Monday, March 30, 2009

March Blandness

With the biggest Viking news of the last week being the Vikings' quizzical choices to retain the services of Naufahu Tahi and give Cedric Griffin bajillions of dollars in a multi-year deal (which I think is not actually that bad a deal since they don't seem to have much else to do with their cap money), I haven't exactly been inspired to make the next great blog post lately. So, in lieu of actual good writing, research, and journalistic integrity, I'm just going to make fun of people.

It could be worse. I could tell you about my fantasy baseball team again.

* First Gus Frerotte said he would have won the Vikings' playoff game against the Eagles, and now 41-year-old Jeff George says he would have led the Vikings to the Super Bowl. I'm not the world's biggest Tarvaris Jackson fan, but what does it mean when quarterbacks 15 years older than you say they're better than you? Other than the fact that senelity is setting in early for Mr. George.

This just in: Fran Tarkenton, Tommy Kramer, and Joe Kapp have all announced that they could have led the Vikings to the Super Bowl last year. Wade Wilson could not be reached for comment.

* Ray Edwards' $221,322 bonus actually breaks down like this:

+$421,322 for playing time
+$50,000 for that crushing hit on Jeff Garcia
-$250,000 for his ridiculous claim that he would break Michael Strahan's sack record

* So I've been spending some of my days counting autograph cards for Press Pass Inc. (as outlined before). In addition to the normal signatures, players are encouraged to include a few "inscriptions," or signatures with added messages, like "Go (insert team name)" or a nickname or, in one guy's case, a Bible verse.

I counted BJ Raji's cards last week. Raji played for the Boston College Eagles and is projected to be a top 10 pick. But either he should have spent more time in the classroom and less time on the practice field, or the Eagles have an in-joke among their players because his inscription was:

"Sore Eagles"

A comment on this blog post says Raji scored an 8 (out of a possible 50) on his Wonderlic test. If true, I agree with the commenter that I'd love to see him drafted by the Packers.

* I like hockey. Really, I do. But these ratings are poo. I remember reading an article in Sports Illustrated back in 1993 about how hockey was surpassing basketball as the nation's #3 team sport, behind football and baseball. Yeah, about that...

* Ow. Ow ow ow. If that were Shaq, though, he probably would have shattered the entire backboard.

* Not really making fun of this guy, except in a kinda "How on earth do you do that?" way, but I saw pro bowler Jason Belmonte this weekend on TV. He uses two hands. And apparently it works for him.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vikings free-agent thoughts (and yawns)

When I saw the headline "Vikings sign WR Holt," I almost did cartwheels at the notion that the team had signed Torry Holt.

Unfortunately, not so much.

Maybe Glenn Holt can at least be better than Maurice Hicks (shouldn't be hard) as a kick returner. Playing for Cincinnati for the past three years should have given him plenty of experience at running back kicks, given the Bengals' defense. And if the Bengals want to pay $1.4 million for the services of Naufahu Tahi for 2009, they're welcome to him.

Then of course, there are still the prominent Jay Cutler-to-the-Vikings -- or Lions or Bears or just about any other team with a marginally sane head coach who doesn't go out of his way to alienate his star player. Say what you will about Brad Childress, he at least understands that Adrian Peterson is the reason he's still employed.

Trent Dilfer is apparently not of the opinion that the Vikings should try to acquire Cutler, prompting Dave Myers of the Winona Daily News to quip, "either Dilfer hasn’t seen the Minnesota passing attack since Randy Moss left town; he doesn’t actually hear his own words once they leave his mouth; or he’s simply #@%* nuts."

(Dave Myers, however, does not know that you only use "either" when comparing two options, not three. His editor apparently doesn't know, either.)

Darren Sharper signed with the Saints? Man, I really haven't been paying attention. Here's hoping Tyrell Johnson's up to the challenge of starting in the secondary.

Really, this guy's only going to be 33 this season, and has been fantastic every year of his career except last year. Why hasn't anyone signed him yet? What am I missing? You'd stink if you played for the 2008 Rams, too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I play Fantasy Baseball

Because I have to do something when football's out of season.

