Friday, May 29, 2009

You thought PEDs were a problem...

How come more superheroes aren't professional athletes in their secret identities?

Consider Peter Parker. Super-strong, great leaping ability, the stickiest hands you'll ever see...don't you think he could make a lot more money as a wide receiver than as a freelance photographer?

Wolverine may not have the height, but he'll never spend a day on the disabled list or injured reserve. Line him up at tailback and watch him go! (Of course, his pit-fighting scene in the first X-Men movie would seem to make him a natural for MMA-style action.

And imagine a mind-reader like Charles Xavier as your head coach. "Peyton, they're going to blitz on this play. The corner's got a bad ankle that he's trying to hide, so Reggie should be wide open."

And this is ignoring obvious concepts like The Flash running the 100-meter dash or Clark Kent doing, well, just about anything.

Does it seem a little underhanded and dishonest for "heroes"? Maybe. So why shouldn't the villains get in on the action? Sure, some are just psychos who want to take over/blow up the world, but making $10-$20 million a year as a top-tier athlete and having a decked-out crib must beat robbing banks and living in a secret underwater lair.

Of course, they couldn't go all out in their athletic endeavors (as Dash's race at the end of The Incredibles shows us), but they'd easily be better than any "normal" athlete.

(And yes, I know about Spider-man/Peter Parker no longer having a secret identity and Wolverine doesn't technically have one...just hang with me, here.)

Then again, how do we know this hasn't already happened? Barry Sanders and Randy Moss, I'm looking at you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Williams' suspension likely to be upheld

In what seemed like an inevitability over the last few weeks, the NFL Players' Union lost its case against the makers of StarCaps, the dietary supplement that Pat Williams and Kevin Williams took that caused them to test positive for a banned substance last year. The ruling was delayed after a legal challenge, allowing the Williamses to finish out the 2008 season, but now the way is open for them to each face a four-game suspension in 2009.

I've already made my opinion on the subject known -- namely that the whole affair is more than a little shady -- and there's still a slim chance that the suspensions won't stick, but for now, Vikings fans are looking at the very real possibility that the Williams Wall won't suit up until nearly mid-October. The Vikings' early schedule, which previously looked rather soft, could now be a major obstacle for the team. If there's any consolation, it's that the four teams the Vikings face early -- Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, and Green Bay -- all ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing last year, and only Green Bay could be considered "good" offensively, in general.

Still, even a poor team can look good when its opponent is missing one of its best defensive players. I'm referring, of course, to Kevin Williams, who's probably tied with Jared Allen for the best Viking defensive player. Pat Williams, as I've stated many times before, is overrated and one-dimensional. Yes, he's very good in that dimension (width -- er, I mean, stopping the run), but there are many other Vikings defenders I'd consider more valuable: Kevin Williams, Allen, Antoine Winfield, EJ Henderson, Chad Greenway, and maybe Madieu Williams and Cedric Griffin. A lot of people made a lot of noise when Pat Williams missed the last two games of the regular season last year and the Vikings gave up a lot of rushing yards against the Falcons and Giants. I merely pointed out that these were the #1 and #2 teams in rushing the ball for the entire season and that the Vikings held them to half a yard per carry under their season averages. Pat Williams is a lot of fun to watch, but he's in the middle of the pack when it comes to Vikings defensive players. Plus, if he returns for the fifth game of the season, he'll be just two weeks shy of his 37th birthday, so maybe the added "rest" wouldn't be the worst thing for him.

To be certain, this isn't the end of the world for the Vikings. The relatively soft schedule might allow the team to still come through with a 3-1 record and the one "tough" game, against Green Bay, is at the Metrodome. And maybe we won't even lose the Williamses, if a state judge still finds in favor of the players.

One thing I do know for sure, though: the makers of StarCaps are gonna get their pants sued off...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Vikings Best Possible Draft, 1999

With regards to the NFL draft, hindsight is always 20/20. Knowing what we know now, there's no way Randy Moss would have lasted until the 21st pick of the first round in 1998 or that Joe Montana wouldn't have been selected until the third round.

