34 years, it looks like John Wooden is still showing us all how it's done.

Friday, October 9

There's no crying in baseball! - Tom Hanks' "A League of Their Own" character Jimmy Dugan had it right. Just shut up and play ball. I don't know if it's something to do with pitchers or if all baseball players are this whiny, but hearing Cole Hamels and Adam Wainwright cry about fairness makes me want to stick a fork a light socket.

Cole Hamels
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesCole Hamels wasn't happy to be playing a day game in the playoffs.

Let's start with Cole Hamels. Greeny read his quotes on Thursday about how terrible it was starting the game in the afternoon instead of at night, and I could practically smell the BS all the way from Bristol. What is he, a vampire? Cole said the start time was disrespectful to the champions and broke their routine and blah blah blah. Yeah, it could be that, or it could be the fact that Hamels is 0-6 with a 5.44 ERA in day games this year. Whoops, make that 0-7 after Thursday's clunker.

What a load of garbage. What's the problem with day games? Does the mound get lower? Does the strike zone get smaller? No? Then just shut up. Going into this year Hamels was supposed to be the ace of the defending champions so he should act like it. Don't insult our intelligence. Hamels has a losing record this year for a team that went 24 games over .500. He knew he was going to get ripped again. Deal with it.

I could say the same thing to Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals. After Matt Holiday dropped a fly ball that would have ended the game, he complained about the white towels the Dodgers' fans were supposedly waving in the stands. I understand that he was trying to protect a teammate, but he couldn't even do that right.

Matt Holliday
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireMatt Holliday makes a costly error for the Cardinals against the Dodgers.

If you want to protect a teammate, you don't blame the fans for cheering! All he had to say was, "It was a tough play on a line drive. Matt is a good fielder. That stuff happens to all of us." Don't tell me he lost the ball in the white towels the fans waved. Do NBA players ever complain about the fans waving thunder sticks behind the basket for every free throw? What about a cloudy day? Should we only play games when there are clear skies? Pretty soon we'll have marshals in the crowd holding up those "quiet please" signs they use at golf tournaments. He probably lost the ball in closer Ryan Franklin's hideous goatee. And speaking of Ryan Franklin, how about getting somebody out! The error only put a man on second. St. Louis had ample chances to win that game and they wasted them all.

The bottom line is this: Everyone has to face adversity. Whether it comes in the form of a hostile crowd, a terrible boss or even the dreaded sunlight, things will inevitably get tough. It's not about fairness and it's not about bad things happening to good people. It's about bad things happening. Period. The true test of a person is not the obstacles they face, but how well they overcome them. The Cardinals and Cole Hamels faced their tests already and were found wanting.

Thursday, October 8

Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree get new addresses - Between my glee over Crabtree agreeing with San Francisco and Greeny's glee over Edwards getting traded to the Jets, today's post-show meeting was the happiest scene since Mario rescued Princess Toadstool. I'm not really sure how I feel yet about either move, so I'll borrow something that Erik Kuselias used to do to help him figure things out in these situations. It's called "High Road/Low Road."

Braylon Edwards -- High Road:

In 2007, he burst onto the scene with over 1,200 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns - second only to Randy Moss's record-breaking 23 TD grabs. Even though his performance has dipped since then, Edwards still averages 15.5 yards per catch in his career and he's headed to a place with a better offensive line, a better running game, a better quarterback and a better head coach.

Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree
Getty ImagesWhat impact will Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree have on the Jets and 49ers?

Braylon Edwards -- Low Road:

Braylon Edwards is the Lou Bega of NFL wide receivers - he's had one good year! In the 20 games since 2007, Edwards has 65 catches for just over 1,000 yards and a whopping 3 touchdowns. In other words, the Jets just acquired a receiver who's been averaging 50 yards and 0.15 touchdowns a game! Sweet! The only difference this deal will make is that now Edwards can drop passes in New York instead of Cleveland. I think I'll wet my pants.

Michael Crabtree -- High Road:

Michael Crabtree represents a significant upgrade at wide receiver for the 49ers. In college, Crabtree caught 231 balls for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns. He is the only player in history to win the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver twice. He'll miss the game against Atlanta and then have a whole bye week to learn the playbook and make an impact on the field. With luck, he could really be a boost to the team down the stretch of the regular season.

Michael Crabtree -- Low Road:

Learn the playbook?! This guy wasn't even smart enough to get signed on time! San Francisco went 3-1 with a wideout who is older than dirt and quarterback that most people couldn't pick out of a lineup if he was wearing a name tag. Crabtree's response? Sit around and do nothing for two months, then sign basically the same contract that was offered right after the draft. Way to go, Einstein. How do we know he's even good? This isn't Texas Tech and the last time the 49ers took a wide receiver in the first round (Rashaun Woods), he had 160 receiving yards in his entire one year career.

Quick Thoughts:

1) Twins-Tigers was awesome on Tuesday night. No other sport can match the drama of meaningful baseball. And no, crazy Twitter guy, soccer doesn't even come close.

2) The NHL season is officially underway. And that's all I'll say about hockey until the Stanley Cup finals.

3) Go see "Zombieland." It was awesome and it features a cameo that is top five all-time.


Wednesday, September 30

Solving the mystery of the Dallas Cowboys - The guys touched on problems for the Dallas Cowboys throughout the day on Tuesday, but they didn't quite connect all the dots. Araham Lincoln had it right over 150 years ago when he said "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

This will be breaking news for everyone who has tunnel vision on Tony Romo: The Cowboys are smashmouth team! Look at the them for a second. What do they have? They have three good running backs in Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Dallas is averaging almost 194 yards per game on the ground, which is about 25 more yards than anyone else in football. They have a tight end in Jason Witten who is easily among the top three tight ends in all of football. Witten is fifth in yards and second in receptions this season. Plus, they have a defense that's in the middle of the pack when it comes to giving up points.

Tony Romo
Kim Klement/US PresswireStats says Tony Romo is to blame for the Cowboys' struggles.

Sound familiar? It should. That is how all smashmouth teams are composed. When the Chiefs were good every year, they had Priest Holmes running, Tony Gonzalez catching and a defense that kept them in the game. When the Ravens won the Super Bowl, they had Jamal Lewis running, Shannon Sharpe catching, and an all-time great defense. When the Steelers beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, they had Willie Parker running, Heath Miller catching and one of the most physical defenses in the game. They also had one other thing in common: a quarterback who protected the football.

Tony Romo does not do that. Entering his fourth year as a starter, Romo has 46 interceptions and has lost 12 of 32 fumbles in 39 career starts. In other words, he's given the defense a chance at the ball 78 times in 39 starts - basically twice a game. Smashmouth teams cannot do this and hope to win games. So yes, Tony Romo is the reason Dallas looks so pedestrian so far this year, but only because he doesn't fit their style of play. If you threw Chad Pennington behind center for Big D (pre-injury, of course), the Cowboys would look a whole lot better. Conversely, if you put Romo on a team with enough offensive firepower to overcome turnovers like the Chargers or Eagles, he'd be walking on water.

Bottom line: Gunslinger quarterback + smashmouth team = you screaming at the TV.

(Finally, a math problem that even Tony's ex could handle!)

Changing baseball's playoff structure - Peter Gammons started the discussion about adding an additional wild card team last week, and we asked Jayson Stark about it Wednesday. Jayson liked the idea, but Greeny was way too eager to penalize the wild card teams. If you're that worried about the wild card team knocking out a division winner, don't put them in the playoffs in the first place.

Where does it say in baseball's rules that the wild card team should be treated like second-class citizens? I'm not sure if anyone noticed this, but the wild card winner in the American League will have a better record than whoever wins the AL Central. Why do they deserve to be punished, again? The wild card teams often have more difficult roads to the postseason because they're trying to stay ahead of the best teams from an entire league, instead of maybe one or two from a particular division. Essentially, the wild card becomes a division unto itself, filled with far better teams than the bottom of any other single division in baseball.

Bruce Springsteen
Greetsia Tent/Getty ImagesBruce Springsteen likely playing "Born to Run."

I do agree that division winners are entitled to something, but not at the direct expense of their opponents. That's why home field advantage is the perfect solution. You still have to face the other team's best players, but you can to do it in your home park.

Forcing a team to burn their best starter just to earn the right to face their league's best team defeats the entire purpose of changing the playoff structure in the first place. Baseball is built for drama. The best part of the sport is the buildup of tension between games, between innings and between pitches. If a team has to use their best starter in a wild-card playoff game, you've just destroyed all the drama created by an additional playoff berth. Playing the Giants without facing Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain is like going to see Bruce Springsteen and not hearing "Born to Run."

Thursday, September 24

Peyton Manning vs. Johnny Unitas - Peyton Manning passed Johnny Unitas on the Colts' all-time wins list and the debate began. Listening to Bill Curry on this topic (or any topic) was great, but some of his reasoning for why Unitas was better wasn't.

I'm all set with e-mails from Grandpa Yesteryear going on and on about how Unitas would dominant in today's NFL. Spare me. I can hear the arguments already, "with today's advanced training methods and technology ... " and blah blah blah. I always laugh when I hear that. Advanced training methods? Tuesday on SportsCenter I saw Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie work out by dragging a tire through the dirt. Jerry Rice was the greatest wide receiver ever and he trained by running up and down a big hill a bunch of times - all very sophisticated stuff. Too bad none of that existed by in the '50s. Oh, wait.

Statsdon'tlie
Rob Guerrera for ESPN.comEven Stats can find some time to work out.

"Well, Unitas and those guys didn't work out like they do today." What stopped them? Were there no gyms back in the day? Did they not have heavy things for people to lift back in the '50s? What did people do if they wanted to get stronger, pop open a can of spinach? "Yeah, but they had to work other jobs in the offseason." So what? I work 360 days a year and I still find time to go to the gym. What stopped all those players? You can forget supplements, too, because if you think the difference between Ray Nitschke and Patrick Willis is supplements, you're just lost. Why do we always give the players of the past a pass for not doing everything that today's players do?