First things first: I've got four openings left in my Yahoo league that drafts on Saturday at 3:30 Eastern. Mostly basic stuff, six batting/pitching categories, weekly head-to-head, etc. We'd really like to fill it up before the draft, so if you're looking for another league with me and five guys you probably don't know, sign up here. The league ID is 147568 and the password is 99mphfastball. I won the league last year, so I'll be looking for some actual competition this time around :)

(No, it's never too early to trash talk.)

* Now, please grant me the indulgence of talking about my fantasy baseball team. Because everyone does it, and this team is the culmination of three years of planning. Yes, I'm a nut.

Then there's this other league I'm in, on GameDayRitual. It's the most hardcore league I've ever been a part of, with salaries, multi-year contracts, minors, prospects, lineups (i.e., you need a 1-9 setup that sort of mimics a real team: speedy guys on top, power in 3-4-5, etc.), lefty-righty matchups -- the works.

Last year was my second in the 14-team league, and I missed the playoffs by one game. But it was also the last year after taking over for the guy who ran my team (into the ground) when the league formed. He signed some players to ridiculous three-year (the longest allowed in the game) contracts, like Josh Willingham (who became nearly useless when he wasn't catcher-eligible) and Cliff Floyd(!), as well as Cris Carpenter, who I can't blame him for. Once I got out from under those onerous deals, I thought I'd finally have the cash to put together a killer team, and it looks like I've done just that, many for reasonable prices. Here's my projected lineup, along with salaries and years. The league has a $100 million maximum:

1. Carl Crawford (OF) $5.5 million/3 years
2. Johnny Damon (OF) $3.5/1
3. Kevin Youkilis (1B) $5/1
4. David Wright (3B) $9.5/1
5. Josh Hamilton (OF) $5.5/2

After this it gets a little dicey, but at least most of the guys have solid potential and come cheap:

6. Hideki Matsui or Elijah Dukes (DH) $3/1 or $0.5/1
7. Yunel Escobar (SS) $4/2
8. Asdrubal Cabrera (2B) $1/2
9. Kurt Suzuki (C) $2/2

My other possible DH options until mid-May include Adam Lind ($0.5/1), Todd Helton ($1/1), and Travis Hafner ($1/1). After that, I think I'll put Alex Rodriguez ($10.5/3) in the lineup. And just for kicks, I've got Jed Lowrie ($2/1), Placido Polanco ($3.5/1), and David Eckstein ($0.5/1) for infield depth.

Then there's the pitching staff. My first two starters are pretty good.

1. Johan Santana ($13/1)
2. Jake Peavy ($9/3)

The rest of the staff will come from whoever stands out among:

3. Mark Buehrle ($4.5/1)
4. Kevin Slowey ($0.5/2)
5. Andy Sonnanstine ($1.5/3)
6. Armando Galarraga ($1/2)
7. Randy Wolf ($2/1)
8. Fausto Carmona ($0.5/1)

Right now, I'm thinking Wolf and Carmona will go to my minor-league team and I'll rotate in the other four based on matchups.

My bullpen might be a little shaky, but quality relievers are easily available throughout the year. Unless you have a lights-out guy (think Carlos Marmol the last few years), you don't want to pay virtually anything for non-closers. The MR and SU guys need holds more than anything, and closers live (obviously) on saves:

Latroy Hawkins ($1/1)
Scott Downs ($2.5/1)
Taylor Buchholz ($1.5/1)

Kerry Wood ($0.5/1)
Matt Lindstrom ($1.5/1)

And just to top it all off, I've got Matt LaPorta in my minor leagues.

Overall, through shrewd money management, I think I've stockpiled enough talent to compete for the title this year and have the depth to make some trades if I need to. Thanks for reading this far, and if you leave a comment, I promise to slog through your boring post about your fantasy team, too!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Football players I hate

There are many reasons to hate a player. Most are rational: He beat your favorite team (like, say, Brett Favre), he plays/played for your team and he is/was awful (like, say, Troy Williamson), or he's just a jerk (like, say, Terrell Owens).