As I've done for the past few years, I've gone back to the 1999 draft -- 10 years ago -- and, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, re-picked for the Vikings, when appropriate, to determine who they should have taken in that draft, based on what we now know about the incoming rookies of 1999. Any player still on the board (and usually taken before the Vikings take their next pick) is a possible selection.

It's a fun exercise, not to be taken too seriously, and would give you something to do if you had a time machine. And you could get a hold of Vikings management and convince them that not to take Dimitrius Underwood. Please convince them not to take Dimitrius Underwood.

Round 1, Pick 11
Actual: Daunte Culpepper, QB
BPD: Daunte Culpepper, QB (picked 1-11)

The Culpepper selection was seen as a bit of a head-scratcher by a team that had just enjoyed a monster season from Randall Cunningham and had picked up Jeff George. It turned out to be a rather wise selection, though, with Cunningham predictably coming back down to earth and George, while having a solid season, predictably wearing out his welcome and being jettisoned a year later. Despite some ups and downs, Culpepper was the most reliable quarterback the Vikings had had since the days of Tommy Kramer and is only one of two players in team history (along with Fran Tarkenton) to lead the Vikings in passing for five straight years.

This is actually a tougher pick than it seems. A lot of good players, notably Jevon Kearse, John Tait, and Antoine Winfield are still available before the Vikings' next pick, later in the first round. And Culpepper left the team with a bad taste following his horrid, injury-shortened 2005 season; the Vikings have yet to find a suitable replacement for him at QB. But I think I'm still going to stick with him in this slot. Kearse has been about as mercurial a talent as Culpepper, Tait was a tackle (the team had Korey Stringer and Todd Steussie), and, well, we already got Winfield :)

Round 1, Pick 29
Actual: Dimitrius Underwood, DE
BPD: Dre Bly, CB (picked 2-41)

As mentioned previously, Dimitrius Underwood was possibly the worst first-round pick in Vikings history. Carrie Underwood would have been a better selection (and might have increased our chances of later signing Tony Romo...). He attempted to commit suicide during his rookie season and never appeared in a game with the team, playing just 16 games with Dallas over the next few seasons.

With the bar set so low, just about anyone would be an improvement, but why not aim high and take Dre Bly? The 10-year veteran with 40 career interceptions would have been a significant upgrade over burn victim Jimmy Hitchcock, who somehow lucked his way into a seven-interception, three-TD year in 1998 but would only start seven more games, for Carolina and New England after 1999. Kenny Wright, who wound up starting as a rookie in 1999, wasn't much better in his three years as a Viking.

Round 2, Pick 44
Actual: Jim Kleinsasser, TE
BPD: Joey Porter, LB (picked 3-73)

I like Jim Kleinsasser. Really, I do. And while he's a phenomenal blocker, and not a bad receiver for such a big guy, he's hardly Hall of Fame material. Porter might not be either, but he's a heck of a lot closer. His 83 sacks are more than any other player drafted in 1999, and he's appeared in 154 of a possible 160 games since 1999, a testament to his durability.

Round 4, Pick 120
Actual: Kenny Wright, DB
BPD: Edwin Mulitalo, G (picked 4-129)

As previously mentioned, Wright was nothing special during his Vikings career. And the pickings are starting to get a little slim this far down in the draft, but we can still do better. With Randall McDaniel aging -- he was 35 in 1999, his final year with the team -- drafting Mulitalo as his eventual replacement would be a wise investment. Playing on a line alongside Johnathan Ogden in Baltimore, Mulitalo isn't very well known, but his contributions to Jamal Lewis's glory years can't be ignored.

Round 4, Pick 125
Actual: Jay Humphrey, T
BPD: Roderick Coleman, DT (picked 5-153)

Jay who? Humphrey never suited up in the NFL, making this an easier pick to replace than Underwood. I'll take "Rowdy" Roddy Coleman in his place, one of the league's unsung defensive tackle stalwarts for most of this decade. His 58.5 career sacks (with three double-digit seasons) are extremely impressive for an interior lineman. By comparison, Kevin Williams has 42.5 while appearing in just 15 fewer games.