Allow me to snap you out of the romanticism of the past and into the reality of the present. The elite football players of today are better than the elite players in Unitas' era, and that's just the way it is. That doesn't mean Unitas wasn't great, and it doesn't mean those players don't deserve all the honors they were given. It does, however, mean that if you give me the option between Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas, or DeMarcus Ware and Jack Lambert, I'm taking Manning and Ware and I'll boat race you every time.

Other Quarterback Ratings - How is it that Greeny is wrong every time he gets into a hypothetical debate about player rankings?

During the show on Tuesday, Greeny ranked Terry Bradshaw ahead of Steve Young on the list of all-time quarterbacks, and I almost popped a blood vessel. Seriously?! How can you even argue that?

Let me guess: Bradshaw has four rings, right? Wrong. That's just the kind of drivel that someone throws out at cocktail parties to impress people who wouldn't know Vince Lombardi from Vince MacMahon.

In the same number of games, Steve Young threw 20 more touchdowns than Bradshaw, 5,125 more yards and 103 less interceptions. Bradshaw completed 51.9% of his passes, while Young was at 64.3% - good for the best in the history of the league when he retired. Not to mention Young's 2,982 more rushing yards.

Now, if you're one of those "stats aren't everything" people, let's look at the teams they played on. Terry Bradshaw played on teams with 8 other Hall of Famers, including two Hall of Fame wide receiver, a Hall of Fame running back, and a Hall of Fame center. Steve Young played on a team with two Hall of Famers. Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders.

During the break, Greeny argued that Bradshaw faced tougher competition, which is true, but as I just showed, Terry was surrounded by a much better team. If you give me Steve Young with four other Hall of Famers on the offensive side of the ball I'll beat any team you want to throw at me.

Steve Young and Jerry Rice
Otto Greule Jr/Stringer/Getty ImagesWhile Terry Bradshaw had plenty of weapons, Steve Young just had Jerry Rice.

Greeny also said that Young's offenses were among the greatest of all time, and he was again correct. The reason those offenses were so great was because Young made them that way. Look at it like this: If Young played on the Steelers are they winning four Super Bowls? Absolutely. If Bradshaw was on the 49ers in 1994 they wouldn't even beat the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. Other than throw right-handed, what could Bradshaw do that Young couldn't?

Super Bowl championships continue to be the most over-valued thing in all of sports. We've heard countless former players talk about how one player is better than another because he has more rings, and that's a bunch of bull. Players spend their entire careers chasing those rings, so of course they place too much value on them. They're too close to the situation to be objective about it. I've said it once and I'll say it again: the bling ain't always the thing!

Wednesday, September 16

Serena Williams' outburst at the U.S. Open - Greeny and Golic were a lot more understanding about this than I'm going to be.

Serena Williams threatened and verbally assaulted an official at the U.S. Open and was then cheered after winning the doubles title two days later. I can't believe how fans are generally so quick to chalk things up to the ol' "heat of the moment" or "I lost control" excuse. I know you lost control! The whole world knows you lost control and that's why we're mad at you. Try taking some personal responsibility for a change. How about saying, "I was upset because I was getting my butt handed to me in front of a stadium full of people and I didn't know how to express my anger." That's not too hard, is it? Instead, we get these pathetic, cookie-cutter "apologies" that are about as meaningful as Kansas City Royals games in September.

Serena Williams
Timothy A. Clary/Getty ImagesSerena Williams loses control at the U.S. Open.

Why is it that things that would never be tolerated anywhere else are brushed aside simply because a professional athlete did it? And I'm not talking about breaking the law because lawyers have more to do with that than athletic prowess. I'm simply talking about behaviors that wouldn't be tolerated anywhere else in the world being quickly brushed aside for no reason at all.

What's the big deal? You play a sport so you can say and do whatever you want? Says who? What's so different about your job? Don't give me the "they've got a lot of pressure on them" excuse, either. I've got stress at my job, too. We all do. I have to make sure the show goes out live to millions of people and hundred of affiliate stations around the world every day, but that doesn't give me the right to threaten to shove sporting goods in people's body cavities. We all have stress, we all want to perform well at our jobs and we all try as much as we can to meet those expectations. Yet somehow we get through the day without belittling a completely innocent person. If anything, we have more stress at our jobs because we don't have millions of dollars sitting in a bank somewhere earning interest faster than Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the VMAs.

I'd better move on to something else before Kanye West interrupts me. By the way, Kanye? Other than when you're recording songs, don't get in front of a microphone. Ever. It doesn't end well for you. Thanks.

LaDanian Tomlinson doesn't look like his old self - Greeny and Golic joined the many people who don't like what they're seeing from Tomlinson these days. And no, I won't call him "LT" because that name is already taken by the greatest defensive player of all time, Lawrence Taylor.

LaDainian Tomlinson
AP Photo/Paul SakumaLaDainian Tomlinson took some pretty big hits Monday night against the Raiders.

Surprisingly, there are a large number of fans who refuse to believe that Tomlinson isn't the same player. What people don't realize is that the difference between breaking off a huge run and getting stuffed at the line is tenths of seconds. I'll never forget the episode of the old ESPN show "Playmakers" where the coach is showing the aging running back (who looks like Dr. Dre) why he isn't starting anymore. The film the coach plays shows a back running through a hole in the offensive line that closes in about three tenths of a second. If you believe the NFL moves any slower, you're crazy. Earlier this month on the show, Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley told us that the difference between pass protection and a sack was the cadence from the quarterback. Believe me, running lanes close just as quickly. That's why running backs can't hold a job once they turn thirty. It isn't because they can't run fast or break tackles like they used to. It's because sooner or later, you can't hit that hole at the split second you need to anymore. LaDanian Tomlinson is going into his ninth year in the NFL. He's carried the ball 2,670 times and probably has been hit at least twice as many times. I don't think it's so inconceivable that he hits the hole three tenths of a second slower than he used to. And in the NFL, three tenths of a second is all that separates the haves from the has-beens.

Friday, September 11

My battle with Buster Olney - Greeny said I got slaughtered in an e-mail debate with Buster Olney, but as usual, he didn't let me give my side of the argument. Take a peek behind the curtain at Mike & Mike in the Morning. Here are the e-mails:

BUSTER OLNEY

Jeter is 35 years old, and he plays another five years and averaged 170 hits a year, he'll set the AL record for hits, and he'll probably finish his career ranked in the top 3 or 4 in runs scored.

So who, then, would make up the Yankees' Mt. Rushmore?

I would have Ruth, DiMaggio, Jeter ... and Rivera. Over Gehrig, Mantle and Berra...

Mariano is the single biggest difference-making player in the majors in the last 15 years... I've talked with players on Atlanta who believe that if the Braves had Rivera, rather than the Yankees, then it would've been the Braves who won three or four titles, rather than the Yankees.

STATS

Wait.. Jeter OVER Gehrig?! Come on! Why do we just assume that Jeter is going to have 5 more good years? Last I checked, 35 wasn't young.

BUSTER OLNEY

I'm saying five years with an average of 170 hits, which is a fairly conservative projection. The guy is going to wind up with 215 hits this season...

MIKE GREENBERG

stats hates jeter...

BUSTER OLNEY

And the reason Stats hates Jeter is... why, again?

Because he's good?

Because he plays hard?

Because he treats fans well?

Because he has dated all the women Stats had on his wall as a teenager?

Please clarify, Mr. Guerrera...

STATS

He's a great player, but.....

The problem is, he's just more fun to hate. He says the same things in interviews that A-Rod does, but never gets ripped for it. For years he couldn't field any ball to his left and was still considered a great SS. Any time he moves a runner over on base he's praised like he just gave someone a kidney. Every clutch hit he has ever got is immortalized, while his failures in those situations are forgotten (which is also the opposite of ARod).

That help?

BUSTER OLNEY

Wait a second... he does the same things that A-Rod does in interviews?

What are you hearing?

A-Rod: Says head-scratching things that require follow-up press conferences.

Jeter: Never says anything interesting, on purpose.

STATS

Doesn't A Rod get ripped for being too "vanilla" and "fake"? You just admitted yourself that Jeter goes out of his way to be just as boring, yet he's seen as the professional and ARod is the jerk. Why?

BUSTER OLNEY

Dude -- A-Rod's not ripped for being bland... A-Rod is ripped because he constantly steps in it, as he tries to please everybody. A-Rod's best career decision this year was to mostly stop talking.

A-Rod is a great player.

But the question stands: Why do you hate Jeter? What is there really to hate?

Let me guess: You hate sunny days, Girl Scout cookie drives and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, right?

STATS

Too much sun is bad for the skin, and girl scouts are annoying, but the Grinch is a GREAT movie.

And that was it, but this is my blog so I get the final word on Jeter. I'm not saying Jeter isn't a good player, because he is. I'm saying he gets way too much credit. I'm not the only one, either. In 2008, a Sports Illustrated poll of almost 500 players named Jeter the most overrated player in the game. So all the, "you don't know what you're talking about because you never played the game" people, chew on that.

When any broadcaster says the words, "Derek Jeter" on any broadcast, the next word out of his mouth is, "intangibles." People go on and on about what a great leader Jeter is and how integral those intangibles were to the Yankees' dynasty. First of all, it's hilarious how people try to quantify intangibles, which by definition can't be defined. That's why they're intangible! Second of all, since being named captain in 2003 and having the most money and the best players in baseball every year, Jeter's wondrous leadership has produced zero World Series titles for the Yankees. You know I don't think championships are everything, but if you're going to tout his intangibles as the reason for their titles in the past, you've got to hold it against him now.

Derek Jeter
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesStats thinks Derek Jeter is about to miss the ball.

Also, if he is such a good leader, why didn't he stand up for A-Rod when A-Rod was getting ripped for not being clutch? Jeter could have put his arm around him and told everyone to back off, but instead, he disappeared like Bill Cosby in "Ghost Dad." Wouldn't that be when the team needed a leader most? And don't tell me it was because he knew A-Rod was using something, because if he was really the good Samaritan people make him out to be, he would have spoken up about it.