Me, I work differently. I find single, specific incidents regarding players most people don't have any strong feelings about and I let my hatred fester and linger for years, like a cancerous lump on my soul, devouring all that is good and emerging as a bitter flinch or curse word whenever that player comes up in conversation (or on TV). For hatred this black, you need a very special and personal reason to dislike someone. It's not as simple as my disliking guys, it's a unique experience that only I know the depths of.

What follows is a little of my hate:

Greg Ellis. The longtime Cowboys defensive end has scored one touchdown on an interception return in his career. It came in his second season with the Cowboys. In week two, the Cowboys played the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. With the Cowboys leading by 10 and less than a minute to go, the Falcons are driving, but probably don't have much hope. Just in case, Ellis picks off a pass and the d-lineman scampers 87(!) yards for the nigh-meaningless touchdown.

The problem? I was playing against Ellis in not one, but two fantasy leagues that week. In the first, I wound up tying a guy with the Dallas defense, and in the other, which was utilizing individual defensive players, my opponent had Ellis and beat me by one! I was probably asleep by the time Ellis made his back-breaking play that had no real effect on the outcome of the game but screwed me out of 1 1/2 victories in two leagues in one fell swoop. Thus, the hate.

Joe Klopfenstein. When I worked at Press Pass Inc., we would have a few days out of every spring when we'd have to count and do quality control on the autographed cards that came in. Out of anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 cards per player, you might toss out about a dozen cards or so that have dinged corners, or the signature is smudged, or whatever.

In 2006, my first time counting cards for the company, I drew Colorado tight end Joe Klopfenstein, who's managed only 33 catches in his three years as a pro with the Rams. it's not because he has hands of stone -- stone doesn't smudge. Maybe he's got "hands of oil," becuase that might explain why nearly half of his signature cards were unusable. There were long stretches of counting where I'd have more cards in the "rejected" pile than I had in the "approved" pile.

Naturally, this soured me on the whole process, and I was afraid that every player would be like this, but I never found another guy nearly as bad as #*$&@ Klopfenstein (which was the name of my fantasy team one year). It means that if you have one of these, it's rarer than it looks, because it was one of the few that passed muster. (Though it is kinda neat to see something on eBay you know you handled personally.)

I'm sure there are other players I hate, but I'm too angry to think of them right now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Writer's Block

With little news happening in Viking-land since the departure of Matt Birk and a few other semi-notable but not exactly earth-shattering re-signings (Heath Farwell and Benny Sapp -- and who the heck is Karl Paymah?), and with not even a Jay Cutler rumor to throw around any more, I've had a hard time coming up with ideas for new blog posts.

(I do have something interesting in the works, but the details are still being hashed out and I'd rather not talk about it in the meantime. Yeah, yeah, I'm such a tease.)

Fortunately, other bloggers aren't having as much trouble finding new material as I am. Here's the best of what I found:

* Advanced NFL Stats wonders what the NFL will be like without a salary cap, which could be the case in 2010.

* Pacifist Viking makes fun of Peter King's feelings about the Vikings quarterback situation, which really isn't Favre that hard when you Favre consider King's other Favre opinions on the matter. Favre.

* Luft is just as bored with the Vikings' off-season as I am, but at least he's more loquacious than I am about it.

* Finally, if you want to see the worst way to try and get a pro athlete to sign a card for you, check out Pat Neshek's February 27 entry on his blog. C'mon, buddy, it's not that hard to use a computer and substitute name and position, even manually. I do it all the time in cover letters (which might explain why I'm still looking for work).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Random thoughts for the day

Good luck, Matt. You were a great player for many years, and a quality guy. I know he was getting a bit long in the tooth and had lost a couple steps, but it'll be hard to see him suit up in another uniform. At least he'll still be wearing purple.

* Isn't it great that, among units of measurement in the U.S., we have the inch, the foot, the yard, the mile...and the football field?

Really, how many times have you heard something like, "The base of the Great Pyramid covers an area equal to 27 (I'm making that number up) football fields" or "The car traveled the length of a football field in just 1.7 seconds." That's what baseball gets for having all those wacky dimensions in their parks -- they can't be used as a standard unit of measure!