Round 5, Pick 169
Actual: Chris Jones, LB
BPD: Desmond Clark, TE (picked 6-179)

Another "Where are they now?" pick (but only if we cared), Jones also never played a down in the NFL and was the last pick of the fifth round. His replacement, Desmond Clark, on the other hand, has appeared in 146 of a possible 160 games, with over 300 career catches. And drafting him takes some of the pain from not getting 'Sass earlier...

Round 6, Pick 185
Actual: Talance Sawyer, DE
BPD: Hunter Smith, P (picked 7-210)

Sawyer at least had a minor career, starting two seasons with the Vikings and appearing in a total of 39 games. Pickings are so slim, though, that we're forced to take a punter at this stage of the draft, but you could do a lot worse than lifetime Colt Hunter Smith, who's averaged 43.4 yards per boot over his 10-year career, even if Mitch Berger did still have a little gas left in the tank.

Round 6, Pick 199
Actual: Antico Dalton, LB
BPD: Donald Driver, WR (picked 7-213)

This one's easy, even if you hate the Packers. Sure, the Vikings had Randy Moss and Cris Carter, but Jake Reed was on the way out, so why not replace him with -- well, a slower version of Cris Carter. Hey, can't argue with results, right?

Round 7, Pick 236
Actual: Noel Scarlett, DT
BPD: Jim Finn, FB (picked 7-253)

"Noel Scarlett" sounds more like the hero of a romance novel than a 320-pound defensive tackle. His NFL career was almost as fictional as one, as he appeared in just one game, with Dallas in 2000. With only 17 players left to be picked, there's not much out there, so I'm going with Mr. Irrelevant himself, Jim Finn. Now the Vikings have replaced Kleinsasser as both a tight end and a fullback. Brilliant! Center Todd McClure would also be a good pick, but the Vikings still had Jeff Christy and Matt Birk was waiting in the wings, so center wouldn't seem to be much of a need for the team.

So, to recap, the Vikings "improved" draft nets them a quarterback, a ball-hawking corner, a talented (if mouthy) linebacker, a stalwart guard, a forceful defensive tackle, a quality tight end, a dependable punter, an overlooked (at the time) wide receiver, and a bruising fullback.

Admittedly, with the possible exception of Porter, none of these guys are probably destined for Canton, but there isn't much I can do about that with my revisionist history. Half the players drafted ahead of Culpepper -- notably Donovan McNabb, Edgerrin James, Torry Holt, and Champ Bailey -- have at least a shot at the Hall of Fame. Only three players -- Bly, Porter, Driver, and Al Wilson -- drafted after the first round have been to multiple Pro Bowls, making 1999 perhaps the most top-heavy draft in recent history.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

People less than enthused about Favre-to-Vikings

Me.

Jared Allen.

Chad Greenway.

Definitely this guy. Warning: Lots of profanity.

Most of the blogs to my right.

And here's a handy chart so you can keep track of the Brett Favre vs. Terrell Owens comparison.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The case for Tarvaris Jackson


Brett Favre. Sage Rosenfels. Tarvaris Jackson.

No, that's not just a naked attempt to SEO-itize this post (though if you want to click on it a few thousand times, I won't stop you). Those are the three men who could start at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings in their first regular-season game of 2009, September 13 against Cleveland.

I have no idea which one will be the starter. Nobody does. There are plenty of opinions out there, though, about who should be the starter. A lot of Vikings fans want Brett Favre. Most of those who don't, or who don't think the Vikings will sign Favre, favor Sage Rosenfels.

Tarvaris Jackson, meanwhile, has been left out in the cold. That might be just, but then again, it might not. At the very least, Tarvaris Jackson should still be an unanswered question for the Vikings, not a foregone conclusion.

For most purposes of this discussion, I'm not going to include Brett Favre. First of all, he's not on the team. Also, people who want Favre want him, and people who don't want him don't, and no argument is going to change either side's opinions. It's no secret where I stand on the matter, but that's more due to the current state of Favre's play (and health) than an intrinsic hatred of #4. If we could get the 1999 Brett Favre instead of the 2009 Brett Favre, I'd fly down to Kiln, kidnap Deanna Favre, and hold her ransom until Brett joined to the team.