Jeter is also always mentioned as the ultimate team player. Any time "the captain" moves a runner over, he gets praised like he just gave someone his kidney. But if he was such a team player, why didn't he change positions when the Yankees acquired A-Rod? Rodriguez was clearly the better shortstop (and still is), yet anyone who suggested that was called a blasphemer and practically stoned to death. Jeter should have gone to second base. And don't give me anything about Robinson Cano, because he wasn't even on the team in 2004. Miguel Cairo played 113 games at second that year.

Let's keep going. Every clutch hit he's ever gotten is immortalized, while his failures in those situations are forgotten. Does anyone even know Jeter has a .262 career average in league championship series (or that A-Rod's average there is .315)? The last time we saw Jeter in the playoffs, he was hitting .176 against the Indians in the ALDS. More Derek Jeter facts: He's never been an MVP. He's never been a batting champion. He's never been the best player on his own team (thank you, Mariano Rivera).

Some people think he might be the third best shortstop ever - big deal. That's like being the best song by Celine Dion. Let's look at the top three without Jeter: Honus Wagner is No. 1 and Cal Ripken Jr. is No. 2. Quick, who is No. 3? Exactly. Most people can't even name a third option.

The thing that bothers me the most is that people think I have no right to dislike him. Unfortunately for all the emotional Yankees fans, you can't factually prove to me why I should like someone. Let's save all that reverence for players who actually deserve it.

Wednesday, September 9

Matthew Stafford is named the starter in Detroit - Here we go again. The Lions have decided to name Matthew Stafford their starting quarterback for 2009. Personally, I can't say for sure whether he deserves the job or not. Some people look at Stafford's 44.4 passer rating this preseason and call this a bad move. Other people I've heard from say the rookie is the real deal. What I don't want to hear is how much of a disaster this move was if the Lions start the year 0-5. And if the stars align and they happen to start the year with five wins, I don't want to hear tons of praised heaped on Jim Schwartz, either.

I'm sick of everyone changing their cliché whenever a new quarterback starts. If he plays well right away, they say how great it was that he was able to start playing quickly, get reps and learn the speed of the game. They point to guys like Peyton Manning and Dan Marino and say, "See, this strategy works!" For what it's worth, former Ravens coach Brian Billick said on the show today that he supported the Lions' decision.

Matthew Stafford
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesShould Matthew Stafford start for Detroit as a rookie?
On the flip side, when players like Aaron Rodgers come in after being the backup for a while, all we hear about is how much they learned while holding the clipboard on the sidelines. Suddenly, GMs are telling all their coaches to sign a veteran QB to tutor their prized rookie signal caller.

Stop this madness. Anyone who judges the value of decisions based on their outcomes is probably the same person who thinks "Real Housewives of New Jersey" is a good TV show. The truth is that good decisions don't always turn out good and bad decisions don't always turn out bad. Franco Harris missed his block on the "Immaculate Reception" and scored the game-winning touchdown. The Raiders traded for Randy Moss and he didn't do squat. Starting Matthew Stafford from day one is either a good decision or a bad decision right now. The Lions record in the first couple of games this season won't change that.

If I had to pick an option, I think I'd start Stafford. The Lions aren't going to be very good this year anyway, so he's not under any pressure to carry the franchise to a championship or anything like that. Stafford doesn't have to be good this year. He's got to be good two or three years from now when he's got better talent around him to really make his mark. Take this season to adjust to the game at the NFL level and re-evaluate things after the season.

Quick thoughts after producing the show last week:

1) I now completely understand why Liam doesn't have time for a blog of his own. This show will swallow you if you're not careful.

2) Tennis in person is a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be. Watching Roger Federer toy with the best college player in the nation wasn't too bad, either.

3) Tennis in person from a stadium suite is even better. I always said I'd give my suite away to the common fan if I ever owned a sports team. After my experience last week, I seriously have to reconsider that one. Full buffet, leather couches, and your own bathroom? Sign me up, especially when there's outdoor seating attached to the suite. Definitely the best of both worlds.

4) Dunkin Donuts needs a new way to transport a single donut. That brown paper bag just isn't working out anymore. Every day I get a chocolate frosted doughnut with sprinkles on it in the morning, and every day it's in the bag frosting-side down. And Mike and Mike wonder why I'm so bitter.


Tuesday, September 1

The Cowboys' scoreboard creates controversy - Only the Dallas Cowboys could build the most expensive stadium in the history of football and end up with a 160 by 53 foot obstruction over the field. Now owner Jerry Jones doesn't want to move the thing because it's expensive and could affect the view of the highest-paying fans. Boo hoo.

This situation epitomizes the Cowboys as an organization. Instead of worrying about how they're going to replace Terrell Owens' offensive production, or about how their head coach almost lost the team last year, the team is answering questions about a part of the stadium that interferes with the game on the field. I shouldn't be surprised anymore, though, because their owner has always been all flash and no substance. Jerry Jones didn't even get a punter there during construction to make sure the scoreboard was high enough. Instead, he just looked at the NFL recommendations and continued right on down the road. Gee, for $1.2 billion, wouldn't you want to make sure everything was just right? Before the Colts invested $720 million in Lucas Oil Stadium, they had Hunter Smith punt at a metal pole above the field. Before Jerry Jones invested over $300 million more than that in the new Cowboys' Stadium, he had a coffee.

Cowboys Stadium
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThat scoreboard may not be showing any Cowboys playoff highlights anytime soon.

I'm not saying the Cowboys' play on the field is all Jones' fault, but don't fool yourself - owners matter. Look at the teams that have won Super Bowls. Teams like the Colts, Patriots and Steelers win. Do we see their owners behind a microphone all the time? Did we hear as much about the Colts are moving into a new stadium last year? When was the last time we heard anything about Jim Irsay demanding the Colts sign a particular player?

Teams with meddling owners don't have real success, and if they do manage to have a good year once in a while, they do so in spite of their ownership, not because of it. The last time the Cowboys won a playoff game was 1996. I was 11 years old. The only time the Cowboys were ever really successful under Jones was when Jimmy Johnson (who joined us Thursday ) was there telling him where to stick it. All it took to sustain success in Dallas was one of the greatest talent evaluators of all time. In Oakland, Al Davis' Raiders haven't won more than 5 games in a season since 2002. And I don't even want to hear any noise about George Steinbrenner, because Joe Torre kept him at bay during all those championships in New York.

The bottom line is this: when you want to look at the health of an organization, look at the person who signs the checks. It's like my grandfather always said: the fish stinks from the head (it sounds better in Italian). If the CEO at the top doesn't have his stuff together, you can bet your mortgage that the rest of the company will be in disarray, too. You should raise that scoreboard, Jerry, because you and the fans sure aren't going to like what they see on it as long as you're around.

Wednesday, August 26

Michael Vick gets scolded for drinking - Anyone who reads this blog knows how I feel about Michael Vick. I've made no secret of the fact that I didn't think he was a very good quarterback with the Falcons and I don't think he'll do much of anything with the Eagles. That said, I find myself coming to his defense right now about his apparently scandalous drink at the airport.

Michael Vick
Barbara Johnston/US PresswireStats finds himself defending Michael Vick.

Golic was wrong before the show in the green room and was wrong two hours later on the air. I get that Vick is on thin ice right now. I understand that he will be under the microscope throughout his entire "conditional reinstatement" period. The thing is, whether you're looking through a microscope or a telescope - there's nothing wrong with having an alcoholic beverage.

Let me get this straight. Vick goes through his first practice with the Eagles. It's probably hotter than Jessica Alba in a bikini outside, and afterwards, he'd like a cold beverage. He heads to a restaurant for a drink and people think it's national news.

This just in: Michael Vick did not violate his parole after practice. Back to you.

Now all of a sudden you've got Tony Dungy scolding him and people ripping him left and right. Isn't that how we want our athletes to handle their alcohol consumption? I'm not saying Vick is going to be a model citizen, but in this particular case, he was fine. The fact that this even became a story is sickening. We're in the middle of the baseball pennant races, NFL camps are in full swing and we're wasting our time with Michael Vick's vodka and pineapple juice? No, thank you. On my list of worries, Vick's drink ranks slightly below my morning yogurt. Let's move on, shall we?

A couple nice things, for a change:

They call it "CrackBerry" for a reason - Due to yet another cell phone going belly up, I found myself in the market for a smartphone this weekend. After some search (and some financial wrangling), I ended up going with the BlackBerry Tour and I haven't put it down since then. I'm pretty sure there's nothing it can't do. Who knows, maybe with a quick download it can even get Tony Romo to win a playoff game!

Just as addicting - Even though I've worked at ESPN for 5 years now, I still get giddy for fantasy football. Setting the pre-draft rankings for all three of my leagues gets me way happier than it probably should. Now if I can just manage to actually win more than 4 games this year (thanks for last year's debacle, Braylon Edwards), I'll really have something to cheer about.

Sunday, August 23

Plaxico Burress is going to jail - There is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men. - Monsignor, "The Boondock Saints"

I can't believe how many people e-mailed and texted about poor, poor Plaxico Burress on Friday. Are you kidding me? Didn't you see "The Boondock Saints?" In order for our laws to mean anything, we must enforce them. It's not our job to sit around and wonder whether Burress knew the law, whether he intended to hurt anyone or whether he thought twice about wearing sweatpants to a night club. He. Broke. The. Law. Period. Why should we care that he's going to jail? That's like feeling bad for the burglar who hurts himself while he's breaking into your house.

Plaxico Burress
AP Photo/Mary AltafferStats believes Plaxico Burress is receiving the punishment he deserves.

Burress is going to jail for the most avoidable crime in the history of illegal activity and there's simply no reason why his sentence should have been anything less than the two years he got. You can't use the, "he didn't hurt anyone," defense. Even if the only person hurt during a crime is the criminal, he's still breaking the law. If you're driving drunk and you hit a telephone pole, you still get charged with a DUI.