* I think I want Terrell Owens to go to the Bears, which is rumored to be one of the places he might end up (despite what this article says, I think the chance of him landing in Minnesota are just about nil). If he didn't like having Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, and Tony Romo throwing to him, what would he think of Kyle Orton?

* Speaking of the Bears, can anyone tell me why Gale Sayers is in the Hall of Fame? I'm still puzzled by this. He was "good-Devin-Hester" on (a rather small number of) kickoff returns for three years, put up OK-but-not-great rushing numbers for five, and finished his career with less than 5,000 yards rushing. I'm still not getting something, obviously.

* No T.O. for the Vikings (I hope), but Torry Holt wouldn't be bad.

* Finally, while it's nice to browse pictures of Alyssa Milano all day, I'm puzzled by her choice of teams for her line of MLB apparel. If you'll notice the list on the left, there are 27 teams listed. The only ones not present are the Blue Jays, Rays -- both of whom rate near the bottom of the league in popularity -- and the Twins, who have been ranked considerably higher all decade.

Just for that, Alyssa, I'm only going to look at pictures of you for one hour today, instead of two. That'll learn ya.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Housh your daddy?

UPDATE: ESPN is reporting that T.J. Houshmanzadeh has signed with the Seattle Seahawks. Which is probably not a terrible thing for the Vikings. Now we just have Jay Cutler rumors to digest...


It could be Zygi Wilf and the Minnesota Vikings. The team is reportedly very interested in free-agent Bengals WR T.J. Houshmanzadeh (referred to hereafter as "Housh"), who visited the team over the weekend. Housh's other suitors include his old team, Cincinnati, and Seattle, who might be more interested in signing a free-agent wide receiver now that Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, widely considered a lock for the Seahawks' #4 pick, missed most of the NFL combine events with a stress fracture in his foot.

The only problem is, I'm not sure signing Housh is a great idea for the Purple.

Let's face it: Bernard Berrian is overrated and overpaid. I don't really dislike his signing, or the amount of money he's making as a Viking; we had the cap money to spend last year and desperately needed to upgrade the passing game, and Berrian does just that. All things being equal, though, he's not worth top-10 receiver money, which is what he's getting. He just became a free agent at exactly the right time and the Vikings had the wherewithal to snatch him up.

Housh is nowhere near the same kind of player as Berrian. He's three years older (turning 32 in September), slower (11.4 yards per career reception, compared to Berrian's 16.0), and has just two 1,000-yard seasons in his career. Granted, 1,000 is an arbitrary number; Housh has topped 900 yards each of his last five seasons. His average over that time is 1,012 yards per season.

But here's the thing: Housh has put up those numbers playing for a very pass-happy offense with a #1 overall pick at quarterback. Carson Palmer's first year (2004) as a Bengals' starter wasn't impressive, and the Bengals' QB situation in 2008 was a mess, but from 2005 to 2007, he averaged 4,000 yards and 29 TD passes per season. Housh did OK those three years, but didn't put up the kind of spectacular numbers you'd expect from a wide receiver in that kind of offense.

Yes, he had Chad Johnson working opposite him, racking up huge numbers, and I think Housh is fine as a #2 receiver in an offense with another established threat -- in other words, the same situation he was in with Cincinnati. He can run the underneath routes and make catches over the middle, which would be fine if he was looking for #2 receiver money. But, as the best option in a weak free-agent WR class, my guess is that Housh isn't looking for #2 money. He's probably looking for something more like what Bernard Berrian got last year, and, for a guy who's about to turn 32 and whose yards per reception have dropped every year for the past four years, I don't want the Vikings to be the team that signs him.

If they can get him for a deal similar to the one inked by Sage Rosenfels -- say, two or three years for about $4-$5 million per, I could see the deal being done. But we've already got what appears to be a decent (but likely overpaid) slow, short option over the middle, only at the tight end position (and no, I'm not talking about the recently re-signed Jim Kleinsasser). Why do we need another? I'd rather take my chances with Bobby Wade and spend money earmarked for Housh on an offensive lineman for the right side.