As a result, most of my discussion will be to compare Tarvaris Jackson to Sage Rosenfels, which are currently the two best options the Vikings have at quarterback. (Jay Cutler ain't walking through that door.) I have no particular dislike of Sage. My issue is that I feel too many people feel that he represents an automatic upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson, not so much because Rosenfels is that good -- even hardcore Sage-backers agree that he's not -- but that Jackson is that bad, that he's utterly useless to an NFL franchise and that Rosenfels is clearly the better option. People are more "anti-Jackson" than they are "pro-Rosenfels."

Why is that? Here are the main arguments against Jackson, as I see them:

1) Rosenfels is strong armed and more accurate than Jackson. I haven't watched enough of Rosenfels to really be able to judge his arm strength, though Jackson looks pretty good here. In terms of completion percentage, he does have an edge on T-Jack (62.5 to 58.4).

But look at the career splits for Rosenfels: 49.5% completion percentage as a Miami Dolphin, compared to 65.6% as a Texan. The sample size is small, admittedly (only 109 passes with the Dolphins), but he almost certainly got a boost moving from the moribund Dolphins offenses of 2002-2005 (which Gus Frerotte also had a hand in) to the Houston Texans and having Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels to throw to. Yes, I said Owen Daniels. Few things have the potential to drive up a quarterback's completion percentage like having a tight end who's caught 133 balls over the past two seasons. and Steve Slaton sucking up 50 balls in his 2008 rookie season didn't hurt either.

Compare that to the receivers Jackson has had during his starting career. For reference, look at that video again. And clearly, Jackson has had some very inaccurate days. But are those days in the past? Well...

2) Sure, Jackson looked good in December of 2008, but he did it against some poor defenses. True. For the record, T-Jack was 57 of 89 (64.0%) for 740 yards, 8 TDs, and 1 interception in effectively 3 1/2 games, for a passer rating of 115.4.

Obviously, that's really good. But his best games came against Detroit (in one half), Arizona, Atlanta, and the Giants. In terms of opposing passer rating in 2008, those teams were #32, #30, #18, and #7, respectively. And the Giants played their backups for most of the second half.

Regardless, this is a huge step up from Jackson's previous performances, whether against good or bad pass defenses. Given a full season against a wide variety of defenses, I wouldn't expect him to have a 115.4 rating, but, given the rest of the Vikings' strengths, 30 points lower than that would be acceptable. (Jay Cutler, FYI, had an 86.0 passer rating in 2008.) But you can't completely discount his strong finish to the season because they were against soft defenses. Good quarterbacks should carve those kind of teams up.

3) Jackson was awful against the Eagles in that playoff game. Get rid of him. Yes, he was awful. So were a lot of quarterbacks against the #4 defense, by opposing passer rating, in 2008. Eli Manning actually had a worse game against the Eagles the next week, but I haven't heard any calls for his ouster.

A related note is that Jackson clearly doesn't have "it," where "it" is defined as what it takes for a quarterback to "win the big one," "take his team to the next level," and so on, as evidenced by his poor play in that playoff game. At one point in their careers, Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Jim Kelly, and Warren Moon were all also given such labels. Jackson is almost certainly not as good as those quarterbacks, but history should have shown by now that applying such an all-encompassing label to a quarterback -- especially after just one career playoff game -- is ludicrous. Granted, Kelly and Moon never won a Super Bowl, but I wouldn't mind having either on my team.

(And it's not like Brett Favre has never had a bad playoff game.)

4) Rosenfels just looks better than Jackson as a quarterback. I've been over this before. I don't care if you're 6'4" tall with a rock-solid jaw, dashing good looks, and a physique like a god or if you're short, squat, have a deformed head, and only one leg. I care if you're a better player. That's all. Anyone who's read the first chapter of Moneyball should be familiar with that concept.

(OK, so maybe a one-legged QB would be ineffective. But he'd still be more mobile than Kelly Holcomb.)