You also can't say, "he didn't intend to hurt anyone," either. Donte' Stallworth didn't intend to hurt Mario Reyes, but I didn't hear all the cries for Donte' when he was sentenced. Yet for some reason his intentions don't matter while Burress' intentions absolve his sins. And speaking of Stallworth, the "Donte' killed someone and he only served 20 days" defense doesn't hold up either. In case you haven't noticed, our justice system doesn't hand out sentences by comparing crimes with everyone who has ever done something wrong. Nobody thinks Bernie Madoff should have gotten the same sentence as a guy who stole a Gatorade from a 7-Eleven. Sorry, it just doesn't work that way.

And to crazy Second Amendment guy - you might want to try reading the Bill of Rights before trying to use it to support your stupid arguments. The Second Amendment says "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Nowhere in there does it say anything about obtaining permits for those arms. We might have the right to own them, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be rules for doing so. Burress isn't going to the clink simply because he brought a gun to a club. He's going to jail because he didn't have a permit for that gun. And if he thought his expired 2008 Florida permit was good enough, he deserves to sit in the pokey. If you're too lazy to read and obey all the rules for owning a gun, you don't deserve the freedom of walking around in public with a loaded weapon. Peace out, Plaxico.

As usual, a couple things ticked me off during my vacation:

Online technical support - If a company has a "virtual chat" option and you feel the urge to use it, save yourself a lot of time by smashing your head into the nearest blunt object as hard as you can. That was more useful than the advice I received after 45 minutes of "chatting" on Monday night. Also, here's a tip. Don't ask me to fill out a customer service survey after jerking me around for almost an hour. It doesn't end well for you.

Businesses that don't accept debit cards - I don't care if you're Walmart or a mom-and-pop store, it's time to step into the 21st century. Suck it up and pay the transaction fee, people. Otherwise you don't deserve my business. That includes you, random ice cream places.

Thursday, August 13

Dear Kevin Youkilis,

If you're going to charge the mound, make sure you don't get owned by the youngest player in the Major Leagues. I guess they taught him self-defense in that gym class he was probably taking 3 years ago, huh? Bummer.

Love,

Stats

[+] EnlargeRick Porcello, Kevin Youkilis
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaDetroit Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello pins Red Sox hitter Kevin Youkilis after Youkilis charged the mound in the second inning. Both were ejected.

Why is it that every player who gets beaned becomes an instant martyr? - Anytime someone gets plunked he's all up at arms about how he's a "target" and "that's not how you play the game." Get over yourselves. You would think a guy who is lauded for getting on base so much would love a free trip down to first. Craig Biggio was hit by a pitch 285 times, which is second in the history of baseball. Want to know how many times he charged the mound? Zero. Youkilis has been hit 52 times - good for 358th on the all-time list. Just shut up and jog down to first base.

Oh, and it was nice to see how Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald framed the incident:

"Youkilis charged the mound, whereupon a terrified Porcello kept backpedaling away, seeming to say, 'What did I do?' Youkilis flung his helmet at Porcello, and when they both went down, the Detroit pitcher landed on top of the Sox batter."

No wonder newspapers are in the stink pot with this kind of fiction! Anyone who saw the highlight saw Youkilis get thrown to the ground like a rag doll - not bad for a "terrified" 21-year-old kid. Even Greeny didn't think Porcello was scared and if there's anyone that knows anything about running away like a frightened turtle, it's Mike Greenberg.

And enough with the "rally the squad" stuff, by the way. If he wanted to inspire his team, maybe Youkilis should try hitting higher than .214 in the biggest series of the year with the Yankees. Three hits in four games against your biggest division rival doesn't really fire up the locker room. Oh, getting an RBI would help, too. Just a thought.

Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington
Stuart Franklin/Getty ImagesTiger is still upset they put him and Paddy on the clock.

Tiger Woods and I play golf - Someone should tell the PGA Tour that they can't do anything to Tiger Woods. Ever. The guys actually nailed this one perfectly, for once. When a player singlehandedly controls the financial success of your organization, you don't make him angry. Otherwise, Tiger will leave the PGA, start the Tiger Tour and take the game's best players with him. Do you think sponsors would be interested in televising events with Tiger and the other top 20 players in the world? That might work.

As for my golf experience, I played with some other Mike and Mike staffers last weekend. Here's a couple photos that illustrate how I fared. The first is me with Headlam. The second was taken after another less than beautiful drive.

Stats Dont LieRob Guerrera/ESPNAt least Headlam's enjoying the round of golf.
Statsdon'tlieRob Guerrera for ESPN.comStats is not pleased after another bad drive.

Friday, August 7

Enough of the "he never played the game" meatheads - I was pumped on Wednesday when Greeny played Keith Law's comments on Hank Aaron from AllNight on ESPN Radio. Aaron wants to see Pete Rose reinstated and all the names on the 2003 steroid list released, and Keith said, in so many words, that Hank Aaron's opinion on these topics doesn't mean squat and Keith is 100% right.

Just because you played the game doesn't mean your opinion on everything about it is automatically correct. Before you go crying about how I'm a young punk who doesn't respect history, take a deep breath and read the rest of the post. I don't have a problem with what Hank said, I have a problem with the idea that it matters more than what Keith Law or anyone else says.

Hank Aaron
MLB Photos/Getty ImagesStats isn't sure Hank Aaron's opinion is any more valid than anyone else's when it comes to Pete Rose.

I understand that Hank Aaron hit more home runs than any other player in the history of the game before the steroid era. He also has more RBI than any other player in the history of the game. Hank is a first-class person and deserves to be mentioned with the greatest to ever lace 'em up. There's just one problem: None of that means anything for the purposes of this discussion. We aren't debating Aaron's legacy here. We're talking about Pete Rose and the 2003 steroids list.

How does the ability to hit a 95 mile per hour fastball over a padded wall make you any more qualified to decide whether someone who admitted to betting on games should get into the Hall of Fame? When we talk about Pete Rose, all we're really debating is how serious gambling on baseball games really is and whether you think Rose has suffered long enough. Aaron's tremendous athletic ability makes him an expert on this matter? Why? Does his opinion matter more than Ozzie Smith because Hank hit more home runs? What about Jay Bell? He was a two-time All-Star over 18 years. Should he get a say in the matter or was he just not talented enough to earn a vote?

The point is this: If you're asking Hank to debate the greatness of two players or whether 70 homers are easier to hit than a .400 batting average, I'm all ears. I'll defer to "The Hammer" on those. But if you're asking him general questions about baseball just because he played baseball, I'm not going to treat his answers like gospel. That's like asking a fat person about world hunger just because they've eaten more than their fair share of Twinkies. There are certain topics that we can all have an equally valuable opinion on and Pete Rose is one of them. And don't give me the, "Hank Aaron is the foundation of baseball" blather, either. I've got news for you - we've been playing baseball for over a hundred years and it wasn't built by any one person. If Aaron never existed, the game would be doing just fine.

The reason people can't be objective about this is because Hank Aaron is a likable guy. Tons of baseball fans grew up watching him bash baseballs into the bleachers, and he reminds them of the good ol' days when they were kids. You know, the days when all baseball had to worry about was rampant cocaine use. Those fans are angry that Hank's record fell to a likely steroid user, so they rush to defend their victimized hero whenever someone disagrees with what he says.

That bulge on the top of your neck isn't just a hat rack! The next time a Hall of Famer chimes in with his two cents, let's take a second to think about what we're talking about before declaring his word infallible.

Wednesday, August 5

Genius is never appreciated in its own time - It's good to be back after vacation, or at least, it was. Between Monday and Tuesday, Greeny and Golic have ripped me enough to need another week off. I'll get to my list of everything that gnawed at me over vacation in a second, but first, it's time to clear some things up.

Johnny Depp
Matt Sayles/AP PhotoJohnny Depp can turn the switch on and off. Athletes should be able to as well.

The guys got into a conversation on Tuesday about how Golic became a different person out on the football field. As Greeny pointed out, some athletes seem to have trouble reconciling the two personas, which can get them into trouble. I think that excuse is garbage.

If actors can become completely different people for months at a time, football players should be able to separate their game faces for their real faces. Actors have to change the way they look, walk, and talk for hours on end. I never hear Johnny Depp blaming his most recent role for any run-ins with the law.

Both groups are completely immersing themselves in another persona for the sake of getting a job done. Obviously, Hugh Jackman isn't really using adamantium claws and a super healing power to take down an entire unit of mercenaries while filming "X-Men," but you can't tell me he doesn't have to turn a switch on and off. His on-screen image is just as fake as the one Golic had to use on Sundays.

Why not try stepping up and accepting personal responsibility for your actions? We all do stupid things, but nobody tries to play the "I'm really a victim" card more than today's professional athlete. Yes, you have the microscope on you. Yes, everyone wants a piece of your time. Yes, you have a very demanding job. That's no excuse for doing something dumb. You're still responsible for what you do in your life. Stop falling back on stupid excuses that some lawyer or advisor cooked up for you to avoid jail time.

Things weren't any easier for me on Monday, either. - Ed Reed mentioned that he thinks about retirement and I took issue with the fact that he would think about retirement even though he is in the middle of his prime. Golic ripped me again, but allow me to explain why he should stick to just eating instead of talking.

Ed Reed
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesHow could Ed Reed contemplate retirement while he's still at the top of his game?

I understand that the reason most players retire is because they don't want to go to training camp every year, and they don't want to work out like crazy in the offseason. But why would anyone stop doing something at the exact moment they can do it better than anyone else on the planet? It just doesn't make sense to me. I'm sure playing in the NFL is an experience that's unlike anything else you can do on this planet. There's nothing like the feeling of playing in front of thousands of people every week. Unless you're a kicker or a punter, once you stop playing football, it's over. You can never return to the field again for the rest of your life. Would you really not regret walking away from that at your peak?

I bumped into Erik Kuselias in the café on Tuesday and he did make the one point that refutes my argument: I am assuming that all these guys love playing the game but maybe they don't love the game. I'm not one to give credit to Kuselias, but I have to admit, that's the only way I could understand someone retiring when they're the best in the world at what they do.

Now, on to the list of things that ticked me off while I was away:

1) Can we please get some Dunkin Donuts in Rhode Island already? There's a Tim Horton's every 30 feet, but if you want a D&D you've got like two options in the entire state. Who is Tim Horton and how did he muscle his way into the coffee industry?

2) There is absolutely nothing to do in Rhode Island if it rains. I never thought I'd say this, but the day it rained, the wife and I actually retreated to Connecticut for something to do.

3) The cable package at the place we were staying had about 12 channels. Three were public access, three were home shopping networks, three more were in Spanish, and just for the irony, one was the TV guide channel. If it wasn't for "Deadliest Catch" on Discovery channel, I might have lost my mind.


Wednesday, July 29

Editor's note: While Stats is on vacation this week, Mike and Mike in the Morning associate TV producer Seth Horwitz fills in.

Seth's Cubs confessional - Hi, my name is Seth Horwitz and I have something to confess. For 25 years, I have been a Chicago Cubs fan.

I know it is crazy. How could one willingly root for a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908? Heck, they haven't even made a World Series since 1945. A team can have a bad year, even a bad decade, but to have a bad century? Yet, here the Cubs go once again pulling at our heartstrings.

Chicago Cubs
ESPN.com IllustrationIt's been a long drought for Cubs fans like Seth.

The Cubbies actually made an appearance as "The Good" in Buster Olney's "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" with Mike and Mike on Monday. And then, Alfonso Soriano's game-winning grand slam on Monday night put the Cubs in first place by half a game over the Cardinals. Since then they've dropped back a half game behind the Cards. Sure, the Cubs have vaulted into the mix in large part by sweeping the lowly Nationals and the slumping Reds. But Aramis Ramirez is back and starting to get healthy, Soriano is coming back into form after a dreadful couple of months and Rich Harden is finally finding his groove. On the other side of things, the Cubs' lone All-Star Ted Lilly is on the DL, Ryan Dempster missed three starts after injuring his toe celebrating a victory and Geovany Soto apparently changed his name to Rick Wilkins over the offseason.

Then there is the small matter of history. The Cardinals have won 10 World Series including one as recently as 2006. This decade has actually been quite successful for the Cubs as they have won three division titles. The playoffs have not been so succesful. In 2003 they blew a 3-1 games lead in the NLCS and followed that up by being swept out of the NLDS in their next two playoff appearances. Is it a surprise the Cubs are riding a 9-game losing streak in the postseason? What else would one expect from the Cubbies? And to think, the last two years I actually requested the last week of October off just in case the Cubs made the World Series. Needless to say, that wasn't the wisest decision on my end.

Steve Bartman
AP Photo/Morry GashCubs fans aren't blameless themselves, though.

But for some reason, hope springs eternal for us Cubs fans. Just the other day I was thinking what it would be like if the Cubs made the World Series. Of course, then I remembered the American League will have home field advantage and I don't trust Kevin Gregg in the bottom of the ninth in a potential Game 7. But, I may be getting ahead of myself just a little. I'm not asking for sympathy as a Chicago sports fan. I've witnessed the Bulls win six NBA titles in the '90s and vividly remember Super Bowl XX. I just want to one see the Cubs win one World Series. Having the nickname "Lovable Losers" is only cute when it isn't your team stuck with such a tag. After all, it is getting hard to talk up how the Cubs may have been the team of the '00s. The 1900s that is. Few people remember that Cubs dynasty. Sure, there is the chance the Cubs could win the World Series this year. But even if they don't and whether I like or not, I'll be feeling optimistic about the team's chances in 2010. Eventually, it has to be our year.

Monday, July 27

The value of a championship - "Ricky Bobby" was wrong. Just because you aren't first doesn't mean you're last.

Cris Carter co-hosted the show on Friday and was all fired up because of a column about the best players never to win a Super Bowl. I don't blame CC. In all sports, and especially football, players don't win championships - teams do. To say you didn't accomplish anything without a ring is just ridiculous.

Cris Carter
AP Photo/Tom OlmscheidCris Carter spent a lot of time in the end zone during his career.

If you win a title, you have proven that for that season, you are the best team in the league. Imagine if there were Lombardi trophies given out at your job. You're a salesman who works on commission and the highest selling employee receives a huge trophy at the end of every year. Does that make everyone who doesn't win the trophy a terrible salesman? What about a guy that wins the trophy one year, but then finishes last in sales every other year? Is he better than the guy who finished second every year?

Championships do mean something, they just don't mean everything. Brandon Stokley won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2000, but there's no way you can argue that he was a better receiver than Cris Carter! It's not Carter's fault Gary Anderson missed a 38-yard field goal in 1998. If he makes that kick, Cris and the Vikings are in the Super Bowl and he could very well be walking around with a ring today.

By the way, if Cris kept ripping the music I was choosing for the rejoins on Friday, we were going to have a serious throw down after the show. Sure, he might have the height, weight, reach, experience and speed advantages, but I have the ... umm ... nevermind.

I'll be on vacation this week, but the perpetually-happy Seth Horwitz is filling my shoes. Enjoy all the merriment. We all know I won't.

Tuesday, July 21

The case for expanding MLB instant replay - I've already written about how baseball moves at glacial speed, so I'm not going to rehash all the reasons why we won't see instant replay expanded in the near future. After Tuesday's show, my wrath is pointed at the countless e-mails about keeping the human element in baseball.

Michael Cuddyer
AP Photo/Ben MargotIt appears Michael Cuddyer was actually safe. Instant replay, anyone?

I guarantee if you don't want instant replay expanded in baseball you're over the age of 30, enjoy reading an actual newspaper in the morning and have no idea how to tweet. People who get it realize that if we had instant replay when we were inventing this game we would have used it from the beginning. I've said it once and I'll say it again: you have to evolve with the times.

In what other area of life would we shun modern technology in favor of the "human element"? Would you want your surgeon using a machete and a pair of pliers when he operates on you? I bet you wouldn't be a huge fan of the human element if you saw the doctor standing over you looking like "Crocodile Dundee" just before the anesthesia kicked in.

In reality, we're all fans of the human element until our team gets hit with a bad call. I bet former Mike and Mike producer Scott "the Gnome" Shapiro was in favor of instant replay after his Twins lost Monday night's game on a blown call at home plate. Or what about the Padres losing the one-game playoff to the Rockies in 2007 for the same reason? I'm pretty sure Trevor Hoffman wasn't walking around saying, "at least we still have the human element in the game" after that one.

What all the baseball purists need to realize is that technology upholds that sanctity of the game, it doesn't tear it down. Technology helps us get the calls right and lets us play game the way the it's supposed to be played - by the rules. Baseball has been around for over a century and in that time every single aspect of the game has evolved, except the umpiring. The ballparks are smaller, the mound is lower and the balls (and the players) are juiced. It's time we give the umpires some help, too.

Michael Vick's future in the NFL - Serving your time doesn't wipe the slate clean.

Greeny and Golic both think Michael Vick should be reinstated by Roger Goodell, but there's one important distinction they didn't make. As usual, I'll pick up the slack.

Michael Vick
AP Photo/Steve HelberStats isn't sure Michael Vick will be able to return to the NFL.

I hope all the crazy "Michael Vick served his time" people read this slowly so they understand it. Vick does not deserve to get another shot to play in the National Football League. He is simply allowed to play there if the league (and a team) will have him. It should not be, and is not, against the law for Michael Vick (or any convicted felon) to play professional sports. However, if the league decides it doesn't want to be partially represented by someone who committed a felony, it is totally within its rights not to hire that person. You can call it hypocritical if you want to, but there's nothing wrong with Roger Goodell telling Michael Vick not to let the door hit him on the way out of his office.

It's not personal, it's not political and it's not racial - it's financial. The only color that matters is green. If the NFL decides that the league will make more money with Vick playing on Sundays, he'll be reinstated. If it decides that the hit from corporate backers will be too costly, Vick won't be anywhere near the field. That's just the way business works. If ESPN found someone to run the board for Mike and Mike that could do the job at the same level I can for less money, I'd be out on the street faster than you could say "back and better than ever."


Friday, July 17

Greeny rips my all-time baseball team - Who needs Babe Ruth, anyway? With Tim Kurkjian sitting in for Golic, a listener asked him which players he'd put on his all-time team. Being the huge baseball fan that I am, I sent my team to the guys and Greeny immediately flipped out because I didn't choose Babe Ruth in right field. I'm not denying that Ruth is the greatest player of all time. But if the point was to put together the greatest team ever, I don't want a slow fat guy running around in right field, I don't care how well he can hit. Defense matters in baseball and I can get plenty of power from other areas. I want the players that will complement each other the best.

Babe Ruth
MPI/Getty Images Stats would leave Babe Ruth off his all-time team.

My team was Bob Gibson, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, A-Rod, Mike Schmidt, Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Rickey Henderson. I don't care that Rickey never played right field. The guy ran like the flash. I think he could handle a corner outfield spot (especially with Willie covering all the ground in center). On any given day, I'm throwing 3,748 home runs at you, so I think we'll be okay without the Bambino. On the other hand, I have almost no speed on the team. Willie Mays is the only real stolen base threat on the squad and Rickey has more swipes than the rest of the team - combined. Even with a team of all-time greats, they still fail roughly 7 out of 10 times. Stolen bases help my team score runs even without hits.

By the way, Tim and Greeny left out the all-time hits leader (Pete Rose), the all-time home runs leader (Barry Bonds or Hank Aaron if you prefer) and the all-time wins leader (Cy Young). Where is all the outrage about that?

Bud Selig gives his "state of the MLB" address on Mike & Mike - Baseball is either incompetent or lazy (or maybe even both).

On Monday's show, Greeny and Golic spoke to MLB commissioner Bug Selig about the state of Major League Baseball. When asked about determining home field advantage in the World Series by record, the commissioner threw up his hands and claimed such a system would be impossible.

Bud Selig
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallStats encourages MLB commissioner Bud Selig to make up is mind and do what he wants.

Impossible? I think maybe Bud should pick up the phone and call David Stern and Gary Bettman. Somehow they seem to figure it out every year. Hockey can't even get their games on a channel that people know exist, but somehow they manage to get everything set up for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals! Last time I checked, we don't pick the World Series teams out a hat. Once the league championship series are set, there are only four possible cities the World Series can be played in. In May of this year, Brett Favre's friends reserved 25-30 rooms in a Minnesota hotel for November. Somehow baseball can't manage to figure this out? Get the traveling secretary to jump on the phone and reserve rooms in each of the cities ahead of time. As long as you don't have George Costanza running the show, it shouldn't really be a brain buster!