Rosenfels looks more poised, looks more effective, looks more like a quarterback is supposed to look (and I guess he's not unhandsome, in a "good ol' boy" kind of way), but is he actually a better quarterback that Tarvaris Jackson? That's the only point that should matter. Gus Frerotte looked good, too, until he kept throwing one interception after another. (Speaking of which, if you want to persist that Frerotte should have regained his starting job because he was 8-3 as a starter, I remind you that Jackson was 8-4 as a starter in 2007.) Rosenfels has a ghastly 5.2% career interception percentage, compared to Jackson's 3.4% and even Favre's 3.3%, and that doesn't count the infamous Rosencopter. I hate to use the terms, but the Vikings need a "game manager" more than they need a "gunslinger."

But I think the bigger point is the debate of "scrambling QB" vs. "pocket QB." And, you know what? I think scrambling QBs are overrated and generally less effective that pocket QBs. But that doesn't mean every scrambling QB is worse than every pocket QB. The point is that a scrambler has to also be a good passer to be a good QB. I think Michael Vick, Vince Young, and (maybe) JaMarcus Russell have clearly shown that you can't just run around in the NFL and be effective; you also need to be a good passer.

Recent "scrambling QB" failures like that are why we're predisposed to think less of scrambling QBs nowadays. We've forgotten how good players like Donovan McNabb, Steve Young, Randall Cunningham, Steve McNair, and even (for some seasons, at least) Daunte Culpepper were, and how they generally had their best seasons, passing-wise, when they cut back a little on their running and learned how to pass.

5) Jackson will never learn to be a good QB. Here's the crazy idea: Maybe he already is.

Maybe sitting on the bench for two months, observing, learning, studying was good for him. Maybe he took everything he learned and applied it to have the best month of his career, even if he did stink it up against the Eagles. Frankly, I'll take a quarterback who's good for 4 out of 5 games.

Remember the Brian Billick quote that sparked this article? Billick said that he can determine whether a quarterback will be successful "between the 24th and 30th game" and that Jackson was right about in that vicinity.

Maybe he's right. Maybe what we saw out of T-Jack in December is the "real" T-Jack. Maybe that's the quarterback he can be, even if his performance will be mitigated against stronger opponents.

It's anecdotal, I know, but compare Drew Brees' first two seasons as a starter to the rest of his career. He was so bad those first two years that the Chargers drafted Phillip Rivers to replace him. Absolutely nobody could have predicted that Brees would explode and become one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.

For an example a little closer to home, remember loathing Visanthe Shiancoe? Around week 3, I think every Vikings fan was ready to trade him for the proverbial warm six-pack and a bag of used jock straps. He's maybe not a Pro Bowl-level talent now, but in the span of about two months, tight end went from a "need" for the Vikings to a "strength." And it wasn't because of Jimmy Kleinsasser.

Jackson's not likely to match Brees, but it's a sign that it can happen, that a mediocre player can suddenly and dramatically improve his game after a significant time off -- in Brees' case, it was between the 2003 and 2004 season. In Jackson's, it might have been his two-month hiatus from the starting job.

(It was also said that Brad Childress didn't talk to Jackson at all during his benching. Knowing Childress as we do, maybe that was the best thing that could have happened to Jackson...)

Hoping for such a transformation is often just that -- hope. After all, we'd all like for our mediocre three-year veteran to suddenly become a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Most of the time, though, he doesn't. But I'd hate to see Jackson case aside after the best stretch of his career and then (almost predictably for Vikings fans) go somewhere else and do really well.

There are a whole lot of "maybes" in this article. Maybe Rosenfels is good because of who he threw to. Maybe Jackson found what he needed to become a good quarterback. Maybe Jackson only did well because he was playing against poor defenses. They could all be wrong. Tarvaris Jackson might still be the same scatterbrained, low-accuracy, disaster of a QB I thought he was entering the 2008 season. If that's so, then he should be replaced.

My only point is that, since that Eagles game that ended the season, the sentiment among Vikings fans (not to mention the media) has generally been that Jackson must be replaced and that the quarterback position is the only thing holding the Vikings back from a run at the championship. I want to cast doubt into that surety. I want you to examine exactly why you don't think Tarvaris Jackson should be the Vikings' QB going forward and solidify your position using analysis and facts, not emotions and feelings. Maybe you'll be right anyway. I'm willing to accept I might be wrong about T-Jack.

Are you?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Not out of the woods yet

Here's hoping the X-rays turn out poorly.

Hey, anyone out there with a broken arm near the Vikings HQ? Think you could sneak in your X-rays to Brad Childress in place of Brett Favre's?

No? Shoot.

But wait! He wants to stay retired!

Oh, hang on, that was on Wednesday. He could have changed his mind 62 times since then.

In fact, the ESPN article says that "Favre is motivated to continue his career, in part due to his disdain for Packers' management, and that he is eager to play again in the NFC North."

So, really, it could happen any time, up to the Vikings' first regular-season game on September 13. I wouldn't be shocked to hear that Favre says no, no, no, no up until September 12 and then says, "Well, maybe." That way, he gets to avoid training camp, preseason, team meetings -- you know, all that crummy "work" stuff that a legend like him shouldn't need to do. After all, he's just going to go out there and have fun like a kid in a playground making it up as he goes along and just having a good time --

Ok, step back, Jason. Take a deep breath.

Ahhhh...that feels good.

Fine. Until there is definite proof that something is actually going to happen in this whole, depressing affair, I'll stop talking about it, at least in such aserbic tones. Fact is, nobody knows right now, not ESPN, not Yahoo, not Brad Childress, not Bus Cook, probably not Favre himself.

Hey, is it too late to get Jay Cutler?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A look into the past

Because the future looks grim.

In 2007, the #21 quarterback in passer rating was Damon Huard.

In 2007, the #30 quarterback in adjusted yards/attempt was Vince Young.

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out who occupied those positions in 2008. Still want him on your team?

But, in an effort to talk about something, anything else...

I cleaned out my closet the other night and came across a few books I had forgotten about. Specifically, they're books of football and baseball essays written by the STATS Inc. crew last decade, delving into a wide range of topics, from the usefulness of the stolen base to the impact of rookie head coaches/managers to who has a chance to break Hank Aaron's home run record to whether you-know-who can break Dan Marino's records....it's a great list of topics to not only look back upon but, at least for me, to see where I think some of my earliest ideas about stats were formed.

The earliest book I have is the Stats Baseball Scoreboard 1994. I only started getting into baseball in 1991, so this was still pretty early in my development as a student of the game. I can see in it essays that shaped my early thinking and stick with me to this day. It's also cute to look back at how they feel the need to explain such esoteric things as "on-base plus slugging percentage" and "zone ratings"...and what the heck is a "hold"? (That's what I thought, at least, when I first read the book.)

The book shaped a lot of my early thoughts about some of baseball's most traditional concepts. One essay questioned who should be a lead-off man -- someone who's fast or someone who gets on base often? The essay titled "Why were John Olerud's 107 RBI last year better than Albert Belle's 129?" explains the concept of RBI as a function of RBI available, which, if you're going to count RBI for anything, should always be a consideration. And I loved the essay that showed that after a batter was hit by a pitch, the next batter would do better than if the pitcher had just given up a hit or a walk, thus indicating that a HBP doesn't intimidate the hitters as much as it intimidates the pitchers! Yet another reason not to hate the DH.

Some of the most entertaining entries are the ones where the writers attempt to divine the future, often using Bill James' Favorite Toy formula for predicting future statistical success. After 15 years, most of the predictions can be checked against facts.

* The Boston Red Sox article (each team has its own) was titled "Can [Roger] Clemens come back?" because he'd just had the worst season of his career in 1993. I'd say he did all right, even if HGH was involved.

* "Detroit Tigers: Is Cecil [Fielder] about to suffer a power outage?" said that "Fielder may not hit 50 home runs again, but a return to 35 or more is a good possibility." He'd top that 35 mark just once again in his career, hitting 39 in 1996.

* The Minnesota Twins' article used the Favorite Toy to determine Kirby Puckett's chance at reaching 3,000 career hits. At 30.7%, he trailed only Eddie Murray (who had 2,820 at the time) among active players. Obviously, that didn't work out, thanks to Dennis Martinez. Other players with at least a 10% chance of achieving the feat included Ken Griffey Jr. (26.9%, currently 2,692), Cal Ripken (21.7%, 3,184), Tony Gwynn (14.9%, 3,141), Frank Thomas (13.1%, 2,468), and Paul Molitor (11.0%, 3,319). Thomas and Molitor ranked behind Travis Fryman, of all people, who had a 14.1% chance after accumulating 570 hits by the age of 25. He finished with 1,776.