It's just another example of how baseball takes the easy way out when it comes to their fans. The classic baseball strategy: throw up your hands and do nothing. Instead, they try and justify the ridiculous All-Star Game rule by insulting the fans' intelligence. If you don't want to change the rule, just say so. You're the commissioner of the league - do what you want!

The commish even went on to say that he felt vindicated because the retired players commented on how much they liked the change. Big deal. Here's a thought: try getting the opinion of people that actually matter. Find out what 18-34 year old males think and go with that. Once again, baseball isn't looking at the big picture. You don't follow the old advice, you follow the new advice - that's where all the advertising dollars come from. Basically, when you're on the phone with David Stern about the scheduling, ask him how he runs his league and copy that.

Monday, July 13

Mike & Mike are coming to your house! - I would normally never write something like this, but when it comes to cancer, I'm going to make an exception.

Greeny and Golic mentioned the V Foundation auction on Friday and the chance to have the show broadcast from your home. That is definitely a very cool experience and I hope people that can afford that give it their best shot.

I remember last year that many of you were angry because you felt like you were priced out of many of the experiences. As someone that lives paycheck to paycheck, I can understand that. I'm here to ask you not to let that stop you from helping.

V Foundation Auction
ESPNRadio.comDonate what you can to help fight cancer.

Full disclosure here: I'm passionate about this because cancer has changed my life forever. My father was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease when I was very young. My memories of my dad involve him losing his hair and gaining his walker. I remember when he was so disoriented by the combination of medication he had to take that he asked me to bring him the remote control he was already holding. Turns out he wanted a pillow. I remember the time my mom told my brother and I that we couldn't come with her to the hospital to see him. My dad had gotten so sick that he told his wife not to let his sons see him - he didn't want his boys to remember their father with tubes sticking out of his body and an oxygen mask covering his face. Unfortunately, those are the only memories I have of my dad. He died in 1994. I was nine.

I'm not telling you this to get your sympathy. I'm not telling you this to make you cry. I'm telling you this because I want to take as many steps as possible towards a world where no 9-year-old kid will ever lose his father again because of a disease we haven't researched enough to cure.

Do me a favor. Log on to Facebook and look at the picture of you and your best friend from last year. One of the people in that picture is going to have cancer. According to the V Foundation website, one out of every two men will have cancer in their lifetimes. One out of every three women, too. Three out of every four American families will have at least one family member diagnosed with cancer. At least one family member. I wasn't that lucky - how do you like those odds?

It's not all gloom and doom, though. Our donations are making a difference. We're not fighting some abstract cause that we'll never defeat. For the first time in more than 70 years, annual cancer deaths in the United States have fallen. Sixty six percent of adults diagnosed with cancer will be alive in five years. Among children, nearly 80 percent of childhood cancer survivors will be alive after 5 years. We're getting there.

We can help. It doesn't matter how much or how little you contribute, because 100% of every donation goes towards kicking cancer's teeth in. Let's get to work.

The online auction is under way now and the on-air auction is Wednesday, July 15th.


Wednesday, July 8

Chad Ochocinco wants to Twitter during games - If you're over 35, it's time to evolve or be left behind.

Chad Ochocinco said he wants to step up his tweeting during the season this year and the guys don't really like the idea. Golic was willing to let him go nuts at halftime, but Greeny was having none of it. He never really clarified the reason why, though. Allow me.

Chad Ochocinco
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesWill Chad Ochocinco be tweeting on the sidelines this year?

The reason athletes are so into Twitter is the same reason some fans (especially older ones) don't like it. Those 140 characters give us a little window into the true personality of the author. Instead of the usual drivel we hear during interviews and press conferences, we can read athletes' true feelings in their own words - something many of them are clamoring for. The more access we have to these athletes, the more we see cracks in their armor. Older fans could never get the same view of their stars because the pedestal they were kept on was too high. Can you imagine if Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth could tell us their plans for the night? Instead of knowing that Babe was going to be at four different parties until three in the morning, all we saw of him was his trot around the bases after another monster home run.

The coverage of athletes in my lifetime has been so intense that I know more about them than fans from earlier generations ever could. When Jerry Rice complained about not getting the ball enough, it might be heard by a lingering beat writer. When T.O. yells at a teammate, it's caught by the sideline camera, the sideline microphone, the HD camera, the overhead remote controlled steady cam and the secret security camera in the upper deck that's controlled by Bill Belichick. Before the offense is back on the field, the whole world wants to know what was said, why he said it and how every coach and teammate is going to deal with it. Younger fans have seen nothing but stumbles by athletes, so we're a lot more forgiving of their foibles.

People just love Manny being Manny - Golic brought this up today, and for once, the big guy nailed it.

There is no one in sports that has had it better than Manny Ramirez. In Cleveland he was in a lineup with more big names in it than in President Obama's blackberry. He signs an 8 year, $160 million deal with Boston in 2000 and helps them win their first World Series since 1918. Then he wins another in 2007. Other career highlights include delaying a home game while peeing during a pitching change and high-fiving a fan in the stands during a play. Then he tanks it for the same team he helped win the World Series twice and gets traded last year. In the process, Manny goes from one of the harshest sporting environments in the country in Boston to one of the most laid back sports cities in the country in Los Angeles.

Manny Ramirez
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIManny being Manny is somehow still lovable.

Once in Los Angeles, Ramirez hits .396 in 53 games - singlehandedly carrying the Dodgers to the playoffs. Over the winter, he signs a 2 year, $45 million deal that makes him one of the highest paid players in the game. He also spawns "Mannywood," which is basically a shrine to him in left field where fans can buy a ticket to worship the Baby Bull.

On May 7th of this year, he gets suspended for violating baseball's drug policy and misses 50 games. During that suspension, his team never misses a beat and practically sews up the NL West title. His fifth plate appearance after the suspension, Manny hits career home run 534 - tied for 16th all time.

During his career, Manny has made about $162 million, won two World Series championships, one World Series MVP and made 12 All-Star teams - all while avoiding any real backlash from fans about breaking two out of baseball's three cardinal rules. The reason? Three simple words: "Manny being Manny."

I don't care about Jim Sorgi backing up Peyton Manning, Stephon Marbury "earning" his check by doing nothing or Carl Pavano's vacation in the Big Apple - nobody has the Midas touch like Manny Ramirez.

Monday, July 6

Terry Francona doesn't like the format of the MLB All-Star Game - When did we turn into a bunch of sissies?

Terry Francona told Derek Jeter last year that he just wished the game would end so no one would get hurt. That's the biggest pile of garbage I've ever heard in my life. No wonder the ratings have gone in the toilet. If the manager of one of the teams doesn't care about the game, it shouldn't come as a shock that TV ratings have gone down every year for practically a decade.

The problem with the All-Star Game isn't whether it counts or how many pitchers are allowed to make the team - the real problem with the game is how it's managed. Managers are so afraid that someone is going to get hurt, they start subbing players almost immediately after whichever fossil throws out the first pitch.

Why is everyone afraid that a player will get hurt? No one has been seriously injured in an All-Star Game since Ray Fosse got run over by Pete Rose almost 40 years ago. Man up, people! Yes, a player could get injured, but anything could happen. Rickey Henderson once gave himself frostbite - in August. Ken Griffey Jr. once missed time because his protective cup pinched his testicle and John Smoltz burned himself ironing a shirt that he was still wearing. Injuries happen. Deal with it.

Anyone who is concerned about breaking a nail during the All-Star Game doesn't deserve to be there in the first place. Fans, managers and players have chosen the people they think are the elite members in the sport - it's time to start acting like it. And if Terry Francona can't handle the stress, no one will shed a tear if he's watching the game from his couch like everybody else.

Jim Brown rips Tiger Woods - There are some people that time has just passed by, and you can add Jim Brown's name to that list.

Jim Brown thinks Tiger Woods doesn't do enough for society, and he's dead wrong. Athletes help more people today than they ever have in the history of sports. What Brown refuses to grasp is the fact that athletes are bigger today than they ever were when he was playing. They don't need to have gang member negotiations at their house like he did, because they can help on a much bigger scale. Tiger's foundation helps millions of kids. Millions. And he's just one athlete. Combine that with other players' foundations and you've got more aid going to more people than ever before.

I'm not sure if Jim notices, but a gangbanger could care less about what Tiger Woods has to say. Can you imagine Tiger showing up to talk to them in his polo shirt and khaki slacks? He'd end up fighting them off with his nine iron. Middle and upper class kids are the ones who care about Tiger Woods because they're the ones that can relate to him.

What I don't get is how Jim Brown doesn't understand how things have evolved. He and Jackie Robinson paved the way for the athletes of today to be able to help society the way that they do. They're the reason that all these foundations can exist. That's why their legacies are elevated beyond the playing fields and into the fabric of American history.

Thanks, Jim. We'll take it from here.


Wednesday, July 1

13-year-old Evan Berry commits to play football at Tennessee - Just when you think sports stories can't get any dumber, the bar reaches a new low.

At 13 years old, this kid is going to change his mind so many times he'll make Brett Favre look like stable human being - which is what any person his age would do. When I was that age I wanted to be a chef and a doctor and a quarterback. A decade later I throw like Johnny Damon and the only food I can prepare is Fruit Loops.

Lane Kiffin
Jim Brown/US PresswireWill Lane Kiffin still be around at Tennessee to see Evan Berry play?

Berry won't be the only one changing his mind, either. Schools change coaches so often it's rare for a senior to be playing for the same coach he committed to three years earlier. If Lane Kiffin's career at Tennessee lasts twice as long as his Raiders career, he'll still be a year away from seeing Berry on the field. What could the kid possibly have done to catch anyone's attention, tie his shoes by himself? I'm sure the scouting report on Berry reads something like, "slightly undersized - should shoot up once puberty sets in." What's next, previewing players in the womb? "That fetus has great body control - he handles the umbilical cord really well." I guess as long as the student section goes crazy and players show more emotion than the pros, people will swear by college sports like a bald guy with spray-on hair. Wake up, people. Greeny's right - this stinks.