* The Favorite Toy also gives several players a good chance at hitting 500 or more home runs. Among them are Juan Gonzalez (53%, 434 career homers), Griffey (40%, 613), Barry Bonds (36%, 762), Fred McGriff (25%, 493), Thomas (23%, 521), and Albert Belle (16%, 381). Five players are given a better than 5% shot at 600 (Griffey at 20.5% and Bonds at 13% are the only ones to do it), and thinks highly enough of Juan Gonzalez to give him an 11.4% chance (and Griffey a 2.9% chance) to break Hank Aaron's record of 756. By comparison, Bonds is given an essentially zero chance to achieve the feat (technically negative 2%, which shows why the Favorite Toy is just that -- a toy).

* "Atlanta Braves: Have they started a pitching revolution?" opines that the Braves are changing the way starting pitchers are used because they rarely let their guys go more than 130 pitches per game, with only four such outings for Braves pitchers in 1993. 130!

The book also discusses the possibilty of interleague play (saying it "will always have some appeal"), four years before Major League Baseball implemented the concept, and askes "Can anyone win 300 again?" ("We think that at least one active pitcher will win 300 before he's through, and maybe more than one.") It's a fascinating look back at what we thought then and what we think now and how the two are at once both the same and divergent.

Over the next few weeks, I'll leaf through the 1998 Baseball Scoreboard and the 2000 Pro Football Scoreboard and dig out the juicier bits. Because I'm sure you can't wait for the answers to such pressing questions as "Will Curtis Martin's workload catch up to him?" and "How will [Darryl] Kile pitch at Coors?" The answers, of course, are "Not for a while" and "Awful," but it's still interesting to see that, even 10 years ago, a little analysis and logic could get you to the same conclusion.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sore Eagles

Good ol' B.J. Raji.

Told ya.

May he play as well as he spells.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The nightmare refreshed

Le sigh.

Here we go again.

Fortunately, we don't have a head coach who believes he can take a quarterback from a Division I-AA school and turn him into the next Donovan McNabb. Or that he can take a rookie with an unorthodox skill set who likes to smoke pot more than he likes to play football to the point of getting himself tested positive at the NFL combine and mold him into a superstar.

And I'm sure we don't have a head coach who thinks he can take a nearly 40-year-old selfish attention whore of a quarterback who's committed to nobody but himself and his own legend and who's only had good season out of his last four and return him to his glory days.

I'm sure we don't have a head coach like that.

Sigh.

In truth, I think the chances of Brett Favre landing with the Vikings this time around are pretty close to nil. What bothers me is, now that the possibility's been raised, every other Vikings fan and media member will try to convince themselves that Favre would be a good choice for the Vikings, or really for any other NFL team.

Don't kid yourself into believing that. Even if you don't believe in Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels, nothing Brett Favre did last year should convince you that he wants anything but a shot at the Packers and to pad his legacy. From his tearful "retirement" (the first one) to his "Why did you abandon me?" mindset toward the Packers to his poor play as the season wore on -- or as it moved past, say, September, after which he had 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions -- there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Brett Favre should be a Viking.

Don't buy into the "late-game heroics" hype. Yes, he's roasted the Vikings on more than one occasion, but his record against us is a so-so 17-14. His career passer rating in "late & close" situations is a subpar 69.1. And, the big thing -- to come from behind late, you have to be...well, behind. Certainly, that's sometimes the defense's fault, but tossing four interceptions through the first three quarters just so you can have a game-winning TD pass in the fourth doesn't qualify as "heroic" to me. More like "mediocre."

Favre is a great quarterback, and deserving of the Hall of Fame when (if) he retires. But every great player reaches the age at which he can no longer carry on as he did in his youth. The problem with Brett Favre is he's like a child who wants candy for dinner. He's going to keep getting it until someone tells him "no." Let's hope the Vikings can play the responsible adult.