Just hearing the guys talk about that story makes me feel like I need to take a shower. I could be wrong, though. Lane Kiffin could be wildly successful and Evan Berry could end up having a great career at Tennessee and a Hall of Fame career in the pros. Forgive me if I'm not hoping for that, though. This has got to stop here or we're headed down a dark and slippery road. In three years, I don't want to see teams on a stakeout outside a Baby Gap looking for the quarterback of the future.


Quick Thoughts:

1) The only thing worse than the grunting in women's tennis is hearing all the noise famous former players are making about it.

2) If you bring food in your car to eat after your date, like our Seth Horwitz, you don't deserve a second date. I can tolerate a lot of things, man, but that's just bad form.

3) Jayson Stark has the best trivia questions ever, but Greeny and Golic are lucky I'm not allowed to guess the answers with them. If I was, I'd crush them like Albert Pujols crushes hanging sliders.


Wednesday, June 24

Donald Fehr steps down as Executive Director of the MLB Players Association - We've seen time and time again that baseball fans are among the most irrational people walking the planet. Throw in five to eight years of righteous indignation about PEDs in baseball and what you're left with is a raging bull ready to charge - and Donald Fehr is wearing red.

[+] EnlargeDon Fehr
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarDoes Donald Fehr deserve your blame for PEDs?

It wasn't Donald Fehr's job to protect the sanctity of baseball. It wasn't Donald Fehr's job to make sure the Pirates had a chance to win every year. It wasn't Donald Fehr's job to make sure everyone was clean. For about a quarter-century, it was Donald Fehr's job to look out for the best interests of his players and that's exactly what he did. When he took the job as acting director in 1983, the average salary was $289,000. It's now $2.9 million. The minimum salary was $35,000 in 1985 and it's now $390,000. Fehr took the owners behind the shed for colluding and won a $280 million settlement. Baseball players have the union that every other professional athlete dreams about. It is the only aspect of baseball that makes its NFL counterpart cry like a kid who just dropped his ice cream.

If you're mad about performance enhancing drugs, there are a lot of other people besides Donald Fehr that deserve your anger. I'm not saying Fehr is blameless, but you've also got to throw some heat on Bud Selig, the sports media, and, oh yeah, the players! It's nice to think that one person can be responsible for something terrible, but we're not in kindergarten anymore. In order for something this big to go down, people in power have to turn a blind eye and a thick skull to what's going on around them. Don't waste it all on Fehr, people. There's plenty of blame to go around.


Quick Thoughts:

1) I don't care what anybody says, Lou Gehrig is nobody's wingman. When you hit .340 lifetime and average about 150 RBI a year, the term "wingman" does not apply.

2) If you're a GM in the NBA, and you don't own the No. 1 pick, why would you even want to draft anyone?

3) I didn't see "The Hangover" last weekend, so I guess I am as pathetic as the guys make me out to be.

4) Producing the show for a week takes over your entire life. Even if "Aladdin" was on again, I wouldn't be able to watch it!


Friday, June 19

Clearing up my position on Rocco Mediate - As usual, the guys are way off on how I feel about pretty much everything.

I want to make one thing clear: I never used the word "loser" to describe Rocco Mediate. To me, there are very few things you can call someone that are worse than loser and he doesn't fit that description by any means whatsoever.

What makes me want to stick pencils in my ears is when Greeny and Golic go on and on about how great Rocco's performance was and how close he came to beating the greatest golfer on the planet. For one thing, he wasn't nearly as close to beating Tiger as they make him out to be. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Tiger on one leg? This isn't to bang on Mediate, but Tiger was at half strength and it took the game of Rocco's life just to come in second.

Rocco Mediate
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty ImagesRocco actually lost the U.S. Open last year.

Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with them praising a great round by anyone, but this is ridiculous. The problem is that everyone, including the Mikes and Rocco himself, are acting like he took home the trophy! I even heard someone on radio later that day refer to the performance as (and I'm not making this up) "a triumphant defeat." Don't read that quote too many times or your head will explode.

It is literally impossible for anyone to achieve a triumphant defeat. It's like the Ghostbusters crossing streams or Seinfeld's infamous "roommate switch" - it cannot be done. You can't be both a success and a failure at the exact same thing at the exact same time. Sorry.

Also, I'm not shocked Rocco took home second place. He didn't even think he was going to win. During the interview, he said that it was a privilege to be on the same course as the greatest player in the world. What kind of defeatist attitude is that? Why even compete in the same tournaments as Tiger, then? If he's so much better than you, Rocco, pack up your clubs and take up bridge. You proved to the world that Tiger Woods can't humiliate you at a game you've been playing your whole life. Congratulations.

Why must we continue to praise people who do their best and fail? Learning how to deal with life when things don't go your way is part of becoming an adult. Part of the reason we strive for success is because we enjoy the rewards that come with that success. If we're always breaking our arms patting mediocrity on the back, we're going to end up with a bunch of David Ecksteins. Sometimes you try your best and it doesn't work out. Try harder next time. Losing should hurt, and if you aspire to be great, it should take a long time to get over. Sometimes that means some tears on the way home, but what people don't realize is that those tears make you that much harder to beat next time.


Quick Thoughts:

1) Jose Canseco is trying to sue because he and some other PED users aren't in the Hall of Fame. Just when you start to change your opinion of Jose, he proves just how stupid he can be.

2) Ryan Leaf is now in the custody of the authorities. This is why millions of people watch the NFL Draft every year. One franchise may get one of the top five quarterbacks of all time and another can get a socially awkward NFL dropout who will face decades in prison.

3) Manny Ramirez is starting his minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday, June 23. Is anyone else confused about how a player who is suspended from his baseball team can play with another baseball team before that suspension is over?

4) If I don't go and see "The Hangover" within a week, I will officially be as pathetic as Greeny and Golic make me out to be.


Wednesday, June 17

Shaquille O'Neal trade rumors - Tim Legler wasn't enamored with the idea, but he was only half-right.

Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron go together about as well as David Letterman and Sarah Palin. LeBron's game is driving to the hoop and I don't think that's going to be too easy with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man camping out underneath the basket.

LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesStats says Shaq can't help LeBron win at this point in his career.

If you're on the "Shaq will be motivated" train, allow me to derail that. Shaq will be 38 next year, so unless he's motivated enough to go back in time, he's not going to be the player he once was. He can't play a full game or a full season anymore, so basically you're banking on Shaq to give you a boost in the playoffs. This year, the Big Overrated put up 18 points and 9 rebounds game. Even current Cavs center Zydrunas Illgauskas wasn't far off those numbers averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds.

That's okay, I guess you can depend on Shaq's stellar foul shooting to get you over the hump - oh, wait. This kind of move is nothing but desperate. Imagine the call to LeBron to share the good news: "Hey LeBron, it's Danny Ferry, you know, your GM? We just got you an out of shape diva who can't even put up a double-double anymore. So ... yeah ... please don't leave!"

Here's a tip to all the GMs out there: Look at the numbers in the book instead of the names on the jersey. If you're trying to prevent the greatest player you'll ever see in your lifetime from making your team disappear into the unwatchable septic tank that is the majority of the NBA, you'd better come at him with more than Kazaam.


Golic "wins" a charity golf tournament - Golic's team won the championship, with the aid of 24 do-overs.

This is what it's come to for the big guy. Golic's athletic resume has disintegrated so much since his NFL days that he now has to fight, scratch, and claw to win a charity golf scramble tournament in which his team had one extra player and two dozen extra shots.

Mike Golic
Quinn GriffingCan we really call these guys champions?

Golic claims the victory was legitimate because it was within the rules of the charity golf tournament to buy mulligans with the money going to the charity, but Greeny and I disagree. First of all, 24 mulligans during 18 holes of golf is more ridiculous than Brett Favre's multiple retirement mulligans. How proud can you be of any "championship" in which you get a "do-over" more than once a hole? That would be like Dwight Howard getting another chance at the free throws he missed in Game 4 of the NBA Finals - as well as every other foul shot he missed in the series (actually only 23 total, not quite as bad as Golic).

And mulligans on the green, Golic? Yeah, sure, technically it's not illegal, but neither is counting cards at a casino - though they'll still throw you out on the street if they catch you doing it. Where's your sense of pride?

Maybe we should sell Golic some of those mulligans for the show!


Friday, June 12

Best coach ever: Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach? - I must admit, I used to trash Lakers coach Phil Jackson, but now I've come around.

Greeny and Golic talked about who the greatest coach in NBA history is with Jalen Rose on Thursday and brought up some good points. When you consider everything that Phil has to deal with today, I don't think Red is even that close to Phil.

Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant
Mark Ralston/Getty ImagesDoes Kobe make Phil or does Phil make Kobe?

When Auerbach was in the league, the coaches had all the power. When the coach said jump, the players asked how high and that was the end of it. If you didn't like it, you were either cut or benched. Now, the players are running the show. They can hold out, demand trades and switch teams via free agency. Good luck holding onto Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and John Havlicek for all those years under the current system.

Speaking of talented players, you can stop yapping about Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Yes, Phil has had good players, I'll give you that, but there were two other coaches in Chicago that had Jordan and Pippen and five other coaches that had Shaq and Kobe in Los Angeles. Those seven coaches won as many NBA titles as I have so it can't all be the players.

Also, as Greeny said, how many titles did any of those players win without Phil? Shaq is the only one to take home the glory without the Zenmaster, but he was with Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley in Miami.

If you're asking who has smoked more cigars, it's Red in a landslide. When we're talking best coach, it's got to be Phil.


Rex Ryan vs. Channing Crowder - Jets coach Rex Ryan was honest and Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder is an idiot.

I love the little war of words between these two guys. Go at it! Mike & Mike's gambling-addicted researcher Paul Carr has installed Crowder as the early 3-1 favorite, but I'll take Ryan because he's wily.

Rex Ryan, Channing Crowder
AP PhotoJets coach Rex Ryan and Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder have engaged in a war of words.

Plus, Rex is right. The divisional crown does go through New England. Yes, Miami won the division last year, but they didn't exactly beat juggernauts every week. The Bills, Broncos, Seahawks, Raiders, Rams, Chiefs and Jets don't exactly put the fear of God into anyone. Yes, they did beat New England and San Diego, but they also got blown out by the Pats the second time they played and the Chargers only went 8-8 last year.

Next year the Dolphins play the hardest schedule in the league with an opponent winning percentage of just under .600. They could very easily drop their first three games to Atlanta, Indianapolis and San Diego and play probably the most physically demanding stretch of games I've ever seen between Week 9 and Week 15. By the way, five of those seven games are on the road.

The Patriots, meanwhile, play all of their toughest games at home other than the one against the Colts and they're getting this guy Brady back at quarterback. He was pretty good for them two years ago.

Rex Ryan is giving the Jets some personality and I like it. You can't always be the "take it one game at a time" kind of team. If you're going to be boring all the time, you have to win. So far, the only active coaches to do that are Tony Dungy and Bill Belichick. As much as people cry about not wanting to hear people talk trash, sports would be a thousand times more boring is we had leagues full of Derek Jeters.

Like Greeny said, it's only June. Rex can say whatever he wants, especially if he backs it up on the field this coming season.

Wednesday, June 10

Kobe Bryant's new playoff persona - I thought all the fake athletes played baseball. I guess I was wrong.

Even former teammate Robert Horry blew off the new, "Evil" Kobe. He would know better than anyone else, right?

Kobe Bryant
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty ImagesStats doesn't believe in "Evil" Kobe.

I'm not sure if Kobe realizes this, but it doesn't matter if he pushes his bottom jaw far enough forward to swallow his whole face - his teammates still know L.A. is in control of the series. It doesn't matter what he does on the court or what he says in the press conferences, the team knows what's up. He should stop insulting my intelligence by pretending his isn't happy to be winning the series. Oh, and by the way, when he's on the court making all those faces, he looks like Chunk from the Goonies - just stop.

Stop trying to be Michael Jordan all the time. It's bad enough he's been talking like Jordan since he was drafted, but now he's trying to show everyone that he's just as mentally tough. It just goes to show how aware athletes are of their legacies. Kobe is one of the best players I'll ever see in my lifetime in any sport - but it's still not good enough for him.

If Kobe is this unhappy with a series lead, how unhappy will he be if they actually win it?

Roger Federer shows restraint at the French Open - Haven't we gotten past this whole run onto the field thing?

[+] EnlargeRoger Federer
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesStats would not have let an intruder on the court come up to him without getting a racket to the face.

Let me just say, first of all, Golic is right. If I'm the best tennis player in the history of the game and some weirdo waving a flag comes running at me trying to put something on my head, I'm putting my racket across his face.

Running onto the field during a sporting event is the equivalent of snickering when someone says the word "butt." When we were 12, that may have been great, but now it's just lame. The only reason people cheer when it happens is because they want to see the moron get beat down worse than the Detroit Lions.

As far as I'm concerned, you get what you deserve when you run between the lines. If security just catches you and ejects you, that's fine. If you get your teeth knocked out by a linebacker running at full speed, even better.

I was amazed that Federer didn't do anything to the guy. I have to admit, he's a stronger man than I am. Good thing security didn't take their sweet time bringing this guy down, too. Oh wait, that's right, they let him just waltz onto the court and rub elbows with the biggest player in the sport. I can't get into a Bridgeport Bluefish game without removing everything from my belt to my britches, but this fool can get on the court during the French Open? Something is wrong with that picture.


Thursday, June 4

Sammy Sosa says he deserves to be voted into the Hall of Fame - I never thought I'd be saying this, but Sammy Sosa is right. Other than his physical appearance, we have nothing else even close to evidence linking Sosa to steroids. Even Jose Canseco has said he has no hard evidence against Sammy.

Sammy Sosa
Jonathan Daniel/AllsportStats would cast his Hall of Fame ballot for Sammy Sosa.

If you're one of those high and mighty voters who is paralyzed by steroid suspicion, I'll never be able to convince you to take the stick out, let alone cast your vote for Sammy Sosa. If you're going to look at players from this era on a case by case basis, there's no argument against Sosa. His 609 homers puts him at No. 6 all-time and his over 1600 RBI puts him at No. 24 above Ernie Banks, George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. He won an MVP award and is the only player to hit more than 60 homers in three different seasons.

What's laughable is Greeny's idea that Sosa didn't look as bad as Mark McGwire at the congressional hearings in 2005. Big Mac may not have wanted to talk about the past, but at least he didn't pretend like he didn't know what was being said. It certainly seemed like Sammy had a good grasp on English when he was holding daily press conferences and we were all kissing his bat during the home run chase in 1998.

Lastly, if you think Sammy Sosa was the only player using a corked bat, you're out of your mind. Between spit, scuffs, and sandpaper, pitchers have been doing essentially the same thing for years - and some of them are in Cooperstown. I have no problem with either one, because the umpires can check for that during the game. The opposing manager can make the request and the player can be busted right on the field. Isn't that why we have officials in the first place, to enforce the rules? Also, consider this: If Sammy was doing steroids at that time, would he really need the corked bat?

Does Kobe Bryant need to win another title without Shaq to validate his career? - When was the last time a guy with three rings had to prove anything to anyone?

Bill Walsh never won without Montana, Jordan never won without Pippen and John Elway never won without Terrell Davis. Who questions their legacies? If Kobe does win the Finals and goes into the Hall of Fame, the first words about his career won't be, "Won four NBA titles, including one without Shaquille O'Neal." So who cares?

Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal
Jed Jacobsohn/GettyWill Kobe Bryant only know what it's like celebrate a title next to Shaquille O'Neal?

The reason this topic has come up at all is because we love to pull apart greatness. The essence of sports talk is the comparison of players and teams. We're desperate to try to rank everyone and everything, and by doing so, we have to split hairs.

Steve Young said it about playing quarterback, but now I think it applies to all great players: it's all about what you can't do. The greatest of the great players have been driven by that thought for years, but now the sports media has made that thought more public than ever before. If you're a scrambling quarterback, you don't throw for enough yards, if you're a base stealer, you don't hit enough home runs, and if you win titles with a good center, you didn't do it on your own.

Take a look at what we're saying here. Kobe Bryant's career would be somehow lacking because he didn't win a fourth championship without another superstar on his team. But somehow, if Dan Marino had won a single Super Bowl he would be the greatest quarterback of all time.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, June 2

If the fans don't care about steroids, should the writers reflect that when voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame? - Golic only brought this up to be the devil's advocate, but I'm still going to crush it. This is the kind of thought that's just stupid enough to catch on.

Under no circumstances should the Hall of Fame voters for any sport vote according to what the "fans" want to see. People can make some pretty dumb decisions as a group. Need proof? As a country, we've bought more than 4 million Snuggies. At about $15 a pop, that's $60 million spent on a blanket with sleeves!

Kristin Chenoweth
AP Photo/Paul Drinkwater/NBCUNot all of America's ideas are good ones. Look what we made actress and entertainer Kristin Chenoweth do!

The only fans that don't care about steroids are the ever-present "casual baseball fans." These are the same people that watch 12 pitches a year and then complain that the game is too long. I'm tired of letting the casual fans run all of sports. It's bad enough they get to dictate TV times, rules and the All-Star Game. Now they're deciding who gets into the Hall of Fame, too? I don't think so.

I can at least understand that leagues needs to accommodate the casual fans to make the most money. That makes good business sense. But the Hall of Fame? The Hall isn't for the casual fans, it's for the die-hards. The Hall is for the people who have spent more hours watching baseball than Golic has eating doughnuts. The Hall is for people who know that Willie Mays was on deck when Bobby Thomson hit the "shot heard 'round the world."

I know I've ripped Hall of Fame voters in the past and I stand by that. What I'm saying here is that the only thing that could be worse than the system we currently have would be for the writers to let the fans dictate their votes. The guy with the beer helmet on his head just doesn't inspire much confidence, sorry.

LeBron James walks off the floor after getting eliminated without congratulating the Orlando Magic - For those who didn't see it, here's what happened: The game ended. LeBron walked off the court. Oh, the controversy.

LeBron James
Elsa/Getty ImagesStats says LeBron doesn't owe anyone a handshake.

Greeny and Golic were willing to go easy on LeBron and that's more than I can say for anybody else. Enough with all this sportsmanship talk. We're not in gym class anymore. Grow up, people. We're talking about professional sports here. As long as you play by the rules, that's all that's required. Baseball has more unwritten rules than any sport in the history of athletics, and they stop shaking hands after Little League.

The postgame handshake has got to be the single most insignificant act in all of sports. You've got coaches and players who have spent countless hours thinking about how to completely destroy each other, and you want them to shake hands just seconds after the outcome of a game? If you were counting on a big promotion and then suddenly didn't get it, would you want to go and shake the hand of the guy who just got the corner office? How about immediately after your boss tells you the news? I'll guarantee you someone somewhere once walked off the court without shaking LeBron's hand. Do we care about that at all?

There are just certain people in sports that people get in line to criticize. Stars like LeBron and Patriots coach Bill Belichick get ripped for more things than the average Joe because people are just mad they aren't on the teams they root for. If LeBron was on your team you wouldn't care whose hand he shook after the game. If Belichick coached your team you'd consider him a football genius. Since they're not on your team, LeBron is a crybaby and Belichick is a cheater.

LeBron didn't shake hands, and what's even better, he didn't apologize for it. Good for him. If a player wants to be extra gracious and congratulate the victors, that's all well and good, but stop acting like it's expected. If LeBron had talked to the media after the game, the handshake fiasco wouldn't even be mentioned.

Time to get some perspective, folks.

Rob "Stats" Guerrera received his nickname based on his first job as an intern bringing statistics to on-air hosts at ESPN Radio in 2004. When someone asked who he was, another ESPN Radio employee responded, "I don't know ... Stats."